[Picture: Flevit Super Illam, by Enrique Simonet (1892)]
Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the Tenth Sunday After Trinity, 8/25/2019. The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the Tenth Sunday After Trinity, click here.
Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem is like a woman who plans and prepares a gourmet meal, decorates the table and pours the wine for her husband; who is eager for their time together. But she waits all alone while he is off with another woman.
Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem is like a child who brings home a school art project and a bunch of flowers to find his mother on the phone. He says, “You’re pretty, mommy, and I love you. I made these for you.” But she turns away, answers not a word, dismisses him with a wave, and she drops his gifts into the trash.
Our Lord took up our flesh, became a man like us, and walked this earth. He suffered blisters and callouses, rashes and insect bites. He knew hunger and thirst and grief. At the very least, he buried St. Joseph, His step-father and caretaker. He also knew betrayal from friends, prejudice, and irrational hatred. He knew all the sorrows, pain, and losses of men.
But the worst of all these pains was not when they stretched out His arms and bent back His wrists to drive nails through His flesh into the boards. The worst of all these pains was not being hoisted up so that He had to lift Himself up and tear at those nails for each breath. Even as His life ebbed away amid the jeering and the blasphemy, what hurt most was that He was rejected by those He loved. Like the adulterous husband or the cruel mother, they did not want His gifts. They put Jesus where they put the rest of their trash, on a heap outside the city. They would not acknowledge what truly made for peace.
Why? They could not stand His teaching. They knew it was true. He spoke with authority. There was nothing contrary to Moses or the prophets. No one could argue with Him. He even slipped through their traps of logic and ethics.
Nor could they dispute or deny His miracles. They could not find any moral failure in Him at all. Imagine a man in whom there was no sin, in whom there was no error, Who was going about helping people, healing them. Why would you want to destroy Him?
Because He was perfect, and they were not. Because His Word cut at their hearts, it endangered their place in society. He called them to give up their lives and they didn’t want to. He held up the Law as the standard and they knew they had failed. They were guilty and ashamed. The accusations were too true and too many and they knew the Law would destroy them. So they sought to destroy it.
They sought to destroy Jesus in order to be free of the Law, free of God’s demands, free of accusations and the curse. But here is the irony: it worked.
They meant it for evil, He meant it for good. They did it in hate, He suffered it in love. They did it so that they could sin without judgment or punishment; He did it to forgive their sins and create in them a new heart and life for God.
The things that make for peace: nails and thorns, a scourge and spear, two cruel logs hoisting the Word of God up from the earth, to satisfy the demands of Justice, to be forsaken by the Father, to draw all men to Christ – adulterous husbands and negligent mothers, alike.
Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Forgive them, for they know not what makes for peace. There is the peace that passes all understanding.
Now is the hour of visitation for you. No man knows what the future holds. Amend your ways and your doings. God has good things for you. Remember Christ’s tears for Jerusalem, and repent. Your sins are many and are frequent.
Call upon God. He has promised to hear you. Ask for forgiveness, and you will receive it. Cast your burden upon Him, for He has already borne it. He will sustain you.
We all like that bit in St. Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth (6:19), when he tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we should. But we should also remember what happens when Jesus sees God’s Temple being defiled, and we should welcome it, for the Lord disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6).
Swing open now the doors of your lips and Christ will enter in, whip in hand, to drive out everything with which you have defiled yourself.
His Body and His Blood purge your soul and cleanse your heart. He is long-suffering, patient, gracious, and merciful. He loves you. He has redeemed your soul in peace. He has saved you and your children, gathering you about Himself and covering you with the wings of His Holy Spirit.
For this great, suffering God has always loved you. He never holds a grudge. It is not too late. He wants you even now and is eager to commune with you, to be your God. These are the things that make for your peace: nails and thorns, a scourge and spear, and Jesus, alive, out of the grave and at the right hand of God, your Advocate and Defender. He is your peace.