Sermon for Advent Midweek Service – God’s Visitation of Old (based on Genesis 50:15-26, I Peter 2:1-12, Luke 19:29-48)
Dear people who will be visited by God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Times of God’s visitation are recorded in the pages of sacred Scripture. For the faithful, this visitation is a Gospel event. For unbelievers, it is Law.
Joseph prophesied to his brothers that God would surely visit them in the land of Egypt and bring them out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God did indeed visit His people and He saved them. God’s visit meant that the Hebrews were freed from slavery and brought into a rich land flowing with milk and honey.
God’s visit for the unbelieving Egyptians, however, meant that their water was turned into blood. God’s visit meant that they had plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, and locusts. Their livestock was struck dead, and the people were struck with plague. Hail killed man and beast and struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field. Darkness enveloped their land and God struck down all the firstborn in all the land of Egypt. Finally, God drowned Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen in the Red Sea.
God’s visitation had dramatically different results for the Egyptians compared to the Israelites. For the Israelites, God’s visitation meant blessing, salvation, and life. For the Egyptians, God’s visitation meant curse, suffering, and death.
In today’s Gospel lesson, we heard that Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He said, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
God was graciously visiting His people in the person of His Son. Jesus was there in compassion to seek and save the lost. He wept because the people of the city that He came to visit would kill Him before the end of the week and would be punished by God for not believing in Him. As He was led away to the cross, Jesus said to the daughters of Jerusalem, “Do not weep for me; but weep for yourselves and your children.” (Luke 23:28)
The name “Jerusalem” means “city of peace,” but the people of Jerusalem did not recognize the Prince of Peace when He came. Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem is the visitation of God that offered peace. Their rejection of Him would mean their destruction, just as Jesus lamented.
Indeed, Jesus’ prophecy came true in the year 70 A.D. Jerusalem was besieged by four legions of the Roman army and conquered. The Temple was burned and destroyed. The historian Josephus records that the city was filled with slaughter. Even the peaceful citizens, the weak, and the unarmed were butchered wherever they were caught. A section of the wall surrounding Jerusalem was saved to show how well fortified the city was that the Romans had laid to waste. The rest of the wall was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those who dug up its foundations that you could not tell the city had ever been inhabited.
Josephus writes that 1.1 million people were killed during the siege, mostly Jews. The siege happened during Passover, when Jews had gathered from far and wide in Jerusalem to celebrate. Those who were not killed were sent to be gladiators in the arena. Others, including those under seventeen years old were sold into slavery.
Another writer reports that Titus, the commander of the army and future Emperor, refused to accept a wreath of victory, saying that the victory did not come through his own efforts but that he had merely served as an instrument of divine wrath.
Jesus wept because He knew this future. He knew that because they rejected His gracious visitation, they would have a visitation of wrath and punishment.
Matthew records Jesus saying, “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 loved the people of Jerusalem, but they did not love Him. They rejected Him. They mocked Him. They beat Him. They crucified Him. They did not know the things that make for peace.
Yet, in their crucifixion of Jesus, peace was made. They did not know it, but peace was made between God and man. The punishment of the sins of mankind was put on Jesus. Because of Jesus’ death for us, not only do we escape punishment, but we are put into a positive relationship with God. We are at peace with Him. We are His dear children and He is our dear Father. The things that made for peace were Jesus’ suffering and death.
God will visit us. His visit will be curse, suffering, and death for unbelievers. His visit will be blessing, salvation, and life for us. Not because we deserve blessing, salvation, and life, but because Jesus earned it for us.
When will God visit us and give us every blessing? When will God visit us and right every wrong and end our suffering? When will God punish the wicked and save His children? We do not know. So, we wait for Him. We wait for Him in joyful anticipation because He will graciously visit us.
God’s visitation in the person of His Son shows His disposition towards us. We know that He loves us to the point of sending His Son to suffer and die for us. Thus we know that when He visits us, He will visit with grace and mercy. He will visit us with a loving and forgiving heart. In repentant faith, we are ready for His visitation, whenever it will be. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.