Today’s Gospel is a powerful Lenten text. Last week’s Gospel was the devil trying to tempt Jesus. Jesus resisted every temptation of the devil then and throughout His entire earthly ministry. Jesus lived a holy and sinless life for us. Those temptations that the devil threw at Jesus were attempts to get Jesus off His path to the cross, off the path leading to our salvation. The devil tempted Jesus with power and a kingdom–not by the cross but by an end run around the cross: I will give You all this power and the glory of these kingdoms… So, if you worship me, it will all be Yours. And now today’s reading is Jesus’ own prophecy in which He again says that His saving work leads Him to the cross where He will pour out His blood, suffer and die, as the once for all sacrifice for sin.
Our Gospel: In that very hour, some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Leave, and go away from here, because Herod wants to kill You.” This may seem like a rather odd request. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the Jews, hated Jesus; and Herod the king was also opposing Jesus–this is the same Herod that had St. John the Baptizer killed. So it is no surprise that He would want to kill Jesus, too. So why would the Pharisees tip Jesus off that Herod was trying to kill Him? Maybe the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus themselves/ they wanted the credit seeing Jesus as a religious threat. And if they could get Jesus out from where Herod was ruling–areas where Jesus still had some support–and got Jesus to Jerusalem, they would have more people on their side and could carry their desire both to discredit Jesus and to kill Him. We see here the opposition of the political and religious leaders to Jesus. Both come together/ plot against Him.
So what do we see next? We see Jesus’ words that He will carry out His work for the salvation of the world in His time and according to the divine plan. He will carry it out and nothing/ nobody will stop it. Referring to King Herod, Jesus tells the Pharisees: “Go tell that fox, ‘Look I am going to drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach My goal. Nevertheless, I must go on My way today and tomorrow and the next day, because it cannot be that a prophet would be killed outside Jerusalem!” Jesus would continue His work and miracles for the certain, definite time. His life would not be taken from Him but He would lay down His life. On the third day, at the appointed time, Jesus would finish His saving work–His death and resurrection. He would not be hurried. He will work until His hour comes. This would not happen except in Jerusalem, the city known for killing the prophets God sends. And here they would kill God Himself.
And then we catch a glimpse of that holy heart of Jesus. Here we see that He does not desire the death of the sinner but that the sinner repents and lives. At His very mention of Jerusalem, Jesus breaks into deep lamentation over it, His deep sorrow seen as He calls out twice the name of the city: Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have wanted 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 until the time comes when you will say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus knows what would happen–Jerusalem would destroy itself by its rejection of Jesus; it turns away from the help/ rescue He is bringing. He, the Lord, wanted to save the people but they did not want this. They rejected the very One who came to save them and all people but you were not willing. And within decades Jerusalem would be destroyed. But the worst was the eternal devastation they would bring upon themselves for rejecting Jesus. This applies also to all people who reject Jesus and His salvation.
Sadly, most people today reject Jesus and His saving work. Most people are so deluded by the devil and his allies that they think they don’t need Jesus and His rescue from sin, death, devil and hell. So many people today think they have no need of God. Over these too–not just the people of Jerusalem at that time–does Jesus weep. His holy heart is in anguish as He still laments over the unbelieving world: How often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
The amazing thing is that God created us for fellowship with Him. Within the heart of each person is that longing and desire for God. We have a sense of emptiness, of something missing until we have and know God rightly. That’s why so many people fill their lives with all sorts of busyness; that’s why people are unsettled, never satisfied going from one thing to the next, going to the latest this or that. They are either trying to drown out that feeling of emptiness or trying to fill it, trying to put a square peg in a round hole–it just won’t work. It may work, or seem to work for a while but it never lasts. That unsettledness, that restless heart is only made still by Christ, by knowing and believing in the true God.
What a glorious comfort we have as Christians. We know by faith that things are right between us and God; we know that Jesus reconciled us sinners to the holy God; we know that our sins are forgiven us and heaven stands open to us; we know with the certainty of faith that we will be eternally in heaven both soul and glorified body. Our joy and confidence is now in the Lord. Our focus while here on earth is the eternal. And it is this firm and certain hope of heaven that gives our lives now form and focus. It is this focus on the eternal and being eternally in heaven with our Lord soul and body that keeps us from two “isms” that plague the world and give an illusion of giving the heart rest– materialism and spiritualism.
That’s what St. Paul writes about in our text: To be sure, many walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. I told you about them often, and now I am saying it while weeping. Their end is destruction, their god is their appetite, and their glory is in their shame. They are thinking only about earthly things. This is not Christianity–Christianity is not materialism.
