Feb 21, 2016 – Temptation Protection
Most of you know that our only child, Matthew, is in the Navy. I remember when he was in his final training class in Groton CT. He’d already passed both boot camp and basic submarine school. He’d also passed two technical electronics schools – all in preparation for his chosen specialty of sonar technician. Well they had a big test, called test 2. This test was very important. In fact he told me before going into the test that they needed to pass this in order to continue with the class at all.
There we’re only 10 guys in his class and after they’d taken the test Matthew called me the next day. He’d waited a day to call because… he’d failed the test. He along with two others had not passed this most important test. When he called he made no excuses but expressed his frustration at himself and his bitter disappointment. He said that this was the first academic test in the Navy that he’d failed. He then told me that of the seven who did pass, the best score was only a 73 and the minimum was a 70. So this was not something easy for any of them.
But then he said the three who failed were going to get a chance to retake the test and that no matter what their actual score was, the best that could be put on their record was a 70 – that basic passing score. He told me he was going to do his best, no matter what, because he really wanted to succeed so he could complete his sonar training.
So, I told him a lot of things that night and tried to give him a lot of encouragement. There was so much I wanted to do for him but he’s the one who had to make this work. I couldn’t do for him what only he could for himself. I wanted him to succeed – to experience facing such a life-changing hardship and then to come out successful.
I also wanted to put my arms around him, protect him, and let him know that everything would work out. But I simply couldn’t do that being on the other side of the country. I had to confine myself to telling him I was pulling for him and praying for him and that I had confidence he could do it.
I tell you this because in going through the experience of wanting protect him and to do for Matthew what was needed, in the gospel lesson for today I couldn’t help but hear there in Jesus’ words, something of what I felt. He says “O Jerusalem how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings”.
Those words reflected to me how I was feeling about Matthew. And while the context of Jesus speech was of a magnitude quite different than what Matthew was going through, I still heard God’s desire for His people to succeed at following Him come through. I heard Jerusalem, many times, faced a life changing experience of the prophets coming to them and they failed. I heard God wanting to protect them and to do for them what needed to be done, but they rejected what God called them to.
As Jesus was lamenting Jerusalem’s rejection of God’s word, expressed to her through the prophets that God had sent to her over the centuries, He also was pointing to what God was going to do in order to give them the protection they truly needed. Unlike my limitations, that prevented me from helping Matthew, God was in fact doing what was required. He was sending Jesus to them, Jesus as the Blessed One, the Promised One, the One who would do for them what they could not do for themselves. Jesus was coming to die and take away their guilt and sins and thereby grant them the needed obedience through His perfect life.
Jerusalem represents the world in all this. In Jerusalem’s rejection of the prophets’ word we see a reflection of what the world does with the Word of God – what all people have done with God’s longing and desire for them. Jerusalem sets the standard, low though it is, so to speak, for how God’s creation has treated her Creator.
But God does not give up and God has given us what we need to succeed – He’s given us the answer to our ‘test’ in sending Christ to overcome sin, death and darkness. Jesus has come and is the answer to our need for restoration with and forgiveness from, God.
In Paul’s letter today we’re made aware, that though God has done all this, that God has given the world, by grace through faith alone, the righteousness of Christ for our covering for sin, there are yet those who, in Paul’s words ‘live as enemies of the cross’.
Do we realize that, like I was pulling for Matthew to succeed, that God is pulling for us? Do we realize that He’s calling us to stand on His provision and protection alone that He made for us in Christ? But here’s the thing that Paul’s words point out for us, God can’t do that for us. God cannot resist temptation for us. God can and does give us faith and He has given us His answer to our rebellion, in the cross of Christ. We’re called to trust in Him and what He’s done for us, God can’t do that in our place. Yes, He alone gives us the power to trust in His provision when temptation comes our way and His power is all we need to succeed against it. And yet so often, we refuse that when temptation arises and instead we hide our face from God.
Just like in the Old Testament lesson today. The people rejected – outright rejected – the prophecy of God because it threatened their earthly view of Jerusalem. They didn’t want to face the reality of God’s judgment – they didn’t like the message so they simply wanted to ‘shoot the messenger’. And that’s what Jesus laments over in the gospel lesson today. Hear again His words that speak His sorrow and the longing of God. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but / you / were / not / willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”
Like Jerusalem then, people today hide from God and turn away from His protection and care. We are, as Jesus said, unwilling. When we choose sin and we give in to temptation what we’re doing, like Jerusalem, is rejecting God’s protection.Think for a moment – What is it that draws you away from being ‘willing’ to be gathered under God’s care? I know some of what tempts me to want to hide from God, but what is it that tempts you? In the epistle lesson today Paul speaks of having our minds on earthly things, of putting earthly appetites ahead of God, of making those appetites, in fact, God for us, and so we break the first commandment, to have no other gods.
And yet, and yet Jesus comes to us, as He did to Jerusalem, and brings with Him the salvation prophesied long ago. And that truth is what we have to tell of. That’s what we have to prophecy to the world. It isn’t about us and our goodness, which is nothing but filth and muck anyway. But rather what we tell is that good news, that God’s messiah, Jesus Christ has come to us and sets us free by the power of His blood shed on the cross and He alone releases us from our bondage to sin.
That’s what the prophets said of the messiah, that He would come with healing and peace with God for sinners. And the reference that Jesus makes to completing His goal on the third day speaks of the final fulfillment of His work, when He rises victorious over sin, death and the grave. That day, that 3rd day, Jesus’ goal of deliverance for sinners will be complete in His victory.
That’s what we trust in for protection from temptation and that is all we have to tell others. Jesus is the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord. By the way, I’m happy to report that Matthew did pass his test. I know that when we find ourselves up against the tests that come our way this week, we will find in God’s salvation all we need to overcome them. Trusting in God’s messiah is what He’s given us by the gift of faith poured out on us through His Word, in our baptisms and in the true body and blood of Jesus Christ we partake of in Holy Communion. God has provided all we need for us, in the cross and resurrection of Christ; in His name amen.
Sermon #812 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Old Testament Reading Jeremiah 26:8-15
8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the Lord’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?” And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
10 When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the Lord and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the Lord’s house. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!”
12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. 13 Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. 15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”
Epistle Reading Philippians 3:17-4:1
17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
Holy Gospel Luke 13:31-35
31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”