Is Your Reality An Illusion?

Text: Luke 19:41-48

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

We should all be immediately captivated by today’s Gospel reading from Luke, where we hear about Jesus bursting into tears. 

Now, these tears were not a silent cry – the kind where you hold the emotions back, and a small tear silently runs down the face.  No, Jesus’ weeping was audible.  It was most likely visible too.  Therefore, it is hard not to notice this weeping. 

But why the crying?  Why the visible and audible display of tears?

Well, Jesus is crying for Jerusalem.  He is crying because of Jerusalem’s unbelief – their hard hearts.  He is crying because they are living within an illusion – they are living in a fairytale of unbelief.  And this unbelief? It is so stubborn that it will eventually result in destruction being brought upon them as judgment. 
Let me paraphrase what is going on with Jesus’ tears.  He is essentially crying and saying,

“O people of Jerusalem!  You are going to be destroyed because of your hard hearts and unbelief!  You could have known of this upcoming destruction and also avoided it, but you despised God’s servants who came to warn you of your hard hearts!  You slandered me too!  You think you are good to go; however, destruction is on your door step.  Destruction is coming for you to judge you for your unbelief.  And you…. You…. Won’t….. Listen!  You think there is nothing to worry about.  You are spiritually fat and sassy, not knowing that in a little while destruction is coming upon you!”

Dear friends, what we are encountering in our Gospel reading from today is the human condition and God’s tearful response.  We are full of unbelief.  Our hearts are hard.  We do not like to listen that we are wrong and heading towards destruction, and the Lord God mourns deeply. 

Let’s think about it this way.  The human condition is a condition where we are sin-sick.  We have fallen down.  We have taken the wrong road.  We are going backward.  However, because the Lord God cares for us, He sent prophets in the Old Testament, and He sends pastors today to preach and teach.  These messengers are sent to point out the obvious – sin and its destructions.  They are sent to warn people of sin and to then give the antidote of sin – Christ and His gifts.  However, the human condition is such that we do not want to get up, we do not want to turn around, and we do not want to change directions.  The human condition is such that we are more comfortable holding on to our illusions that everything is alright than hearing that we are wrong.  We like to pull the covers over our heads.  You see, people prefer the illusion of peace more than real peace.  It is just easier that way.  That is why Jesus wept.

But the Lord God keeps sending pastors to preach the Word, just like He kept sending prophets in the Old Testament to preach the Word.  Why?  Well, because the Lord God is compassionate.  He takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked who are living in illusions.  He wants the wicked to change and live.[1]  He longs to gather everyone to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings of safety.     

But as is it can be expected, mankind not only tries to ignore the message of God’s Word but also rejects the messengers God sends.  For example, think about the Old Testament.  We heard from Jeremiah in our Old Testament reading this morning.  Many years ago, Jeremiah hung a chain on his neck when he prophesied that the King of Babylon would bring all the nations under himself as a way of judgment upon Judah.  However, Jeremiah’s own Jewish kinsmen would not hear such a message; therefore, they cursed him, beat him, and threw him in prison.  And today, it is no different. 

All too often, we Americans have our ears stuffed with wax – deaf as a post, blind as a bat to God’s Word.  However, the Lord God still sends pastors to speak the Word.  But as is often the case, we Americans reject God’s messengers.  Now, we Americans do not violently put pastors in prison, like Jeremiah, but we do something that accomplishes the same thing.  You see, some of the most faithful pastors are finding their pews more and more empty.  What is happening is that parishioners want to hold on to their illusions that everything is fine, but to do so, they don’t put their pastor in prison to shut him up but simply leave the church.  They leave for a different church that will uphold their illusion. 

And these churches that they are going to?  Instead of preaching God’s Word, these churches readjust their message and marketing strategy to reinforce the illusions of mankind – that mankind has nothing to worry about.  In other words, these are churches are feeding spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy.  These false churches turn their backs on the truth of how things really are according to God’s Word and encourage confused sheep to chase mirages.  These false churches cry out, “Peace,” when there is no peace.  They say, “It’s not so bad. You will be fine.  Everything will be alright.”

But dear friends, things are not alright for you and me.  Things are bad.  This world that we are a part of is sin-sick.  And because it is sin-sick, we do not need to pretend that we are o.k.  Putting our head in the sand doesn’t make the problem go away, it makes us into deaf and blind fools.  Plugging our ears to the bad news of our sin and thinking positive thoughts instead of clinging to the Gospel, do not bring us peace but only create the illusion of peace and mourn the heart of God.  Running to false churches that tickle ears by saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, well… attending these churches is nothing more than letting so-called religious experts taking you for a ride into a fairy tale version of life.   Indeed, when we reject the reality of sin in our life and the sin in the world that we live in, and when we run to cotton candy clich├ęs of happiness instead of the Gospel, we are not grounded in reality but foolish blinding unbelief.    

Baptized Saints, open your ears.  Open your eyes.  Do not dull your hearts.  Do not make your ears heavy.  Do not shut your eyes like the people of Jerusalem did, saying, “I’m o.k., your o.k.  Everything is going to be alright!”  This unbelief leads only to one place and one place alone – destruction. 

Keep in mind, though, the Lord still has compassion right now on humanity, sending pastors to preach the Word.  But beware, the compassion of the Lord will soon give way to His final judgment.  Mark this: Christ is coming to judge the living and the dead. And on that great and final day, Christ will not come with tears but will come with vengeance for those who reject Him with unbelief.  That great and final day will be a whole lot worse than the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century. 

Baptized Saints, but the time is now.  And the time is not too late to unclog your ears, to open your eyes, and to wake up!  You see, God’s Word is right here before you, being read from this lectern and being proclaimed from this pulpit for you to hear and believe.  The Word is right here – for you to hear, receive, and believe!  The Word is heard to swallow up illusions – to swallow up unbelief.    

And what is that Word?  Well, it is quite simple.  It is a Word of Law and a Word of Gospel. 

It is a word that tells us that things are not o.k. for you, me, and this world, for we are all sin-sick.  But it is also a word that tells us that things are o.k. in Christ.  Indeed, God wants nothing more than for you to receive His Word that reveals reality to you: that you are a great sinner but that you have an even greater Savior name, Jesus Christ.  It is a message that He longs to gather you out of your sin-sickness into a faith that is cemented to Christ.  It is a message that He holds out to all people, inviting everyone who is weak and weary; everyone who is tiresome and burden by sin to come.  But keep in mind, to recognize the gift of the Gospel, we must first understand the malady of our sin.  And that is why the Lord gives us ‘both’ Law and Gospel.  Law unto our repentance; Gospel unto faith and forgiveness, with the ultimate aim of giving us real peace! 

Yes, you have real peace with God almighty right now – peace of conscience, peace from wrath, peace from the sting of death, peace from the condemnation of sin – peace.  Yes, peace - that no matter how good or bad that things get that we have Christ and Christ has us.

No illusions.  No false peace.  No unbelief, but Christ who is for you.  Christ who is for you right here and right now. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] Ezekiel 33:11.

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