✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠
We’re always looking for what will bring us peace and contentment and happiness. We try to find it in getting stuff, in having that relationship we’ve always sought, in our work, in hobbies and vacation trips, in a pill, in some new philosophy of life or some new diet or workout. But it always seems to be just out of reach. For real peace comes only through communion with God in Christ Jesus.
The name Jerusalem literally means “city of peace.” “Salem” in Jerusalem is a form of the word “Shalom,” “peace.” So there is clearly a sad irony in Jesus’ words when He says, “If you had known, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!” The Prince of Peace had come to them. But the city of peace did not recognize or receive Him.
And so as our Lord is about to enter Jerusalem for the last time before His death, He weeps over her. He cries as a parent cries who sees that his child has gone wrong. He cries as a husband cries over the wife that has rejected him for another. He weeps out of love for His people who were blind to who He was and what He had come to give them. Our Lord is not a cold, dispassionate, detached person. Not only did He take on our flesh and blood but also our soul and spirit and mind and emotions. His heart aches when His people turn away from Him.
Jesus laments over what is going to happen to them. In the year 70 A.D., just forty years after this Gospel, Jesus’ prophetic words were fulfilled. Jerusalem was attacked and laid siege by the Romans. Hundreds of thousands were killed or died from famine and plague. Those not worth anything to the empire were executed, adult and child alike; their dead bodies piled up to block the lanes and the streets of the city. The strong men were kept alive and forced to work in mines or become slaves. The Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote that 97,000 young men were taken away as slaves. He also reports that Titus, the emperor Vespasian’s son, sent a great number of captives into the Roman provinces, as a present to them, that they might be destroyed in their theaters and coliseums, by the sword and by the wild beasts. Above all, the temple was utterly destroyed and laid waste. All that is left of the temple still today is the wailing wall.
This was the judgment of God. The Romans were His instrument in executing the sentence. For Israel had rejected the Messiah. They did not know the time of their visitation, when God Himself visited them and walked among them. It was their day, and they missed it. The things that made for their peace with God were hidden from their eyes by their own unbelief. The weeping of God eventually becomes the judgment of God for those who will not repent.
Now it’s not as if the Jews weren’t religious. St. Paul says in the Epistle, “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” in Christ. They were passionate for God, but they tried to get right with Him on the basis of their own keeping of God’s Law. They foolishly trusted in their own obedience and holiness rather than humbly and penitently relying on the grace of God revealed to them in Christ and receiving His righteousness as a free and undeserved gift. And so they ended up rejecting the very one their Law prophesied. All their religious passion was for nothing. They wanted something flashier and more glorious than this lowly Jesus. In fact it offended them to think that’s how God would visit them. They stumbled at this stumbling stone of the Gospel, and so the stones of the temple and the city were demolished around them. Their lives were taken from them.
This is a clear and sobering call to repentance for you still today. For it shows that God’s judgment is real and is nothing to be trifled with. What happened to the Jews in Jerusalem in the 1st century is a miniature picture of what will happen to all the unbelieving world on judgment day. Consider, then, how things stand with you. Are you passionate about moral topics and the social decay of our nation, but ho-hum about learning Scriptural doctrine and the Gospel of Christ crucified and studying God’s Word? Are you relying on your own religious efforts and praying and obedience to bring you into God’s favor rather than Christ alone? Then your religion is like the false, man-centered religion of the Jews, and you must repent. Do you look for God primarily in mysterious signs or supernatural occurrences instead of in His humble but sure Word? Is divine service something that has become passe’, that you could do without for weeks at a time? Then you are like the Israelites who did not know the time of their visitation; you aren’t seeing how God Himself visits you in the scandalously lowly means of preaching and the sacraments, and you must repent. Are you one who wants to use religion as a means of personal gain or as a way of getting God to bless you financially? Then you are like those who bought and sold in the temple, and you must repent.
Turn away from all that, and turn to Him whose heart still weeps out of love for His people. Trust in Him who continues to cry out, “If you would know, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!” Christ Himself is your Peace. He is the One who brings reconciliation between you and God, the One who gives the peace that passes all understanding. This is your day, the day of your visitation, as it is written, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.” This is the moment in which Christ is coming to you in His Gospel sounding in your ears. Believe in Him; trust in what He has done; seek His righteousness.
For our Lord has cleansed the temple. When Jesus drove out the moneychangers in righteous anger and purified the temple as a house of prayer, that was a sign of what He was about to do at Calvary. For there on the cross Jesus Himself experienced the righteous anger of God against the world’s sin and drove it out in the temple of His own body. Jesus made Himself unclean in your place. He took all of the greed and the self-righteousness and the pollution of every sin that you’ve done or that has been done to you, and He made it His own dirty mess. By His holy suffering and death He took it away from you and cleansed it from you forever.
Jesus had said of His body, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Though the temple in Jerusalem remains destroyed, Jesus could not remain in the grave. He is now bodily raised in everlasting glory and honor, the new and eternal dwelling place of God for you. Jesus is your temple. The risen body of Christ is full of holiness and righteousness and cleansing. Baptized into Him, those things are all yours. You are now the body of Christ. And therefore you are the temple of Christ’s Spirit, who dwells in you through your baptismal faith. You are safe from divine judgment. For you are in Him who took the judgment for you.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, God is coming to visit, both now and on the Last Day. That is bad news for the unrepentant, for those who want something more than Jesus and His undeserved grace. God’s visitation means judgment for the unbelieving. But for you who believe, it is the greatest good news. “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!” But you do know. This is your day; this is the time of your visitation! Here are the things that make for your peace, the body and blood of Christ, offered up for you for the forgiveness of your sins, for your peace, for your rest, for your restoration to the Father. God grant you always to be like that faithful remnant in the Gospel that were very attentive to hear Jesus, so that by His grace you may be brought to dwell eternally in the new Jerusalem above.
✠ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ✠