Luke 19:41 And when [Jesus] drew near and saw [Jerusalem], he wept over it, 42 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. 43 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 44 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.”
When you hear the word visitation, something very specific may come to mind, but when Jesus uses the word visitation, what does He mean?
When you go to a visitation, you’re going to the gathering of the family and friends of one who’s died. You’re visiting the family. Paying your respects.
And when you hear of visitation rights, those are sometimes granted to one parent or another after a divorce.
In that case, a marriage has died, and in both cases, we can say that, ideally, those types of visitations should not exist.
There are bad visitations.
And there are good ones.
In the Church, a visitation is an official visit by a bishop. What the bishop finds can be good or bad, but the practice is done to strengthen pastors and congregations in the faith—which is a very good thing. In the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod we have District Presidents and Circuit Visitors. In the last several years, the title “Circuit Counselor” was changed to “Circuit Visitor” to reflect this practice.
Also in the Church, we remember and observe, on July 2nd, the Visitation, when Mary visited Elizabeth and the unborn herald of the Christ, John the Baptizer, leapt in his mother’s womb at the presence and approach of Jesus.
There are good visitations and bad visitations.
So, when Jesus uses the word, when the time of the visitation of Jerusalem had come, what does He mean? Is this a good visitation or a bad one?
We have to say that it’s both.
Consider how God does visit you.
When you come to church, you know what to expect.
It’s a testament to your faithfulness to God that, knowing what’ll be said to you, you come anyway.
You know that the first things you say will be a confession of sin. That you will plead guilty before God of all sins, beg God for His grace, and promise to do better.
And that’s just how we begin.
You know, also, that your pastor may have to step on your toes, preaching the Law in such a way as to break the arrogance of all, show you your sins, and confess that apart from Christ, our Mediator, the Law will only ever accuse you.
God visits you here in the proclamation and application of His Word.
It’s an amazing thing that you confess your sin to God your Father without servile fear. You fear God like a son his father. Desiring to be good and faithful yet confessing a lack.
The Divine Service is where God delivers grace and mercy to you. Here is where He serves you. And, again, consider how He does:
He forgives your sins, He washes you clean, He feeds you the foretaste of the feast to come.
When you consider how God visits the Church, His children, the time of your visitation here and now is a great and good thing, the best.
But consider, also, how this visit could go.
God has forgiven the world in Christ, and you receive that forgiveness as your own when you believe that Jesus’ blood avails for you.
But some reject the gift, reject God.
For them, God’s visitation must be a confusing terror.
There is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which you must be saved, and some reject that name.
To hear the Word of God preached, to see the kingdom, reign, and rule of God that way, and to reject it—for that one, Jesus weeps, and to that one, Jesus says, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41-42).
The destruction prophesied here by Jesus that comes upon Jerusalem is complete. Because the days did come when Jerusalem’s enemies set up barricades, surrounded and hemmed them in. Jerusalem was torn to the ground and her children. Not one stone was left upon another because the time of God’s visitation had come—and she, Jerusalem, rejected it.
God could visit you like this again.
In the Lutheran Church, the Tenth Sunday after Trinity is when, historically, the account of the destruction of Jerusalem was read in the service.
It was detailed enough to make you uncomfortable, and it was included even in early American Lutheran hymnals.
God’s visitation of Jerusalem, her rejection of God and the Christ, and the complete destruction of the city soon after is a warning to all the world.
It doesn’t have to be a good visit.
You need to know that—but you also need to know that here—surrounded by and immersed in His Word—God has promised to be here for your good, always.
Immediately before you receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, the Pax Domini is announced, the peace of the Lord.
And how is that peace given to you?
“The peace of the Lord be with you always.”
Always. Because here, surrounded and immersed in the Word of God, receiving the sacrifice of Christ as He bids you do, God is here, always, and for your good, always, because He says so.
The gospel is a historical account. Last week, the Epistle lesson included this regarding various judgments in the Old Testament: “These things happened…as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).
Take heed, lest you fall, and realize that God desires you to know the things that make for peace.
Outside of the Christendom, you’ll never hear of them.
Every other religion and all forms of atheism are based on works’ righteousness where you’re only as good as you do.
Realize here and now the things that make for peace.
God wants you to live in paradise with Him forever.
And that you would, that you would have and be at peace forever, God visits you now by means.
“In many and various ways God spoke to the people of old by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to [you] by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1).
The Son has given you the means to receive the peace of God, the victory of Christ, and everlasting rest.
God reveals Himself as merciful, desiring that you know the things that make for peace.
But He also gives you those things and that peace.
The example of Jerusalem, that she didn’t know the time of her visitation, and her destruction serves as a warning to the Church.
God could visit you at any moment.
The terrors of this world, our greatest fears, remind us of that.
You must be ready for His final visit.
It could come at any moment.
Until then, to sustain you in the faith, in your hope, God visits you by His Word, forgiving your sins, strengthening your faith, and hearing your prayers.
Rejoice, now, in the time of your visitation.
Your God comes to save you.
And after His visitation, you, with salvation in hand, will warn others of the visitation to come.
You know the things that make for peace.
They’re not hidden from your eyes.
Live, also, that they’re not hidden from your neighbor’s eyes.
You know what your neighbor needs—for this life and the next.
As you visit each other, as you visit those in need, remind them all of this hour of God’s visitation.
Remind them of the things that make for peace.
Christ Jesus, the means of grace, and the good hour of our visitation.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
The Tenth Sunday after Trinity, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt