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Second Sunday in Lent

Luke 13:31–35

James T. Batchelor

Lent 2, series C
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Feb 21, 2016 

When I was a child, we used to watch a T.V. show called The Millionaire. Every week Michael Anthony would tell us that he had been the executive secretary to the late John Beresford Tipton.  John Beresford Tipton had the hobby of giving one million dollars; tax free, to total strangers.  There was only one string attached to the million dollars.  The beneficiary was only allowed to tell his / her spouse where the money came from.  No one else could know.

The television show would then relate the effect, good or bad, that the million dollars had on the lives of those who received the gift.  Some people prospered.  Others crashed and burned.  The show was done in such a straight forward, serious way that many people thought that John Beresford Tipton was actually a real person.

Sometimes it is fun to think about what we would do with one million dollars.  More recently, lottery pay-offs have gone so high that people began to think what they could do with a billion dollars.  We could get out of debt.  We could set up a philanthropic foundation and use the interest to fund worthy charities.  We could help the hospital buy a new piece of equipment.  We could invest in ways to improve our community.  There are many things we could do.

What would you do if someone gave you one million dollars and then told you to come back as often as you liked and you could have whatever money you needed whenever you wanted?  Just ask and it is yours.  What if he told you to tell all your friends and they could also come and have a million dollars?  Do you think you would tell your friends?  Do you think you would show up regularly to receive more from this very wealthy and very generous person?

What would you think if you told your friends and they had you arrested?  What would you think if people said you were an idiot for getting money from this generous person?  What if people killed you for telling them about this person who was giving away free money?  Would you expect people to accuse you of being narrow minded when you told people that they couldnt get free money from any other person?  Would you expect people to say things like, You know if we get our money every week, we wont really appreciate it? Would you expect people to hunt down this very wealthy, very generous person and kill him?

Welcome to the world of the prophet.  If you were to take my recent examples and replace the money with forgiveness, you would exactly describe the insanity that faces the prophet, the apostle, and all the messengers of God.  God wants to cover us in His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation and for some reason, that makes people angry.

In todays Gospel, Jesus said, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Luke 13:34, ESV) God wanted to rain blessings down on Israel.  He sent hundreds if not thousands of prophets to them.  These prophets told of Gods love and warned about the dangers of rejecting that love.  They told how God wanted to serve Israel and care for her.  As God said through the prophet Jeremiah, For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

One might expect that people would receive this good news with great joy and celebration.  Dont count on it.  Look at what happened to Jeremiah in todays Old Testament Lesson.  The people wanted to kill him.  Most of the prophets died at the hands of those whom God wanted to bless.  The people not only rejected the prophets and their message, but they also killed many of them.  Many of Gods prophets also spent a large part of their ministry in prison.  Those who managed to remain free and die natural deaths did so because God protected them in supernatural ways.

What Jesus said about Jerusalem in His day, we can say about the church today.  In Jesus day, God revealed His presence in Jerusalem.  Today, God reveals His presence in His church.  They had the Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.  We have those books plus the additional revelation of the New Testament.  They had the sacrifices and the temple.  We have Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar.  They, more than anyone, should have understood and rejoiced at the message of the prophets.  We too, should be eager to hear Gods message, to study it, to learn it, and to meditate on it.

I am sure that everyone here would admit that the forgiveness of sins is worth more than any earthly treasure.  It is worth infinitely more than a million, a billion, or any amount of wealth this world could ever produce.  It is worth the life and death of Gods only begotten Son.

Why then do we despise this priceless gift?  We would never despise a million dollars.  Why then do we despise a gift that is worth infinitely more?  Why do we despise Gods Word when it is the means by which we receive a treasure that is beyond any price?

It is in our nature to reject God.  We inherited that nature from our ancestors all the way back to Adam and Eve who sinned and lost their innocence.  We are all born as enemies of God with hatred for Him and His gifts.  That is the reason the people of ancient Jerusalem killed the prophets and stoned those whom God sent to them.  That is also the reason it is so hard to get to church on Sunday mornings and other times of worship.  That is the reason we sometimes stay home to get a little work done around the house.  That is the reason we treat the priceless treasures of God like worthless pieces of junk.

Fortunately, God loved us even while we hated Him.  Jesus is Gods Son sent to rescue us.  The events of todays Gospel happened while Jesus was on His way to complete that rescue.  He was taking His farewell tour of Israel before He went to Jerusalem to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for us.  That is the reason He said, It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem. (Luke 13:33, ESV) That is also the reason He had no fear of Herod.  He knew that His death would take place in Jerusalem, not in Galilee.

As Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem His ministry focused on those upcoming events.  He taught and healed as He usually did on these journeys, but He also spent more time preparing His followers for His upcoming suffering and death in Jerusalem.

After He arrived in Jerusalem, His journey would continue.  At the end of that journey, He would carry a cross to Calvary.  He would also carry our sins.  Jerusalem is the place He would complete His journey.  It is the place where He would proclaim, It is finished, as He finished His mission to pay the penalty for our sins.

Jerusalem is also the location of an empty tomb.  It is the place where His friends laid Jesus body after He died on the cross.  It is also the place that angels said, Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise. (Luke 24:57, ESV) Jesus did not remain in the grave, but rose to live again.  Jerusalem is the place of the resurrection from the dead that promises us eternal life.

There are times that we Christians feel like joining Jesus in His lament.  It is easy to be discouraged with the low attendance at Divine Service, the lack of interest in Bible Class, the lack of respect for the Sacraments, and a general apathy toward Gods Word.  There are times that we want to scream out, Dont you people understand the priceless nature of Gods gifts?  Dont you understand that God wants to gather us together under His protection?

When we have these feelings we can remember that we dont make Christians.  The Holy Spirit does that.  Instead, God asks His church to remain faithful to His Word, proclaim the forgiveness of sins, administer the sacraments according to His command, and teach all the things that Jesus has taught us.  We can rejoice that God has blessed us with all these gifts and rely on Him to sustain His Holy Christian Church until the end.  That is certainly worth more than all the treasures of this earth.  Amen.

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