daily biblical sermons


If we reject Jesus' visitation of peace, there remains for us a visitation of destruction
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, 33rd Week of the Year, November 21, 2019
1 Maccabees 2:15-29, Psalm 49, Luke 19:41-44


 

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you 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’” (Luke 19:41-44).

 

 

Today as Jesus approaches Jerusalem from the east, he catches sight of the holy city and weeps over it because he knows the destruction that is coming upon it for rejecting him, their Messiah. Today a beautiful small chapel marks the traditional spot where Jesus wept over the city. It has a magnificent window in front of the altar facing the holy city and the temple mount, and the name of this chapel is Dominus Flevit (the Lord wept).

 

 

Jesus weeps in pity for his own people, for he has come to bring them peace from God, and his own people have rejected him and the peace he came to bring them. They rejected their visitation from God, and Jesus gives this is the reason why the city will be destroyed. “They will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:44). And indeed it was destroyed forty years later in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus. It was completely leveled to the ground except for several beautiful towers that were left to mark the spot (Josephus, War, quoted by Joseph Benson).

 

 

Jesus is not happy over this future destruction of the holy city, but God has given the Jews freedom to either accept or reject their Savior, and as a nation the Jewish people of his time rejected their Messiah who came to save them and the whole world if only they would accept him. Terrible destruction would be leveled upon them for freely choosing to reject God’s salvation after the Son of God, Jesus Christ himself, personally and physically came to live among them, teach them, and work extraordinary miracles, which everyone could see, to substantiate the truth of his claims to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world. There would be consequences for this free choice to reject their Savior – they would be destroyed, their temple and holy city leveled to the ground, and the people either killed or dispersed throughout the world.

 

 

The risen Jesus will tell his disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Salvation will come to those that accept Jesus and put their faith in him. Those that reject him will be condemned, for they have freely chosen to reject God’s salvation, and God will not force it upon them. They must therefore accept the consequences of their rejection of God’s salvation: just punishment for their sins that God had offered to save them from if only they would have accepted his gift of salvation.

 

 

Since they freely chose to reject God’s offer to save them from their sins and from the just punishment due for their sins, they themselves must now suffer the just punishment for their sins, which is eternal death.

 

 

Not only that, but they would also suffer the destruction of their city, their temple, and their whole way of life. God gave them animal sacrifices to prepare them for their Messiah who would offer the one true sacrifice that really does make full reparation for the sins of the human race. But since they have rejected him, God will use the Romans to destroy their temple, their altar, and their sacrificial system, which ceased after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

 

 

The God-given sacrifice for sins is now the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, which will save from their sins all that put their faith in him and genuinely repent. Then God will count Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross as full payment of the punishment of suffering and death that we owe God for our sins. So through faith in Christ, which contains genuine repentance, God will consider Christ’s suffering as paying the debt of suffering and death that all who put their faith in him have with God for their sins, and so will proclaim them righteous, for their sins have been duly paid for on the cross by Christ, and they have freely accepted this offer of salvation by putting their faith in him.

 

 

The nation of the Jews of Jesus time rejected this offer of salvation. Therefore things would go very badly for them, not only would their sins not be atoned for, but they would lose their holy city, temple, and animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins.

 

 

Therefore Jesus says, “He who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Jesus also said, “He who believes in him [the Son] is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). So salvation comes by belief in the Son; and condemnation comes to those that do not believe in the Son.

 

 

St. John says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him” (John 3:36). The wrath of God will rest upon them because of their sins, and they will be justly punished for their sins, precisely because they have rejected their Savior who would have shielded them from this punishment for their sins by suffering it himself as their substitute.

 

 

In other words, the Son came to shield us from God’s wrath for our sins, but if we reject his offer to shield us, God grants us what we want and removes the shield and lets us experience God’s just wrath in punishment for our sins. So those who reject Christ, who is the shield God sent us, will by their own choice have the wrath of God resting justly upon them in punishment for their sins, without any substitute to suffer this punishment for them, as God had offered to do, but he did not want to override their free will.

 

 

St. John also said in his first letter, “He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life” (1 John 5:12). There is no other way to be saved. There is no other Savior but Jesus Christ. There is no one else who has ever been sent by God as our substitute to suffer our just punishment for our sins for us but Jesus Christ. Therefore there is no other way to come to God, because we are blocked by our own sins which deserve eternal punishment in hell. So Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). There is no other way to avoid eternal punishment for our sins except to have a substitute to take our place and suffer it for us, and there is only one substitute who will do this for us, namely Jesus Christ the Son of God who came only once to do this by his death on the cross.

 

 

Indeed as St. Peter says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved [except the name of Jesus]” (Acts 4:12). So the Jewish nation is suffering the consequences of rejecting their Savior. They must therefore themselves now personally bear their just punishment for their sins and experience an extra punishment of having their temple and holy city utterly destroyed and leveled to the ground by the Romans in 70 A.D., for they had the Savior of the world himself personally present in the flesh among them preaching and working miracles to testify to the truth of his preaching, and yet not only did they refuse to believe in him, but they accused him before Pontius Pilate and asked him to crucify Jesus, which Pilate then did, assigning his Roman soldiers to carry out the will of the Jews of Jerusalem at that time. So their punishment would be losing the peace that Jesus came to give them, undergoing the just punishment for their sins, as well as the loss of their city and temple. And all this was “because you [the Jews of Jerusalem at that time] did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:44).

 

 

This is a message for us as well, namely that we too must freely accept God’s offer of salvation from our sins through his Son Jesus Christ. If we, like the Jewish nation of Jesus day reject him, we will suffer the bitter consequences of that rejection, for God will allow us to suffer ourselves the eternal punishment that we owe God for our sins. If we make this deadly choice, we can well imagine that Jesus is weeping over us as well, for he wanted to gather us together and save us.

 

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