Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 23:10 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We don’t like to miss out on things. We don’t like to miss out on a good deal, or on tickets that sell out, or maybe a house we wanted to buy, or whatever it might be. In fact, missing out on something makes us want it even more. As long as we know it’s going to be available to us next week, or next month, or next year, we probably don’t think too much about it. We can always get it later. But when we miss out on it, then we want it more than we did.
Jesus laments over Jerusalem, because they are in danger of missing out. God has sent His Son into the world, into their midst, in flesh and blood, and they are in danger of missing out on God’s Word, God’s salvation, the life He wants to give to them. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that stones the prophets and kills those sent to it! Like they tried to Jeremiah in our Old Testament reading. What was the purpose of all those prophets sent to Jerusalem? Simply this: God wants to gather them under the wings of His protection. Jesus says, How often I have wanted to, desired, longed to gather you together in the same way that a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! This is what God wants. But you did not want it. The same word, in what God wants and what the people do not want. God’s ways are not their ways and His thoughts are not their thoughts.
But now your house is left to you, abandoned, forsaken. And you will not see Me until you say, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. And so it happens, six chapters later in the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and the people say, Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the Lord (19:38)! And immediately after in the Gospel, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem: Would that you, even you, had known this day the things that make for peace. But now they are hidden from your eyes. The days are going to come when your enemies surround you and destroy the city, and they will not leave one stone upon another stone in you. Because you did not know the time of your visitation. And immediately after that, Jesus clears the temple, in fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy of God’s glory leaving the temple (Ezekiel 10-11).
But even though the glory of God is no longer in the temple, it is still present, in the Man Jesus. God has not ceased to call and gather; He still longs to give protection and safety to His creatures, both Jew and Gentile. His Word continues to go out, and it comes to us. Will we take the glory of God’s presence for granted, as Israel did? Do we assume that God’s word and presence will be with us next week, next month, next year, so we really don’t have to worry about whether we will find God’s salvation and forgiveness? But next week is not even promised to us. If God did not spare the temple in Jerusalem, He certainly will not spare our little buildings.
Do not take the Word of God for granted! Do not take for granted the things that make for peace, the time of God’s visitation among us! Until this world is over, His word will continue to go out, but that does not mean it will always go out among us. No, today is the day of salvation; now is the time of His visitation. We should not think that because we have Bibles everywhere, and the weekly gathering of God’s people around His word, supper, and forgiveness that it will always be so. People sometimes talk about the fact that God is present everywhere, so we don’t really need to “go to church.” But that is not how faith talks. Faith does not say, “Do I have to be in the presence of God and receive the word and gifts by which He has promised to give me the life and salvation of Christ?” Faith says, “Where has Christ promised to be? That is where I must be also.” God’s presence may be everywhere, but He has not promised to be anywhere outside His Word and Sacraments to save. And that makes all the difference.
The Pharisees tell Jesus that Herod wants to kill Him, so He should go away from there. Whatever their motives, Jesus is not going to be deterred from doing what He has come to do. He will continue His work and continue on His way to Jerusalem, because, ironically, Jerusalem is where prophets go to die. I cast out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and I finish My course on the third day. He will not be turned aside. He will not be stopped. He will go to Jerusalem to finish His work in death and resurrection. He is like the hen, and He will be devoured by the fox instead of His little chickens. It may not be Herod, but it will be the fox of death, the clever devil who thinks death will be the end of Jesus. No, Jesus will rise from the dead and devour the foxes. This is how He covers us under the shadow of His wings, the only protection and safety in the midst of so much fear and sin and rejection and death. This is the one thing on which we cannot miss out.
So we will not take for granted the time of His visiting us. We will not miss out on the things that make for peace. Whatever happens, whatever comes, good or bad, we will hide ourselves under the refuge of His wings. We will be where Jesus is, because we know that with Him is the only salvation there is. Do not doubt, do not delay, do not take His presence for granted. Jesus wept and lamented over Jerusalem from outside the city, so like Hebrews says, we too will go to Him outside the city and share in His shame and reproach. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14), the holy city, New Jerusalem, which cannot be destroyed.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/12/22