daily biblical sermons

Jerusalem will be forsaken, not because God predestined it to damnation, but because they rejected their Savior
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, 30th Week of the Year, October 29, 2020
Ephesians 6:10-20, Psalm 143, Luke 13:31-35

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




“At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ 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. 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.” O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 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!”’” (Luke 13:31-35).



We see two things in today’s gospel reading: 1) God’s desire to save all of his people, and 2) the Savior that God sent to his people is persecuted and will be put to death at their instigation.



We should not think that God has predetermined that certain people will be saved and others will not be saved, for Jesus says today to Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken” (Luke 13:34b-35).



God may foresee that certain people will reject his offer of salvation and not be saved and that he knows ahead of time who these people are. But anyone who wants to be saved, puts his trusting faith in Christ, and seeks to do God’s will by following his normative biblically revealed moral law can be assured that he has not been predestined to be lost. God will have foreseen that he would put his faith in Christ as he freely chose to do, and so he will be saved.



We should not think that we are not one of God’s elect and so no matter how hard we try, we will still fall into serious sin and be lost forever simply because God did not give us a chance and did not give us the grace to be saved, because he had decided even before we were born that we would not be one of his elect. People who believe in this way, feel that they are wasting their time trying to live a good life, because no matter how hard they try, they will not succeed in doing God’s will, and God will not give them the grace they need to be ultimately saved. So why should they try to do something that they have not been granted by God to achieve. So, they decide to live a life of worldly pleasure and sin. At least they can enjoy that instead of banging their head against the wall trying to keep God’s strict and difficult commandments and curb their desires and end up lost anyway, because they had not been predestined by God for salvation.



But Jesus today says that he had so often wished to gather all of Jerusalem’s children, all of the Jews together “as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34b). So, he is saying that the Jews who were his contemporaries would indeed be lost, “Behold, your house is forsaken” (Luke 13:35), but it would not be because of any predetermined plan of God that they be lost, but because they refused the salvation that God had offered them in his Son.



They are like people who have fallen off a ship, and the captain throws them a lifesaver with a rope attached to it. All they have to do is grab onto it, and he will pull them in with the rope, and they will be saved. But the people drown. Yet they did not drown because the captain determined that they would drown and did not want to save them, but because they themselves for some reason refused to grab onto the lifesaver that he threw to them.



This is what happened to most of the Jews of Jesus’ time who did not accept him as the Son of God and Savior of the world. They could have been saved, but they were not, because they themselves decided that they did not want the Savior that God had sent them. They had seen Jesus’ numerous miracles and exorcisms, they had heard his claims to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world, to be the promised Messiah who was to come, and yet their own preconceived ideas of the Messiah as a glorious military/political hero blinded them from recognizing and accepting the Savior that God actually sent them.



So, since they refused accept the Savior that God sent them and the proofs that he gave by his miracles that he really was the Son of God and Savior of the world, it was simply their own lack of faith and lack of trust in their Savior that caused them to be lost. “Behold, your house is forsaken” (Luke 13:35).



When Jesus finally did arrive at Jerusalem and saw the city from the Mount of Olives, he wept over it, for they did not recognize the things that would have made for their peace and did not know the time of their visitation by God in his Son Jesus. This is the reason why their enemies would come and surround Jerusalem and dash it to the ground together with the people inside it, and there would not be a stone left upon a stone.



“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 day 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).



Jesus tells them that they will not see him again until they receive him with faith, “And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Luke 13:35). What does this mean? It sounds like it means Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance into the city, when the people greet them, saying, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” But in fact, the enthusiasm of that day did not last, and within a few days Jesus was crucified.



So perhaps Jesus is referring to his second coming and not to his contemporaries, but to their descendants who at the Parousia would finally recognize him as their Savior and accept him with faith. But the present generation, it seems, for the most part will be lost, because after having been prepared for centuries for their Messiah, when he finally came they did not recognize him, and their leaders instigated his death at the hands of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who ordered him to be crucified.



So, in our own life and preaching we should not repeat what Jesus’ contemporaries did. We should have the correct belief that Jesus is the Savior and that he wants everyone to be saved if only they would receive him with faith and put their trust in him for their salvation.



So, if we go among a non-Christian people as missionaries, we should go with great confidence that God wants all the people in our mission to be saved, and the means he uses is the preaching of his missionaries. So, we should go with confidence that our preaching will be effective for salvation for all who receive it with faith. We should be convinced that there is no one in our audience that God has rejected ahead of time and predestined to hell.



The second point that we should see in today’s gospel is that Jesus, the Son of God, was persecuted by his own people and put to death at their instigation. His death, however, was the means by which he saved the world, because he was sent by God as our substitute to suffer our death penalty for our sins for us; and when we put our faith in him, God will count his suffering and death as paying our debt of suffering and death that we have with God in punishment for our sins and will therefore declare us ungodly sinners righteous and reckon to us his own righteousness.



We should therefore go out with confidence that even if we, like Jesus, are persecuted for preaching the gospel, nonetheless we are in God’s hands and if we put our faith in Christ and sincerely cry out to him for forgiveness and salvation, he will credit our personal account with his Son’s suffering and death as paying our debt of suffering and death that we have with him for our sins and will justify us. If then we continue to faithfully follow him and do his will by keeping his normative biblically revealed moral law, we will be ultimately saved and enter into the fullness of life with God after our death. This is what we will experience, and this is the basic outline of the message (the kerygma) that we are to preach, whether by word-of-mouth, by writing, on the Internet, or in some other way.

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