Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, AD 2021

Luke 19:41-48; Jeremiah 8:4-12

Have you cared about a place so much you would weep to see it go? Jesus, having entered the city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, now weeps over it. Jerusalem was never His home. He was not born there, that was Bethlehem. He did not grow up there, that was far north in Nazareth. Yet Jesus has been to Jerusalem many times. It was where the temple was, and for those who believed in God in the Old Testament, the temple was the place where God was present for salvation. Yet Jesus knew that this place where the faithful came to worship would be destroyed. Why? God was judging the people for their rejection of Him, which is a sign for the future final judgement. The temple was becoming obsolete. Soon all would worship in the name of Jesus, who comes to us, in spirit and truth.

Judgment for rejection

You may ask, why would the city of Jerusalem be judged? Wouldn’t Jerusalem, of all cities, be the best? Wouldn’t it be an example of holiness if there ever was one? It was the city David conquered and made the capital of Israel. It was the place Solomon built the magnificent temple for God. Yes, but if we only read that far in the Old Testament, if we only stick to the Bible storybook, we don’t get the whole story.

The prophet Jeremiah shows us what Jerusalem had become in his time. This is more than 600 years before Jesus. The leaders especially still thought they were in good with God. They were Jerusalem. They were the Holy People in the Holy City! Everything was fine. Yet the Lord speaking through Jeremiah disagrees: “Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.” The people were holding fast to lies, to what they thought they were. They were like the failing student who says, “I am really as smart as a ‘A’ student, I just don’t feel like doing the work right now.” They had plenty of scribes who said, “We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us.” They has prophets and priests saying “Peace, peace” everything will be fine. Yet these were lies. They were holding to nostalgia for the past without examining what was really happening. And then the Babylonians came, the walls torn down, the temple looted, and the people taken into exile.

Fast forward now to the time of Jesus. The Jews had returned from exile, but they acted no better. King Herod had built a new temple, more magnificent than before. They thought they were in good shape. Sure, they were under Roman rule, but they were slaves to no one. They had their civic and cultural pride. Yet what happened at the time of visitation, the time when God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, came to them? Some believed, especially the poor and lowly. The Marys and Zechariahs and Johns, the weak and sick, demon-possessed, tax collectors and prostitutes. Those who saw themselves as sinners in need of a savior, they believed. But most rejected Jesus, especially the leaders of the Jews. They wanted to destroy Him. When they had a chance, they did. They delivered Him to be crucified and said, “His blood be on us and our children!” (Matthew 27:25). When God in flesh visited them with forgiveness and healing, the Jews of Jerusalem rejected Him and sent Him to His death. They would be visited again forty years later, but this time with Judgment.

For just as Jesus prophesied, in the year 70 AD, the city was surrounded and put under siege, and at the end not one stone was left on another. They were warned. The historian Josephus describes many strange signs that occurred in the years leading to Jerusalem’s destruction. An image of a flaming sword appeared in the sky, people heard the sound of armies when there were none, a voice was heard in the temple saying “Let us depart from hence,” and a man called out prophesying the destruction of the city for a year without stopping. Even after these signs, even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Jews still hardened their hearts.

They were so hardened that factions grew in the city, and people grew restless. A group called the Zealots decided to start a rebellion against the Romans. So Emperor Nero sent General Vespasian and his son, Titus, to put it down. God used the might of Rome to send His judgment. Titus came to the city with his Roman legions on Passover, when many Jews flock to the city to worship, so there were over 300,000 at that time. He surrounded the city and put it under siege, and the famine inside became so bad that brothers fought over a little bread, and people were eating shoe leather. Thousands died, but the Jews would not surrender. Then the siege broke, the Romans entered and killed every fighting age man and many more. The temple was burned to the ground with the priests in it. The city was almost completely leveled, with only a wall left so the Romans could camp by it. Almost all inside the city were slaughtered. Such is the judgment of God.

Do not ignore this as if this was for them only. The judgment of Jerusalem is given to us as a small taste of what the final judgment will be at the end of time for those who reject Christ. God wants to remind us that we should confess our sin and repent. Do not be like the Jews who closed their eyes and thought everything was fine. Don’t be like them in thinking, I’m a good enough person that my neighbors like me, so I’m ok. Don’t live thinking if you are a good American you are a good Christian. Like in Jerusalem, there are widespread sins that happen every day which are totally accepted by typical Americans. Abortion, financial cheating and greed, sexual sin, divorce, pornography…these are all fully legal and protected in our society. Don’t be caught in nostalgia for the past, thinking because we have prophets that say “Peace” and teachers who say “we are wise” that you are exempt from judgment. Do not think that because you were confirmed long ago or your parents were married in church you do not have to repent. Personal or group judgment will come – be prepared. Confess your sins. Run to the refuge of Jesus.

Jesus as new temple

The Jerusalem temple is destroyed, never to be rebuilt, but this is a place where God no longer inhabits. Jesus cleared out that den of robbers. What does Jesus bring into the temple after He clears it? Himself. His teaching. No longer do we gather to a temple in Jerusalem, but we gather around the temple of Jesus’ body. We also hear his teaching through Scripture and faithful preaching. We receive His once and for all sacrifice through His body and blood. For his death brought judgement on the Jews of Jerusalem – “his blood be on us and our children!” they said. But for you who believe there is a promise – his blood be on you and your children. Jesus’ blood, that sacrificial blood that covers all our sins. It is the blood that flowed from the cross so your blood would be spared in judgment. His blood declares – all your sins are forgiven. Repent. Hold to this promise. Hear the Word of God above all others and hold to it. That is faith.

Do not close your eyes to the signs of judgment as the Jews of Jerusalem did. A flaming sword, sounds of armies, cries of woe, and they did not care. They closed their eyes and their ears because they closed their eyes and ears to Christ. Keep in the Word of God and your eyes will be open. Pray to the Lord, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 146). This will involve effort. It may involve in our time turning down other voices that aren’t God’s. Turn off the TV news and social media that says “we are wise.” Turn off the TV preachers who just make you feel good and say “Peace peace.” Jesus is not here to bring peace, but a sword. He holds that sword as your conquering king. He is your hero.

What happened to the Christians at the siege of Jerusalem? They had left. They were living in a small town across the Jordan. They heeded the Lord and they were protected. So that promise is for you as well. Listen to the warnings of judgment. Listen to the promises of your Savior. As we live according to his holy Word and instruction, He can preserve us even in the time of utmost need. That is faith – to know that the world may crash, the city be razed, but you are safe in your savior’s care. Amen.

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