Luke 19:41-48: The Thresher, the Threshing Floor, and the Temple

Threshing Floor 2A threshing floor is a violent place, of division and separation.  A farmer takes the cultivated harvest and casts the grain stalks on to a compacted floor.  Sinewy muscles stretch and strain, beating and separating the seed’s outer bran from the starchy inside.  Now, if wealthier, an ox will trudge through this crushing task, not the man.

Next, a winnowing fork, similar to a pitchfork, tosses everything into the air.  A breeze carries the chaff away but the dense inside of the seed, too heavy for the wind, falls back to the floor.  A simple flour awaits, soon to be gathered and formed into bread.

Atop the remains of a threshing floor, God’s Temple grew stone by stone.  In his day, King David bought the land to build an altar (2 Sam 24:18-24).  From this holy place sprung the sacred Temple, which Solomon built.

The magnificent and glorious House of God, where He is present for His people.  Further in, surrounded by a gold overlay, hovered the divine cloud, God revealing Himself in the Holy of Holies.  Only in this location, did God promise to come to His people to deliver life and salvation.

The King of the Universe calls them His “royal people” and His “treasured possession.”  A rich and fertile soil becomes theirs through His hand weaving in history.  A city, Jerusalem, becomes their capital.  Within the city, an architectural marvel, a stunning, beautiful Temple sprouts, from the place where different seeds of grain became formed and stone-baked into wholesome loaves.  In His Temple, God descends and lavishes His people, treating them as His Beloved Bride.

The Father treats His people well but never receives the most basic of courtesies back.  A petulant child, His people become, not returning His love, but spurning and reviling Him.  Did He not give them everything they needed?  Yes!  So, God will act, but not as we might think.  For He is not greedy and consumed in sin.  In love, the Father delivers more gifts, including His prophets to warn them for their benefit—but their ears become dull.  Still, He loves too much not to try again.

So, the Father sends His only Son, the Bridegroom.  Still, gratitude does not grow within them.  A blood hatred infects them, festering inside, spreading its cancerous tendrils.  Not their love; no, a kiss of betrayal will send this Son to His death.

In the self-righteousness of their sin, they didn’t recognize God’s visitation.  For they didn’t realize the Messiah, who came to visit and help them, also came as their Judge.

The people come to Jerusalem, the city of Peace, and yet they spurn heaven’s Peace, come to them in body and blood.  For the Passover, they go.  With the sacrifice of an animal on their mind, they reject the sacrificial Lamb of God.  Into the Temple they assemble, bowing in reverence, yet tearing down the Temple’s Fulfillment before them.  With sanctified prayers muttered on their lips, they mock the “Amen” to their petitions, the interceding Savior who makes their words acceptable.

No wonder Jesus weeps as He gazes on Jerusalem.  Oh, how drenched with sadness, while palm branches wave in midair, amid cheers and shouts.  No giddy euphoria leaps in His heart, for He understands well the fickle mind of man.  How we love the superficial and the shallow.  Drunk on the drink of our accomplishments, we delight in our goodness and deeds.  Of course, they must count for something before God!

Despite our hubris, Jesus doesn’t visit His people with whip and brutality.  An overwhelming flood, fire from heaven, burning brimstone, ear-piercing thunder and lightning, desolation and destruction, do not trail behind our Lord.  No, He only chastises because He must, not because He comes to condemn.

So, the Messiah comes preaching.  The wielded weapons are words, with eternity entwined within them.  Still, the people mistake our Lord’s benevolence as weakness and kill Him.  “Why didn’t they listen?”  How easy to scoff, “If Jesus visited me, I would.”  How painless for us to announce our verdict.

From the vantage of our fallen nature, they aren’t so far away and distant.  For Christ also visits us here, today.  In this time and space, He is present in His proclaimed Word.  Still, words enter one ear, often leaving the other, like they don’t contain life beyond death intertwined inside them.  The saving Son brings us His Word, but we yawn in boredom, wanting something else, instead.

How is the Word supposed to find root in such hearts pebbled with stone?  The Lord delivers His resonating Word, calling us to take up our crosses and follow Him.  Heavy-laden eyes glaze over, content to remain lukewarm and half-hearted.

