[Luke 19:41-44] And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “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.”
The Things that Make for Peace
Peace be with you!
Peace is written right into the rubrics of our divine service – printed in the hymnal – the recommended words for the pastor to end his sermon with are, “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” [from Philippians 4:7].
And in the Service of the Sacrament – after the pastor consecrates the bread and wine at the altar to be the body and blood of Christ – he then turns to the congregation and says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”
And to end the service: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
In each case, the liturgy of our service has the congregation respond with “Amen”, which means, “Yes, it shall be so.” The divine service is for peace.
Jesus has come for your peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [John 14:27]
When Jesus rose from the dead on Easter, that evening He showed the nail marks in His hands to His disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” [John 20:19-21]
“Peace” is written throughout the pages of Holy Scripture and is communicated through those same words of Scripture, spoken and expounded upon in the service. The Word of God gives peace.
To give the peace that Jesus gives, the liturgy of the divine service points you to what Jesus has done. We sing, “O Lord, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sin of the world, receive our prayer.”
In the liturgy, prayers, and Scripture readings - in the hymns, in the sermon, in the words of absolution – we are pointed to Jesus who gives peace.
The peace offered is delivered through the words spoken. “All scripture” – the entirety of the Bible – “is breathed out by God” [2 Timothy 3:16]. The words of Scripture are not mere information about God but are God’s Word – His speaking.
God’s Word has power to do what it says, to accomplish what it speaks. God’s Words of peace and of the forgiveness of your sins – breathed out in the Bible – spoken to you in the divine service – those words accomplish what they say. His Word of forgiveness forgives your sin. His word of peace makes peace.
Peace be with you. Your sins – of this week, this day, this life – are forgiven. Peace.
What’s the source? Two thousand years ago, on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus, God and Man in one person, died upon the cross – not for any wrong He had done – but in your place for your sins. His death in your place, for your sins, made peace – Peace between Holy God and sinful men and women, and children who also sin. Forgiveness. Peace. Jesus did it.
In today’s Gospel reading – Luke 19:41-48 – that peace is about to be accomplished. Jesus has just ridden into Jerusalem – it’s Palm Sunday – He has ridden in triumphantly, not on a warhorse, but on a donkey – a symbol of peace – as the people wave palm branches of victory.
Jesus has ridden into Jerusalem to win the victory of peace for the Jews first, and for the whole world. Upon arrival, as we read, Jesus looks upon that city and weeps. The Lord cries. He is there for their peace. But He knows that they will refuse peace.
“When he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!”
How could they not know? He was their Messiah. All their prophets spoke of Him [Isaiah 53]. Moses pointed to Him [Deuteronomy 18:15]. The psalms in Scripture sung of Him [Psalm 22]. All this in countless passages. He was promised from the beginning [Genesis 3:15]
Yet the things that make for peace were “hidden from their eyes” – they did not see what was right in front of them – because they were not willing. Their focus was upon their own works instead of on God’s promise of forgiveness.
Holy Scripture explains it this way in our Epistle reading: [Romans 9:30–10:4] “What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works…” “being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own…”
People are hungry to find peace. But our natural tendency – a symptom of our fallen nature – is to look to ourselves and what we can do, or not do – to be curved in on ourselves – to be always measuring ourselves (or others, their works).
This is seeking it by works – just as the Israelites sought to be right with God by their works and deeds. This fails. We are sinners. What you do – who you are – what you try to become – these won’t give you peace or make you right with God.
What God has done in Jesus Christ gives you peace. He is the good one. He is the one who measures up. His work alone gives peace.
Because Jesus has died for you, God remembers your sins no more and, therefore, is at peace with you. “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” [Hebrews 10:17]. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” [1 Timothy 2:5-6]. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” [Titus 3:5].
How is it given? How is it delivered? His peace is with you always in your Baptism. His peace is with you through being instructed in His Word [Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16]. His peace is with you always, weekly, in the divine service, in the hearing of God’s Word preached, and, for those instructed and prepared for the Supper, in the eating of it.
Baptism, Word, Supper – these are our life-long “things that make for peace” from Jesus our risen, living Savior.
Now, brothers and sisters, I’ll end with this question: Is the house of God where we receive God’s peace also a place of peace among each other? It must be. Because what I, a sinner, receive from God, I also must give to those who have sinned against me – “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Think of the cross. It has how many beams? One vertical beam, going up and down. A second, horizontal beam, going side to side. This signifies that the cross makes peace between me and God – up and down – and that that peace is to then flow side to side to my neighbor.
Considering that I have sinned against God Himself, is it an earth-shattering surprise that someone has sinned against me? No. I’m a sinner against God. Why shouldn’t I be sinned against sometimes?
I hope you can each think this way – because you are each sinners against God, but God has forgiven you. He is at peace with you. He loves you. God even likes you. All because of what Jesus has done for you on the cross.
So, brothers and sisters, the peace you receive from God above in this service, give to each other side to side. And God’s peace will be with you and among you always! Amen.
Pastor Curtis Stephens was born in Flint, MI. He completed his M.Div. at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN and has served congregations in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Pastor Stephens began serving at Trinity in July of 2023.