The Tenth Sunday after Holy Trinity – Luke 19:41-48
Advenio means “to come.” That’s why we call Advent, “Advent.” Advent is both a warning and celebration of our Lord’s coming to us. That’s why it’s oddly penitential and joyous at the same time. Today is like a mini-Advent in the middle of Trinitytide. Jesus prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem in our Gospel reading today. Since the anniversary is in July or August, the church has traditionally remembered the destruction of Jerusalem on Trinity 10 which will fall in either July or August. Today, I want to focus on what Jesus means when He says, “you did not know the time of your visitation.”
The time of visitation that Jesus is referring to is His earthly ministry. You’ll remember that when John the Baptist was in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah. That is, is Jesus the one who has come to save His people? Jesus responded:
“Go and tell John what you see and hear: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.” (Matthew 11:4-6)
Now certainly, Jesus loves the blind and the lame and the lepers and the deaf and dead and the poor, but He healed them to reveal who He was. It’s not that compassion didn’t impel Jesus to heal people. He certainly has compassion, but He didn’t heal all of the sick people, but only some. He does it to show who He is. He is the Messiah, sent by God, God Himself, who saves His people with his sinless life and atoning sacrifice. He came not to conquer temporal sickness, but eternal sickness. “What does it profit a man if he gains the world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
And it’s not that Jesus doesn’t care about your temporal problems. But He’s more concerned with your eternal problem. Once your eternal problem is solved, the temporal really doesn’t matter. This Advent we’re going to go through Paul’s letter to the Philippians on the Wednesday services. Here’s a big spoiler. The book is all about joy and true joy comes from knowing your eternal problem is already solved. The eternal problem for all mankind was Jesus’ focus during His earthly ministry. After Jesus solved our eternal problem, He ascended back into heaven to resume His godly, eternal rule over heaven and earth.
Because Jesus loves the Jews, He warns them about what is to come. Those in Jerusalem in AD 70 will suffer a horrible judgment of God. All because they didn’t know the time of Jesus’ visitation. Josephus, a Jewish historian who was born about 14 years after the resurrection of Jesus, records the tragic fall of Jerusalem. Our first hymnal had an account of the destruction of Jerusalem to be read on Trinity 10. I’ll just read you one paragraph so you get the idea of the horrors that happened in Jerusalem when it was besieged by the Romans:
“At the same time a countless number of people were dying, as Josephus writes: ‘the dearest friends fell to fighting and stabbing one with another over food, snatching from each other the most miserable crumb of bread.’ Children snatched the food from the mouth of their parents, their father and mother. Then neither brother nor sister had mercy on the other. A measure of grain was bought for many pieces of gold. Some persons were driven to such hunger that they ate the dung of cattle. Others did not abstain from belts and shoes; and the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed. Others had straw in their mouth when they were later found dead. Some persons searched the common sewers to deliver themselves from famine by means of filth and dung.”
At least 115,000, and quite possibly many more, died from this horrendous nightmare. This is nothing compared to the final judgment. The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ final judgment which will be even more horrifying for unbelievers!
Let us turn from the first visitation of Jesus to our visitation of Jesus.
The next major visitation will be like His first. As Jesus was seen and heard in Jerusalem and Galilee, He will be seen and heard during His second visitation. Unlike the first visitation, He will be seen and heard by all men and women who have ever lived. St. Paul describes it this way:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
There’s no such thing as the rapture. Our Lord’s return will be visible and audible. And everyone who’s ever lived will be resurrected from the dead. Some for eternal life and some for eternal glory. This is how Jesus describes it:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32)
As you know, the goats will be condemned to hell and the sheep will be rewarded with eternal life. We see Jesus weeping over the stubborn rebellion of Jerusalem in our Gospel reading. But the tears of Jesus will not prevent Him from damning sinners to hell on the final judgment day! And this is the fate of all men, women, children, and infants in their natural state. As St. Paul says,
“Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
And King David makes it clear that we’re born in sin. We’re conceived in sin and conceived with the inclination to sin called concupiscence. This in-born concupiscence is damnable. That’s why Jesus says we must be born again through water and the Word. (John 3:3, 5) And that’s why we baptize babies. They need salvation. They need to be born again. Faith is only possible when we receive the Holy Spirit. Faith, or the power to believe in Jesus, is a gift from the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is a righteous judge and His tears will not prevent Him from damning unbelievers to eternal torment. But His tears tell us something about Jesus: He cares about sinners!
Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is fully God. He was there at the creation of the world. You and I and this wonderful world we live in is His design and work. Even though you and I and this world are degraded because of sin, you can catch a glimpse of how awesome it really is. All living things in the universe are created from the dust. Man and woman, however, is special. God not only formed us from the dust, but He blew His Spirit into us. He gave us the gift of life. We weren’t meant to interact with God like a pet relates to its master. We were created to interact with our Creator face to face. Furthermore, He gave us dominion over the rest of His creation so that we could be co-creators imitating our God. Jesus loves His creation. On the sixth day, when He is done creating the universe, He says, “It was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) When we collectively fell into sin through Adam, Jesus didn’t abandon His creation, nor did He wipe it out and start over. His compassion for us impelled Him to enter His own creation and save us! He was impelled and not compelled. God the Father didn’t force Jesus to save us. His compassion drove Him to live and suffer and die for us. As He says, “No one takes [My life] from Me.” (John 10:18) He gladly lays it down so that He might save us.
He laid down His life to be a propitiation for your sin. That is, He laid down His life to be an atoning sacrifice to God the Father for your sin. And not just your sin. St. John says it this way, “[Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the world.” (1 John 2:2) We call this universal atonement. All sin of all time for all people is covered by the blood of Jesus.
Jesus offers the forgiveness of sins and eternal life as pure gift. It must be received through faith. We are prone to think that we somehow earn this wonderful gift of eternal life. But our catechism is clear:
“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” (SC)
So we basically confess, “I believe that I cannot… believe.” Even belief or faith must be given to us as a gift. And this gets us to the visitation of Jesus in between His first and last appearing.
[C. The means of grace à the things that make for peace à our visitation.]
There are many ways we could think about this. Consider the end of Matthew:
Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
We see three things here. First, all authority has been given to Jesus. Second, He has given authority to the church to make disciples. “The Great Commission” is an unfortunate heading for this section. It’s not that it’s wrong, but I feel a more clarifying header would be, “Jesus establishes the church.” Jesus does commission here, but He commissions the church! And the church, of course, goes out into all the world to make disciples. And will continue to do so until Jesus returns in glory! And disciples are made through baptism and teaching. The “going” and “making” are the main, or controlling, verbs. And the “baptizing” and “teaching” are participles governed by the main verb “making disciples.” The teaching consists of both preaching and the Lord’s Supper. Preaching is supposed to give you the full counsel of God, both Law and Gospel. The Lord’s Supper is commanded by Jesus to feed His people for forgiveness of sins. We call baptism, preaching, and the Lord’s Supper, colloquially, Word and Sacrament. The Word and Sacrament are means or instruments that Jesus uses to impart His Holy Spirit to distribute grace. No one is saved apart from these means. Third, Jesus attaches His presence, or visitation, to these means. The “I am with you always is purposely placed after the two previous verses about authority and making disciples. The visitation of Jesus for you is at church through the means of grace. Of course, we can take the means of the Word of God outside the church, and we should, but Jesus’ presence is attached to what He has commanded. And this is for our comfort and peace with God.
Jesus remembers that you are dust. He knows that you are born in sin and iniquity. Because He loves you, He visited His creation in His incarnation and took care of your sin problem. Because He loves you, He continues to visit you in Word and Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of your faith. Even though you cannot sense His presence with your five senses, He is present with His mercy and grace. You cannot sense Him with your mind or intuition, as these are unreliable at best. His presence is found exactly where He said it would be; in water and word and bread and wine. Because He loves you, He will come again in glory. For the unbeliever this is a truly terrifying event, but for us who are being saved it is a joyous occasion. The kind of joy that Paul exudes from prison in his letter to the Philippians.
You are blessed because you know the time of your visitation. You receive the love of Jesus in His Word and Sacrament. And He promises you that nothing can separate you from His love. (Romans 8:31-39) God be praised for the visitation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
 Walther’s Hymnal, page 383