2nd Sunday in Lent – C LSB #423
Text – Luke 13:34
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets & stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, & you would not!
A CITY THAT KILLS THE PROPHETS
Jerusalem the golden, with milk & honey blest – the promise of salvation, the place of peace & rest – we know not, oh, we know not what joys await us there: the radiancy of glory, the bliss beyond compare! (LSB 672:1) A beautiful song, with beautiful lyrics, about a beautiful place, but it is definitely not talking about the Jerusalem of Jesus’ day.
The Jerusalem that God’s Son is talking of, in the Gospel reading for today, is quite the opposite. That city is a bloody disaster of injustice, hypocrisy & murder. The OT reading gave us a taste of that Jerusalem:
“When Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests & the prophets & all the people laid hold of him, saying, ‘You shall die!’” (Jeremiah 26:8 ESV) ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ is a time honored saying, because most everyone in this room has, at one time or another, felt the desire to do exactly that.
People don’t welcome bad news, & being the bearer of such news is not a comfortable role to play. To be savior is a thing of glory. To be executioner is a role played as we take up our cross & follow Jesus while He grieves for those who have rejected His love.
God sends His Word to bring, not just life, but also death. The exact same Word of God brings life or death depending on how you react to it. First off, God intends for His Word to bring life, but if we reject that Word it does not return to our Lord empty. Even in rejection it still accomplishes His purpose:
“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it
shall accomplish that which I purpose, & shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV) Jeremiah was sent to preach repentance to Jerusalem, but the city rejected his message. This is the result as Yahweh explains it to His prophet:
“And when your people say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me & served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours.’” (Jeremiah 5:19 ESV) The people heard the Word of the Lord & rejected it. Yet that word still accomplished the purpose for which it was sent.
As a result, that Word of the Lord, which would have rescued His people, takes them into exile in Babylon. When Yahweh took Moses & the people of Israel to the doorstep of the Promised Land, He gave a Word to enter the land flowing with milk & honey. They refused, & thus that Word of the Lord took them, instead, into 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
All of us are sinners. Each one has fallen short of God’s will for our lives. We too hear the Word of the Lord & reject it. That’s what sin is, plain & simple. Now, the Word of the Lord is a two-edged sword. It is sent to give life, but if people reject it, then it’s purpose changes. If people reject God’s Word then that same Word brings discipline or judgment.
After the Transfiguration, Jesus set His face to Jerusalem. As He’s approaching, Jesus laments that it has been such a bloody disaster of a city: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets & stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, & you would not!”
Harsh as Jesus’ words are, they are still a part of His call to repentance. His is the voice of the hen that gathers her brood under her wings, concerned & compassionate. Would anyone chastise such a hen for warning & calling her chicks? Yet this very thing, of their killing the Prince of Life, became a powerful weapon in the hands of the Apostles to preach the Law to the Jews in preparation for the preaching of the Gospel. It pricked the heart of many a hearer so that they asked on the day Pentecost:
“‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent & be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, & you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you & for your children & for all who are far off – every one whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.’” (Acts 2:37b-39 ESV)
“…& there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41 ESV) Jesus had tried to gather the people of the city about Him, to bring them the joyful assurance of their salvation through His blood. Yet those who thought themselves the holiest & best brought upon their Savior the greatest damage & harm.
Some eventually had a change of heart. Others did not. On the Last Day, their lips, for the chattering of their teeth, will hardly be able to form the words, & their heart will utter curses & blasphemies. Against every grain of their will, they will confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
This week’s Bible readings are provocative. The OT lesson is a confrontation between Jeremiah & the people of Judah. In the Gospel we hear of the confrontation between Jesus & the Pharisees. These readings also confront us with a “prophetic word” that our people & maybe we, ourselves, might not want to hear. It is the message of the cross.
The thrust of this reading from Luke is the rejection of Jesus by His own people, just as they did to His predecessors the prophets of old. While God desires to draw people to Himself, they deliberately abandon His temple (Christ), & His presence. Jesus would be killed by the very people He was sent to save. Jerusalem, after all, was the city that kills the prophets.
Our heavenly Father is fully aware of that, so He’s able to build it into His plan of salvation. Just as God’s people commonly end up in exile, because of the brokenness of this world, Jesus would end up in exile on the cross & in the grave. Then, as God delivers His people, in events like the exodus, Jesus would accomplish the world’s greatest exodus as He is released from death & from the grave. Because sin is at the root of death, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead clearly demonstrates that Jesus has conquered death & its root – sin.
Sin has been conquered but until Judgment Day it is still at work in the lives of God’s children. The confrontational tone of the readings for today comes not from God, but from unbelief. Those who love God agree with the truth; those who don’t, they hate the truth.
A prophet is sent by God to faithfully speak His word. The people in Jesus’s day were comfortable in their sin. They did not want to be called to repent. So, the prophetic word has to be confrontational.
Does the church today still speak a prophetic word? We, too, have become comfortable with our sins. Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, violent crime, pornography & profanity are cabled into our living rooms & called “entertainment.” Coveting & greed are seen as the only way to survive. No, people still do not want to hear a prophetic word calling them to repent.
Perhaps, the church has grown fearful of speaking it. We’ve allowed Satan & the world to intimidate us & convince us that it is more loving to overlook than to confront & be more like Jesus. Our culture especially says it is good to permit people to remain in their sin. So, the church is tempted to speak a word that people want to hear, but that is not God’s word.
The world, the church, you & I need the sure prophetic word. The church must say once again, “Thus says the Lord!” It does not matter what the law of the land will allow, or society permits, or others are doing. God says, “Amend your ways & obey the Lord.” (Jeremiah 26:13)
The great salvation theme is this: Those who are proud & mighty shall fall. Those who are humble & broken shall be exalted. The words of Jesus, immediately before today’s gospel reading are these: “And behold, some are last who will be 1st, & some are 1st who will be last.” That language prepares the hearer, which today is you, for God’s ultimate reversal. It is about to occur in Jerusalem. Where the weak have been trampled upon, the mighty shall fall. Those who attempt to stop God’s will, shall themselves accomplish it.
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, will do it through being crucified by the powerful Roman government & the proud religious leaders of the church. Christ’s weakness & poverty are the manner in which our heavenly Father chooses to overcome the power & money which so occupies human beings in this life.
Lent is a time to reevaluate our thinking. How are we deluded? How are we seeking care & protection in things other than the cross & the empty tomb? In Luke 13, Jesus warned the people to repent or they would perish. (v. 3) There is no middle ground. He told them to strive to enter through the narrow door or they would be shut out altogether. (v. 24–28)
This is the message we are sent to proclaim in our vocation as parent, friend, neighbor, or preacher. We can expect opposition, but we simply cannot become comfortable with sin. That’s not the Christ-like thing to do. For then, we’d empty His cross of its power to save. Without the prophetic word people will never know God’s mercy & grace & never truly hear the gospel.
Yes, Jesus is a prophet, & more than a prophet. He is our crucified & risen Savior. He promises you life & salvation, but it is available only in Him. Hear Him calling today, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . O people of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, how often I have longed for you.” Amen.
Jesus, refuge of the weary, blest Redeemer, whom we love, fountain in life’s desert dreary, Savior from the world above: often have Your eyes offended, gazed upon the sinner’s fall; yet upon the cross extended, You have borne the pain of all. Do we pass that cross unheeding, breathing no repentant vow, though we see You wounded, bleeding, see Your thorn encircled brow? Yet Your sinless death has brought us life eternal, peace & rest; only what Your grace has taught us calms the sinner’s deep distress. Amen. LSB 423:1-2
Pastor Dean R. Poellet