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The Day Jesus Wept!

February 24, 2013

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Second Sunday in Lent                             Trinity Lutheran Church

24 February 2013                                    Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +


St. Luke 13:31-35


“FYI Jesus!  You’re a marked man!  Mafioso Herod Antipas is planning to whack you!  You make him uncomfortable!  For some reason you make him nervous.  Just like you worried his father Herod the Great by your birth as King of the Jews, Magi and a star.  Take our advice Jesus.  Don’t be seen in public!  Go underground!  Get out of Dodge while the getting’s good!  Just saying Jesus!” 


The gratuitous tip comes from of all people — the Pharisees   — Jesus’ sworn enemies!  They too have been privately plotting to kill Jesus!  What’s up with that?  Well, they’re deeply devout and religious people who say they love God but hate the preacher God sent!  The preacher named Jesus! 


Jesus doesn’t panic. He won’t be bullied!  Won’t be intimidated!  Threaten Him all you want!  He won’t go into hiding.  He will preach openly.  His sermons won’t stop.  In fact, in the face of fierce and ferocious opposition He audaciously proclaims:  “Go tell that fox Herod that he’s not in control!  He doesn’t have the say so!  I do!  I will do my work!  I will continue to carry out my holy ministry.  I’ll drive out demons.  I’ll heal the sick.  On the third day I’ll reach my goal.  I’ll finish what I came to do!  I will suffer and die!  I’ll pull off My Good Friday and Easter Resurrection!” 


Jesus dances to the beat of a different drummer.  His Father! His Father’s will! 

“And besides” Jesus declares, “it really wouldn’t be proper for a prophet like me to be put to death outside of the city of Jerusalem!”


Boy did Jesus get that right!  You know Jerusalem’s reputation, don’t you?  You don’t!  Well, let me fill you in!  Jerusalem was famous for … (are you ready for this?) … for flat out opposing all the faithful preachers of God’s Word! The trustworthy and dependable preachers were mocked, ridiculed, or ignored! Seriously!  Imagine that!  People would actually do that?  They did!  With reckless abandon!


Jerusalem didn’t stop there!  She didn’t just close her ears and jaw at the preachers.  She grabbed rocks the size of softballs and hurled them at the preachers until they were graveyard dead!  Murdering them in cold-blood!  And with premeditation!  Isaiah, you remember, was probably sawn in two pieces.    


Jeremiah experienced this rejection first hand as He preached God’s Word to Israel for 40 years!  His call for Israel to repent and believe in God’s promises for the most part went unheeded!  Derided.  Disparaged.  Scorned.  So all that was left for him to preach was the destruction of the capital, the desolation of the temple, and exile!  You can just imagine how the people reacted to that kind of preaching!  They schemed to exterminate him!  “This man should be given the death sentence because of his gloom and doom preaching!”  


Like Jesus, Jeremiah not only faced hostility from his own people but death threats from the authorities.  “Go ahead and kill me if you want,” Jeremiah said.  “But it won’t change a thing!  The Word I preach is God’s Word whether you listen to it or not!  Put a knife to my throat, a noose around my neck, or dump my body in a pit, but it won’t change a bit what God says through His Word that I’ve preached!”  


Brothers and sisters, this is very serious.  I don’t think we realize the enormous spiritual cliff there is when people blow off or reject the preaching of God’s Word because their “god is their stomach,” as St. Paul says. In other words, they are deeply self-centered people.  Totally curved in on themselves.  In which their appetites, cravings, needs, and selfish desires come first.   St. Paul in the Epistle calls them:  “enemies of Christ’s cross.”   


Usually the rejection doesn’t take place so violently as with Jeremiah or Jesus.  We’re too civilized for that, at least for the time being.  Who knows, however, when that might change!  However, it is in vogue for many to boldly spout off like the late atheist Christopher Hitchens who hated God, mocked His Word and wanted to rid the world of Christianity.


I don’t think we’re at the Christopher Hitchens or militant atheist point.  We’re too polite and not so in your face.  We don’t go after God like that.  We just simply go after the messenger!  We blow off and ignore the Word preached to us and then we justify ourselves by asserting:  “Nothing against you Lord!  We’re not rejecting you Lord.  We just don’t care for the preacher.” 


