Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Unstoppable” based on Luke 13:31-35 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, March 17, 2019
From the mid 1930’s to the mid 1940’s the German Army was a force to be reckoned with. In part because they had some top-notch generals but also because they began using some surprising war strategies, like the Blitzkrieg – attacking with lightning speed and overwhelming force. The German Army seemed unstoppable. But it wasn’t. The Allied Forces eventually won some key battles and closed in on the Germans. And it took teamwork, particularly from two countries that aren’t always that friendly with each other – the United States and the Soviet Union. Those two countries worked together, not because they had a common trust or a common set of values or a common friendship but because they had a common enemy – the German Army.
We see that happening in our Gospel for today – two unlikely groups joining forces against a common enemy. The Pharisees weren’t particularly fond of the ruler the Romans had placed over them. They didn’t like King Herod. But the Pharisees and King Herod worked together – not because they had a common trust or common values or common friendship but they had a common threat – Jesus. If they work together, could they stop him? Not a chance. Last week we saw the devil himself try to stop our Savior; Jesus beat him fair and square. In today’s Gospel Jesus shows again us how unstoppable he is.
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” Jesus isn’t in Jerusalem yet. He’s slowly making his way there, from Galilee…and he goes from one town to another. He teaches. He heals. He cares. And he’s interrupted by these Pharisees: Herod wants to kill you. Those weren’t empty words. Herod had some power…and violence and viciousness ran through his veins. He was the one who took the head of John the Baptist.
His father was the one who ordered the babies to be killed at the time of Jesus’ birth. Herod was not a nice guy and, according to the Pharisees, Herod wanted Jesus dead.
A death threat from a powerful governing official would be enough to take me off the grid. Not Jesus. He replied, “Go tell that fox, I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”
In other words, “I have work to do and I will do that work in broad day light…today…and tomorrow…until my work is complete!” What did that mean short term? Jesus would go to Jerusalem…willingly…and go to the cross. Nothing can stop that from happening (not the meddling Pharisees and not a blood-thirsty king). What does that mean long term? Jesus will watch over the subjects in his kingdom. They may endure trial and tribulation for a season, but he will bring them to their heavenly goal. Nothing can stop that from happening.
I need to hear that. Because it’s too easy for me to get discouraged by what I see. Christians are persecuted world-wide. Churches are burned to the ground. Even in our country where our economy is stable for the moment and we can freely worship whenever and wherever we please, anti-Christian waves seem to be getting bigger in the media in society and in government. It sometimes feels like the one sitting behind the big executive desk calling all the shots is the Big Mob Boss Satan. But take comfort. Those who lived in Galilee in Jesus’ day would have thought Herod was calling the shots and the Pharisees were people of influence. But the One in control was the One who came to seek and to save the lost. The One calling the shots is the One slowly making his way to Jerusalem….healing and driving out demons…today…and tomorrow…and no one could stop him.
You Savior has unstoppable power. He’s still in control….no matter what political party has the majority…no matter what the balance of power at the supreme court level…Jesus is in control today…and tomorrow…and his church shall never perish – not today, not tomorrow…until he returns in glory to bring you to your heavenly goal. You’re on the right team. Just don’t forget it.
It isn’t just his power that is unstoppable. His love too. What’s on the mind of the Pharisees? How can we stop Jesus? What’s on the mind of Jesus? Showing mercy…healing and teaching…and ultimately, getting to Jerusalem where he will show the full extent of his love.
What’s even more amazing, his love never stops and his heart never ceases to ache for the very people who despise him. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who sent you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
His Old Testament prophets – the Isaiahs and the Jeremiahs and the Ezekiels – had been sent by the Lord…and they had been rejected by the people. But God never stopped loving and calling to them. And even now, the Son of God is in the flesh among the people – and he’s still treated poorly. What does John say in the first chapter of his gospel? He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (John 1:11). Could you blame Jesus if he had just said, That’s it. I quit. I’m not going to carry their sins – they don’t even want me here! Yet his love just wouldn’t stop. I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day.
Jesus just wouldn’t quit…on his Old Testament people…on the people in the towns and villages in Galilee…and he just won’t quit on you and me. And he knows…he knows just how many times we’ve quit on him….how many times we’ve honored him with our lips but our hearts were far away…how many times we’ve forgotten that our citizenship is in heaven and instead wrapped our hearts around earthly things…he’s seen us, clothed so beautifully in our baptismal garments of grace, and then he’s watched as we’ve rolled around in the slop of sin again and again. Would you blame him if he’d just say, I quit. I’m not going to keep reaching out to them. They had their chance.
Instead, “Come,” we hear him say. “Come, there’s room under my wings. Come, there’s a place here to confess your sins. Come, there is font here under my wings, here you can drown your sinful nature again and again. Come, there is room. I will not stop loving you.”
Of course our Lord has something very special in mind. Not only does he want to restore you…not only does he want to assure you of his ability and faithfulness to carry you all the way to heaven even through these seasonal trials and tribulations…but does he not also want to reach many more through you? In other words, he doesn’t want his unstoppable love to stop with you.
You haven’t been given the power to change hearts, shape governments, heal diseases or uphold the church of believers – the Lord has. You have been given the ability and the opportunity to love as you have been loved, to encourage fellow believers, to be kind and soft-hearted to those who are down-trodden and forgotten, to forgive as you have been forgiven. Do that. Jesus went from town to town teaching and healing. How does he get around from town to town, from family to family today? In part, is it not through you? You haven’t been given the power to change hearts – the unstoppable Jesus does that, just as he has changed yours. But you have been called to share the love of Jesus – in word and in deed. Do that. Amen.