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2nd Sunday in Lent
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
March 13, 2022
Jeremiah 26:8-15, Philippians 3:17:4:1, Luke 13:31-35

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            Have you ever had this happen to you?  Someone tells you about their problems and you have the perfect solution, but they do not take your advice.  I have an Immanuel school student that I greet in the morning as she is dropped off in car line who, when I ask how she is doing, tells me, “I’m so tired.”  To which I reply, “You probably need to get to bed earlier.”  I am a master at giving advice.  She has a problem, I have a solution, and yet, it seems, she does not follow my advice and she continues to tell me that she is tired in the morning. 

            Teachers certainly have his issue.  You have a student that consistently makes poor choices and it leads them into trouble and gets in the way of their education.  You tell them how they can do better but they do not heed your advice.  It gets frustrating.  You just want to give them a hug and protect them from themselves and make it all better.

            Parents can relate when one of your children is having troubles.  Your beloved child makes the same poor decisions over and over and it is causing them no end of trouble.  You talk with them and counsel them but to no avail.  They refuse to listen to your guidance.  You just want to give them a hug and protect them from themselves and make it all better.

            You are offering advice in love to help them, to warn them, but unfortunately people are not always happy about someone telling them the truth about their situation, it can make them angry at you and drive them away. So what do you do?  You want to help, but they do not want your help.  Do you change your advice?  Do you lie and tell them that everything is okay?  Or, do you lament their rejection of your advice and continue to tell the truth?

            The prophets of God during Old Testament times have a rough job.  They are not just giving good advice.  They are called by the Lord to speak the truth of God to the people and their leaders. The prophets are called to go the people in power; religious leaders and political leaders and even kings to speak the truth in love.  A prophet’s job is difficult and dangerous.  There is great pressure when dealing with powerful people to simply tell them what they want to hear.  Kings have the power to execute you on the spot.  There is great temptation to not speak the truth in love but rather, in fear, tell them lies to make them feel good. 

            Jeremiah is feeling this pressure in our Old Testament lesson today.  Jeremiah 26:8–9 (ESV) 

8 And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! 9 Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.  

            The power brokers are bringing pressure to bear against Jeremiah.  They surround him and seize him and threaten him with death.  They want to continue in their vices and idolatry without having Jeremiah tell them that God condemns what they are doing and will send the Babylonians to bring God’s judgement and conquer Jerusalem.  They gather the king’s officials and the religious leaders and declare, Jeremiah 26:11 (ESV) 11 … “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” 

            Jeremiah 26:12–15 (ESV)  12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”  

            In our Gospel reading from Luke Jesus finds Himself in a similar situation.  Jesus has been teaching in Galilee.  He has been speaking the truth in love, but the religious leaders do not love the truth. Jesus told them, Luke 11:39–42 (ESV) 39 … “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. 42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” 

            Jesus is warning the Pharisees to repent but they do not want to hear it.  They want Jesus to shut up and leave.  They come and tell Him that Herod wants to kill Jesus so He better leave.  We are not sure if Herod is really on the hunt for Jesus or if the Pharisees are just making up this threat.  Herod did, reluctantly, have John the Baptist killed, but on the morning of Good Friday Pilate sends Jesus to Herod and we are told, Luke 23:8 (ESV) 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him.” 

In any case, the Pharisees are using whatever they can to pressure Jesus to shut up, but, like Jeremiah and many other Old Testament prophets, Jesus resists the pressure.  He has to. If Jesus flees from this threat and stops speaking the truth of God He will be abandoning His mission.  He will become a false prophet.  It is better to die than to give up the truth. 

            The interesting thing is that Jesus has already set His face toward Jerusalem and the cross and He is already on His journey south to Jerusalem when the Pharisees confront him.  So Jesus tells the Pharisees how to respond to Herod.  Luke 13:32–33 (ESV) 32 … “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 

            If Herod really does want to kill Jesus he will not get the chance because Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die.  Jesus will continue to speak the truth in love in Jerusalem to call the people and their leaders to repentance, but they will reject him.  These are the children of Israel.  These are God’s chosen people that He delivered from slavery in Egypt.  These are Jesus’ own people, He loves them and wants to save them, but they will reject Jesus and kill Him. 

            Despite knowing that this will happen, Jesus expresses great compassion for the people of Jerusalem, Luke 13:34 (ESV) 34 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 were not willing!”  Jesus wants the people of Jerusalem to listen to Him; to repent; to believe the Good News. He wants to hug them and make it all better, but he knows that will not happen.  Jesus laments over the people of Jerusalem but then He continues on to finish His course at the cross on Calvary. 

            Before the Babylonian exile the people of Judah do not want to hear Jeremiah’s warnings about their sins and their worship of false gods.  They just want Jeremiah to shut up and threaten to kill him so they can continue in their vice and idolatry.

            Jesus is preaching and teaching the truth of God and calling people to repentance.  The Pharisees and others want Him to shut up.  They pressure Him by threatening His life so they can continue to make money exploiting the people using their religious positions.  But Jesus will not keep silent.  Jesus loves his people too much to stop telling them the truth

            These days there are many people who still want Jesus to be silent.  They do not want to hear what Jesus has to say about their own vices and idolatry.  Speaking Jesus’ truth in love is met with resistance and pressure to give up the truth and give in to the whims of society. 

            There is great societal pressure to not speak the truth in love but rather to lie to people to make them feel better.  When confronted with Satan’s old question, “Did God really say?” the easy answer is that God says whatever you want Him to say. The easy answer is that God does not care about sin.  That God is not going to judge you.  That the Ten Commandments no longer apply.  That God has no instructions for life beyond whatever you think will make you happy. 

            There is a lot of pressure for churches to adjust their preaching and teaching to fit the ways of the world and not offend anyone. There is great societal pressure instructing that if speaking the truth in love offends someone then you need to give up the truth.  The world says that it is better to be a false prophet than to offend someone caught up in unrepentant sin.  The pressure is quite real to eliminate the concept of judgment and hell and instead teach that any way is a good way to God.  The world believes that the idea that Jesus is the only savior from sin is offensive and anyone teaching that needs to be silenced. 

            These days there are many people who still want Jesus to be silent.  They do not want to hear what Jesus has to say about their own vices and idolatry.  Speaking Jesus’ truth in love is met with resistance and pressure to give up the truth and give in to the whims of society. 

            People have left Immanuel because of our teachings about marriage and abortion.  It is tempting to want to adjust our teachings so that they won’t leave, but we cannot.  So we lament their leaving and continue to speak the truth in love. 

            The pressure is real to get along with the world.  In some countries those speaking God’s truth in love are threatened with imprisonment and death.  In this nation there is social and economic pressure in families, schools and workplaces.  There are no threats of death, but it seems that, even so, many are giving into the pressure and becoming false prophets; wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Jeremiah felt the pressure and remained faithful to God’s truth.  Jesus was pressured to stop speaking the truth in love and just “be nice” and get in line with the Pharisee’s program.  Jesus did not concede, but continued to speak the truth. We feel pressure today to give up the truth of God but we cannot.  In love, we must continue the work of bringing the truth of God’s Law and the truth of the Good News of forgiveness of sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to a world that doesn’t want to hear it and thinks it doesn’t need it.  But they are wrong.  They really do need Jesus. 

We preach and teach what God has given us.  We baptize and celebrate the Holy Supper as Jesus tells us to do.  We do what Jesus has given us to do to bring forgiveness of sins to hurting sinners.  In Jesus’ truth there is eternal life.  Without it there is eternal death and hell. 

            Pray for me that I have the courage to speak God’s truth in love despite opposition and offense.  Pray that this congregation and school continue to preach and teach the truth of God in love.  Pray that you can resist the pressure to just tell people what they want to hear, and instead speak the truth in love to those in your life.  We do not have a choice.  We need Jesus.  John 6:68 (ESV)  68 … “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 

Amen. 

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