Quinquagesima + Luke 18:31-43 + February 26, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn # 240 Father Most Holy
Hymn # 375 If Thy Beloved Son, O God
Hymn # 425 All Depends on Our Possessing

Introit

BE MY - || rock | of | — | re- - | fuge, *
A fortress of de- | fense - | to - | save | me.
For You are my rock | and | my | fort- - | ress. *
Therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead | me - | and - | guide | me. (Psalm 31:2b–3)
In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me nev- | er | be | a- - | shamed; *
Deliver me in | Your - | right- - | eous- | ness.
Into Your hand I com- | mit | my | spi- - | rit; *
You have redeemed me, O | Lord - | God - | of | truth.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I | am | in | trou- - | ble; *
My eye wastes | a- - | way - | with | grief.
Make Your face shine u- | pon | Your | ser- - | vant; *
Save me for | Your - | mer- - | cies’ | sake. (Psalm 31:1, 5, 9, and 16)

Readings
Isaiah 35:3-7
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 18:31-43 

Collect for Quinquagesima

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 the Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon


Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         Jesus takes the twelve disciples aside to teach them privately. He says, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all 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. And the third day He will rise again.” These are plain words to our ears and easily understandable. But that wasn’t the case when Christ first uttered them. Luke writes that the disciples “understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.” The Evangelist emphasizes the disciples’ complete lack of understanding by saying the same thing three different ways. They understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, or concealed from them. They understood none of these things and understood them as something cryptic. But who does the concealing? Who hides understanding from these men who had sat at Jesus feet for three years? It isn’t Jesus. Jesus is speaking as plain as day. Not only are Jesus’ words clear but this is the same Jesus who last week told the disciples in Luke 8:10, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that 'Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” It wasn’t Jesus that concealed this saying from the disciples. They concealed it from themselves and made it cryptic.

2)         The disciples attempt to use human reason to understand the words of Jesus and their human reason is flummoxed. Perhaps it was a Jewish misconception about the work of the Messiah. Perhaps the disciples believed, as many did in the first century AD, that the Messiah would usher in a golden age of Israel, an earthly kingdom similar to David’s kingdom but far better. If they expected a Messiah who would bring an earthly kingdom to Israel once again, then being mocked, insulted, spit upon, scourged and killed, would be incompatible with such a kingdom. Even if they considered the final word that He would rise on the third day that would not go with their understanding of the Messiah. If He was going to rise three days later, why die in the first place? This saying is hidden from them. Their own perceptions and expectations conceal the clear meaning of Christ’s plain words so that they are unable to understand and believe. They were also perplexed because they believed Jesus to be the Son of God. They had confessed that much on several occasions. How could God’s Son suffer and die? It is impossible for God to do either. Not only this, but Jesus had evaded death on several other occasions. In Luke 4, after teaching in Him home synagogue of Nazareth, the enraged worshipers “led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way” (Luke 4:29-30). At another time, in John 8:59, after teaching the Pharisees that He is the Only-Begotten Son of the Father, begotten from all eternity, the Pharisees “took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” He had evaded death before. Why would He now willfully walk into Jerusalem, the place where He was sure to die?

3)         All of these things floating around in their heads makes it impossible for the disciples to understand the clear words of Jesus. Relying on human reason they have blinded themselves so that they cannot see Jesus as Jesus truly is. We see this so often in our own day. The blindness of human reason clouds the eyes of many so that they cannot understand the words of Jesus. In the first case we think of those who refuse to hear the Gospel and believe it. St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 that “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” The unbelieving world sees Jesus through the lens of warped misconceptions. They see Him a good teacher. They see Him as an ancient therapist. They see Him as a social revolutionary. In all these scenarios the sufferings and death of Christ are most confounding because it was entirely unnecessary for a teacher, a therapist, or an agent of societal change to die. The world must conclude either that Jesus was the victim of His times or that His sufferings and death stopped His ministry short of its goal. The devil has cast a veil over the eyes of many so that they approach Jesus as so many things that He isn’t, so that they fail to see Him as Son of God who was willingly crucified for the sake of sinners.

