Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity - Mk 7:31-37

                                                                                                        Trinity 12

                                                                                                Mk 7:31-37



            When Amy had her brain tumor removed a couple of years ago, she became deaf in her left ear.  We thank God that the tumor was benign.  However, as an acoustic neuroma, the tumor had grown out of her auditory nerve.  In order to remove the tumor that was beginning to press on her brain stem, the surgeons had to destroy the nerve when they removed the tumor – there was no way to save it.

            Being deaf in that ear has required adjustments. However, Amy says there has been one great benefit.  Now it has been claimed that that I snore quite loudly. I find this to be extremely unlikely, because I have never heard it.  However, after rooming with me at the district convention, our head elder Frank Glaub says that he will not do so again because I hindered his ability to sleep.  So maybe it is true. After all, Jesus said things should be confirmed by two or three witnesses.

            So let us grant that perhaps I do snore.  Amy says that since the surgery this is now absolutely no problem.  She turns her head, puts her right ear down on the pillow, and with her deaf left hear open to the air she hears nothing at all and sleeps just fine.  Now that is what you call taking lemons and making lemonade.

            Of course deafness is no laughing matter, especially when one is talking about complete deafness.  Some of the greatest frustration I have seen in the ministry has been among the elderly whose hearing loss is so profound that they are for all intents and purposes deaf.  Having lived their whole life hearing, the inability to hear and communicate becomes deeply upsetting.

            In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus encounter a man who was not only deaf, but also had a profound speech impediment.  Our text tells us that Jesus has been in the region of Tyre and Sidon, in the far northwest along the Mediterranean Sea.  He had returned from there to the area that was on the east side of the Sea of Galilee – a region that was called the Decapolis because of the ten cities that were located there.

            In our text Mark tells us, “And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.”  Our Lord had become well known for his healing ministry.  In particular this healing was often associated with Jesus’ touch – with his laying hands on people.  Two chapters earlier, Jairus came to Jesus and implored him, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 

We learn that Jesus took the man aside from the crowd privately.  Then our Lord put his fingers into the man’s ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.  Next he looked up to heaven.  Our translation says that he then “sighed.”  This word can also be translated as “groaned.”  Either way, it expresses the response our Lord had as he stood in the presence of what sin has done to us and the world.

God created a world that was very good. It is sin that has brought suffering, sickness and death. The fallenness of the world is what causes all of those things that we have no control over, yet which afflict us physically – things like cancer, COVID, cancer, and cataracts. As Jesus, the Son of God, lived in our world he encountered these things first hand – he met them in the flesh. And Jesus reacted to what he knew was so very wrong – so very different from what God had intended and created.

Yet Jesus was also here to do something about it. He said, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened,” and the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.  Our Lord had performed this miracle of healing. But he ordered them to tell no one about it. That may seem strange at first, but there was in fact a very good reason.  Jesus wanted to define his ministry for people.  He didn’t want them drawing their own conclusions, which were almost guaranteed to be wrong.  However we learn that the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Today we hear in our Gospel lesson about a miracle that Jesus did. Yet in the description of this miracle we have a very unique feature that provides us with a very specific understanding of what it means.  We are told that they brought a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment.”  Now the word translated here as “speech impediment” is the kind of word that you hate when you are learning Greek.  You hate it because it is so rare that is unlikely you are ever going to have learned it. In fact, in the all of the New Testament and the Greek translation of the Old Testament it only occurs twice. It is found here, and in Isaiah chapter 35.

In that chapter, the prophet describes the return from exile.  But he does so in a way that clearly speaks about far more than just the people returning from exile.  In fact the return from exile becomes something that is used to describe the even greater rescue that God is going to provide – the end time salvation that God is going to give.

