The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
I want you to imagine that someone near and dear to your heart comes to you with the good news that they’re getting married. This loved one then proceeds to tell you that they know they’re in love and they’re ready to take the matrimonial plunge because the spouse-to-be makes a lot of money. The spouse-to-be already has an awesome house with a pool and a nice car and a sizeable retirement investment. This spouse-to-be is also very popular; a bit of a celebrity around town. A lot of money, you say? Popular, you say? Hmm…. Oh, but it gets better! Your loved one knows that marriage is right for them because the sex is so good and so abundant. They know that marriage is right for them because “we both like puppy dogs, 80’s music, the Green Bay Packers, and Chinese food. It’s meant to be!”
Now, if you have any common marital sense at all, you know that not one of these reasons is foundational to a good marriage. Even if you were to lump all the reasons together, you don’t have the makings of a good marriage. What you have is a marriage founded on shifting sand. It’s a house of cards. In fact, if some—or even one—of these are the reasons your loved one is looking to take the plunge, the best thing you could get them for a wedding present is a good divorce attorney, because they would, no doubt, be putting it to use in the very near future. These things do not a marriage make. If you truly loved this ignorant soul, you would sit them down and try to talk some sense into them, explaining to them how a marriage is to be grounded in love—unconditional, unwavering, all-forgiving, undying love, not the pitter-patter of hormones that is so often mistaken as “love.” A true and healthy marriage is to be founded upon the pillars of trust and integrity and morality and faith. These are the things that make a marriage; not money or sex or a mutual appreciation of egg rolls. For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, till death do us part.
Now, I say all this because your Lord and Savior’s loved ones displayed the same ignorance and foolishness. In fact, as we hear today, Jesus actually wept over the fact that His beloved people didn’t know or understand the things that make for true peace. It tore Him up. It grieved Him…greatly. Contextually, we know that this event happened on Palm Sunday, as Jesus was processing down from the Mount of Olives and into Jerusalem. We’re told that He looked out from a high vantage point above the city of Jerusalem and cried and lamented over their ignorance and their unbelief. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!”
But they didn’t know. They didn’t have a clue. And it’s not because no one told them. They had been told many times and in many and various ways over the centuries. Unfortunately, they were blind and deaf to the peace of God; a blindness and deafness they brought upon themselves; a blindness and deafness they chose to dwell in. They didn’t get it. They didn’t want to get it. They were too caught up in their own pursuits of righteousness, trying to merit God’s peace. They were too busy buying and selling and bartering goods within the very confines of God’s holy house, all in the hopes of turning a quick, easy buck while at the same time getting some check marks in the “good” column of God’s divine ledger book. Everybody wins, right?
And that does bring up a good point. These folks—the very people who should’ve known better; the very people whom God Himself called and led and spoke with through the many different prophets in many and various ways over the centuries; the people who prided themselves on being “God’s chosen and beloved”—these people didn’t get it. And when Jesus is done weeping and lamenting over their willful blindness and ignorance, He makes the temple His first stop, getting off His donkey to go inside, angrily turning over tables and chasing the frauds out with a whip of cords. “How dare you turn My Father’s house into a den of thieves!” They didn’t get what true peace and trust in God was, and God loved them enough to discipline them over it. He desires the death of no man.
Now, when all this is set into context, it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Knowing how this all played out and when it was spoken, it makes perfect sense to our ears that Jesus would shed tears and lament the ignorant unbelief of those people in Jerusalem who didn’t understand what true peace is or where true peace was to be found; those people who were vehemently opposed to everything Jesus taught and stood for; those people who would ultimately have Him murdered by week’s end. But here’s an interesting question for you: What about those folks who were on Jesus’ side? What about the apostles and Mary Magdalene and all those lining the streets with their palm leaves and shouting their loud hosannas? Was Jesus weeping over and lamenting their ignorance too?
Based on what we know from all four Easter Sunday Gospel accounts, even those closest to Jesus didn’t get it. They didn’t understand the things of true peace. The beloved women were making their way to that tomb on Easter Sunday morning, not to greet their victoriously resurrected Savior as He emerged from the tomb after His Sabbath rest, but to anoint a corpse. They were all torn up and full of grief. Their guy was dead! Mary Magdalene is so distraught that when she does encounter the resurrected Christ in the flesh, she mistakes Him for the gardener. “Sir, tell me where you have lain His body.” A resurrected, living, victorious Jesus-in-the-flesh wasn’t even on her radar. She didn’t recognize the victorious peace of God standing before her very eyes. That’s sad!