So, the modest foundation of a grain-grinding floor helps us understand Jesus’ behavior in His holy Temple.  Within the walls, He reprimands the merchants, selling animals for sacrifice, in the place meant for the Gentiles to take part.  The Temple Himself, Jesus, fulfills the one constructed by human hands.  So, Christ foretells how the foreshadow of Himself will disappear, with no stone left intact, when the Israelites rebel against the Romans.

Yes, the Messiah also comes as a Thresher.  The Baptizer describes Him in this way.  “To clear his threshing floor, His winnowing fork is in his hand.  For into his barn, he will gather his grain, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).

Though no longer a seed-crushing floor, God’s Temple still separates and sorts.  The Father still parts the proud from the humble, those who believe in His Son from unbelievers who don’t.  The all-discerning God divides reliance on Him from unbelief, from disciples who recognize the Son incarnate, from the unfaithful who rebuff Him.

The time of your visitation is now.  Like long ago, Christ also comes near to you.  Now, we can say those Jews warranted what they received, but what about you?  The One who earlier cleansed His House, now comes among us, with His dividing Word.  Do you recognize what makes for your peace and wholeness?  Don’t think money, better health, or a life free from trouble, as wanted as they may be.  No, only Jesus and the life He grants through His Word of forgiveness leads to peace unending.

Now, is the time of God’s visitation, even the time of His judgment.  For in His compassion, God still gives you time.  Don’t consider you being here as coincidental.  For, here and now, the preached Word is coming to you.  The Lord is riding in humility, on the back of the pastor’s sermon, gazing into the temple of your heart.

Yes, this is the day God visits you.  Don’t be hard-hearted.  For if you are, you only hurt yourself.  A stony inside shuts the Word, keeping your deliverance far away.  Still, Jesus comes, once more, to visit you with grace, with gifts to help you.

Once, you belonged to another, not as the people of God.  Once, darkness claimed you, walking in spiritual blindness; now you are light.  Once, poverty and condemnation awaited you, but your cross-going King plucked you from the depths of the devil’s domain.  Now, Jesus welcomes you into His Kingdom, and you become royalty.

Today becomes the day of your visitation.  The Groom comes with His gifts, the gifts of His Body and Blood.  Do not be bored but overjoyed.  Be grateful.  Don’t complain about something, not to your liking.  Like our Lord, a generous giving should overflow from you, not self-centered yearnings.  Yes, you should be diligent in receiving and studying His Word, but you are indifferent, making Jesus fit your schedule.

Mull over Jerusalem’s harsh beginnings as a threshing floor.  Delve into what replaced the ground and milled grain—a capital city, filled with pride and self-importance, which rejected God’s Son and righteousness by faith.  Now, ponder our stark origins from the dust and what we became—proud, arrogant, and dancing over our achievements.

Repent!  Let Jesus crush your calloused heart.  Let him separate you from self-love and pride.  Remember Jerusalem.  Better yet, recollect who came to the city and its Temple.  For He entered to die.  Why?  To come to you, here, and give you life.

Yes, Jesus perceives your conceit and arrogance, but He also spots where He will rescue His people by dying in their place.  So, He enters the Temple, drives out the sellers, and all those animals marked for death.  All this is to open the way for Himself, as the Passover Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, who takes away all sin, for you.

On a floor of pulverized grain, He takes center stage.  The divine Thresher is here to do what no other ever did.  Like a stalk of wheat, He lays Himself down.  All your sins and lies and despising of His Word are stomped down on Him, into Him.  Beaten and crushed, He dies for the misdeeds he didn’t commit, burned and judged as guilty.

Still, this must be so, for you can’t make bread without breaking the grain on the threshing floor.  So also the Bread of Eternal Life, who must take in your corruption and disease, be crucified for them, and rise from death for your salvation.  Only in this way is your evil separated from you.

The Lord agonizes in the Jerusalem below so you can become a citizen of the holy Jerusalem above.  So, He endures the pounded nails in His hands, so you are embraced into the welcoming hands of Your Father.  Like chaff, as your substitute, He chooses annihilation, baking in the fires of hell unleashed on Him.  Why?  For God to bring you into his granary as the best grain, collected from a perfect harvest.

Today, Jesus approaches in mercy, not violence.  In this place, He draws near, not to divide but to call together, not to destroy or drive you away.  For Christ reaches down in inexpressible love and kindness, to forgive and bless you with His peace.  So, He comes in His forgiving Word, in His Body given, and in His Blood, for you.  Amen.