The Tears and Anger of our God and Brother
Trinity Ten Sermon 2005| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| Luke 19:41-48
When God became a man and joined us where we live He did not cease to be God. He did not change. God is unchangeable. From the eternal past to the eternal future God is God. The name by which He chose to identify Himself to Moses says as much: “I am who I am.”
Human beings are fickle and unreliable. They confidently make promises that they promptly break when their promise begins to exact a cost. They are easily misled by fear, greed, lust, and covetousness. Not so with God. With God there is no variation. What He says yesterday He will say tomorrow. We can rely on Him not to change His mind.
When God became a man the human race was able to see God as never before. And while we may not attribute our fickle human emotions to God, it is an undeniable fact that God became a man and as a man He experienced the emotions common to humanity. Yet there is a very important difference. Our emotions can mislead us into sin. They often take control of us. But God cannot be controlled by emotions. He expresses what He is by nature and He is good. His emotions express the very opposite of sin. They express pure love, the purest of love.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning we see two emotions coming from Jesus. We see Jesus crying in deep sorrow. Then we see him angry. Jesus wept. He looked saw the holy city He had chosen and loved and He looked ahead to see her coming destruction and what He saw led Him to tears. Jesus displayed anger. He went into the temple and became angry with those who bought and sold there. He physically drove them out of the temple. Jesus displayed two different emotions. But in fact they were the same. The tears He shed over Jerusalem and the anger He expressed over the desecration of the temple had the same source: His deep and abiding love for His people.
It’s a tragic love story. God loved Israel. The Creator of heaven and earth chose the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob out of all the nations of the world. Why? God knows. Out of unfathomable grace He chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob whose name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with God. He chose the children of Israel. Out of that nation the Savior of the world would come. Why Israel? It was by divine grace. There is no “why” beyond the love of God. God’s grace cannot be understood by human standards of fairness or justice. God shows mercy as He chooses. He is not bound by any human claim. He binds Himself to His promise and He keeps His promise.
It doesn’t always appear to us that He will keep His promise. He promised Abraham that He would bless all the nations of the world through Isaac’s seed. Then He commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Apparent conflicts often arise and challenge the faith of those whom God has chosen. But they hold on in stubborn faith to what He promises. Within Israel there was always a remnant – a small minority – that believed in the divine promise. Through their faith they were saved.
The faith of ancient Israel was in a Savior who would come into the world to redeem His people from their sins. By the time Jesus came most has abandoned the true faith and looked instead for a political deliverer, believing that political freedom is more important than spiritual freedom. Like people today they were more concerned about the bad people out there than they were with the sin in their own heart. But the true Israelites did not look for political salvation. Like Anna the prophetess who spent day and night in the temple waiting there for her Redeemer, they humbly waited for a Savior who would wash away their sins, destroy the power of sin and death, and bring everlasting life. They knew the Savior would suffer for them. They knew the Savior would take away sin by His suffering. This was the faith of the faithful from faithful Abel who offered to God the first and the best of his flock to God to faithful Abraham who offered a ram on Mt. Moriah instead of his son. Everything in the worship life of ancient Israel was designed to prepare them for the coming of the Savior, from the regulations regarding bloody sacrifices down to the last detail about the worship in the temple. The temple symbolized God’s gracious presence. Its outward beauty was only a dim reflection of the beauty of God’s grace promised in their Savior.
Then when their Savior came only a small portion of Israel received Him in faith.
The leaders of Israel rejected their Savior. The nation as a nation did not recognize her Savior when He came. The glory of Israel was Jerusalem. The glory of Jerusalem was the temple. The glory of the temple was Christ. But when Christ came Israel refused Him. That refusal could have only one possible result. The temple, Jerusalem, and the nation of Israel would be destroyed.
They rejected a religion of repentance in favor of a religion of vengeance. The religion of repentance sees our biggest problem as the sin within our hearts from which we cannot set ourselves free. The religion of vengeance sees our biggest problem as the injustice of the system, or the unfairness of life, or some other sin on the part of others. Those who embrace the religion of repentance hunger and thirst for righteousness because they know they don’t measure up to the righteous standards of God’s holy law. God satisfies their hunger by graciously forgiving them their sins for Christ’s sake and imputing to them Christ’s righteousness instead of their own sin. Those who embrace the religion of vengeance want God to punish those that plague them. For Israel of Jesus’ day it was the Romans. They wanted a Savior from political oppression. They rejected the Savior who offered them deliverance from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
Their day came. But, as Jesus said, they did not know the time of their visitation. They did not know what made for peace. They didn’t recognize the Prince of Peace that God had promised through Isaiah. They did not know the time of their visitation. Their Savior visited them and they didn’t want what He had to give. They didn’t want repentance but vengeance. And that’s what they got! The full fury of the Roman armies went up against them and after a six month siege by the Roman General Titus, in 70AD, after having been decimated by disease and starvation to the point of cannibalism, the holy city was utterly destroyed in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesy. Jesus saw it coming and wept tears for the people He loved. Jesus didn’t come into this world to judge the world, but to save it. He came to His own people to bring her the fulfillment of her hope, but she didn’t want what He came to give.
Jesus referred to the temple as God’s house of prayer. The temple is where God met His people. But God doesn’t meet us in the buying and selling of things. He meets us in the giving of the innocent life of Jesus into death to take away our sin. God’s reign is not to be found in any political or military victory of this world. God’s wealth is not to be found in the prosperity gospel hawked by today’s religious entrepreneurs who con the gullible to embrace the promise of material wealth in the name of Jesus. God’s reign is where Christ rules over us by sending His Holy Spirit into our hearts to establish in us a living faith. This faith looks to Christ lifted up on the cross for us and rests secure in the knowledge that for His sake our sins are forgiven and eternal life is ours. This faith lives on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. God’s wealth is what God gives us in His Holy Word. When you have the privilege of praying to God through faith in Christ you are rich. You don’t need to own wealth when you know the One who does and you know Him as your dear Father.
God is not a man that He should cry, but when God became a man He did cry. God takes no pleasure in punishing sinners. Whenever we pray we pray to God through Jesus. His body is the temple, our meeting place with God. We pray as we struggle in understanding God’s will for us. When we seek to understand God’s will we should remember where Jesus went and what Jesus did after He struggled in prayer and said, “Thy will be done.” He went to the cross. He bore our sin. He made peace between God and us and the temple curtain was torn in two to prove that peace was made.
God destroyed the holy temple, the holy city, and the holy nation. But that’s not quite true. He destroyed the temple made with hands, but the true temple remains forever. Christ’s vicarious suffering and death remains where we meet our God with confidence that He is our gracious Father. He destroyed the earthly Jerusalem, but the true Jerusalem is right here among us where the Word of God is proclaimed from the spiritual Zion, that is, Christ’s Church here on earth. He destroyed the nation of Israel, but the Holy Christian Church remains God’s Israel in this world. God’s Israel is today being gathered from the ends of the earth, from all tribes, nations, peoples, and languages. No power on earth can overcome her.
It is good for us to see our God and brother cry. It is very instructive for us. Jesus did not rail against them. He did not scream threats of divine retribution. He cried. That’s because He loved them. And he loves every single unregenerate heathen in the world today. He loves the drunkard and the fornicator, the liar and the thief, the abortionist and the terrorist. He does not want anyone to perish. He wants everyone come to repentance and live. So we preach Christ crucified. We invite sinners to repentance. If God destroyed the holy city He loved and honored, He will surely destroy every proud people in this world. But for the sake of His dear Son, and His holy suffering for the sins of the world, He will receive as His own children those who take refuge in Him. And the angels in heaven rejoice whenever they do.