Trinity X (Luke 19:41-48) @ Shepherd of the City
August 9, 2015
Scripture: Luke 19:41–19:48
Trinity X Sermon
Mankind from the very beginning loved to build things, and manufacturing today remains one of the most lucrative investments in the global market. People manufacture clothing, cars, and can openers. From the tallest skyscrapers in Dubai to the newest housing developments on the east coast, manufacturing touches every aspect of our lives. Without the skills to build efficiently and effectively, the United States would never have seen the level of prosperity it experiences today.
Although men are adept at accomplishing some of the grandest construction projects, there is yet a more common commodity which men are experts in producing. To paraphrase one theologian, the heart of man is an idol factory. Men are quite skillful in the production of idols, which seek to usurp the place of the one true God in our lives. We place our trust in man made things in the hope that they will fill the void in our hearts, a void which only God Himself can fill. Today we shall learn this lesson from the Jewish people.
Our text takes place on Palm Sunday as Jesus enters into the holy city, Jerusalem, while being proclaimed as King, the one who comes in the name of the Lord. However, in odd contrast, as the hearts of the crowds were filled with happy shouts, your Lord was weeping for the city. What brought these tears to your Lord’s eyes? It was the idolatry of the people whom he was coming to save.
You see, the Jews were expert builders just like we are today. Their city was filled with magnificent constructions. They had built, for the second time in their history, a great temple to the Lord. The complex was imposing, built upon a hill with gleaming gold and silver. However, for all its size and glory, the Jews had altogether missed what made that place so sacred and special. The true glory of the temple was the one who dwelt inside it, the Lord God Himself.
The Jews became so enamored with their own sacrifices and their own kingdom that they forgot that it was the Word of God which made these things holy. The temple and all that was happening within it were pointing to Jesus, to the need for repentance, and to the ultimate transiency of these things in view of the coming of Christ. As a result, the religious authorities failed to welcome Jesus, who was the temple himself, their true messiah, God in the flesh dwelling among them. They failed to recognize what Jesus desired to do for them, and would continue to reject the truth, so our Lord wept.
The world today is no different than the Jewish people. There were grander structures in Rome than in Jerusalem, and there are even more imposing cities right here in our midst. The wealth and power of the world draw your eyes to trust these things, in spite of what Christ says, that these things are passing away. Only your Lord Jesus with His Word endures forever. There is very little regard for God’s merciful provision today, and even so we are distracted from the Word of God in favor of the passing fashions of modern culture. However, your Lord will not leave you in your idolatry, but provides the things which make for your peace.
No, the idolatry of man will not stand in the way of Jesus’ mission, though it will be filled with thorn and cross. Jesus will descend the peak from which he sees the grand city and will enter into its muddy streets filled with broken people and broken promises. Jesus knows what awaits him as he will spend the next week in the city. The people who before blessed him will soon bring curses down on his head. Yet, he will show them mercy, even blessing them as he hangs from the cross. The time of his crucifixion will be the time of their gracious visitation.
The weeping of Jesus is more than a surge of compassion in his heart, more than being overcome with emotion. Our Lord’s tears are prophetic. His weeping foretells that many of the people will remain in their idolatry even after His death and resurrection. He knows they will mock and deny His resurrection, holding fast to their crumbling city for many decades thereafter in unbelief. They would rather remain with the idols of their own construction than remain with Jesus, their God.
Here we are taught more about what idolatry is. Idolatry is not only failure to trust that God will provide for you, not only failure to believe that God exists and that he cares for you. Idolatry is much more than that. It is a staunch position which says, “Jesus, your judgement was not for me. Your judgement is not my judgement.” It says that Christ’s cross is not enough for your redemption and that this was not the way which God needed to take. It is a denial that Jesus took your place, that the cross belonged first to you before it belonged to Jesus. That denial is idolatry.
Jesus lamented, with Jerusalem in his sights, over His own people’s blindness. They would not see what made for peace. Yet, in their very midst were the things that made for peace. The temple itself, with its constant sacrifice of bulls and goats, was pointing to Israel’s need for cleansing. Even the Passover feast itself, with the eating of the spotless lamb, told of the coming messiah. They had the Law and the Prophets, yet the people would not heed their call. All these pointed to Christ, the one who brings peace between God and man.
Even today that things that make for peace are in the midst of our nation. Faithful churches are still proclaiming and bearing witness to the truth of God’s law. There is a constant call to repentance, from trusting in wealth and the glory of our own works to trust the living God. To repent from self-righteousness and to see in Jesus the lamb who is weighed down with our sins. The world wants no part of this and wants to silence the Church’s preaching. Just as it was with Jesus, so too the Church will continue to face opposition and murmurings from its enemies.
Our Lord responds to all of this in a most peculiar way. He visited Jerusalem with judgement, and He visits us today with judgement. Jesus walked right into Jerusalem and judged the people. He judged them by dying on the holy cross for the city’s idolatrous and murderous heart. He judged them righteous, guiltless and free from sin death and hell. He judged them as pure and spotless while he took on their filth. So too, he comes to judge you this day, and he finds you to be righteous through faith in His death.
Through His Cross, our Lord manufactures something much more glorious or grand than any man-made city, new or old. He creates the Heavenly Jerusalem, His holy Christian Church, which will never fade or pass away. He is the ruler and king, and all make their way into the kingdom solely through Him, without their own works or worth. They come empty handed, with only the promises of the Gospel resounding on their lips, promises which are never broken.
In the heavenly Jerusalem hope is not disappointed. Where the promises of man have failed, where all the hopes for a lasting city here on earth have crumbled, there stands the Word of Lord, the Gospel of Christ’s cross. All who choose to remain in the earthly Jerusalem will be left to face the enemies which surround it. They will be crushed to the earth who fail to see that Jesus was crushed for them. They will be shattered on the ground who deny that Jesus was shattered and broken in their place. Their righteousness and their works will not stand the test. The weight of their sinful lives shall surround them and overtake them, as the Roman soldiers did the earthly Jerusalem. Their idols will crumble at the judgement, and there will not be left a stone upon a stone.
Our Lord’s gracious visitation has called you out of the darkness of a crumbling world, destined to decay because of its sins and idolatries. Through your baptism, you stand in the Church, while acknowledging that Christ took your place and chose you to be His own. In your baptism, the benefits of your Lord’s death and resurrection are yours forever. The word of forgiveness which comes from your Pastor’s lips judges you righteous and pure in God’s sight. You are children of the Heavenly Jerusalem, worshiping in a temple not made with human hands. As our Psalm spoke earlier, you are flourishing trees in the courtyard of God’s house, nourished by the word of Christ’s cross.
As a child of the new Jerusalem you are called to bear witness with tears of your own. You are called to proclaim the wonderful works of God, and how He has made you glad by his atoning death. You are called to bear witness to the constant failure of human civilization’s attempts to save itself. You are called to pity unbelief when you see it and pray for the conversion of your neighbor. And you are called to repent of your own idolatry, while calling upon the one true God that he would continue to grant you grace to endure the world’s tempting sight.
The threat of death, nor the horde of your own sin, nor the very gates of hell shall overtake you, for you are in the heavenly Jerusalem, built on the one foundation, Jesus Christ her Lord. May our Lord persevere you unto the revealing of the full glory of this new and spiritual Jerusalem, created by the water and the word.
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.