Isaiah writes, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

Jesus Christ was the presence of the end time salvation that Isaiah described.  By healing the man he was bringing this deliverance and salvation into the world. Yet remember how our Lord commanded the people not to tell others about the miracle because he wanted to define his ministry?  He didn’t want other people drawing their own conclusions.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, had not entered into the world in the incarnation in order to deal only with the effects of sin – with the ways we experience the fallenness of the world.  He had come to deal with sin itself.  And sin is not only about physical consequences over which we have no control. It is about what we think, and do, and say.  Earlier in this same chapter Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  If you listen to that list, you will know that Jesus is describing you.

Jesus had come to provide the answer to sin.  But while his miracles brought the amazement of the crowds, the way he was he was going to do this would not strike people as astonishing and wonderful. In the very next chapter, Mark tells us: “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

Jesus had come to suffer and die for our sins.  Our Lord said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  That is what Jesus did as he died on the cross. He gave himself as the ransom who won forgiveness by receiving the judgment of God against us.

But Jesus also said that after three days he would rise again.  The result of sin is sickness and death.  Jesus did not only win forgiveness for us before the Father.  By his resurrection he has defeated death and begun the life that will never know sickness again – the life where there will be no cancer, COVID and cataracts.

Our Lord gives to us now the forgiveness and salvation he has won.  He is doing it at this very moment through the proclamation of his Word – of his Gospel.  He did it at the beginning of the service in absolution.  He has done it in baptism as he washed away our sins and sanctified us.

Through faith in our crucified and risen Lord we have forgiveness. And the Spirit who worked that faith continues to be at work in us. He has made us a new creation in Christ.  He leads us to put to death those things the old Adam still wants to proceed from our heart – the coveting, lust, slander, and all the rest.  Instead he leads and helps us to walk in the way of Christ – the way of love, service, and kindness.

In our text we see Jesus heal a man. This miracle, like all of Jesus’ healing miracles, points forward to the final salvation and restoration he will bring on the Last Day.  His miracle in our text causes us listen to the prophet Isaiah as he says to us today: “‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’”

Indeed, your God has come.  He came as the incarnate Son of God who suffered, died and rose from the dead for you. Because of Jesus there is no need to fear.  There is no need to fear sin because it is forgiven.  There is no need to fear cancer, COVID or cataracts because Jesus has promised his continuing love in the present.  And by his resurrection he has rendered death powerless. It cannot separate you from God - for you to die is to be with Christ. 

It cannot even hold your body, because your God will come again. The Lord Jesus will return on the Last Day to raise up your body and transform it to be like his.  He will bring the consummation of his saving work.  He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.


Friday, August 28, 2020

An apology to those who have posted comments on Surburg's blog

To those who have posted comments on Surburg’s blog I need to offer my sincere apology.  I did not realize that the comments were awaiting moderation and needed my action.  In many cases a response or acknowledgement of some kind was also needed. Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa! 

I was too dumb to realize how things work.  I will confess that my tech savviness has significant limits.  Now that I realize this, I will certainly check to see if there are comments that need posting and response. Thank you to those who have not only read, but made the effort to comment.


Today we remember and give thanks for Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian.  Augustine was one of the greatest of the Latin church fathers and a significant influence in the formation of Western Christianity, including Lutheranism. Born in A.D. 354 in North Africa, Augustine’s early life was distinguished by exceptional advancement as a teacher of rhetoric. In his book Confessions he describes his life before his conversion to Christianity, when he was drawn into the moral laxity of the day and fathered an illegitimate son. Through the devotion of his sainted mother Monica and the preaching of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (339–97), Augustine was converted to the Christian faith. During the great Pelagian controversies of the 5th century, Augustine emphasized the unilateral grace of God in the salvation of mankind. Bishop and theologian at Hippo in North Africa from A.D. 395 until his death in 430, Augustine was a man of great intelligence, a fierce defender of the orthodox faith, and a prolific writer. In addition to the book Confessions, Augustine’s book City of God had a great impact upon the church throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Collect of the Day:

O Lord God, the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the hearts that serve you, give us strength to follow the example of your servant Augustine of Hippos, so that knowing you we may truly love you and loving you we may fully serve you – for to serve you is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Thursday, August 27, 2020

Mark's thoughts: The Christ who does not change in the midst of change and uncertainty


During my entire adult life I have heard that a pandemic was coming.  I heard again and again that it wasn’t a matter of if it would happen.  It was instead only a matter of when it would happen.  Ironically, during the end of 2019 I watched an interesting series on Netflix about this topic, and the scientists who were trying to monitor situations that could lead to such a pandemic.  China was identified as a very likely source where are a virus could make the jump from birds to humans.

