Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the tenth Sunday after Trinity 8/16/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity10 Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s lessons. To read the Bible texts for the tenth Sunday after Trinity, click here.
Jeremiah was called to warn God’s people. And in our OT text today, he was specifically warning them not to trust in these deceitful words:
This is the temple of the LORD… verse 4
You might take this moment to consider that these words weren’t exactly false. They were deceitful. Imagine a group of people looking around and pointing at the temple, and exclaiming, “This is the temple of the LORD!” The thing is… it was. These were actually true words. And yet, true as they were, the words were deceitful because the words deceived.
These deceitful words would have been spoken like a quasi-magical religious slogan. The factual appeal to the Temple of the LORD would have served as a sort of legal loophole. And the intended effect was that those who spoke these words or trusted in them had a convenient way around God’s law.
They thought they could do all the things that Jeremiah was instructed to warn them against. They thought they could oppress the defenseless: travelers, orphans, and widows. They thought they could play around with idols and false gods. They thought they could commit adultery. They thought they could literally get away with murder, and still live in the land promised to their fathers. They thought that the temple made everything okay, and that they would never have to deal with the consequences of their wickedness.
But that’s not how the temple worked. There is no sacrifice; there is no sanctuary; there is no salvation apart from faith.
Based on their actions, they had no faith. Like those who would parade the ark of the covenant into a battle to ensure a victory, they treated the temple like a charm or a talisman. They were like thieves and scoundrels hiding out in a cave; using it as a shelter and resting place while they waited to go commit more treachery.
Has this house, which is called by My Name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?
Behold, I Myself have seen it, declares the LORD.” verse 11
They didn’t just want to rob people, though. They wanted to rob God Himself. Deliverance, i.e. life and salvation, is given by grace through faith; but they didn’t want to receive it that way. Instead, they wanted to trap God with legal rhetoric.
Fast forward to this morning. Jesus has entered the temple for the last time before His crucifixion; and what He sees brings Him to tears: The temple that bears His Name has become a den of robbers.
Robbers dressed up as money changers cheat people. A business revolving around the sale of sacrificial animals has sprung up. And the religious leadership watches as it all goes on, because “the temple of the LORD.” That is, because these things work within the legal framework they’ve invented.
Faith is fine if you’ve got it; but look at the deal you can get on this mostly unblemished lamb; looks so good no god would know the difference between it and the real thing.
But these are not the things that make for peace between God and man. The only peace between God and man is the peace found in Jesus the Christ. This, now, is the time of His visitation. And because they will not recognize Him now, they will be destroyed later.
When Jesus says that this place will be torn down to the ground, He is prophesying the conquest of Jerusalem and its destruction in the year 70 AD. That destruction should serve as a warning for rejecting Christ when He presents Himself.
What God’s people did in Jeremiah’s day was not okay because the temple stood. The sacrificial system was never meant to replace God’s commands. Likewise, what God’s people did as Jesus walked through the courts was not okay because the temple stood. God had torn that temple down before, and He would tear it down again. And so, no one could deceitfully cry, “The temple of the LORD!”
You don’t get to either. Just as the sacrificial system did not replace the law, Jesus, the Sacrifice to end all sacrifice, does not replace the law; rather, He fulfills the law.
Jesus has satisfied the law’s demands. He has suffered and died in the place of every last person, none of whom could keep the law. Like the temple, He was torn down; but unlike that temple in which He walked, He has been raised back up again. This is what He said would happen. Christ spoke of Himself when He said:
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. John 2:19
He is the new and living Temple. And though He cannot be trapped in a building made with hands, still, just like in the days of our fathers, He has chosen to be wherever His Name is.
You have been baptized into that Name. This is what Paul means when he writes to the Church in Corinth, encouraging them to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ, which is a stumbling block to those who would build a foundation on their own works and righteousness. Paul writes:
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16
In Baptism, God has made you His temple and dwelling place. You are holy. And so, you can expect that the Lord, as He always has, intends to keep you holy.
How does He do that? By His Word. Yes, Jesus can get pushy when He needs to. The cleansing of the temple is recorded by every one of the Evangelists.
Matthew and Mark point out the flipping of the tables, and John includes the detail about Jesus making a whip out of cords. But Luke emphasizes a different aspect of the cleansing. By omitting whips and flips, Luke focuses our attention on the Word.
It’s not even a new Word Jesus speaks. He literally quotes God’s Word which was given to Jeremiah. The rules are not different. God’s grace is still not an excuse to do evil and ignore His commandments, none of which have changed.
Again, Luke draws our attention to the Word as the way God cleanses His temple. The Word is still how Jesus cleanses His temples and makes them holy. The Word is still how Jesus makes you holy.
The same God who made you His temple in Baptism has not left you. He sees all of your evil; but He also hears your confession and your prayers.
You have not come here to speak into a void, and God does not stay silent. As soon as you confess, He is happy to speak His forgiveness into you. For Jesus said
He who hears you hears Me. Luke 10:16
Having cleansed His temple, He shows you how to avoid polluting it further. This happens in the reading of His Word, in preaching, and Bible Study. Finally, God even joins His Word to Bread and Wine, with the promise that we receive in this Sacrament His own Body and Blood. He pours His forgiveness down our throats, so that we would be clean where it counts.