–By Deaconess Elizabeth Ahlman
And when he drew near and saw the city [of Jerusalem], he wept over it, 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. 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 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.”
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words (Luke 19:41-48 ESV).
The City of Jerusalem seemingly had all that was needed for “the things that make for peace” with God. After all, there stood the temple. Inside of the temple, all was conducted that was commanded by God’s law. Sacrifices were offered, prayers were prayed and offerings given. Surely, since God had commanded these very sacrifices and offerings in order to bring peace between Him and His sinful, rebellious people, these things must “make for peace.” The city was full, too, of religious leaders and teachers who had carefully constructed a system for making sure never to even break the peace with God. The minutiae of ritual hand washing and other man-made laws built a hedge around God’s holy 10 Commandments, helping them to never even, in their thinking, come close to breaking the law and thereby breaking the tenuous peace with a righteous God. They did all the extras too: they gave above their tithe, they taught others how to be like them.
We, too, often think we know what things we need to “make for peace” with God. We are as obedient as we can possibly be. We “good people” go to church most Sundays, and we even serve on a board or two. We do our best to keep God’s Law, building our own hedges around it. We give to some charities. We don’t actually have that affair. We haven’t ever murdered anyone. We tell the truth, mostly. We’re reasonably happy for our neighbor’s good success. We work hard to impress God. We do our devotions every morning, we give our tithe, we do our absolute best to earn that peace with God in a myriad of ways.
Then Jesus comes along. And He turns over the tables in the temple. He cries out that what the Jews have added actually breaks the peace with God. He reveals the inadequacies of the temporary fixes that each sacrifice and offering offers to a perpetually sinful humanity and a perpetually righteous God. He shows that the very things they had set up to help keep the law — the money changing tables, the sale of animals for the sacrifice, the ritual hand washings — are actually sinful in themselves. Their selfishness and their greed have made them robbers and set them at odds with God.
And He turns over our tables, too. He points out that we cannot by our own reason and strength, by all the little things we do to be better and obey Him, make our own peace with God. There is no peace with God through our stunted attempts to keep the law and our insincere hearts. There is no peace with God when we trust in our own actions because our best efforts are in themselves sinful and unclean.
But Jesus turning over the tables? That’s actually a gift. That is actually a something which begins to bring about the “things that make for peace.” Because “the things that make for peace” are this: repentance and the forgiveness which is brought about by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The things that make for peace are things that Jesus does and has done and continues to do for us. These are the things that make for peace: Christ Jesus overturning the table in the Temple upon which all the other inadequate and temporary sacrifices were ever offered by climbing up on the table of the cross to offer Himself as the final full and permanent sacrifice. Christ Jesus making peace with God the Father on our behalf by taking our sins of self-justification upon Himself. Christ Jesus turning over the tables of our self-righteousness and bringing us to cry out in repentance for help. Christ Jesus offering to us the very body and blood He sacrificed to bring us peace with God in His Holy Supper so that we may be brought into that peace again and again. Christ Jesus proclaiming to us through the mouths of our pastors that we, truly, have peace with God because we are forgiven. And we, like the people of Jerusalem, hang on His every Word. There we place our confidence and there we find peace with the God of heaven and earth.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the one Who brings peace with God the Father; overturn our “tables” of striving and trust in ourselves so that we may be brought to repentance and to place our hope in You and You alone; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Read last week’s devotion.
- Stay tuned: coming in September, we’ll have guest devotions once a month from pastors all over our region, including the pastors of partner church bodies!