Our text is today’s Gospel (Luke 19:41–48): 41 When [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”
47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words. (ESV)
Anyone who has been a parent for long knows the pain and sorrow that Jesus is going through here. Jerusalem, God’s chosen city. God’s children, Israel. The city of peace, as the name “Jerusalem” means. For generations, God had lavished His blessings on these people as a father does his children. The Lord loved Jerusalem, loved her with an everlasting love, a love that knows no bounds. A love that never fails.
But Jerusalem rejected Him. Time and again, Jerusalem and her people had rejected the Lord and had gone a lusting after other gods. The Lord had given her His Word. He had visited them again and again in His called servants, the prophets, who proclaimed ”This is the Word of the Lord.” It was the Word God had given the prophets to say. The Word of the Lord was not always the easiest to hear, but it was always, always given in love to God’s beloved ones.
And now God had sent the Word made flesh, come to dwell among sinners. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Saviour, the One whom angels adored and prophets longed to see. He has visited His people. He has come to them with words of repentance and faith. And His message is not complicated. Repent and believe the Gospel. God forgives your sins for Jesus’ sake. Believe it.
This is what Jesus is lamenting in our text, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. Jesus weeps because Jerusalem has rejected Him, the world’s Saviour. He grieves for the people because they do not believe His Gospel promise of salvation. And so, in His sorrow over Jerusalem, Jesus warns them of the coming consequences of their unbelief.
Time and again, Jesus called sinners to repent and believe the Gospel, that they might be forgiven and receive eternal life. To reject the Gospel has dire consequences. And so now, in no uncertain terms, Jesus proclaims the coming consequences of Jerusalem’s unbelief: When [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Jesus weeps because Jerusalem is rejecting the promise of salvation that Jesus gives. This promise of salvation comes with Jesus’ very presence. The things that make for peace are Jesus and His Gospel gifts. Jesus is the very visitation of God on earth. He is God in the flesh. And He came to save them from their sins. He came to draw them into His loving embrace; He came to pick them up from the depths of sin, wash them clean in His righteousness, and bring them to His eternal mansions in heaven.
But Jesus knows the sad consequences of what will happen if they do not repent and believe the Gospel. He can see with the eye of God what is coming their way. In 70 A.D. Jerusalem was completely destroyed by the Romans. Most of the people were killed; the survivors were scattered all over the Mediterranean. Jesus knows it is coming, and He longed to forgive their sin and their unbelief.
What was their sin? Their sin, according to Jesus, was that they did not know the time of their visitation. In other words, Jesus, God’s Son, the Saviour of the world, was dwelling among them, healing many and forgiving sins. He was right there, and they would not hear him. They refused to recognize God’s very presence enfleshed in Jesus, true God and true Man. That was their sin. Unbelief. And because they refused to hear the promise of salvation, all that was left was their destruction.
And the world still refuses to recognize the time of God’s visitation upon the earth. God is in the world, patiently working through His Word to call sinners to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9–10). But the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night, and by the Word of God the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly (2 Peter 3:7).
Most people refuse to recognize the visitation of the Lord upon the earth. But let us not go pointing fingers at them or become self-righteous, for you and I are also fully capable of the sin of unbelief. In the Old Testament lesson, the false prophets and priests cry out “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. In other words, they mislead the people into thinking that they could have peace with God without repenting of their sins. You and I are not immune from this kind of unbelief. We, too, can mistakenly think that we can have peace with God apart from repenting of our sins and trusting in Christ for our salvation. We, too, can fall into the trap of thinking that we can have peace with God even when we despise the Word by our neglect, by our absence from the Divine Service, or by paying little or no attention when it is read or preached. When we despise the Holy Word, we are really despising God’s holy presence. And, as with ancient Israel, when God’s Word is despised, there can be no peace with God.
Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! This morning, God is proclaiming this text to you not because He hates you or wants you to feel bad about yourself. Not at all. God preaches this text to you—He reminds you of the destruction of Jerusalem—precisely because He loves you and He wants only what is best for you. God longs to forgive your sins and draw you into His holy presence. But He knows your unbelief. He knows your struggle with sin. He knows how you are prone to be just like Jerusalem, full of pride and rejecting the very things that make for peace.
To an unbelieving Jerusalem, Jesus says: Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
But by God’s grace, the things that make for peace are NOT hidden from your eyes. For in Holy Baptism, God has opened your eyes. Yes, your eyes have seen the salvation which God has prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. Out of His great love for you, God has open[ed your[ eyes, that [you[ may behold wondrous things out of [His Word] (Psalm 119:18). Yes, by God’s grace, your eyes see the things that make for peace even this day.
The only thing that makes for peace between sinners and God is the blood of Jesus Christ, poured out for you on the cross and proclaimed to you this day in His Holy Word and given to you this day in His Holy Supper. That is where your peace is found. Jesus gives you the gift of Word and Supper—these things that make for peace—so that in [Him] you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! [Jesus has] overcome the world (John 16:33).
This day, we give our Lord Jesus thanks for giving us the peace of free forgiveness by which the burden of our guilty consciences has been lifted from us and we are reconciled to God. No matter how many time we may stumble into sin, we live in the peace of the sure promise of eternal life. And it is all because God is good to us undeserving sinners. God’s goodness is so great that He gives us unworthy sinners, who have so often tried and tested His mercy, the confidence of the hope of an eternal dwelling in the glory of heaven. The benefits of this eternal life are so great that they cannot be measured, nor can they be numbered. Surely, the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Yes, the glory of heaven is greater than all the evil in this world and our own afflictions. And heaven is ours because Christ Jesus, God’s Son, visited this fallen world, becoming Man and suffering and dying for and in the place of sinners, so that we may now have peace with God.
We live in a day and an age of violence and bloodshed and pain. But Jesus gives you the things that make for peace; He gives you Himself. Jesus is not far off in some inaccessible place. Jesus is Emmanuel—God with us!—and today is His time of visitation to His Church. And praise be to God, the Church knows that her Lord has come to visit her through Holy Word and Supper. And what’s more, each day He is with you, to comfort and strengthen you to keep the faith. In the midst of your sins and hurts and adversities, Jesus is always with you. He comes to you through Word and Supper to give you Himself. And in giving you Himself, He gives you the peace that passes all understanding; He gives you the peace that reconciles you to God by His death on the Good Friday cross; He gives you the peace which forgives you all your sins and unbelief and which overcomes the whole world. And if Jesus your Saviour gives you His peace now as you suffer the tribulations of this present life, then you will most certainly enjoy the peace of dwelling in His glorious presence in the most blessed comfort of eternal life. Believe it, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.