In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
No one likes to hear bad news. Children don’t like to hear that they have to share their toys or eat food they don’t like. Adults are no different. They don’t like to hear that the cost of health care is going up. No one wants to hear that they or a loved one is suffering from a terminal disease.
Jerimiah was sent by God to deliver bad news to the people of Israel. He told the people of Israel that their beloved city of Jerusalem would be destroyed and that all its citizens would be carried away into exile because they were unfaithful to the Lord. The leaders said “don’t believe him.” The people responded by wanting to kill Jeremiah.
Saint Paul tells the Christians in Philippi that people will reject the message of Jesus Christ. They will instead worship the things of this world. This was bad news because some of them would be family and friends of Paul and the Philippian Christians.
Then there was Jesus. From the very beginning of his public ministry, he preached repentance. The bad news was that no one would be saved because they had the right ancestry, no one would be saved because they followed the letter of the law, and no one would be saved because they held a leadership position in the church.
In short, no one would be saved because they deserved or earned their way into heaven. This was bad news for those people who were trusting in themselves and who did not think they needed to repent.
It was bad enough that Jesus was preaching this bad news in Galilee, but now he was headed for Jerusalem. The Pharisees did not want Jesus in their own backyard. They came to Jesus and said “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”
We don’t know for sure if Herod really wanted to kill Jesus or if this was just a ploy by the religious leaders to keep Jesus away from delivering the bad news in Jerusalem. Either way, the religious leaders did not want Jesus preaching repentance anywhere near them or near the people who looked to them for leadership in religious maters.
Jesus mourns over the sad state of affairs. He mourns over the fact that people will not listen to the Word of God when it tells them they are sinners. Jesus mourns over the fact that people will not repent and look to him for mercy.
“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 mourns because he has an answer to the bad news. He has a cure for the sinful, selfish heart that looks only to itself for salvation. Jesus has good news but it is only good for those who know the truth about themselves, only for those who know that they are in need of a savior.
“And you would not.” Those words of Jesus are forever true. It was in the nature of the Israelites to reject the message of Jeremiah and all the prophets that the Lord had sent. It was in the nature of the Pharisees and all those who listened to them to reject the words of Jesus.
It is in our nature as well to reject the words of Jesus when he says to us “You must repent.” I love the beautiful color of purple that we see during the season of Lent. The somewhat somber tone of the hymns we sing during Lent is pleasing to me. Adding an extra service during the week is meaningful to me.
Perhaps these things are true for you too. However, we all rebel whenever Jesus comes to us during Lent and says “Repent.” Repentance is for others. It’s for our government leaders who are not willing to stand up for the life of infants in the womb and for marriage only between one man and one woman.
Repentance is for those people that we hear about on the news – murderers, rapists, drug dealers, identity thieves, drunk drivers, embezzlers and the like. We agree that they have broken God’s Law. We agree that they deserve both temporal and eternal punishment. Those are the ones who should “repent.”
When we feel the weight of the law on us, when God’s Law convicts us and tells us we are guilty, when Jesus says to us “repent” it is easier to say to Jesus “Get away from here.” We would prefer Jesus in the background ready to help us when things of this world go wrong, but not in our face telling us we have sinned.
We don’t mind so much when the pastor says “All have sinned.” It’s not too uncomfortable when I say “We have sinned.” But Jesus gets a little too close when I say, “YOU have sinned against God, that YOU deserve both temporal and eternal punishment.” Not YOU as a group but YOU as an individual.
This is when YOU and I start to really squirm in OUR pew and become very uncomfortable. Repent! We are all guilty. That is the bad news. We all tell Jesus to get away when he gets too close to us, to what is in our sinful heart.
He Would Not Leave
When the Pharisees told Jesus that it was not safe for him to come to Jerusalem, where they lived and where they were comfortable “not repenting,” he responded in a way that we do not understand. He responded with a love that surpassed all understanding.
Jesus would not leave behind the purpose for which he came. He said, “I must go to Jerusalem.” Jesus knew what was awaiting him there – his suffering and death. Jesus did not leave you stranded with your sinful nature. He redeemed YOU and has given you a new spirit.
Jesus has gathered YOU under his protective wing. He spread his arms out and they were nailed to the cross so that YOU would be forgiven for the times when have told him to get away. Jesus shed his blood for YOU so that YOU would be cleansed from all your sins.
Jesus said, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” You are blessed, forgiven, given the promise of eternal life because you come to the One who placed his name on you at your baptism. When you repent, when you flee to Jesus because he is gracious and merciful, then you are blessed.
The story of your life as a Christian is that Good News triumphs over Bad News. God’s grace triumphs over your sins. By grace, you are saved. Each of your sins has been paid for and you have been set free from the curse of the law which is death.
You have been given a new life, a life that daily receives God’s grace and mercy because Jesus did not stay away from Jerusalem. He did not avoid the suffering and dying that would otherwise have been yours. Jesus did it for you so that you are truly blessed.
Jesus has promised that he will Never leave you or forsake you. “O come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus . . . who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria