Sermon for Trinity 10

The bible isn’t a history book. It records things that happened, and records them more accurately and objectively than a history book, but it wasn’t written as a textbook. The Bible isn’t a book of literature. The Classical Language used in Job and the Psalms is among the best in the history of the world, the book of Hebrews rivals the poems of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The King James translation of scripture did more to standardize the English language than the works of Shakespeare. But that’s not the purpose of any of it. The beauty is a reflection of the genius of the author. The Holy Spirit gives to men the words which they are to write. And the purpose of his inspiring men to record the words isn’t to make great literature, or to celebrate their artistic merit, or even to record the events of nations. The goal of all scripture is to teach us how it is that God has saved us from sin, death, and the devil.

The entirety of Scripture is the history of Salvation. How God first promised salvation to Adam and Eve in the garden after they sinned. How he preserved his people over the course of thousands of years as the arc of history moved toward the fulness of time – the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, and then how that Gospel went out from Jerusalem to ends of the earth.

Jesus is the central figure of scripture. He was with God in the beginning at the creation. He was prophesied as the one who would crush the serpent by his own death. His coming was foretold by Moses, David, Isaiah, Micah, Malachi, and the rest of the Old Testament authors and prophets. His life is recorded for us by the four evangelists. In today’s Gospel we pick up right after the triumphal entry; Jesus is days away from his death. He knows what is coming. He knows this is his final trip to Jerusalem. This will be the final rejection of God by the leaders of the people as they crucify the promised Messiah they have been seeking so long.

Jesus knows all of this. He knows how harshly the leaders will reject him. He knows the judgment that will fall on those who reject him. And so he weeps for them. He weeps for the city of Jerusalem – the holy city. The city where David and Solomon brought the Ark and built the temple, where the worship of the true God was centered for 1000 years. And yet, throughout even that time, the people turned to idols. They often abandoned God to chase after the idols of this world. It was no longer Solomon’s temple. That had been destroyed 500 years before. This was a new temple, it was inspired by a new orthodoxy, a new zeal for God. But it was a zeal without knowledge, without fear, love, and trust in God. It was a zeal born of their own ambition, and works, rather than the promises of the Lord.

And so the temple would fall. It had less than 40 years left before it would be destroyed so completely that not one stone would remain, so utterly, that even to this day, it has never been rebuilt. And yet, it is not needed. The temple finished its purpose. It’s work was fulfilled in Jesus, it has been surpassed. The sacrifice of bulls and goats is no longer needed. That system of constant death has been overthrown by the death of the Son of God. The promises attached to the blood of bulls and goats pointed in faith to the true sacrifice, but they were not the true sacrifice. The blood of bulls and goats can not take away sin. Forgiveness of sins comes to us in the blood of Jesus, the true lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

When Jesus sees them buying and selling in His Father’s house, he is angry. They are abusing the gift of the temple for their own profit. The temple had a number of different courtyards where different things would happen. The innermost courtyard was the court of the priests where the sacrifices were offered, the great altar and bronze basin. The court of men where Jewish men would go to pray. The court of the women, where Jewish women would go to pray. And then, the outermost court: The court of the Gentiles. It was there so the gentiles could also come to pray to the true God, without defiling the inner holy place by their uncircumcision. It was this courtyard that was used for the sale of animals and filled with the money changers. Mark’s Gospel records Jesus words with one addition to the other Gospels. “My house shall be a house of prayer for the nations.” It isn’t just that the temple was a place of prayer for the Jews, and no one else had access to our Father in heaven. Even the uncircumcised were called to worship the true God. Jesus doesn’t change the law when he comes. He fulfills it. He is the one promised. Even to Abraham the promise was made, “Through you, all nations of the earth will be blessed.” Salvation comes from the seed of Abraham, but the Lord is Lord of all. They weren’t just defiling the house of Jesus heavenly Father – although they were defiling the house of his heavenly Father. They were making it so the nations could no longer come to the temple and pray. Jesus is the Savior of the whole world. He has come to bring salvation to all. And all those who are called by him are his people. It isn’t about spilling the blood of a lamb or bull. It isn’t about obedience to the Law of Moses. It never was. Even Moses Law was about hearing and believing the promise of the Savior to come. The sacrifices were a sign of faith in that promise. The promise – and all of the sacrifices – were centered on and pointed to Jesus. That’s what the sacrifices were for.

Today God also works through means – the water and word of Baptism, where children are taken from Satan and made children of the most high God. God’s command and promised are attached to the holy water. Baptism does what God promises – saves us. But it does it because of the promise God attaches to it, because of the salvation of Jesus death that is tied to it. So also, the body and blood of the supper, where we take eat and drink and so are joined to Jesus in his flesh and blood which were shed for you. It is the true food. Jesus comes to us with his salvation through these most holy things. The promise of forgiveness of sins. And for those who hear and believe the word, the promise is sure and certain. Just as those who believed the word given to Moses in the Old Testament were saved by faith, not their works.

Jesus has harsh words for those who reject him in favor of works. The people would not see. They would not hear. The stones of the temple will be thrown down, the people will be cast out. George Stoeckhardt one of our synod’s early theologians puts it this way:

God does not force this Word, this salvation, on those who reject his Word about their deliverance and redemption through Christ. He does not want to have the reluctant, the unwilling in heaven, who endlessly reproach him for having delivered and saved out of grace. He wants to deliver and save sinners so that saved sinners will praise his mercy.

The Lord offers salvation freely through Jesus and his sacrifice. He does not want to throw down and destroy. But the people will not hear. Jesus weeps because they reject his word, they remain in and of the world, they want nothing to do with the salvation – the inheritance of eternal life – that he offers. And yet the Lord is gracious and merciful. He abounds in steadfast love. He wants nothing more than to gather all nations to himself as a hen gathers her chicks and protects them. Jesus patiently calls his people to himself, and promises that not one of those given to him is lost. That is why even today, as we get caught up in the things of this world, the lord patiently calls us to repent. When we doubt his goodness, he reminds us of it, so that we would not lose faith entirely. When institutions dedicated to his word are corrupted and turn away, the Lord patiently calls them back before they are brought to ruin. Jesus tells the disciples in John’s Gospel that those who are in him, are carefully pruned, so they bear more fruit. The dead and unfruitful parts are taken away, so that we would be and remain in him. This may not seem like a fun thing to us. But the Lord carefully keeps his children in his care. He calls his own to himself.

And so we see two groups – those who buy and sell and are driven out by Jesus. And the people, who hang on his words. Today, we pray the Lord would preserve us and keep us in his grace and mercy so that we would hang on his word, not be turned aside from it, but always hear and learn from him, even in the midst of our doubts and are weakness of faith.

We are cautioned in all three readings. In the Old Testament is it a warning against those who do not hear the Word, or rather those who hear and know it, but continually backslide away from it, rather than gladly hearing and learning and being instructed by the word. In the Epistle we are encouraged to remain in the Spirit, to continue in the good confession that “Jesus is Lord”, and to work with our brothers and sisters in the faith for the good of the kingdom of God, not putting ourselves forward – as did those selling in the temple – but rather seeking the kingdom of God, living in peace with all, working in the Spirit in prayer praise and thanksgiving to the Glory of God, and for the spread of the Gospel to all nations.

And in all this, we return again to the promise of our own salvation given in the death of our Lord, the death which saves you from eternal death. The loving hand of Jesus that says, “Given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins. Your sin is forgiven, your guilt atoned for.” Jesus death on the cross is your life, it is your hope and your salvation. There is no other.

Amen.

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