Quinquagesima - Luke 18:31-43 - February 7, 2016
Order of Service - Pg. 15Hymn #240 Father Most Holy, Merciful and Tender
O Lord, we beseech Thee, mercifully hear our prayers and, having set us free from the bonds of sin, defend us from all evil; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
1) Jesus takes His discipline aside as they are travelling to Jerusalem and He tells them this, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. But on the third day He will rise again.” Perhaps it is because we have the benefit of 2000 years hindsight, but this seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? Jesus tells them beforehand what is going to happen to Him. He’s doing this so that when they see all this happening they don’t fall away in doubt, despair, and unbelief. He’s telling them these things in advance so that when they see all these things happen to their Lord, their faith mighty be strengthened. He goes uncomplaining forth, as we just sang, knowing full well the evil that sinners will inflict upon Him. Jesus tells His disciples this so that they take courage as they see Jesus’ courage and steadfastness as He walks willingly toward being mocked, insulted, and spit upon, scourged and killed. All this He can do because He knows the outcome. Death will be followed by resurrection. Shame give way to glory. It is terribly comforting to think that Jesus knows full well what will happen to Him, that, for those with ears to hear, all that is laid out in the prophets. “I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). “They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21). “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots” (Psalm 22:16-18). “They will look on Me whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). These and so many more statements by the prophets will all come to pass. But they will all be followed by resurrection from the dead. For it is also written, “You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10).
2) Such wonderful preaching by the Lord here. And the disciples don’t get it. “But they understood none of these things: this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.” It wasn’t that Christ was hiding this saying from them. On the contrary, Christ was being very explicit. That this saying was hidden from them means that the disciples missed it because they were expecting something else altogether. They didn’t want Jesus to be this kind of Jesus. Earlier in the Gospels, before Christ was transfigured, Jesus tells the disciples the same thing He tells them in today’s Gospel lesson, that He must suffer and die and rise again. At that point Peter takes Jesus aside and tells Him, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You” (Matthew 16:22)! Peter will have none of this suffering and dying business. Perhaps His ears were so clogged with the suffering and dying bit that he didn’t hear the part about rising again. Perhaps he figured that resurrection is unnecessary if Jesus just avoids death. Whatever the reason, Peter won’t let Jesus be the kind of Jesus He needs to be. Peter wants Jesus to stop talking about all this suffering and dying business and talk about the glories of the kingdom of heaven again. You remember Jesus’ response to Peter in that chapter because it’s quite telling about the origin of Peter’s attitude about Jesus’ suffering and death. He says, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:22-23). Peter’s attitude, his desire to circumvent Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection come from Satan, who does not want God’s name to be hallowed or God’s kingdom to come. Whenever someone won’t hear about a Savior who suffers and dies, that attitude and unwillingness to hear comes from Satan who’s thoughts are not God’s but his own.