But don’t you see that God speaks to humans through the preacher?  God spoke to Israel through the prophets and priests.  He spoke through His Son Jesus, the ultimate preacher, who had a fully functional human mouth. Jesus spoke through the apostles He sent.  He spoke through the evangelists.  And He continues to speak to us through the called and ordained servants of the Word whom He sends to His church today!  God is never without a living voice.  And that voice of God is always attached to a person – a human mouth – a prophet, an apostle, an evangelist, a pastor-teacher – an incarnate, fleshly, earthly, real set of vocal chords.


Jesus said in Luke 10:16 to the seventy disciples He sent to preach:  “He who hears you hears Me! And he who rejects you rejects Me and the Father who sent me.”


You cannot say, “I believe the gospel but I reject the preacher of the gospel!”  You cannot say, “I love Jesus but despise the preacher Jesus sent.”  You can’t divorce the message from the messenger!  That’s what the people of Israel tried to do so religiously.  “Oh, we just love you God but we can’t stand Jeremiah the preacher.  He’s so negative!  So unpatriotic!  He sounds like a heretic!”  So they decided to do God a favor by eliminating themselves of preacher Jeremiah.


Same with the Pharisees!  They were very, very religious people.  No one was as spiritual!  Upstanding citizens.  Moral.  Patriotic.  Conservative.


And yet they schemed to murder the preacher Jesus!  They would not believe in Him!  They would not listen to His preaching calling them to repentance and faith. 


Their unbelief brought Jesus to tears.  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you.”


Let’s not sugarcoat it any longer!  Let’s not spin it anymore!  Unbelief breaks Jesus’ heart!  He takes it personally.  Every prophet that was murdered or stoned to death, Jesus felt because He was present with him!  With Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zechariah!  With all the faithful priests!  He was with them in the faithful sermons they preached and Israel rejected them because of Him!  “They haven’t rejected you,” God reminded the prophet Samuel when Israel relentlessly demanded a king, “they’ve rejected me,” (1 Samuel 8:7).  Jesus takes unbelief personally.  “He who rejects you rejects me,”  (Luke 10:16).


You can hear the deep anguish in Jesus’ lament:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.”  The holy city – and yet so unholy!  Amazing!  Godly and yet so ungodly!  All at the same time.  Still true today.  The greatest of faith and the worst of unbelief lie close together even in the same person!  In the same heart! 


This is the daily struggle of every Christian!  Distracted and selfish.  Would rather not be at the divine service.  Not listening carefully to God’s Word as it is read and preached.  Not singing God’s Word in the hymns or the liturgy.  Apathy.  Not confessing sin.  Not trusting in Jesus’ forgiveness.  Dwelling and harping on the preacher’s shortcomings and failures and not on Christ’s words that he reads and preaches.  Bored with the pastor’s Johnny One Note message that Jesus died and rose for you. 


The devil, the world, and your old Adamic sinful nature are thrilled when congregations that pay no attention to or fire their pastors for begging folks to come to church regularly or to Bible study, for restoring confession and absolution, for calling sin “sin” even if it affects attendance and the budget, for begging sinners to come to the Lord’s Supper, for calling sinners to repentance and faith. 


Jesus laments this.  He cries.  Over Jerusalem because of their unbelief:  “How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, BUT YOU WERE NOT WILLING.”  This is such a tender and yet tragic picture!  A mother hen clucks after her little ones!  She tries to gather them underneath her protective wings!  To keep them from harm’s way!  Willing to sacrifice herself to save them!  But they stubbornly refuse! 


Jesus longs to gather you under His wings!  To extend His outstretched Calvary arms over you!  To hold you in His crucified and nail-scarred hands!  To shelter you in the protection of His love!  To hide you in His forgiveness!  He willingly did a Jerusalem and a Good Friday dying for you and for your salvation! 


In His crucified Body He bore all your sin.  With His crucified hands He gave you the washing of rebirth and regeneration by the Holy Spirit in Baptism.  It is His voice you hear in the absolution and the Lord’s Supper.  And with His very hands He feeds you with His Body and Blood. 


In the text Jesus said:  “You will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” 


You will see and hear Him coming in the name of the Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar!  Therefore you bless Him by singing those very words in the liturgy right before Holy Communion.


There, at the altar, where He speaks and preaches to you in the Sacrament, He calls you to Himself.  He comes to hide you in His wounds.  He comes to extend the reign of His death and His life over you.  There you are safe!  There you are forgiven!  There you have life and salvation!  As He promises through His words.


In the Name of Jesus.    

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