Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!
Luke 13:31-35 31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." 32 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. 33 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.' 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 35 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!'"
On August 30, 2005 Coast Guard Lieutenant Iain McConnell was ordered to fly his H46 helicopter to New Orleans and to keep that machine flying around the clock for what would turn out to be a heroic rescue effort. None of his crew were prepared for what they were about to see. They were ahead of every news crew in the nation. The entire city of New Orleans was under water. On their first three missions that day they saved 89 people, three dogs and two cats.
In our Gospel lesson today we come face to face with the Son of God and with the greatest rescue effort of all time. All of Scripture points to this – Jesus would go to Jerusalem despite all obstacles in His way. He would go to suffer and die in order to save. The majority of His own people would reject Him. But that was also predicted long ago in Psalm 118: "The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone."
1. There Is a Day of Judgment Coming
Look again at verses 33-34: "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.' 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!"
Jesus is referring to a coming day of judgment. He refers to the natural characteristic of hens who will vigorously protect their young. If there is a bird of prey about, they will cluck and call their chicks to find protection under her wings. After a devastating fire in Yellowstone National Park, a ranger found a dead, burned prairie chicken. When he kicked the carcass three little chicks came running out. They had survived the fire because their mother had given her life for them. There is a fire coming – a fire of God’s judgment.
USAToday and Gallup conducted a poll in which they asked Americans about the likelihood of an apocalyptic end of the world. Twenty-three responded that this was very likely. Sixteen percent said that this was somewhat unlikely. Another sixteen percent said it was very unlikely, and forty-one percent had no opinion. For the most part Americans are not too concerned about the end of the world or Judgment Day.
Yet this is the very thing that Jesus teaches about often. He mentions it two other times in this chapter. Look at verse five of chapter thirteen. Jesus is responding to a question about some people who died as martyrs and others who died suddenly when a tower fell upon them. "Where they worse sinners?" people asked Jesus. "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Here Jesus is showing us that life will come to an abrupt and devastating end unless we have God’s saving grace. Look now to verse 24. "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter (by some other way than faith in Jesus) and will not be able." He goes on to say that those who are not in the saving grace of God will be separated from Him eternally. They will go to the place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!
God is going to sift all sinners. He will separate those who sins have been forgiven from those who have held on to their sins or denied any need for forgiveness.
2. God Desires All Men to Be Saved
Now before we leave this particular verse I want to focus on one more thing. Jesus says, "How often I would have gathered your children together…"
In one of our adult Bible classes we are studying the letters of Paul to young pastors – to Timothy and Titus in particular. In 1 Timothy 2.4 Paul says that God "desires all men to come to the knowledge of the truth." God wants to save all. But do you notice a paradox here? How can it be that God is almighty, all-powerful, and yet here He doesn’t get everything He desires? Not all people are saved. How can this be? Mistakenly people have tried to solve this paradox by looking for some cause of salvation in human beings. "Well," they suppose, "If people also have enough love and good works, then they are saved." Others think: "Your commitment to Christ makes the difference." Both approaches are wrong. Salvation is salvation. That means we couldn’t do anything to make it happen. To be saved means just that – to be saved. If we helped, then we would have to say that we had survived, not that we had been saved. Jesus answers the question properly. God wants all to be saved. Jesus wanted to gather all of Jerusalem, but Jerusalem "would not." If a person is lost, it is because they made that choice.
Earlier I mentioned the rescue effort of Lt. Iain McConnell. I didn’t tell you about the fourth mission that day. On the fourth mission, despite twelve different flights to New Orleans, he and his crew were able to save no one. None! They all refused to board the helicopter. Instead they told the Coast Guard to bring them food and water. Yet they were warned that this extremely dangerous. The waters were not going to go away soon. Sadly, many of those people perished because of their refusal to be rescued.
What does it mean to be saved spiritually? That is such an important question. I don’t want anyone to be lost on the Day of Judgment, and so this is a very important matter. Many people know about God, but that doesn’t mean they are saved. Often they only look to Him for "food and water." They think they can sit out the coming wave of His judgment.
To be saved means that two things will happen to us. First, there must be a spiritual breakdown. You’ve heard of nervous or emotional breakdowns – this is a spiritual breakdown. This means that we believe that we are totally lost and condemned sinners. As we confessed earlier, "I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee." Many people don’t go through this breakdown because they really believe that they are pretty decent people. But they arrive at that conclusion because they are comparing themselves to the rest of the world. But did you hear the words of Paul in the first lesson? Here’s how he describes this world: "They are enemies of Christ. Their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame." Now when you compare yourself to that, you’re going to look pretty good. But on the Day of Judgment you and I will be judged by a different standard. We will be judged by the standard of God – His holiness according to the Ten Commandments. Not one us would have been able to keep those commandments perfectly. To be spiritually broken is to admit this and to recognize that this is a very serious matter.
Secondly, salvation means that we are under the wings of God’s mercy. As a hen gathers her brood under her wings, so Jesus gathers repentant sinners like you and mean on the wings of His grace. You might think of these wings in two ways: The promises of forgiveness in God’s Word and the miracle of the Sacraments. When you study the Bible you will find only three things that promise forgiveness: God’s words of forgiveness, Baptism that washes away our sins, and Holy Communion in which Jesus says, "This is my blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." Here we can be sure and certain that God’s judgment on the world’s sin and our sin will not touch us. Jesus gave His life to make sure of this: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
3. "Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!"
Now we come to the best and most important part of this passage. Jesus quotes from Psalm 118: "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." God is intent on saving. If a person is not saved, it is not for lack of God’s efforts. Look with me to Psalm 118.22 "The stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." And on a little further… "This is the Lord’s doing… This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Then in verse 25: "Save us, we pray O LORD!" In a few moments we will be singing these very words in our worship. In Hebrew they are "Hosanna!" Then on to verse 28-29: "You are my God, and I will give You thanks… O Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever." God’s love for sinner is steadfast and endures forever.
One of the members sent me a note about a speech that Coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts made recently. Sometime ago his son died tragically by suicide. It was of course devastating. But as time passed Coach Dungy was aware of many good things that came about because of his son’s death. People were brought closer to the Lord. Some became believers. Relationships were healed. Then Coach Dungy thought, "What if God had come to me and said, ‘Coach, I can bring about a lot of good things in the lives of people. I can bring some to faith and others closer to me. But I need something from you. I need your son.’" Coach Dungy realized that that would have been a request he never, in all his life could have honored. He couldn’t have given up his son. And yet this is exactly what God did for us.
That is what God’s steadfast love is all about. As we walk with Jesus to Jerusalem in this Lenten season, we realize just how complete and steadfast God’s love is for this world. A day of judgment is indeed coming. But God’s Son has already come to save us. Amen.
Pastor Michael P. Walther
Second Sunday in Lent, March 4, 2007
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
618-344-3151 / fax 618-344-3378
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2007
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