The Cross Is the Ultimate Irony

Tenth Sunday after Trinity

August 5, 2018

Luke 19:41–48

It’s ironic when it hasn’t rained for three weeks and you wash your car and then it rains. Or when an advertisement for a spelling bee has a misspelled word. How ironic when a doctor does not take care of himself or that a pastor doesn’t do personal devotions. Life is full of irony. 

The Scriptures themselves are full of irony. Peter making a magnificent confession of Jesus and then being scolded by Jesus as being Satan for trying to prevent Jesus from being who He is. God’s power being made perfect in weakness. Or His foolishness being greater than human beings’ greatest wisdom. His weakness being greater than our greatest strength. It’s ironic that God became a human being. And that He was born of an ordinary woman, and in a stable at that, instead of royalty and in a palace. The Bible reflects the irony in daily life and it also shows us that the irony of daily life mirrors the ultimate irony which is how God brings about salvation. 

It’s terribly ironic that when Jesus comes into Jerusalem and sees the city that He weeps over it. He is coming on Palm Sunday. He has just entered to acclamations from the people. They rejoice at His coming. So why then does He weep over the city? He is hailed as the one who comes in the name of the Lord and then they are described by Him as not knowing the things that make for peace. 

Jerusalem itself has in its name the word peace, Salem; Shalom. But they do not know what makes for peace. He weeps for them. What are those things that make for peace? He had come in fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, lamented over the lack of repentance of God’s people and their resistance to the true peace which only the Lord gives. The irony of God continuing to love His people and their continued obstinance was certainly enough to make Jesus weep.

But now, Jesus says those things that make for peace will be hidden from their eyes. It’s ironic isn’t it, when the Lord works in this way? In His Word God calls this His alien work, it is not from His nature as a giving and loving God. But it His work of bringing His hammer down to bring about repentance. 

They will be hidden from your eyes and your enemies will set up an embankment around you and hem you in and level your city and not leave one stone unturned. They will dash you to the ground and your children with you. This is devastating. His prediction of this destruction came about in 70 ad.

He takes no delight in this. It is His alien work. He weeps over them. He longs for their repentance, for their embracing of the things that make for peace. The hiding them from their eyes and the destruction that will come upon them He says is because they did not know the time of their visitation.

Here is bitter irony, it was right before their eyes. This divine visitation for them coming in the person of Jesus. He is heading to the cross and weeping as He goes. Not for Himself, for them. 

The people hailed Jesus on Palm Sunday. But were they ready for a king who would die? No, they were looking for something different from God. And this is why things had gotten so bad in Jerusalem in the temple. When He entered the city He went to the temple and drove out those who were selling. He was angry. The House of God, which was to be a house of prayer, had been turned into a den of thieves. His weeping turned to anger as He expelled them from the temple. 

So Luke then tells us what everyone should have realized about God. He has sent His Son. Look to Him and you will see what God does for you. He drove out those desecrating the temple and replaced them with Himself, teaching every day in the temple during Holy Week. Luke then packs stunning irony in the next sentences. The religious leaders, the ones who most should have known that God was bringing about the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies in Jesus, were instead trying to find a way to kill Him. But why were they unable? Because the people were hanging on His every word. 

It’s of course ironic and sad that the religious leaders were opposing Him and it’s of course ironic and wonderful that the ordinary people were latching on to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus knew though that they still didn’t believe. They still didn’t expect a Lord who would give His life. They still didn’t want a Savior who would fail them by being crucified and no longer be with them.

Jesus went to the cross alone knowing that He was Lord and Savior. He did not succumb to the pressure of the world and His people to bring about salvation in glory and power. He rather submitted to the will of His Father in heaven and walked the path of the cross. It’s stunning irony itself that Jesus who is fully God and Lord chose to submit Himself to His Father. And in so doing to the machinations of the religious leaders and the cruel treatment of the soldiers and the decision of Pontius Pilate and to being crucified with criminals. 

Irony often causes you to scratch your head or to think about why things happen the way they do. But the irony that God brings about isn’t for this purpose. It is the essence of His bringing about salvation in this fallen world. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the wise. And at the head of those weak things is Christ Himself, His own Son. At the center of those things is the cross itself, the ultimate irony. 

What the people witnessed was an innocent man being brutally condemned. What was truly happening was God taking the place of sinners. God dying. God in the person of Jesus knowing no sin but who became sin for us. Remember, Jesus did not weep for Himself, He wept for us. He died for us. He who is Lord became our servant. He who is innocent and pure was filthy and stained with our sin. He who is without sin bore the wrath and condemnation of God. 

You and I witness irony all the time. But do we truly understand irony? Not unless we look at the cross and see there that this is how we know who God is and how He accomplished our salvation. 

How ironic when we think that we have something to offer God when He has offered us everything in giving up His Son. Isn’t it ironic when you and I say we believe in Jesus and yet treat so lightly the gifts He has given us? Why do we put so many things before daily reading God’s Word and praying to Him? Why do we despise Baptism by willfully sinning against our God who has placed His name on us? Why do we not hunger and thirst for the pure Gospel that is proclaimed here in this pulpit and given directly to us in our eating and drinking of the Lord’s Supper?

Like a doctor who doesn’t practice good health habits or a pastor who doesn’t feed himself spiritually by daily being in the Word, we Christians often exhibit irony in the worst way. And our Lord weeps over us. 

Repent. Know what makes for peace. Recognize the time of your Visitation. It is here, today. It is Christ Himself giving you Himself. He weeps for you but He also loves you. He forgives you. He has died for you, He has taken your sin in Himself and in return has given you eternal life. Amen.