And the apostles are even worse. We’re told that they were hiding behind locked doors out of fear that they may be next. When told of the resurrection by Mary Magdalene, none of the apostles believe it. It takes Christ Himself coming to them later that evening, having table fellowship with them and holding out His wounds to them as He physically shows them and declares to them what true peace is in order to prove to them that what they heard (and didn’t believe) was indeed true. That’s really sad! These guys spent three years at Christ’s feet, listening to every Word He said, witnessing every miracle that bore witness to and proved His almighty divinity and Lordship. Jesus told them quite clearly and specifically multiple times that all of salvation and peace hinged on the necessity of Him being brutalized, put to death, and rising from the dead on the third day. The best they could manage in response was Peter’s bold and ignorant, “Not on my watch, Lord! Not as long as I have something to do about it!” Sad. Truly sad. They didn’t get it. They didn’t understand. They saw Christ’s suffering and death as failure; not as victory and salvation. I understand why Jesus wept.
And you know what? When we start to recognize Christ’s lamentation and weeping in this light, you can’t help but squirm in your seat. We’re guilty too, aren’t we? In fact, we’re worse off. We know what the disciples didn’t know. They would come around to a fuller understanding of what that cross and resurrection meant. Not one of them lived an easy life after that first Easter Sunday. They all suffered for their faith again and again and again…and yet they all had a joy and peace that surpassed all understanding. Can we say honestly say that about ourselves?
Just take an honest inventory of your life. How often do our words and deeds indict us of the fact that we really don’t know (or truly believe) what true peace is or where it is to be found? We may say the right things, but our fruits often betray us. I know that probably sounds so offensive to some of you. After all, you’re a good Lutheran! And yet…when things start to get a little rough; when life takes an unplanned turn south and things aren’t working out the way we planned or hoped for, how often do we look to blame God? “I do this, that, and the other thing for you, and this is how you repay me? This is how you treat me? Don’t I deserve better; at least better than the other schmucks who aren’t nearly as good of Christian as I am?” [shaking head in sad disgust] No…you just don’t get it. Be honest: How often do we seek “unity” and “peace” in things like bylaws and policies, potlucks and picnics, music and entertainment, fundraising projects and charity drives? These things can and do unite like-minded people, but they are not the things of peace. They are not the means of God’s grace and peace. They do not bestow or give God’s peace and assurance. These things do not a marriage make.
And that’s why I want to end today, not by harping on the things that don’t make for peace, but rather by proclaiming and pointing you to the only things that do make for peace. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away all your sin and guilt; who has paid for each and every one of your sins on His cross; who died and rose again for you in order that you might have His gift of eternal life, and have it in overflowing abundance. Here is the peace of God; the peace that does surpass all human understanding; the peace that can only be known in the humility of saving faith. Here is where true unity and peace is to be found. Here is the ONLY place true unity and peace can be found! And the greatest thing of all is that none of this is hidden or done in secret. God wants nothing more than for everyone to partake and receive His absolutely free gifts of grace, mercy, and peace. He holds it out constantly to all people, inviting everyone who is weak and wearied; everyone who labors under the yoke and bondage of sin, to come to Him and be yoked to Him and His righteousness and His peace, “for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” If only people would recognize the things that make for true peace!
Now, I’m not going to end by giving you some false hope that by simply having faith in God life will now be easy and cross-free. I say this because many a person does wind up rejecting the peace of God because they didn’t find the version of peace they were looking for in their daily lives. The bills still kept coming. The sickness only got worse. The loved one didn’t get better. They died. The marriage still failed. The kids didn’t straighten up and fly right. Friendships were fractured and families were split because of the divisive nature of the cross. The unrest and lack of peace in their lives tempts them and causes them to reject the peace of God. It’s sad, but they prefer the false and fleeting peace of the world. That “peace” gives them the results they’re looking for. I understand why Jesus wept.
Folks: Here is the peace that surpasses all understanding. Here is the peace of Christ, freely held out to you and to all who will receive it. Here is the peace that can only be understood in the humility of faith; the peace that knows that no matter what crosses we bear in life; no matter how bad life in this fallen and sinful world may get, we belong to Christ. We’ve been adopted by Him in baptism into His holy and heavenly household. We bear His name. We’re children of the heavenly Father, heirs of His grace and peace; co-heirs of Christ Jesus Himself. We are His bride and He is our Groom. We have a marriage that is founded upon His grace, mercy, and peace; His Body, His Blood, His forgiveness and undying, unconditional love. Nothing and no one can ever snatch that away. No man can rent asunder the love the Christ has for us. These are the things of true peace, and may this peace of God—the peace that does surpass all human understanding—guard and keep your hearts and minds in the one and only source and giver of peace—Christ Jesus Himself.
To Him alone be all glory, all praise, and all honor.
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.
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