Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
Tenth Sunday after Trinity + August 5, 2018
Baptism of Liam John Buresh Strehlo
Text: Luke 19:41-48
The question sometimes arises: What’s the difference between Israel of old and the Christian Church? More to the point, what happened to Israel and all the things God promised them?
After all, God made a promise to bring them out of Egypt and give them the land of Canaan. He bore them up as on eagles’ wings, fed them in the wilderness, and brought them across the Jordan where they took possession of the land (see Psalm 105 as a summary). He promised to protect them from their enemies and make their harvest abundant. He told them the land, the allotments, and the place for His Name to dwell were for everlasting generations.
The most important thing to consider is what happened to Israel from God’s perspective. Nehemiah, governor of Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile writes, “29And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules… and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. 30Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.” (Nehemiah 9:29–30) Israel lost God’s favor and blessing because of their unbelief.
St. Paul makes the point in 1 Corinthians 10:6, “These things took place as examples for us.” All passed through the sea and under the cloud, but with many God was not pleased. Why? Not because they failed measure up, but because they imagined it worked that way. Denying what sin had done to them, they set up their own brand of righteousness (Rom. 9:32).
In the Gospel today, when Jesus looks out over Jerusalem, it brings Him to tears. What should be so awful that it would make God weep? That the people for whom He has done so much, the bride to whom He had been as a faithful and loving husband, would turn away after another god. Where this hurts the most is their rejection of God as their Savior.
To Israel He said, “I am the Lord, your God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2) But they preferred slavery. They longed for their old “easy” life under Pharaoh. They lusted after the gods and worship practices of their neighbors. They constantly denied the Lord’s intention despite His signs and His trustworthy words.
So Jesus weeps as He looks over Jerusalem, the place where God had set His Name in the Temple to dwell among them in mercy. He put His Name there to dwell with His people and bless them, but they refused to listen with their hearts. “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,” said Isaiah (29:13).
To us He says, I have baptized you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, rescued you from the house of Satan with sin and death your only companions. I have fed you with the rich food of my Word, nurtured you and given you my Holy Spirit to comfort and keep you in the faith. The Lord Jesus has fed you with His very own Body and Blood, the fruits of His glorious cross.
And how have you responded? Have you taken His mercy for granted, put Him to the test by going your own way and treating him like an estranged spouse? Have you forgotten the holy calling to which He has called you to turn away from every evil thing, and returned to slavery to your flesh? It’s not enough to wear the Name Christ around your neck. If you want to be saved, He must reign in your heart. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
We, just like Israel, have taken our Lord God for granted. We deserve to be condemned. But, as He weeps over Jerusalem, Jesus says, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” The Lord did not come to make an end of sinners, but to save them. He wants all people to know and believe those things which make for peace—peace with God.
What is this peace? Jesus says this as He enters Jerusalem, preparing to be betrayed into the hands of sinners, to trudge up the hill of Calvary, and to be nailed to the cross and die. He goes there to bear all the wrath of God. He rises on the third day, never to die again. That is where peace with God is secured.
Now, how does that peace come to someone? We witnessed it today, as Liam was baptized in the Triune Name of God. Scripture says in Romans 6:3-4:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Holy Baptism delivers the forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and devil, and received the eternal salvation which Jesus gained on the cross. And Josh and Ali, out of love for their son, and faith in God’s Word, wanted that gift for Liam.
But it doesn’t stop with bringing a baby to Baptism. Sometimes people think of Baptism as a “get-into-heaven-free” card that never expires. While God’s promises never expire and (as we said in the Creed) one Baptism gives the remission of sins, our faith in that promise can waver or even fail.
So, when Jesus instituted Baptism He said, “Make disciples of all nations baptizing…and teaching them to observe all things I have commanded.” (Matt. 28:19) It is a blessed beginning for Liam, but there are—God willing—many years ahead for father, mother, and child. So that Liam would continue to know what is good in God’s sight, the evil of the human heart, and above all the things which make for peace, Josh and Ali, and sponsors Karl and Maria, see to it that Liam remains in God’s Word.
Why? Because we don’t want to see him, or any Christian, end up like Jerusalem—having all the outward appearance of God’s people, but a heart that is far from Him.
So Jesus fills His Church richly with the things that make for peace, a strong remedy against unbelief. He gives us the gift of confession and absolution. We confess to the pastor the ways we have departed from the Lord in thought, word, and deed. Then he brings us back to Baptism—not to our own improvement or promise to be better—to God’s work which is always trustworthy and endures forever. (John 20:19-23)
Our Lord gives us His Body and Blood to eat and drink, giving us union with our Risen Savior. Where Holy Baptism and Confession gives us the “washing of regeneration and renewal,” (Titus 3:5) the Lord’s Supper gives us peace and strength for our bodies for the life of faith. It gives us fellowship with the whole Church on earth and in heaven. It gives us a foretaste of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the eternal celebration of our redemption.
These are the things which make for peace with God, the blood-wrought works of God for your salvation. May God the Holy Spirit ever keep Liam, you and me, and the whole Christian Church in the one true faith through all of our days to life everlasting. Far from weeping over us, this is what makes the Lord and His holy angels rejoice! Amen.