Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sermon: Quinquagesima - 2018

11 February 2018

Text: Luke 18:31-43

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“Everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished,” says Jesus.  He tells the twelve, as they make their way to Jerusalem, exactly what is going to happen: Jesus will be arrested and given over to the Roman government, mocked, abused, spat upon, flogged, and executed.  And He will rise from the dead.

For Jesus is the Son of Man prophesied by the Old Testament that the disciples had been reading and praying all their lives long.  They knew about the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior predicted by the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms – and now Jesus is clearly telling them that He is that Messiah. 

He is the one that Isaiah predicted will suffer for the sake of the people in order to redeem them from their sins.  And this redemption will be violent.  In fact, it will be a fulfillment of the Passover, in which a spotless lamb’s blood is shed, and its flesh roasted and eaten, in order for the angel of death to pass over the Lord’s chosen people. 

Our Lord’s ministry began when John the Baptist announced that Jesus is the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”  This Lamb comes to bleed, to die, and to become a meal for those whose sins are forgiven. 

Jesus has come into the world to die on a cross, and to rise from death all for the forgiveness of sins, all to make the world right again, all for you, dear friends.

He spells it out to His disciples, “but they understood none of these things.”  For “the saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”

They would, in time, come to understand.  But as for now, they are blinded to the reality of who Jesus is and what His mission in this world is.

Ironically, right after this shocking blindness of the Lord’s closest students comes an incident with a blind man.  Doing what he can to earn a living, that is, to beg and depend upon the charity of others, the blind man senses that something is happening.  There is a crowd.  He asks what is going on.  “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by,” he is told.

And then the blind man responds in a way that the disciples do not.  For this blind man sees something that is hidden from them.  He addresses Jesus as “Son of David.”  For the blind man knows his scriptures.  He knows that the Messiah is a descendant of David, the rightful King of Israel.  And he understands that the kingship of Jesus isn’t just one more political office.  For unlike even the great King David, this King, David’s Son, can do miracles.  He can even heal blindness – something doctors and medical technology are unable to do even to this day.

The blind man not only knows the scriptures well enough to see who Jesus is, he also believes the scriptures, that is, he has faith: faith that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of David, and faith in His power to bring sight to the blind.

And so the blind man yells with all his might, praying, “Have mercy on me!”  He is so insistent that “those who were in front rebuked him.”  The verbalization of his faith, and his persistence in asking for Jesus to work a miracle is embarrassing and annoying to the rest of the people, those who can see with their eyes but cannot see with the eyes of faith.

“But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’”

Hearing his prayers, Jesus stops before him.  Jesus asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

The blind man asks for what might seem obvious: to see again.  But there is something profound in his request.  For unlike the disciples who seem to be temporarily blinded about the Messiah before their eyes, the blind man sees who Jesus is, and also sees what His ministry is.  For as a result of this encounter with Jesus, he is made “well.”  This is to say, his imperfection was removed; his heath was restored; he was healed.  And in the Greek language of the New Testament, to be “healed” means to be “saved.” 

Jesus has come to heal, that is, to save.  He has come to cure us of death itself, which is to say, to take away our sins, to be that blood-soaked Lamb whose body receives the wrath of God, and whose flesh is eaten by those whom death passes over.

We too see this, dear friends, in our Divine Service.  For immediately after the bread and wine are consecrated, the pastor holds the host and the chalice before your eyes, and we all sing together: “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us!”

The prayer of the blind beggar is our prayer, dear brothers and sisters.  We too pray for mercy.  We too pray for forgiveness.  We too pray to have our eyes opened to the reality of eternal life in Christ by the grace and mercy and love of God, though we don’t deserve it.  The angel of death has passed us over, and we cry out, “Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord, have mercy.”  We know who the Son of David is.  And like the blind man, we see well enough in our blindness to cry out all the more, even if the world is annoyed or embarrassed and it rebukes us.

And even as the Lord told the blind man who recovered his sight: “Your faith has made you well,” so too, dear friends, does our faith make us well.  Jesus offers us forgiveness, life, and salvation according to the promise of the Holy Scriptures, and when we believe the promise, the promise becomes a reality, and salvation is ours, by the grace and mercy of the Lord, the Son of David.

And this is what it means to be a Christian, dear friends.  We did not heal ourselves, but we have been healed, by the Son of David, by the Lord.  And in faith, we receive the promise and the gift, and we are made well.  We recover our own sight, we follow Jesus, and we glorify God.

The story of the blind beggar is our story.  It is the church’s story, the Holy Christian Church whose members never cease, day in and day out, century after century, to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” when we gather together to glorify God, and to pray for His gifts, when we worship Him, hear anew the prophecies and promises of Scripture, and when we eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Lamb.

We see Him in the breaking of the bread.  We see because we have been made well through our faith in Him who heals us, who saves us.

“Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon us,” now and even unto eternity!  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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