Enemies of the Cross

Text: Luke 13:31-35
Date: Lent II + 2/24/13

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. It was because of the word of judgment Jeremiah was sent by the Lord to proclaim—“This house shall be like Shiloah, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant”—coupled with a certain sense of sadness—“Do with me as seems good and right to you”—that the prophet warned, “only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

Likewise, it was with a note of sorrow—“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem”—and a word of just judgment—“Behold, your house is forsaken”—that our Lord gave the warning, “I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Today, St. Paul comes right out with his emotions and admits, that, “many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”

So it has happened before, and again and again, and yet again today that “many walk as enemies of the cross of Christ,” the Gospel, that people reject the judgment of God’s Word of Law, denying their sin and need and thereby rendering the cross useless, emptying it of its power. Few today can see or hear the longing of God’s love to save, but only, rather, His judgment and wrath against what He has determined is sin punishable by death. This is also why, ever since the first Sunday in Advent this year we have taken up the cheer of the Palm Sunday crowd with which we began this year and have begun every sermon this year with that phrase, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Why? Because, as He says today, “you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” And we wish to see Jesus.

We may have thought we’ve seen Jesus. There were moments when people were
pleased, impressed and delighted at the sight of Jesus. His own hometown folks “spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (Luke 4:22). When He preached in Capernaum the people “were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” And then they witnessed that authority as Jesus healed a man with an unclean demon. “And they were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!’ And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.” The word spread and Jesus proceeded to heal any who were sick with various diseases. Maybe His largest following was when He fed thousands of hungry followers in the wilderness. When he tried to go somewhere to be alone “the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them” (Luke 4:42). The people were generally pleased with Jesus, a goal, we may observe, of many-a church growth practitioner to this day.

But not everyone was or is easily won over. Many of the temple and synagogue officials and the Pharisees, call them skeptics, if you will, began to question Jesus’ claims and motives and practices. Some were a little more open to Jesus than others simply because of the help He afforded so many. The Pharisees in today’s gospel were not so much speaking against Jesus as rather warning Him, saying, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” Herod had already murdered St. John the Baptist and he viewed Jesus as a threat. But it wasn’t king Herod that would eventually succeed in killing Jesus. Jesus remained in control of His divine destiny as He said, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.” And when He would finish His earthly course, not Herod and not even Pontius Pilate would have the distinction of actually killing the Lord (remember Pilate’s act of washing his hands of the whole thing). For the many who walk as enemies are not only those you expect or suspect. No, who ultimately is the enemy of the cross? Who, ultimately was it that had the distinction of putting the Lord Jesus to death? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”

Like the people of Jeremiah’s time and the Pharisees and people at Jesus’ time, so we will not hear the blessed Gospel, really hear it, until and unless we first confess, “many walk as enemies of the cross of Christ,” and then add, “among whom am I.” Just as St. Paul said of himself, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Paul could say that, could boldly admit and confess his sin precisely because he had seen Jesus. For you do not know the Gospel until you have seen Jesus the Lord and seen Him thoroughly.

That’s because you do not know God, you have not seen God until you’ve known and seen Jesus, and specifically Jesus Christ crucified. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” But that blessing is not in His fame or earthly power. The blessing is in His atoning death.

“His name shall be called Jesus,” said the angel to His mother Mary, “for He will save His people from their sins.” And there was only one way to do that. So we have not come here to display our rags of righteousness, our claims on God’s love and acceptance, our piety, or even our faith or love. All those, if they are real, are but only the evidence that we have seen Jesus; the evidence of the blessing of Him who comes in the name of the Lord.

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. When you say that, you see Jesus. When you see Jesus, you say that! The crowds said it on that first day of that Holy Week when He entered the Holy City Jerusalem, humble and riding on a donkey. Of course, they were more right than they even knew. For this same “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” in all her inhabitants turned against Him, we have turned against Him, became His enemies condemning Him to death on a cross. But that same cross became God’s condemnation of His enemies, the symbol of death required for the gift of life. Now His enemies are reconciled by baptism into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, marked with the sign of the cross, both upon the forehead and upon the heart, marking you as one redeemed by Christ—not only Christ the preacher or Christ the miracle worker or Christ the comforter but Christ the crucified.

Jerusalem: the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. Jerusalem. Jerusalem is us! We kill the prophets. We stone those sent to us—by our rejection of God’s Word of truth. But God has taken away our sin, our very rejection of the Savior to death on this cross in this holy sacrifice. “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And, yes, “if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom 5:6, 8, 10).

“You will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” And so, at His word and testament we say, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of sabbaoth, heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” And there, then, here we see Jesus:

Jesus our blessed Savior
Jesus! Name of wondrous love
Jesus, once with sinners numbered
Jesus, priceless treasure
Jesus, refuge of the weary.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!