And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
And He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were selling, saying to them, “It is written, ‘AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a DEN OF THIEVES.” And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him, and they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging upon His words.
The Things which Make for Peace
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
There are things you can do to encourage certain behaviors or circumstances, and there are things you can do to discourage them. Taxes, for example, are used to manage social change. If you want some behaviors, you avoid taxing them, and reduce taxes that my infringe on them. If you want people to stop doing something, you tax that behavior. That is why, for example, the government taxes cigarettes. Part of it is a desire to make money off of the nicotine addiction, and part of it is to make smoking as financially painful as possible. They tax liquor and beer for the same reasons - to take your money when you do something you enjoy (and that way supposedly you won’t feel so bad about them taking your money) and to discourage people from drinking. Just making it illegal didn’t work in the twenties, and it cut the government out of the loop for the money.
Reward someone for doing something, and they are more likely to do more of it - and others are more likely to join in doing it, so in some areas they pay children to read books. It seems to work for some. Punish a behavior, and people will do less of it - or so the theory goes. Similarly, Jesus speaks about things which make for peace in our Gospel. There are things which promote peace, and there are things which work against it. This morning, I invite you to join me as we look at our Gospel and talk about the things which make for peace.
Jesus is approaching Jerusalem in our Gospel, perhaps as He approached Jerusalem for His Palm Sunday ride - which is reported in the verses just before our Gospel lesson. As He approached, He began to weep over Jerusalem because He knew what was coming for the city, and why. When Jesus expressed what He saw He was not just predicting future events, but pronouncing judgment on the city and her inhabitants. Their failure was that they had not recognized the time of their visitation. They were facing destruction because God Himself had come to live among them as man, and they rejected Him and would not believe what they could actually see with their own eyes.
Yes, the Jews of Jesus’ day could tell that Jesus was the One who fulfilled all of the prophecies of the coming One. They stubbornly refused to accept it, and found ways to question what they were clearly seeing, not unlike reporters who don’t want to hear what they are hearing or see what they are seeing today. Jesus did the miracles. They saw them and knew that they were real. He healed the sick, refreshed withered limbs, fed thousands miraculously, and even raised the dead - the undeniably dead were undeniably alive again. He spoke the Word of God and taught as no one had among them in a long time. They knew who He was, and what it all meant, but they just couldn’t let themselves believe it.
Of course, some did believe, but the leaders, and the majority of the teachers did not, and their flocks often followed them blindly, just as the flocks of the false teachers today will follow their leaders stubbornly, even, at times, to drinking the poisoned Kool-aide. Because of their violent rejection of the Savior, their city was to be destroyed violently. Jesus described the siege of Jerusalem that took place between sixty-six and seventy A.D. Because they broke faith with God completely, God wiped their city out and kept His covenant with them by abandoning them.
The theme of the sermon came from the words of Jesus in verse 42, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” It is kind of ironic that the sorrow of Jesus over Jerusalem is because they had not known the things which make for peace. It is ironic because the name of Jerusalem means, “the city of peace”, or “the place where peace dwells”. There He was, and they did not know it.
So what are the things which make for peace? Obviously, they are the things that Jesus brought to Jerusalem that Jerusalem refused to see and believe. First of all, I would list the will of God. God chooses us and by His will He has prepared salvation for us - so the will of God is one element of the things which make for peace. And what is the will of God for us?
Grasping that truth with our minds and our hearts brings that “peace which passes all comprehension.” Just knowing that God’s will is always for our good and blessing, and that whatever we may endure or perceive around us, we have the God-given certainty that His will is for us and is good for us, and so we may rest in peace while we live, and not just when they bury us.
That certainty, of course, is what we call “faith.” It is not the things we can accumulate that bring peace. We often discover that it is the pursuit of our desires that is the most enjoyable, not the possession of them. How often haven’t you wanted something, and worked to find it and buy it only to discover after a very short time that is hardly touched, not often used, and much less important or enjoyable than it appeared during the pursuit? Things don’t bring peace - they bring worry - about the first scratch, about someone stealing it (or them), about wear and tear and the like. No, things don’t make for peace, not even really good things.
