Sunday, August 12, 2012

Homily for The Tenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 10)



Luke 19:41-48; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Jeremiah 8:4-12

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Today’s Gospel theme is a reoccurring theme throughout the Church’s Year of Grace. The theme of our Lord Jesus’ visitation, or His parousia, is heard in Advent as John the Baptist prepares the way, it is heard at the beginning of Holy Week following Lent when Jesus enters the Holy City Jerusalem riding upon a donkey, and it is heard at the end of the Church Year as Christ’s Church reflects upon and prepares for Her Lord’s return on the Last Day in glory, power and great might. And, while these are three distinct modes or manners of coming and visitation, the Visitor is one and the same, our Lord Jesus Christ who has come, who is coming, and who comes amongst us even now to bring you peace with God.

All four of the Gospels include the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion on Good Friday. The three synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, also include our Lord’s cleansing of the temple as He chased out the moneychangers and the peddlers of sacrificial animals saying, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem follows directly on the heels of His great and incontrovertible miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. But, it is only in Luke’s Gospel, which you heard a moment ago, that Jesus weeps over Jerusalem prior to His entry 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.”

What Jesus was prophesying about was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. Within forty years of Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, all that He prophesied came to pass. At first, the Roman Emperor Vespasian sent his son Titus to surround and lay siege to Jerusalem, prohibiting all persons and supplies from entering, and all persons, living or dead, from exiting. Within a short period of time, food and clean water became scarce, and soon disease began to spread and, as the dead could not be removed, epidemic and plague were unleashed. All of this was compounded by the fact that it was the Passover and Jews from all over the known world were in the Holy City for the Feast. History has left us a trustworthy and visually terrible account of the destruction in the writings of a first century Jewish-Roman historian named Josephus. Here is a brief summary of some of the horrors Josephus preserved for history:

The famine had grown so bad that elders and children were beaten for their bread, some were reduced to eating the leather from shoes and belts, and some even succumbed to cannibalism of their own infants. According to Josephus, this was the worst suffering since the beginning of the world. Those who were caught venturing outside the city to forage for food were crucified until there was no more room for crosses, nor anymore wood to build them. When a man was observed picking gold coins from his own excrement, they began butchering all who tried to escape in search of loot. One evening 2,000 Jews were disemboweled in this way.

At this same time, an innumerable multitude of people died of hunger. The best of friends would often come to blows over a small piece of bread; children would often rip food from their parents' mouths. Neither brother nor sister had mercy upon the other. A bushel of corn was more precious than gold. Driven by hunger, some ate manure; some, the cinches of their saddles; some, the leather stripped from their shields; some still had hay in their mouths when their bodies were found; some sought to escape starvation by means of their own filth. So many died of starvation that 115,000 corpses were found in the city and buried. Hegesippus reported that, at one gate alone, several thousand were carried out, and that 600,000 died because of the siege.

Finally, the entire city of Jerusalem was conquered, neither young nor old were spared. From the host of captives Titus sent seventeen thousand healthy, young and strong men to Alexandria as quarry slaves. Many Jews were sold as cheaply as animals. Two thousand were distributed across the entire Roman Empire to become players in the spectacles, and to be torn apart by wild beasts in the arenas. The total number of captives who remained alive came to ninety-seven thousand; however, at the beginning of the siege, ten times one hundred thousand were in the city, the majority of them strangers and not residents, although all were of Jewish descent and blood. Thus Jerusalem, the most celebrated city in all of the East, came to a miserable and lamentable end, as had been prophesied, in the seventieth year after the birth of Christ our Lord.

This was the LORD’s judgment upon Jerusalem. This was why Jesus wept and lamented over the Holy City nearly forty years before its fall. He had come to bring peace with God, not a sword. He had come to bring mercy and forgiveness, not judgment and death. But, the Holy City did not know the things that made for peace, and it did not know the time of its visitation. Men sought peace in their own righteousness, by their own works and deeds. But they were still under the curse of Eden and at enmity with God. In Jesus, God had visited His people to bring them knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, but He was rejected and killed by His own people, by the Romans, by Jews and Gentiles alike, and by you and me as well.

Like Jerusalem, you have a choice: You will receive Jesus in faith unto forgiveness and salvation and peace with God, or you will reject Him in unbelief, remain in your sins and in enmity with God. The Lord has visited His people in the Messiah Jesus, in humility, mercy, and compassion. The Lord is visiting you, His people, now in His faith-creating, forgiveness-giving, and life-bestowing Word, Baptism, Absolution, and Supper. And the Lord will visit His people once again in power and great glory, and then every eye will see Him, and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

He has come. He comes. And, He is coming. Therefore, cleanse the temple of your soul from all self-righteousness, from trust in money and worldly possessions, from whatever idols you have created for yourself and submitted yourself to. For, today you stand in His forgiveness, at peace with God through Jesus Christ. He is unchanging, faithful, and true; He will never leave you or forsake you or break His covenant promise with you. Only you can reject Him, for He will not, and He cannot reject you.

And, His gracious visitation amongst you now is for the purpose that your faith would be renewed and strengthened and that you would be preserved in His parousia, His presence and His gracious visitation today, and every day, until He reveals Himself in glory for all to see and know. For, the peace that He brings to you, the peace that He is for you, is not a light peace, peace as the world gives, but it is true peace, peace with God who, in and through Jesus, is not your enemy and judge, but your loving Father who graciously gives you all things needful for your body, life, and soul. You are members of His body of which He is the head. You are blocks in the walls of His holy temple of which He is the cornerstone and foundation. Your Lord Jesus was torn down in your death so that not one stone was left standing upon another, and He was raised again on the third day to life that never ends. He is present for you now in this house of prayer. His gates are open and His feast is prepared. Come and eat at His banquet and know His peace.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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