4)         Human reason doesn’t stop there though. It’s not only unbelievers who are blinded to Christ’s plain words by false expectations or misconceptions. Human reason is active in Christians as well. Human reason isn’t all bad. We need it to live our daily lives in the world and made rational decisions. But it must never be set as master over the Scriptures or the Gospel. Human reason prowls around for an opportunity to contradict Christ and His Word to us. In temptation, human reason strives to convince us that God’s Law is only a guideline for our behavior and that it is flexible. Reason tries to convince us to in indulge in our selfish thoughts, the lust of the eyes, or the covetous desire. On the other hand, when we have sinned, human reason is often warped further by the devil and used against us. He uses it to convince us that the Absolution doesn’t actually forgive sins, but that we need to work our sins off. Reason argues that Christ isn’t physically present in the Sacrament to purify us but it is only an empty symbol of God’s presence. Reason wonders if God’s promise of mercy stops just short of our sins so that our guilt remains on our own shoulders. “How can a man forgive sins so that they are forgiven by God in heaven?” reasons asks. But Christ plainly said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” He also said quite plainly, “whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). He spoke clearly on the night in which He was betrayed, “Take, eat; this is my body.” “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28). If we view these clear and plain words of Christ through the lens of human reason they will be hidden from us and their true comfort concealed from our consciences, so that our eyes are blinded to the Gospel that God promises to be merciful to all who repent and seek refuge in Christ.

5)         There is only one answer to this sort of spiritual blindness, both for that of the unbeliever and that of the Christian who is tempted to doubt the truth of God’s Word to them. Jesus shows us this answer in the second half of today’s Gospel lesson. As He approaches Jericho a certain blind beggar sat by the road begging for his daily bread. His life was entirely in the hands of others. When this man hears Jesus of Nazareth is passing by he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And though those around him to their best to hush him up and put him in his place, this man will have none of it. He’s relied on the charity of people whom he has not seen or know about. Now he seeks charity from one whom he’s heard so many good things about. So he cries out again, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus summons the blind man and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” “What is your prayer? What is your need?” He knows it, of course. It’s obvious. But Christ wants the man to pray anyway because Christ loves to answer prayer. Just as He already knows what you need, that doesn’t exempt you from prayer, but rather should spur you on all the more to pray fervently. “Lord, that I may receive my sight,” he prays. Then the blind man hears Christ’s clear word, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” As he believes, it is done for him and Christ opens his eyes and he rightly glorifies God.

6)         This happens immediately after Jesus teaches the disciples about His suffering, death, and resurrection as a lesson to us. The only cure for spiritual blindness is faith. The only antidote for the doubting heart is trusting the plain and clear Word of God. The only medicine for the perplexed soul is confidence that Christ is true to His Word, no matter how little it makes sense to human reason. Human reason will not allow Christ to be crucified for any number of reasons, chief of which is that human reason does not want a suffering Savior or a mistreated Messiah. The flesh does not want God crucified in the flesh to atone for its sins. That is offensive to human reason, which would much rather try cleanse the conscience by self-styled works of self-atonement and self-justification from sins. Human reason does not believe the word of Absolution, “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). Human reason doubts whether or not God is truly “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Human reason refuses to believe that Christ is the Son of God who willingly went into Jerusalem, fully aware of what would happen, because it was His Father’s will and the prophets had foretold it. Human reason will fill your mind with all sorts of misconceptions and false notions about Christ and His clear and simple word to you. The answer to every single one of these misconceptions and false notions is faith in the plain, simple, and clear Word of Jesus.

7)         The disciples do not understand Christ at that moment. But they will. Christ will give them the Holy Spirit so that they might truly see and understand. After the resurrection these words spoken today will be remembered with great joy. Jesus told them all this would happen and it happened just as He said! He was taken by the Gentiles. He gave Himself over willingly. His ministry was not stopped short of its goal. The cross was the goal of His ministry! He is not an earthly Messiah, then or now. He is a Messiah who willingly dies for the sins of the world, for all your sins, so that all who believe in Him and trust His Gospel have exactly what He promises: mercy.  Go in peace, dear saints. Your sins are absolved and removed. Christ is present in this supper to cleanse your heart. Your faith in these words of Jesus has made you well again. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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