In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit
When you drive a car, the last thing you want to do is fall asleep at the wheel. Bad things happen to drivers who fall asleep at the wheel. The car will not drive itself. Chances are the car will end up in the ditch and you will end up in the hospital or in a pine box. Falling asleep, even for one second, is deadly business.
The same thing can be said about falling asleep in the Christian faith. Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, which was fulfilled in the year of our Lord 70, shows how great God’s wrath is for those who fall asleep in believing God’s wrath is a figment of His imagination. When you despise God’s Word, when you despise preaching, baptism, absolution, the Supper, and the regular gathering of the saints in corporate worship, you can expect God to creep behind you with wool socks in order to let His wrath shower down upon you.
God wants you to remember how He punished the Holy City, Jerusalem, which was His most precious treasure on earth. He utterly destroyed Jerusalem. Not one stone remained on top of another. Why would God do this to His most precious treasure? His people refused to hearken to His Word and change their wicked ways. They thought to themselves, “Oh, well, God wouldn’t get that angry. God would never punish anyone that severely.” Oh, yes, He would…and He did.
If God were to punish you immediately when you deserve it, when you do not fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, none of you, not even me, would reach the age of seven. God would not prove Himself patient. No one would ever receive the chance to change his ways and plead for mercy. God would wipe you out as you passed through the birth canal.
So God has not seen fit to visit His wrath upon you just yet. That’s no sign He is letting you go scot-free. Repent, while there is still time. Repent and set your house in order. That is what Jesus means when He says to the city of Jerusalem, but now [the things that make for peace] are hidden from your eyes. It is as if our Lord is saying, “Don’t be deceived just because you haven’t been punished yet. That punishment may be delayed for a while, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any punishment.”
The sin that God considers the greatest sin of all is the sin of His people not acknowledging His day of judgment. You live as if one day follows another with no end in sight. Everything is right and nothing is wrong. So what if I sin, there’s always the opportunity to pray. So what if I miss a week or a month or a decade of the Divine Service, my church will always be there for me no matter what. I know where the building is. I know my pastor’s phone number. When I need him, I will call him. When I need forgiveness, I know where to look. Right now, I am too busy to deal with sin and grace. I must look after my life. God’s going to take care of me. After all, I have a baptism and confirmation certificate. That’s enough to get me out of hell.
You can’t help the person who refuses to accept advice. When you tell a wicked person, “If you’ll only listen to preaching, you’ll hear that all your sins are forgiven”, but he not only refuses to listen, but blasphemes and punches you in the mouth for saying it, then what help is there for such a person? Let God visit him with His wrath. Then he will see it is too late for changing his ways when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead.
The Lord God says through the prophet Isaiah: In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you. Saint Paul adds to these words, Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. The day of salvation is not tomorrow, or next Sunday, or whenever you deem it necessary to come to church to get your Jesus fix for a while. Now. Right now. Our forebears in the faith lived as if Jesus would return any second. Their prayer was “Come, Lord Jesus.” We might pray these words at the dinner table, but they prayed these words every day, perhaps every minute. They knew the score. They were condemned sinners, yet they were also forgiven sinners in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Now is the time of repentance. Now is the time to make diligent use of the means of grace. Now is the time to rejoice in God’s tremendous patience toward His sinful people. There still is room; His house is not yet filled. Luke tells us that all the people were hanging on [Jesus’] words. That’s how we live as well as we look back through almost 2,000 years of history to today’s Gospel. We live by faith in the Son of God Who entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” This is why we take what we believe quite seriously. There’s no joking around when it comes to sin and grace. The righteousness imputed to us that avails before God is no laughing matter. It’s a matter of death and life.
First, it’s a matter of death because we die daily to sin. Drowned in baptismal water, we are dead men walking. The old man wants to come out to play. He wants you to sleep securely, believing that God is so gracious that He will save everyone and punish no one. He wants you to regard Christ’s Gifts to His Church as child’s play. He wants you to believe that no God would be so lavish in bestowing forgiveness of sins and sonship through faith in Jesus Christ to just anyone.
But that’s exactly what He does. God in Christ reconciles the world to Himself. He does not count your trespasses against you, but lays them on His Son Jesus, the Redeemer of the world. He desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of God. Seeing how so many will despise the joy set before Him, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because they did not know the time of [their] visitation. Even you forget the time of our Lord’s visitation.
That time is now. Repent and believe that Jesus Christ died for your sin. Believe that you are white as snow covered in the crimson blood of Jesus that cleanses you from all sin. Believe that you are baptized into Christ; you are a child of paradise. Believe that when you eat the Body of Christ and drink the Blood of Christ, you show forth the Lord’s death until He comes. Believe that Jesus will come again soon to judge you worthy of everlasting life, worthy of missing being cast into the burning lake of fire for all eternity. These are the things that make for peace, the peace that transcends everything that your mind is able to conjure. When the day of wrath comes upon the world, wake up, look up and lift up your heads, for your salvation draws near, even as it does now in this day of Christ’s visitation.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit