God Tears Down to Build Up (Tenth Sunday after Trinity)
[Read Luke 19:41-48]
God Tears Down to Build Up
God tears down to build up. God takes away to give. And God judges and disciplines. You are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. But your heart is anchored to too many things here. Does your heart look to what Jesus has saved you for, his heavenly kingdom?
God tears down what you are attached to in this world. God takes way what your heart is anchored to in this life. Your heart, in this way, is freed to long for the world to come. “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” [Luke 17:33]. “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” [Colossians 3:1].
In today’s Gospel, Jesus draws near to the city of Jerusalem, the Holy City, and weeps for it just as he had once wept for his friend Lazarus. Jesus, the Son of God and God the Son, loves the city of God’s people and weeps over the destruction it, and the people in it, will soon face.
That city would be taken away and its temple torn down. The people of God in that city of Jerusalem did not recognize the day of God’s visitation. They were attached to a holy city and a holy temple, but unable to recognize a holy Savior. That good city to which they were attached would be taken from them.
Their Lord and God had come to them, as one of them, born of Mary, and had come to do those things which would make peace between God and them – their Lord would soon give himself as an atoning sacrifice for their sins. This was God’s loving visitation, His oversight and care, in Jesus, for His people in that city and everywhere.
But those residents of Jerusalem did not recognize God’s visitation in Jesus. By their hard hearts, their eyes were blind to God. Soon, Jesus said, what their hearts were so attached to, the city and the temple, would be taken away brick by brick, stone by stone, and many of those in the city would fall.
“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.” [Luke 19:43-44]
This happened. God judges. God disciplines. Just shy of forty years after Jesus spoke these words, the Jews in Jerusalem rebelled and rioted in order to gain their city back fully from Roman rule and occupation. But instead of gaining their city by war, they lost it completely. The Roman army indeed laid siege around them for four months, and, in the end, brought Jerusalem to waste.
The city and temple were destroyed. Casualties were devasting - over a million dead, and tens of thousands held captive and enslaved.
Christ, in more than one place, warned of this destruction. In fact, Jesus instructed the believers what to do when they see it coming – flee. Flee away, get out of town, flee to the mountains [Matthew 24:16], and so they did.
Jerusalem was destroyed. The Christians fled. Who lost what? And what was the result? Yes, this was judgment. But it wasn’t only the unfaithful and unbelieving who lost something. Those faithful Jews who believed in Christ, the Jewish Christians, lost their city too. Jerusalem was their beloved city too. They lost their home. When the world is judged, God’s faithful people lose many good things too.
To what effect? Brothers and sisters, what was the effect, the result, of God’s people losing their city of Jerusalem. The effect was that the Christians in that city were forced to flee, as Christ had warned them to do, into other cities and towns – into foreign places and cities of the Gentiles. And everywhere they went, these Christians brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. God’s kingdom was planted in many new places. When the city to which they had been so attached was torn down, the Kingdom of Christ was built up. The strings were cut. The Kingdom spread.
God tears down. He builds up. God takes away the earthly to give you the heavenly. Brothers and sisters, God takes many things away from you. You lose many things. Some things you lose as the result of the sins of others. Some things you might lose as the result of your own sins. Some things may be taken away from you in fairness. Other parts of your life are torn down, and it’s unfair. But God only takes to give.
You might lose a lot when this world is judged. Many of you fear you will lose your nation as it may one day be judged for its many sins. And, in fact, you might lose your nation just as those early Christians lost that great city which they called home. But when a city or nation of this world can no longer be called your home, your heart grows all the more for the world to come.
You may lose things very precious to you in this life – things more precious than a nation or a city. You may lose family. You may lose your house. You may lose use of your body. You may lose your health. You may eventually lose good use of your mind.
You may lose your self-confidence. What good you thought you knew about you may be stripped away – you may find yourself to be a sinner. Your confidence in those you admire may be dashed - you may find out they are sinners. The façade of self-righteousness upon which we so depend is taken from us.
You may lose your retirement. You may lose your vacation money. You may lose every chance of getting ahead. Eventually, you lose and end up in the nursing home or in a hospital bed in the ICU. IT ALL GETS TAKEN AWAY. We lose it all.
You eventually do lose everything. But, again, God takes to give. In taking, He builds– that is, in taking, He builds His kingdom up in you. That’s what you need.
By taking many things away from you in this life, God cuts the strings of your heart which are so attached to this world and life. He directs your heart to live for His world, His kingdom. And He prepares you for a peaceful departure.
God takes away the façade. He makes us feel the sin and darkness of this world and life. This directs our hearts to where true joys can be found.
Our Lord Jesus Christ loved the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. He wept that it would soon be lost. But in taking the city of Jerusalem away, God gave many more the chance to seek the Jerusalem above, “Jerusalem the Golden”, as we will sing about it today.
And, more than that, Jesus Christ is the man who lost all. All was taken away from Him on the Cross. All was taken from Him so He could gain many forever.
Brothers and sisters, give thanks to God for all that He has taken away, for all that you have lost, and for all the trouble you have. God is turning your heart upward to seek the things above. In doing this, He is growing His Kingdom bigger in you. Therefore, do seek those things which are above, where Christ is seated [Colossians 3:1]. Amen.