The Second Sunday in Lent, 17 March 2019
A Sermon on Luke 13:31-3 5 by Samuel Zumwalt, STS
Luke 13:31-35 English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and 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, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
Joyful Service: In the Proclaiming
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
“O Wilmington. Wilmington… How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Our God is a God who wants none to be lost and all to be saved. But there are many who don’t feel their need to be saved, because they don’t feel lost. Many love their dear ones. They go to work. They are kind to their friends. They are often doers of good works and givers to charity. In short, they feel OK as they go about their lives without Christ or His Church. They kill Jesus.
You know these people. They are neighbors, coworkers, friends, schoolmates, or even members of your family. If someone they know dies, they will usually go to the funeral. If someone is going through a rough time, they may give a gift of money or provide food. If someone is in the hospital, they may go to visit them. These are not notorious sinners like drug dealers, thieves, crooked business people, or pedophiles. You love or like them. They feel the same. So you agree, often without words, to follow the old adage about never talking about religion or politics.
But we are not saved by our feelings or by being nice. There are not very many roads to God according to the Bible. When St. Patrick was kidnapped and enslaved as a boy, Irish Druids did not know or confess God’s Son Jesus. They did not feel they were lost. They did not feel their need for salvation in Jesus Christ. Patrick lived as a slave for six years before escaping back to his family. The cultural Christian faith of his childhood was fanned into a bright flame under the thumb of slavery. Back home in Roman Britain, Patrick studied for the priesthood. In a dream he heard the Holy Spirit’s call to go back to Ireland to preach the Gospel. He joyfully proclaimed salvation in Jesus’ name to people who did not feel lost. There are many here in Wilmington who do not feel lost. Many do not feel their need for Christ as their Savior. Who, then, will joyfully proclaim God’s Son Jesus as the only Savior of the world? Who will invite them to come home?
“O St. Matthew’s. St. Matthew’s… How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
We have a problem with feelings. Our feelings are often not rightly ordered. What does that mean? Rightly ordered feelings want what God wants. Notice in the text that, according to the Pharisees, Herod Antipas wanted to kill Jesus. He didn’t like how he felt when the Word of God was spoken to him. Herod had already killed John the Baptist, because he felt a greater desire for his brother’s wife and his wife’s daughter than he did for God. Like Jerusalem, he was fine.
We often love those who are closest to us: parents, spouses, children. We often like those who are likeable: coworkers, neighbors, classmates, playmates. Sometimes we love non-family members and pets more than we love some of our relatives. But, when our feelings are not rightly ordered, we ignore what God wants for us and for those we love and like.
What is the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” How does the Small Catechism explain that? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Above all people. Above anything.
Notice there is nothing there about how we feel. It doesn’t matter how we feel. We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things, above all people, above anything. Because if we listen to our feelings, we will become like the first parents who didn’t feel it was wrong to eat the forbidden fruit. We will become like Israel in the wilderness who didn’t feel it was wrong to make a golden idol, who didn’t feel it was wrong to gripe and complain about Moses and God, who didn’t feel it was wrong to wish God had never rescued them from slavery in Egypt.
Let’s go deeper. Why is our grief so strong? Why is our sense of loss so paralyzing? Why does being betrayed often result in bitterness or cynicism? Because we have feared, loved, and trusted in something or someone above God. Our idols, including the people we love most, cannot save us. In fact, our feelings for the people we love and like often pull us away from what God wants. When we shut our ears to God’s Word or when we just remain comfortable as we are, we kill Jesus again.
Let’s be honest with ourselves and with God, because our heavenly Father already knows everything about us. It is not comfortable to listen to God’s Word. It is even less comfortable to study God’s Word. It is even less comfortable still to have our feelings rightly ordered according to God’s good and gracious will. It’s far easier to follow our disordered feelings that kill Jesus.
Dear ones, we will each give an account of our lives to God. Jesus isn’t being metaphoric when He warns us about the judgment to come. The Word of God repeatedly warns of judgment. Why? Because the Lord Jesus wants what His Father wants – to protect and save everyone! Our God is not a puppet master. He forces no one to turn to Him for protection and salvation! Hell is eternal separation from God. Some people are choosing hell, and they feel just fine about it.
The Coming One
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 118:26). Residents of Jerusalem regularly greeted the Jewish pilgrims who came to Jerusalem for the great Temple festivals with these words. But when Jesus came to Jerusalem, many of its residents did not welcome the One through whom all things were made. Many did not receive with joy the Savior of the world.
Instead they did to Him as they did to the prophets and those God sent before Him. They killed Jesus through the machinery of the Roman Empire. It was death by Roman execution, but the residents of Jerusalem, for the most part, wanted Jesus dead. To them, He was a blasphemer. And, in an economy that was Temple-based, Jesus’ attack on the Temple was a threat to that overwhelming percentage of the local population who made their living from the Temple.
On Good Friday, we will remind ourselves that we are Jerusalem, too. We sing “Ah, Holy Jesus.” We sing, “I crucified Thee.” We kill Jesus again and again by our fearing, loving, and trusting anything other than God. The whole world kills Jesus.
Like Joseph’s brothers in the book of Genesis, we meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). Though we killed and continue to kill Jesus with our sins, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the once-for-all Blood sacrifice for our sins.
