14th Sunday after Trinity September 16, 2001
Now as He drew near, Jesus saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Here ends our text.
Dear Fellow-redeemed in Christ,
Do you remember what time it was when you left the house for church this morning? You probably do. You probably know exactly how much time you have to allow in order to get to church in time for the start of service. In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, it seems like it’s important to always know exactly what time it is; for getting to work or school on time; for feeding the farm animals, or for making it to the bank before it closes…
Our text for today deals with the importance of knowing what “time” it is. But not the “clock time” that we’re used to. Our message has to do with “what time it is” in terms of the things that REALLY count—life and death, salvation and damnation, your soul and eternity. This morning’s sermon theme is a question:
Our text takes place toward the end of Jesus’ ministry. In fact, this account comes as Jesus is entering Jerusalem for the last time. As He comes down the Mount of Olives on the road leading into the city, a strange thing happens. Jesus begins to cry. At the sight of Jerusalem, the text says He literally bursts into tears! Why? Because Jesus could see something terribly tragic about that city, and the tragedy was this: Jerusalem did not know the time of her VISITATION.
“Visitation” is kind of a unique word. In the Bible it’s most often used in a good sense to mean “a demonstration of divine power.” And the greatest visitation of all happened about 2000 years ago, when God sent his Son into this world to be the Savior of all men. For thousands of years beforehand, the prophets had been telling Jerusalem about this visitation, and it finally came. When Jesus was born, the angels sang praises from heaven, and Zechariah, the old man in the temple, said, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has VISITED and redeemed His people.” Luke 1:68. The Messiah that they had waited for for thousands of years was actually living right there among them, in the flesh, but they didn’t know it. Or rather, they REFUSED to know it! “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!’” But they didn’t. After three long years of preaching the Gospel to them, Jesus knew that the vast majority of these people would ultimately reject Him as their Savior. The same crowds that cried “Hosanna in the highest!” on Palm Sunday would later that week join in the sinister chant, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
The time of grace doesn’t last forever. God’s visitation must be recognized and grasped, when the time is ripe. Jerusalem had had plenty of time to listen to the words of Jesus, and accept Him as the promised Messiah. But now their time was up. Jesus wept, because He knew that the time of God’s gracious visitation on Jerusalem was over. Now would come their judgment. Jesus said, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” And this prophesy of Jesus came true in every detail. In the year 70 A.D., the Roman legions under the emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem and slaughtered its inhabitants. According to historians, streams of blood washed down the streets, and not one block of stone was left standing upon another. All because the people of Jerusalem hadn’t known the time of their visitation!
These late summer months are a crucial time for farmers. They know exactly when the time is ripe for harvest, and they take advantage of it. Well, there will be a judgment also for those who don’t know what time it is, who don’t recognize the time of God’s grace and don’t take advantage of His saving Word. There are lots of people who say, “I want to have fun while I’m young. Church will always be there. There’ll be plenty of time to ‘get religion’ when I’m older!” But God’s visitation doesn’t last forever. Before they know it, it’ll be too late. Their time will be up, and they’ll join in the cry of lost Jerusalem, as prophesied by Jeremiah, “The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!”—Jer 8:20.
But what about us? What “time” is it now? Is now the time of God’s visitation to us? Is Christ among us now, or do we have to wait? The Apostle Paul gives us the answer to that question in no uncertain terms, “For God says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation.”
Now is the day of salvation.—This is the truth that Satan wants to hide from the world at all costs. A story was told in which Satan was holding a strategy session with his evil angels on how to keep people from being saved. One demon said, “I know what we can do! We can tell people that there is no life after death.” But that idea was rejected; even atheists, they realized, know that death is not the end of things. “I have it!” said another. “Let’s tell people that there is no God.” But no, that wouldn’t work either; most people know there IS a God, even if they don’t seek Him. Finally, one of them said, “Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll let people believe that there is a God, and that Jesus is His Son. We’ll even admit that they can gain salvation through Him. But then we’ll tell them that there’s no hurry…”
We know what time it is now! Unlike the people of Jerusalem, we KNOW the things that lead to our peace! We have God’s Word, the Bible—the story of free salvation, through Jesus. Do you realize what a blessing that is? On your shelf at home you’ve got a book that tells you that you’re going to live forever, in paradise, because of what Jesus did for you! Jesus is speaking to you today when He says, “Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” NOW is the time of our visitation, and WE KNOW IT!
But will we take advantage of it? We know the time is ripe for hearing and accepting the saving Gospel. Will we value the time of our visitation, cherish it…or will we ignore it, take it for granted? Paul warns us about that in Romans 12. He compares the Jews, who rejected the Gospel, to natural olive branches that have been trimmed off, and us non-Jews to wild branches that have been grafted on in their place. He says, “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”—Romans 12:19-22.
Yes, we know what time it is—now is the time of our visitation. Now is the time to take to eagerly take advantage of the Good News of forgiveness. To hear it regularly in church services and Bible class. To study it in our homes. To drink freely of the water of life, and share it with our families in daily devotions. To share it, also, with our friends and neighbors. You wouldn’t be ashamed if you had hundred-dollar bills to hand out to people, would you? Well, you’ve got something much more precious than that to give, and often all it takes is a word or two. Now is the right time for their salvation, too!
When I was growing up in Milwaukee, there was a city-wide curfew of 12:00 for kids 16 and under. At midnight, a message would come across the TV, “Parents—it’s 12:00. Do you know where your children are?” I could ask you a much more important question, “Christians, now is the time of your visitation. Do you know where your salvation lies?” God grant that we may not only know it, but take full advantage of this, OUR time of visitation! In Jesus’ name we ask it, AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.