Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. In today’s Old Testament Reading, the prophet Jeremiah was instructed to speak on the Lord’s behalf to accuse the people of Judah of rebellion against the Lord. One of Judah’s sins was “saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11b). It is as our Lord would say of the descendants of these same people: These people had no idea about “the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42b). Ever since the 1960’s, the cry for peace has been heard loud and clear around our country. The problem is, without Christ, one can have no idea about “the things that make for peace!” The famous motto of the Hippie Movement in the 1960’s, “Make love, not war”, illustrates an incomplete view of what true peace is—one that has been adopted by so many people since. For so many people in our world, peace is simply the absence of war. While true peace does include the absence of war, that is not what ultimately makes for peace. It is our Lord Jesus alone who makes peace. And so, we will consider further what our Gospel Reading has to say about this theme of peace. As we do so, we will see that:
Jesus makes peace for us
1.) on earth and
2.) in heaven, and
3.) he gives this peace to us in tangible ways.
II. Peace on Earth
2. First, we consider how Jesus makes peace for us on earth. This idea of Jesus making peace on earth is famously introduced in Saint Luke’s Christmas account. Just after the birth of our Lord, we are told of the shepherds who were in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flocks. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to them and announced:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
This Christ child was born to bring peace to “the people walking in darkness” (Isaiah 9:2). He was born to restore shalōm, that is wholeness, completeness, peace. The earth which since the fall of Adam had been filled with chaos and death because of sin would now be restored to wholeness. Peace on earth. And yet, the people continued to walk in darkness. They continued to reject the Word of the Lord (Jeremiah 8:9), preferring to rely on their own wisdom (Jeremiah 8:8) and to turn to their own course (Jeremiah 8:6). The world to which our Lord came to bring peace rejected him. This is why our Lord laments:
“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42).
But they didn’t. They didn’t know that it is the Lord Jesus alone who makes peace on earth. And so, they continued to participate in the corruption of sin. They continued to reject the peace which our Lord offered. This is why our Lord cleanses the temple. This is why our Lord was sentenced to the cross with cries of:
“Away with this man . . . Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke 23:18, 21).
The world rejects the peace that our Lord offers. This is why we continue to experience chaos and evil in our world. This is why families continue to be broken. This is why war never seems to cease. This is why disease and death run rampant. The world rejects the peace which our Lord offers, and so the way to peace on earth, which is found in Christ alone, is hidden from them.
III. Peace in Heaven
3. But there is an interesting development in the Palm Sunday account which immediately precedes our Gospel text for today. As our Lord rides across the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem, Saint Luke reports that the multitude of disciples began to cry out:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38).
The echoes of the angel’s song on that first Christmas night could hardly be clearer. And yet, notice that it is no longer peace on earth which is emphasized, but rather it is peace in heaven which is spoken of. Why the shift in language? Didn’t Jesus come to bring peace on earth? Well, yes. But peace on earth is not true peace if it does not also involve peace in heaven. Peace in heaven must first be restored before peace on earth can become a reality. And so, our Lord Jesus suffered death upon the cross so that our sin might be atoned for. In taking the consequences of our sin upon himself, our Lord Jesus has reconciled us to the Father and restored peace in heaven. To those who reject this heavenly peace, death and destruction on earth is the result. This is why our Lord predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, which would take place several decades later. Those who reject the peace which our Lord came to bring will be destroyed. But notice the emotion of our Lord. He does not enjoy bringing destruction on those who have rejected him. As we see in the first verse of our text, he weeps over them. “The things that have to do with peace” are inseparably tied to God’s visitation in his Son, Jesus. True peace in heaven, and therefore true peace on earth, are only found in our crucified and risen Lord Jesus. Those who follow the example of the crowd at the end of our text and cling to our Lord’s Words will find that peace of God which passes all understanding.
IV. Jesus Gives Us Peace
4. I would like to close by highlighting briefly how this peace in heaven comes to earth in a tangible way in the Divine Service. We first sing of peace in the Divine Service during the Gloria in Excelsis, when we take up the song of the angels and sing of the peace that our Lord came to bring to earth. At the close of the sermon, we hear Saint Paul’s blessing of peace from Philippians 4:7, and we are reminded that our Lord grants us his peace through the preaching of the Gospel. But it is in connection with the Sacrament of the Altar that the theme of peace is most clearly emphasized because here, at the altar, we receive the very bread of heaven—Christ himself who comes to us in his body and his blood to bring the peace of heaven to earth. And so, you will see the host and the chalice elevated as the Lord’s words of peace are spoken, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” It is in the bread and the cup that our Lord comes physically to grant us peace. And so we sing, just prior to coming forward to the Lord’s Table: “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us Thy peace.” And so he does. After you receive the body and blood of Christ, you “Depart in peace according to [his] word.” And finally, as we prepare to depart the Divine Service, the Lord’s blessing is spoken over us, which ends in peace. Peace is what our Lord offers us here tangibly in the Divine Service. He has made peace for us in heaven with the Father through his atoning death on the cross. Now, he comes to us in Word and Sacrament to give us peace on earth. And yet, what we experience here in the Divine Service is but a foretaste of the full and final peace which he will bring when he returns in glory on the last day.
5. The world is full of people vying for peace or claiming they offer peace. But true peace will never be found so long as sin remains in the world. Sin must be dealt with for true peace to come. This is why we can be sure that the peace our Lord offers is real. He has dealt with sin through his death on the cross. He has given us forgiveness and peace here in the Divine Service. And now the church awaits the day when our Lord will return to bring to consummation his peace forevermore.
Through toil and tribulation
And tumult of her war
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore
Till with the vision glorious
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest. (LSB 644:4).
Until our Lord brings the consummation of peace forevermore, we cling to his Word and Sacraments, where he gives us a foretaste and promise of that final peace and rest.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.