Whenever I heard about a “pandemic,” the historical example that was always cited was the Spanish flu of 1918 that killed millions of people worldwide – in fact more people died from this pandemic than died in World War I. Over the years, pandemics were portrayed in movies like “Outbreak” and “Contagion” as events that brought massive levels of death.

I can remember in January when I first heard about a virus in China. At the time, I could not have imagined that it would lead to the situation we find ourselves in today.  It never occurred to me that this virus would encompass the entire world and become a pandemic. 

Yet at the same time, after hearing for years that a pandemic was coming, I never imagined that it would look like this.  While people have certainly died, it is not something that has crippled society with massive levels of death.  We aren’t seeing the need for mass graves like occurred in the United States at the time of the Spanish flu or as has been depicted in movies.

Instead the response prompted by COVID has transformed much of the way we live. We cannot conduct the Divine Service in church the way we normally have.  We cannot eat in restaurants or go the movie theater in the way we once did.  We are wearing masks to go to the grocery store. The way school is being done at the start of the school year is completely different from anything we have ever seen. And the unsettling thing is that we don’t know how long this will last.

In the midst of change and uncertainty, we must look to the only One who is unchanging and certain.  Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  When the apostle John was in exile on the island of Patmos, the risen appeared to him in a vision as the exalted Lord and said, “"Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18). 

Our Lord who died on the cross and rose from the dead is our source of unchanging comfort in the midst of change and uncertainty.  His love and presence with us is eternal.  He has given us the assurance and guarantee of this because we have been baptized into Christ.  In fact Paul can describe us as already sharing in his resurrection because we have, “been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

While there are situations in which people should be prudent, for this same reason, COVID cannot be a source of fear.  We know the One who has defeated death.  Even in its worst outcome, the virus is powerless to harm us.  At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).  Jesus has promised that because of him, eternal life is already ours. We will never die because our life with Christ will never end.  And even if our body dies (as it will for all of us unless the Lord returns first), we will live again because Jesus will raise and transform our bodies on the Last Day.  As Paul wrote we await from heaven “a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21).

The pandemic has brought change and uncertainty.  But the Lord Jesus has not changed.  He is the risen and exalted Lord who has won forgiveness for us and has defeated death.  In Christ we have received God’s eternal and unchanging love. Paul knew all about change and uncertainty as he served as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Yet because of the risen Lord he declared:  “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).












Today we remember and give thanks for Monica, Mother of Augustine.  A native of North Africa, Monica (A.D. 333–387) was the devoted mother of Saint Augustine. Throughout her life she sought the spiritual welfare of her children, especially that of her brilliant son, Augustine. Widowed at a young age, she devoted herself to her family, praying many years for Augustine’s conversion. When Augustine left North Africa to go to Italy, she followed him to Rome and then to Milan. There she had the joy of witnessing her son’s conversion to the Christian faith. Weakened by her travels, Monica died at Ostia, Italy on the journey she had hoped would take her back to her native Africa.

Collect of the Day:

O Lord, You strengthened Your patient servant Monica through spiritual discipline to persevere in offering her love, her prayers, and her tears for the conversion of her husband and of Augustine, their son.  Deepen our devotion to bring others, even our own family, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, who with You and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever.


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity - Lk 18:9-14


         Trinity  11                                        Lk 18:9-14




            There is a lot of righteous anger out on the street in our nations these days.  It’s all over social media as well. People are speaking out about injustices that they perceive in our country.