When we say or sing the “Sanctus,” the “Holy, Holy, Holy,” before the Lord Jesus comes to us in the Host and in the Cup of salvation, we repeat these words: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.” Jesus is the name above every name, because He is the Lord God made flesh to save and redeem us. In His name, and in no other, there is forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. There is no way to the Father except through Jesus. No other gods can save us. And so, we sinners greet Jesus as the One who comes in the name of the LORD, for He is God incarnate.
Having heard our Lord’s desire to protect and save us from the foxes of this world like Herod, how can we ever miss one opportunity to receive the Savior of the world in His Holy Supper?
When we come to the altar, we are in the presence of the living God. We ought to approach the altar with holy awe, because the Lord Jesus has promised to be present in the Host and the Cup. We do not make Him present by our faith or make Him absent by our unbelief. By His Word of Promise, the Lord Jesus is truly present. How, then, will we receive Him? Like the wicked city or like the mostly Galilean pilgrims who greeted Him with joy on that first Palm Sunday?
Will we come to the altar certain we are in the presence of the Holy God? Will we come certain that we are sinners in need of mercy, unworthy servants in need of grace, death-bound sinners hungering and thirsting for the Medicine of Immortality?
In three weeks, our evangelism chair David Sundberg is going to distribute invitation cards to everyone here. He is going to ask you to fill in the service time you will worship on Easter and then to give it to someone who is unchurched, to someone who needs what only Jesus can give. If you are not doing so already, pray for your unchurched loved ones. Pray especially for the unbaptized. As you pray for them, see in your mind them sitting next to you in worship. See in your mind the unbaptized being baptized into the Lord Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. There is joyful service in proclaiming God’s mercy and love in Jesus Christ. Don’t be distracted.
Feelings are powerful, dear ones. God made you to feel, but He also made you to think. So, think about how disordered your feelings are about many people and many things. Think about how you often feel what you want even when you know from God’s Word that your feelings are not what God wants. In this Lenten season, we look closely at all those people and things that we fear, love, and trust in above God. Admit these have become idols in your life. Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
©The Rev. Dr. Samuel David Zumwalt, STS
St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
Joyful Service: In the Proclaiming
“O God, whose glory is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 980-981).
Luke 3:31 “… ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’”
St. Cyril [5th century Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt]: “They saw the multitudes already repenting and receiving with eagerness faith in him. They saw that now they needed only a little more instruction to learn his glory and the great and adorable mystery of the incarnation. Likely to lose their office of leaders of the people and already fallen and expelled from their authority over them and deprived of their profits – for they were fond of wealth, and covetous, and given to lucre – they made pretense of loving him, and even drew near, and said, ‘Get away …” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Luke, 232).
Luke 3:32 “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow ….”
St. Augustine [Late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo Regius, Algeria]: “Because it [the fox] was troubled, what did it do? It slaughtered infants. What did it do? It slaughtered infants in place of the infant Word. They were made martyrs by the shedding of their blood, before they could confess the Lord with their mouths. And these are the first fruits that Christ sent to the Father. An infant came, and infants went. An infant came to us, infants went to God. ‘From the mouths of infants and sucklings you have perfected praise’” (232).
Luke 3:33 “… for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”
St. Ephrem the Syrian [4th century deacon, hymnographer, and theologian]: “It was prophetic that Moses had given [the Israelites] the order to offer their sacrifices in one single place – there to offer the lamb in sacrifice and [there] to accomplish an image of the redemption. Take note that although it was Jerusalem that killed him, nevertheless Herod and Nazareth were united with regard to his death, and vengeance will be required of both for his death. Learn also from this that not only will vengeance for his blood be required of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but also everyone who saw and denied him will be convicted for having killed him” (232).
Luke 3:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent…”
St. Cyril [5th century Patriarch of Alexandria]: “He shows that Jerusalem is guilty of the blood of many saints, declaring that it is not possible for a prophet to perish away from it. From this it follows that its people were about to fall from being members of God’s spiritual family, that they were about to be rejected from the hope of the saints and entirely deprived of the inheritance of those blessings which are in store for those who have been saved by faith. He showed them that they were forgetful of God’s gifts, and stubborn and slothful to everything that might have profited them …” (232-233).
1. In what ways this week have I been complicit in the death of Jesus and invited God’s judgment?
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism (from Martin Luther’s Small Catechism)
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
What does such baptizing with water indicate?
“It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
Where is this written?
St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: ‘We were buried therefore with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4
1. Pray for every unbaptized child you know and for the child’s parents, too.
2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend when (or if) you were baptized with water in the name of the Triune God. Look up the date, place, and pastor’s name. Give thanks for your Baptism each year on that day. If you cannot locate the date, then choose another day.
4. Whether you were an infant in arms, a child, a teen, or an adult, stop to ponder what you brought to the font when you were baptized. The answer? Your sin and your death. If you haven’t been baptized or your child hasn’t been baptized, ask. Holy Baptism at the Easter Vigil is amazing.
5. Take home your worship bulletin and read today’s Gospel lesson each day before you pray.
6. Set aside time daily, preferably first thing, but when you are able to focus, to hear the Word of God, to reflect upon that Word, and to ask the Holy Spirit to grant you grace to be shaped by and conformed to that Word. Daily devotions are available by email, on St. Matthew’s Facebook page, and on the home page at www.stmatthewsch.org.
For Husbands and Wives
Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”