Everyone is looking for peace. In the end, that’s what each of us wants. Think about the commercials you watch on TV. Their end goal is to get you to buy their product, their service, their pill because, whether they say it or not, their claim is that it will give you peace. Buying Old Navy’s clothes will help your child who is new to their school fit in. Alex Trebek tells you that purchasing more life insurance through Colonial Pen for only cents a day will give you and your loved ones more financial peace. The dizzying parade of prescriptions will ease your restless legs, lower your cholesterol, eliminate your double chin, lift your sagging eyelids, enhance your memory, mood, and stamina, and give you the happy, peaceful life you’ve always wanted while you watch the sunset on the beach as your grandkids play in the background. But all of these things give you the kind of peace that only the world can give, and if it’s a peace the world can give, the world can take it away. Those Old Navy jeans won’t help your child find peace at their new school when all of the kids are obsessing about jeans from the next store over. Life insurance won’t give you any peace if you can’t afford the premiums. Pills won’t give you peace when your medicine cabinet is full of the next round of drugs up for class action lawsuits. Like Jerusalem, we are so often chasing after what we think will give us peace, when what—or really, Who—will give us peace is right in front of us. The will of God is to give us peace that passes our understanding, and that peace is given in Jesus Christ Our Lord.
As Jesus weeps over Jerusalem in today’s Gospel He has just finished riding into it on the back of a donkey on Palm Sunday. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem’s rejection of God’s love which will become obvious in just a few days as the Messiah is sentenced to death, mocked, and crucified. If only they believed what the voices of the Prophets promised in their sacred Word, that now shines the Long-expected, the One come to give them eternal peace, the only peace that really matters. They knew He was coming, but they didn’t care. And as we find as we examine the Gospel accounts, the Jews knew who Jesus was, but rejected Him anyways. They, just like us today, wanted peace to come through things like retail therapy, prescriptions, and false alliances with the world. The people of Jerusalem chased after everyone who said “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”
They believed in that false peace right up to the year 70 when the Roman general Titus laid siege to the city, torturing Jerusalem’s residents beyond belief. In the end, 600,000 people were killed and the entire city was consumed by fire. The events that led up to the destruction of Jerusalem were so gruesome that the historian Josephus said he doubted future generations would believe a word of it, assuming it to be made up because it was so horrific.
Jerusalem’s destruction is a warning for us that we should repent and examine our lives. It reminds us that this world is not our home. But we so often live like it is. We hang our hope on the next election, the next pill, the next diet, some person, ideology, or technology. We convince ourselves that if only we had a few hundred more dollars, were a few pounds lighter, a few years younger or older, or could go back in time and undo a foolish mistake from our past, then this world would be a happy place, something we’d be entirely happy with.
But it never works out that way. Instead of living life content with what we have, with our situation in life, we get angry when our worldly peace is fleeting. And then we self-medicate. We bring peace into our swirling, restless minds, our broken hearts, our fractured relationships, our sharpest pains, our darkest depressions with all kinds of sins. We try to find peace in alcohol, drugs prescription and illegal, pornography, affairs, gossip, slander, hate, greed, wealth, possessions, Facebook rants, suicide, lies, the list goes on and on. We search for peace in all the wrong places, and when our medication of choice fails we move onto the next thing, wandering aimlessly, looking for peace where none can be found.
It is over this that Jesus weeps. Jesus weeps for you when you cannot find peace. He does not cry tears of anger, but tears of love, tears of sorrow, tears of compassion. And you cannot find peace because you are searching for it in everyplace, everything, everyone that isn’t Him. It is as St. Augustine eloquently penned, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in Thee.” Just like Jerusalem sought her peace in relationships that could never bring the earthly peace they wanted, and the people to whom Jeremiah prophesied found their peace in the lying words of false prophets, we respond to sin as it manifests itself in our life in various forms, not by turning to God, but by trying to find the solution ourselves. We turn from the God of peace to the once good creation now corrupted by sin and the devil. Like we just sang: “I have sinned and gone astray, I have multiplied transgression, chosen for myself my way.”
But your God’s almighty power is made known chiefly in showing mercy and pity. He has the peace which passes all understanding and wants to give it to you. He knows that life in a sinful, fractured, dying world leads you to despair, to restlessness, to sin. Satan uses it to drive you from God. So God shows mercy and pity. He does not turn His back on you even though you may turn yours on Him. He wants to forgive you, and He always stands ready to do it. If He did not want to forgive you, to restore you to Himself, to give you true and lasting peace He would not have sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you. But He has, and for Jesus’ sake you are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake you are promised peace in heaven for all eternity.
That peace comes because Jesus, the Prince of Peace came into the City of Peace as a Peace Offering. Jesus gave Himself as a ransom, as the substitute in your place to pay the price for your sin. He Himself is the Lamb that is slaughtered, the scapegoat that is banished. He wipes clean your slate. He reconciles you to the Father. He comes to His frightened disciples on that first Easter evening giving them the only peace that matters: the peace that comes from forgiven sin. And that is the peace Jesus gives to you. He forgives all your sins. He visits you in His Word, in His Body and Blood, in the Baptismal waters. Here in this place Jesus fulfills the angelic Christmas hymn we sing each week: “Glory be to God on high and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
Life in this world is terrible. Yes, there are moments of good, glimpses into the beauty of heaven and the majesty of God’s glory. But along the way we know what it is to lack earthly peace and contentment. When the struggles of this life are too much to bear, when you don’t know how you can go on another day, come to the Supper. Here Jesus prepares you to face whatever ills may come, but reminds you that no matter what is taken away from you, they yet have nothing won; the kingdom ours remaineth. You have peace with God. He has bought you and washed you. He has named you and fed you. He will not let you go. You are His and He is coming back for you. Until then, cast your burden on the Lord. Rejoice in His peace that passes all understanding. He will sustain you, and in Christ there will be better days.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.