            But “righteous anger” is a very seductive activity.  In general, when anger is part of the mix, it is a good bet that sin is happening too.  James wrote, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

            Righteous anger as we see it playing out in our culture today means first, that you get to choose someone to vilify.  “They” are horrible. “They” should be ashamed.  “They” must change or be done away with altogether. The old Adam finds it deeply satisfying to attack someone or something else in this way.

            But the really insidious part of righteous anger is the flipside.  If you recognize the terrible fault of the other when they don’t, it demonstrates how much more perceptive you are.  It shows how much more aware you are.  It proves how much more righteous you are.  And that is truly delicious. The old Adam just eats that stuff up. Your righteous anger shows how much better you are.

            The same dynamic is present in our Gospel lesson this morning – the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.  Luke introduces the parable by telling us: “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”  Now it’s not hard to figure out who the “some” are.  It’s the Pharisees with whom Jesus has been sparring again and again. And sure enough, one of the two characters in the parable is a Pharisee.

            We learn two things about the Pharisees.  First, they trusted in themselves that they were righteous. And second, they treated others with contempt.  The Pharisees were largely a lay movement in Judaism who had chosen to take on what they considered to be a more holy way of life.  They took aspects of the Torah – the Old Testament law – that were directed only toward priests, and applied them to their daily lives.  They had created a whole body of oral law – the “tradition of the elders” – that described how one was to keep the Law of Moses.

            Now almost nobody in first century Judaism forgot that God’s grace was the starting point.  But what they did do was to take credit for how they were able to live righteously in keeping the law.  St. Paul could say of his attitude while a Pharisee: “as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”

            And of course if you have chosen to be part of a group that is going over and beyond what others are doing; if you have defined your identity by the “tradition of the elders” that you do and others don’t … well, then no one else measures up.  They become people you treat with contempt.

            We see this at work in the parable that Jesus tells.  He said, "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”  Jesus paired two people who were complete opposites.  If the Pharisee had the public reputation of godliness and righteousness, the tax collector was despised and looked down upon.  It was assumed that the tax collector was a crook, since there were many ways he could use his position to charge extra and make money for himself.  Just as the letters “IRS” probably don’t give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, in the same way people didn’t like tax collectors in Jesus’ day. And on top of this, in various ways depending on your location, the tax collector was ultimately a reminder of Roman rule.

            We learn that the Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed in this way: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” Prayer in the temple was said out loud. The Pharisee stood out by himself in order to call attention to himself.  He thanked God that he wasn’t like all those other sinners … including the tax collector.  He proclaimed how he lived a pious life that went over and beyond what others did.

            Now let’s be very clear: It is good and right to be able to identify behaviors that are sinful and wrong. Doing so is not “judgmental” – it is simply applying the Word of God in evaluating life. And likewise, it is good to seek to live in pious ways.  The problem – the sin – is when this slips into spiritual pride that puts others down. As he put himself on display in the temple, the Pharisee wasn’t thanking God.  He was boasting before others.

            We need to be able to identify those things in our world that are sinful. We need to call it what it is when people are living together outside of marriage, or practicing homosexuality, or when they have no place for Christ and the Church in their lives.

            But what we can’t do is to feel superior and look down on these people.  What we can’t do is focus on their obvious sins, and choose to ignore our own.  We can’t ignore the lust in our heart and the way we feed it by looking at pornography. We can’t ignore the ways we put other things before God’s Means of Grace – the ways we never think about our baptism, or never “have time” to read God’s Word. We can’t ignore the way we speak angry and hurtful words to our spouse or family members.

            Then Jesus said: “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”  Now the first thing to note is that the tax collector did go to the temple to pray.  He could have stayed away. But instead, he went to the place where God had promised that he was present for his people.  He went to the place where sacrifices were offered for sin.

            Unlike the Pharisee, he stood far off.  He did all he could not to call attention to himself.  As he prayed, he didn’t even lift his eyes to heaven.  And in a gesture that indicated deep sorrow and repentance he beat his breast as he said one simple and brief statement: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

            The tax collector said one thing about himself: he was a sinner. He confessed before God.  And his plea was based on one thing: God’s mercy.  He made no claims about himself like the Pharisee.  Instead, he relied on what God had revealed about himself in his word. As the psalmist wrote: “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

            Our Lord concluded the parable by saying, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  It was the tax collector who went home forgiven and just in God’s eyes. He had repented and asked God to forgive him purely on the basis of God’s own mercy.  He had humbled himself, and so God sent him home exalted – forgiven.  On the other hand the Pharisee had boasted and exalted himself.  And he had gone home humbled – unforgiven.

            Jesus spoke these words about two men who were in the temple – they were at the place where the sacrifices described in the Law of Moses were offered. And the tax collector’s plea, “be merciful” is a Greek verb that Luke only uses here. It is a word that is regularly used to express the ideas involved in the atonement God provides for sin.

            Our sin is the barrier that separates us from God. God is holy, and sinners who sin cannot exist in his presence. There is the need to expiate the sin – to remove it.  God has done this through the death of Jesus Christ.  Sin requires God’s judgment.  God sent his Son into the world in the incarnation in order to bear your sin on the cross and receive his judgment.  Jesus humbled himself to the point of death – even death on a cross. This was the sacrifice to which the Old Testament sacrifices pointed forward. God did this because he is merciful and gracious to us. By the death of Jesus on the cross for your sins, our Lord has made atonement.  He has won forgiveness and removed the sin that separated you from God.

            Sacrifices die. But Jesus Christ was not just any sacrifice.  Instead, on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead. Having made atonement for your sin, he is also the beginning of the new life – the resurrection life – that will be yours.  The wages of sin is death.  Christ not only gives us forgiveness.  He has defeated death by passing through it himself, and then rising on the third day.

            Now, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection you go home justified.  You know that God’s verdict is “forgiven, innocent, not guilty.”  You heard it at the beginning of the Divine Service as Jesus said in absolution, “I forgive you all your sins.” That is true now. It will be true on the Last Day.

            God sent the tax collector home justified.  God sends you home justified.  But the word of forgiveness received through the work of the Spirit does not leave us unchanged. 

            When Martin Luther preached on this text in 1531 he said at the end of his sermon: “Whoever wants to remain the way he is cannot pray for grace and forgiveness; rather, whoever prays that way wishes and desires to be just and completely freed from sins.  You also must know this so that you do not deceive yourself.  There are many who only see the tax collector receives grace and forgiveness as a sinner but who do not consider that God wants to have them forget sin, and that the grace given must be powerful in them.  They try to misunderstand this, as if God wanted to justify and save sinners so that they could remain in sin and unrighteousness.”

            Like the tax collector we come before God in repentance and humility. We know there is only one thing we can say: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  But we know that in his mercy God has given his Son into the death of the cross to make atonement for our sin.  He has raised him from the dead to give us eternal life.  He gives us forgiveness, and his Spirit works in us so that we can strive to live as his child.  As Jesus says in our text, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”










Thursday, August 20, 2020

Commemoration of Samuel


Today we remember and give thanks for Samuel.  Samuel, the last of the Old Testament judges and first of the prophets (after Moses), lived during the eleventh century B.C. The child of Elkanah, an Ephraimite, and his wife Hannah, Samuel was from early on consecrated by his parents for sacred service and trained in the house of the Lord at Shiloh by Eli the priest. Samuel’s authority as a prophet was established by God (1 Sam. 3:20). He anointed Saul to be Israel’s first king (10:1). Later, as a result of Saul’s disobedience to God, Samuel repudiated Saul’s leadership and then anointed David to be king in place of Saul (16:13). Samuel’s loyalty to God, his spiritual insight, and his ability to inspire others made him one of Israel’s great leaders.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, in your mercy you gave Samuel courage to call Israel to repentance and you sent him to anoint David as king.  Call us to repentance, so that by the blood of Jesus, the Son of David, we may receive the forgiveness of all our sins; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Commemoration of Bernard of Clairvaux, Hymnwriter and Theologian