Materialism is that thinking only about earthly things that St. Paul writes about. A materialist thinks that only the things that we touch, see, etc, are real and that these things are to be the end all of life. If we have a lot of “stuff”, conveniences, pleasures, etc. then we have a happy and fulfilling life. Isn’t that the message that we get from the world around us? Isn’t everything geared toward getting us thinking only about earthly things? Materialism gives the illusion of making us complete/ happy but really this is all really utterly depressing–this world/ earthly things are all there is? When our focus is downward, earthward, thinking only about earthly things, where are there thoughts of God? Where/ when do our thoughts ascend heavenward? If we are focused on this world, looking for things that we can touch, see, experience to give us joy–they really can’t. They will never give rest to the heart–like how God made us–that seeks Him.
Materialism and secularism–our USA today–is the attempt to live a life as if there is no God, nothing/ no One to whom we are responsible/ higher than us. Really what materialism does is to make “self” the god. Bodily pleasure is the greatest good, end, ultimate meaning of life. Lust, gluttony, greed to material things are the result. Materialism is a self-centered life where we live to satisfy the lower instincts, appetites and desire of human nature: their god is their appetite, and their glory is in their shame. And it ends in their glory is in their shame, that is, pride in what we should hide; human arrogance priding itself on what is contrary to God.
This Lent, especially, let us examine our own conscience and heart to see where materialism has crept in, thinking only about earthly things. May we repent of it and turn away from it, recognizing it as a deceitful illusion from the devil to turn away from the true God and to serve the god of self, their god is their appetite, and to keep our eyes/ attention focused on this life and things that do not endure.
So what is the antidote to materialism and being sucked into it like the world around us? Our text: But our citizenship is in heaven. We are eagerly waiting for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Dear Christian, we belong to a different way of life. We do not cling to the earthly and perishable things; instead we seek the spiritual and eternal goods in heaven. And why is that? Because our citizenship is in heaven. Ours, dear Christian, is a heavenly birth from the water and word of holy baptism. Yes, we live in this world; we are that material girl living in a material world, but we do so as aliens, our true homeland is heaven. Yes, we make use of the things of the world and enjoy them as God’s gifts to us to enjoy, but they are not our end all. We know there is something higher/ something better because we have our citizenship in heaven where our dear Lord Jesus is and through baptism and faith we are united with Him. This is why we look at all things from the perspective of eternity–how will this or that action or thing affect my salvation? That’s why we flee from sin; and when do do sin–which will be daily and often–we repent of that sin.
As much as Christianity is not materialism, so also is Christianity not spiritualism, that is, we don’t think the physical/ earthly is bad–and especially do we not think our bodies are bad. Christians have the highest view of the body. We say: “God this is Yours–You created it; my body and soul are Yours.” Not only did God create for us our bodies and give them to us in love, but He will also raise our bodies on the Last Day. That’s how much He regards them; that’s how much we are to regard our bodies! They will be ours eternally! Our text: By the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself, He will transform our humble bodies to be like His glorious body. The thing is, we don’t simply have a body–as people we are body and soul forever. On the Last Day, when Jesus returns, He will raise the bodies of all who died–Jesus who fought and defeated death and rose from the dead–and He will transform the bodies, of His dear Christians that are now weak, sinful and will die so that all sinfulness, weakness and consequences of sin will be purged out; all of the weakness, decay, death, due to sin will be removed. Dear Christian, our bodies as they rise from the tomb will be incorruptible, glorious, vigorous, perfect and suitable for an eternity in heaven.
Christianity is not spiritualism–only the spirit/ soul is good and the sooner we are rid of the body, the better. No! No! Christianity recognizes the dignity of the body and longs for its true joy–not in the things of this world, satisfying the lower appetites and desires, but for its perfection in heaven where, united with the soul, it will be eternally as God created us to be–soul and perfect body. Just because your body may be plagued by sin and its effects, don’t think little of it. Yes, now it is lowly and full of weakness but on the Last Day it will be transformed holy and glorious! That’s what we look forward to–He will transform our humble bodies to be like His glorious body.
And now, until that time, all during our earthly lives, our dear Lord comes to us in physical/ material ways to give us every heavenly and spiritual blessing. He came to us in the water of holy Baptism washing away our sin, giving us His Holy Spirit and uniting with us. In Holy Communion He comes to us physically/ body with His very body and blood, giving us forgiveness of sin, strengthening our faith and uniting with us so He is in us and we are in Him. In our lives now let us remember:
Our citizenship is in heaven. We are eagerly waiting for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…He will transform our humble bodies to be like HIs glorious body. INJ Amen.