Money doesn’t do it either. Money can smooth the road some, but either it is in danger of running out, or someone wants to take it, or - for some who find riches too suddenly - it makes them feel guilty. Faith, on the other hand, comforts us with the assurance of God’s promises, and makes us look beyond the moment and our circumstances to the promise and the hope.
Then there is the Gospel, with the forgiveness of sins. It is the substance of the faith. The Gospel tells us what Jesus has done, and what it means and how certain the promises are. The cross and the empty tomb remind us of how far God has gone for us, to save us, so that we know that we can always depend on Him and His blessing and protection in our times of need. The death of the Son of God for you demonstrates that God will do whatever it takes to keep you – and the resurrection of Jesus on Easter preaches the full and free forgiveness which He won on the cross for us. The resurrection means that God accepted the exchange of Jesus and His righteousness before the bar of His justice for us and our sins. If Jesus’ death had not been enough, He would not have risen from the dead - but He has. Even His enemies, who desired to keep His resurrection a secret, testified that Jesus arose from the grave. They testified with the limp little story about those frightened fishermen overpowering Romans guards and stealing the body. Oh yeah, they said the soldiers fell asleep on duty! Anyone who knew Romans soldiers would know right off that it was a lie. First, Roman soldiers did not fall asleep on duty - to do so was a death sentence. Second, even if one did, it was not a good way to continue living to run around saying that a soldier fell asleep on duty. The Romans would want to silence that kind of talk immediately. Nope, Jesus rose from the dead, and your sins, and mine, are forgiven.
Repentance is another thing that makes for peace. Guilt has a way of eating at you. Repentance is the one sure way to be certain that God has heard about your sin, and has addressed it with His grace. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
And then there is prayer. Jesus points out the importance of prayer when He cleanses the temple. “It is written, ‘AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a DEN OF THIEVES.” His actions in the temple bought things to a boiling point. Luke says that the leaders were trying to destroy Jesus after that. We all know how much trouble those words can bring in modern times, when you quote them in regards to sales and dinners and such - but Jesus was first, and attacking the income of the priests and leaders of the temple by driving those moneychangers and those who were selling animals and such out of the temple. He did it in part to fulfil prophecy, of course, but He also did it because prayer is so important.
If you need peace, there are few things you can do that will help you as much as a heart to heart talk with God. I know, I have experience with long talks with God. And He listens so well - and things do change. And prayer is part of all those other things that make for peace. You pray in worship, and you pray in repentance, and, of course, you pray in faith because God invites you to do so, and commands you to do so, and makes such wonderful promises to us about answering our prayers and blessing us when we pray.
It is appropriate, also, to note that as Jesus pronounces this judgment against Jerusalem, He indicates that the time is up! They cannot come to this understanding later. Jesus says, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” They haven’t killed Him yet. The destruction of Jerusalem still waits thirty-five to forty more years, and yet the judgment is done. The city continues for a while yet, in all appearances alive and “save-able”, and yet it is done. God has hidden it from their eyes now because they so flatly refused to see the truth before.
We should take from this the warning that we have not as much time, necessarily, as we like to imagine. This reminds me of those passages which say, “Today is the day of salvation”, “Now is the right time.” We don’t have time to postpone placing our trust in God, and our friends and acquaintances may not have the luxury of all of the time of their earthly lives, either. We will always treat everyone who does not believe as a potential convert, because we do not know, but it is a sobering thought that God may close the book on someone before He closes their eyelids in death. Today is the day of our visitation, and we should make the most of it in faith and in confessing our Lord and Savior.
God gives us the things which make for peace. Faith, forgiveness, the Gospel, and even prayer are gifts from God. All we can do is recognize what great gifts they are, and make use of them. We want to use the gifts and see the things which make for peace while we still have time. This is our hour of visitation. We want to ‘make hay while the sun shines’, so to speak. We what to live our faith and confess our Lord and do those things which we can to fully live in that peace which God gives by being deliberately and thoughtfully Christian day by day.
We want to answer life’s questions with faith and confidence in all that God has given us. If we do, we will possess and we will take full advantage of all of the things which make for peace.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due.
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.
Send Pastor Robin Fish an email.