Today we remember and give thanks for Bernard of Clairvaux, Hymnwriter and Theologian.  A leader in Christian Europe in the first half of the 11th century A.D., Bernard is honored in his native France and around the world. Born into a noble family in Burgundy in 1090, Bernard left the affluence of his heritage and entered the monastery of Citeaux at the age of 22. After two years he was sent to start a new monastic house at Clairvaux. His work there was blessed in many ways. The monastery at Clairvaux grew in mission and service, eventually establishing some 68 daughter houses. Bernard is remembered for his charity and political abilities, but especially for his preaching and hymn composition. The hymn texts “O Jesus, King Most Wonderful” and “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” are part of the heritage of the faith left by Saint Bernard.

Collect of the Day:

O God, enkindled with fire of your love, your servant Bernard of Clairvaux became a burning and shining light in your Church.  By your mercy, grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline and may ever walk in your presence as children of light; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity - Lk 19:41-48

                                                                                                Trinity 10

                                                                                                 Lk 19:41-48



            It was like a big, joyous party as our Lord entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Following our Lord’s instructions, the disciples had acquired a donkey and thrown their cloaks on the animal.  Now Jesus rode into Jerusalem on it. As he rode along, his followers spread their cloaks on the road.

Luke tells us that “as he was drawing near--already on the way down the Mount of Olives--the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.”  We should note that Luke focuses here on Jesus’ disciples.  It is easy to overlook the fact that the group of disciples who accompanied Jesus on this final trip to Jerusalem was much larger than just the twelve apostles.  As Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem, he sent out seventy two disciples in pairs.  They went before Jesus into every town where Jesus was about to go as an “advance team.”  Jesus gave them the instructions: “Heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”  In addition to these, there was also a sizeable group of women who supported Jesus’ ministry financially.

They had seen the miracles Jesus had done.  Now, mounted on an animal that had royal associations in ancient Israel, Jesus was entering into Jerusalem. They were rejoicing and praising God with a loud voice. And they were saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Surely they expected that now Jesus would bring the consummation of the kingdom of God – the reign of God – that he had been proclaiming.  He would act as the King – the Messiah – who would bring the restoration of Israel and fulfill all that the prophets had spoken about Israel’s future.

The disciples who accompanied Jesus were so enthusiastic; they were proclaiming such dramatic things about Jesus that it was just too much for some of the Pharisees in the crowd. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” But our Lord responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”   Jesus affirmed what his disciples were saying.  Every word was true and it had to be said about Jesus.

It was a dramatic, inspiring, and exciting moment to be with Jesus as everyone anticipated that Yahweh was about to do epic things through him.  But then, Jesus did something that seemed completely out of place. To be honest, it seemed completely inappropriate given the moment.

Luke tells us, “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 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.”

Jesus sees the city of Jerusalem and he weeps.  He is moved to tears as laments that on that day they did not know the things that make for peace. They didn’t know them, and now they were hidden from their eyes.  Instead of peace, Jesus described a scene that had played out again and again in the Mediterranean and Near Eastern world.  He described how an army would lay siege to Jerusalem by encircling it, and that finally they would tear it down to the grown.  All of this would happen our Lord said, “because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

In our text this morning, Jesus leads us to recognize the significance of his person and ministry.  In his person was the visitation of God that brought peace. Speaking by the Spirit, Zechariah declared at the naming of Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” The child born in Bethlehem was God raising up a descendant of King David to redeem his people.  It was God visiting his people to fulfill all that he had promised through the prophets.

When Jesus raised from the dead the widow’s son at Nain fear seized all present, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” In this and all of Jesus’ miracles, people were seeing that God had visited his people in Jesus.