3) The disciples just don’t have eyes to see or ears to hear about what kind of savior Jesus is going to be. Their ears are stopped up with their own ideas of what they think Jesus should be. It’s as if they’re eyes are blinded to Jesus’ true purpose: to atone for the sins of the world. All this happened right outside Jericho as they’re travelling to Jerusalem. These disciples who are spiritually blind to the truth about Jesus stumble across a man who is actually blind. In one way he is the perfect illustration of the disciple’s spiritual blindness. He sits by the road, unable to move from that spot because He can’t see where he’s going. The disciples are in a similar position, spiritually speaking. They cannot see Jesus for who He says He is yet. They can’t move closer to understanding Him because they rely upon their own human wisdom and opinion. They are very much in the dark about His task. But that is where the similarities with the blind man end. This blind man hears that Jesus is passing by. This man has obviously heard the good news about Jesus because as soon as he hears he begins shouting for Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on men!” There were many descendants of David roaming around Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. David had many wives and many children by those wives. That’s why the little town of Bethlehem was packed tight for Caesar’s census and there was no room in the inn when the time came for Mary to deliver the Christ-child. But this blind man sees through all that. By faith he sees that Jesus is THE Son of David, the promised one who would sit on His father David’s throne, whose kingdom would be an everlasting kingdom. And He sees THE Son of David as He wants to be seen. How does Jesus want to be seen by man? As merciful. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
4) When those who went before him warned him that he should be quiet, this blind man cries out all the more, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Look at this man’s faith. Others are telling him to be quiet. It’s as if they were telling him, “Look you blind fool, this is Jesus of Nazareth, the great teacher! He has more important things to do than meddle with you. He’s on His way to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. What does He have to do with you?” The crowd that verbally pushes this blind man aside are themselves just as spiritually blind as the disciples. Whereas the disciples think Jesus should avoid suffering, trial, cross, and death altogether, this entourage thinks that Jesus has better things to do than show mercy to a blind man. They are blind to the fact that “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). They demonstrated their unbelief in who Jesus truly was, for the prophet Isaiah prophesied that when God comes “the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped” (Isaiah 35:5). And again there is the great irony! The blind man gets it! By faith he knows exactly who Jesus is and why He has come. So as he is given the verbal brush-off he cries out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He knows who Jesus is. He knows that it is Christ’s will to be merciful to those who need mercy and humbly ask for it. So Jesus stops and commands these men to bring the blind man to Jesus. The blind man is brought to Jesus so he can know for certain that it is Jesus speaking to him. Jesus asks in the kindest, more inviting tone, “What do you want me to do for you?” Of course Jesus knows. He’s God in human flesh. But it is Jesus will that he ask, just as He knows what you will pray for before you even open your mouth, but He still wants to you ask anyway. He wants that because Jesus is always looking for faith. So the man asks, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Jesus shows His mercy by answering the man’s prayer. “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.”
5) Today Jesus teaches you His work and His mercy. First, your Lord wants to teach you what kind of savior He’s going to be for the world, what kind of Messiah He is for you. He assumes your human flesh so that He can be mocked, insulted, spit on, scourged, and killed, and on the third day rise again. He does not come to be merely a good teacher, spouting off moral precepts that you can take or leave. Neither does He come to show you the best possible way to live so that you can make the most of your life and follow your passion. He comes to die for you, to put all your sins on His shoulders as the Lamb of God, and sacrifice Himself on the altar of the cross so that He might win atonement for all of your sins. That can’t be done without receiving the insults, the mocking, the spit, the scourging, and the dying. But He also rises from grave for you, to promise you that all who believe and are baptized shall be saved, that is all who look to Him for mercy, absolution, and grace will find it in Him and in Him alone. He rises on the third day so that what He does for the blind man He can do for you whenever you become blinded by your sin and have no way out but to beg and beseech Him for mercy. That’s what is lost on so many in our age. Jesus is the one who willingly suffers and dies for your sins. He is the one who promises mercy to those who ask for in humility and penitent hearts, sorrowing over their blindness and their sin.
6) You may not think of yourself as blind. But whenever you look to something other than the Triune God for good things, then you’re blinded by whatever you’re looking to instead of Him. You may think that, “I once was blind but now I see.” But the truth is we daily fall into spiritual blindness, thinking that our sins aren’t that big of a deal or that they’re not actually sins that need absolving. You may think you see Christ just fine, but if you get to a moment where you think you don’t need mercy, then you’re eyes are as dark as night. But Jesus comes in His flesh to enlighten your eyes, to show you the deep sinful recesses of your heart so that you might see yourself as you truly are a little better each day, and seeing yourself more and more as the sinner you are, He invites you as He does the blind man to ask Him for mercy and He tells you the full extent of His mercy, that He is willingly mocked, insulted, spit on, scourged, and killed for you, so that He might be raised for you, to show you the mercy you truly need, the forgiveness of all your sins by faith in His promise. Amen.