Jesus was God visiting his people, and he had come to bring peace. That was what the angels announced when he was born, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  Jesus had come to bring peace by the forgiveness of sins.  A woman who had lived a sinful life came to Jesus, and in repentance and faith she wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” And then later he added, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jesus Christ was God visiting his people and bringing peace.  Yet while the disciples who accompanied Jesus, had received him in faith, many others had not.  In fact, as Jesus looked upon Jerusalem he could say that as a whole the city had not known the things that make for peace. They had not known the time of their visitation.

They had not recognized Jesus for who he was.  No doubt there were a number of reasons for this, but the most common was the fact that Jesus had not done things that they wanted and expected. Sure, he had healed people and cast out demons. Yes he had spoken interesting parables and intriguing teaching.  But he had not taken on the role of the powerful and mighty victor.  If he had this power to do miracles, why was he not using it drive out the Romans and free Israel?  He was talking about “the kingdom of God” all the time, but he wasn’t doing anything to bring God’s kingdom to the nation.

            If people had been disappointed by what Jesus had done up until that moment, they would find the results of Holy Week to be proof that Jesus was a fraud.  Jesus had come do the things that make for peace.  He had come to be the saving visitation of God.  But he was going to do this by dying on a Roman cross.  Though without sin of his own, he was going to be numbered with the transgressors. He was going to bring peace with God by winning forgiveness for us.  He was going to offer himself as the sacrifice for our sins.  He was going to be the One who received God’s judgment in our place.

            Humiliated in death on a cross, Good Friday would end with Jesus’ body buried in a tomb.  All was clear.  Jerusalem had been right to reject him, for he was a false messiah. Hung upon a tree, he had been cursed by God.

            But on the third day – on Easter – God acted to show that nothing was what it seemed to be.  He raised Jesus from the dead.  And in that resurrection he showed that Jesus’ death on the cross had been God’s visitation bringing peace. Christ has won forgiveness.  He has given us peace with God.  In his resurrection the result of sin – death – has been defeated and eternal life with God is offered to all who believe in Jesus Christ the crucified and risen Lord.

            This is real peace. But if you are going to follow Jesus you must be prepared for the fact that this is not a peace that the world wants.  Jesus said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

            Jesus’ peace requires confession of sin and repentance.  Jesus’ peace requires faith in him alone.  And the Lord is right. This does bring division.  The question is whether we are ready to declare the truth about Jesus to our family members and friends who don’t believe.  Or does the possibility of rejection, tension and strife cause us to remain silent?  Do we crave the world’s version of peace and so say nothing about Jesus?

            The people of Jerusalem did know the things that make for peace. They did not recognize the time of their visitation.  You have been baptized into Christ.  You know and believe the Gospel.  You know the things that make for peace. Yet you must also understand your need to continue to recognize the time of your visitation.

            We do not live in first century Palestine. Our visitation does not occur by means of the incarnate Lord’s earthly ministry.  Instead our Lord’s visitation occurs through the gifts that he places in the midst of his Church.  It occurs through his Means of Grace.  Our Lord’s saving visitation continues to occur through his inspired Word.  It occurs through baptism and absolution.  And our Lord visits us in the Sacrament of the Altar as he gives us his true body and blood, given and shed for us.

            We need to continue to recognize and receive our Lord’s visitation through these means. The ongoing struggle again sin and the old Adam requires it.  The continuous effort by the devil to separate us from Christ and his peace demands it. The devil always wants us to think that we have “enough of Jesus” – that we don’t need any more of his visitation; that we can use our time for other things and everything will be just fine. But that is the path that leads away from Jesus and the loss of the forgiveness and peace we have through him.

            Instead as we continue to receive the saving visitation of Christ, we know the things that make for peace.  We know the forgiveness of sins and peace with God. And because we do, this is something that cannot stop with us.  Instead we share this with others in the way we treat them.  We forgive others, because God in Christ has forgiven us.  We seek peace with others, because God has given us peace with him.  We help and assist others, because God has visited us with his love when we had no right to expect it. The saving visitation of God in Christ has given us forgiveness and peace that defines our present and eternal future.