Sermon for Quinquagesima A.D. 2019
Text: Luke 18:31–43
31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus knows his death is coming. He not only goes to Jerusalem knowingly and willingly, but also purposely. He goes to bring fulfillment to all that the Scriptures have written concerning the Son of Man. Death and resurrection, Law and Gospel, wrath and grace will be brought to its completion by Jesus in Jerusalem. And He tells His disciples what is going to happen.
The Disciples understood none of these things. He healed the sick, He cast out demons, His wisdom surpassed that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, He taught as one who had authority. He multiplied loaves and fish. He even mastered the sea, rebuking the storm and walking on its waters. He saved others, could He not save Himself from betrayal and shame, pain, and death?
Nor does it make sense to us that one would approach such a fate so willingly. Jesus doesn’t call the Twelve aside in order to strategize how He might avoid a public scandal. Jesus doesn’t strategize back up plans in case things go wrong in Jerusalem. There is no exit strategy. The Lamb of God goes uncomplaining forth to a betrayal and death that only He sees coming.
The disciples did not yet understand any of these things. It would not be until after the resurrection on the Road to Emmaus that Jesus would open the disciples’ minds to understand all that Moses and the Prophets had written about Him.
But there is one who surprisingly does understand. The disciples call Jesus teacher and Lord. The crowds marvel at the miracle worker. There has been talk that this Man might even be the Messiah, but who is bold enough to confess that?
Here we have the exact opposite of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The fable tells of an Emperor who is tricked into wearing nothing at all by a couple of scoundrels. Everyone can see that the emperor has been swindled, but they fear to say anything; only some children are bold enough to confess what everyone else can plainly see.
Jesus is headed to the capital. Who He is should be plain to everyone, but nobody recognizes His royalty hidden by his ordinary clothes. Indeed even at his coronation He will be stripped bare. But there is one who recognizes the procession of a King even if it has been hidden from His own entourage. The only man who can see, is blind.
What’s going on, he asks? Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. “Jesus, Son of David,” he cries, “have mercy on me.” It is the blind man who recognizes the Messiah. He calls Him, “Son of David.” How does he know this except through the Scriptures? What prophets chanted of with one accord is being accomplished in the sight of a blind man.
Jesus stops and has the blind man brought to Him. “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks. The blind man could ask for anything. “Lord, let me recover my sight,” is his request. This is significant. For prophets have accomplished many mighty miracles in the past. Prophets have healed the sick, even raised the dead. But the Old Testament never records that the prophets gave sight to one who was born blind. It does, however, promise that the Messiah would do this. For the blind man to call Jesus the Son of David, and ask to receive healing from his blindness is to confess that He believes Jesus is the Messiah.
“See, your faith has saved you,” Jesus said. And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him, glorifying God. In one day, in one moment this blind beggar went from an outcast with nothing, to one who had received the Kingdom of God. He entered the Messianic age through the Word and power of Christ.
Make no mistake, God’s ways are not our ways. We would not have designed our own salvation half as wondrously as God has accomplished it. How often has the wonder of God’s salvation caught us off guard? Like the disciples we have heard the wonder of the cross and we have been confused. Like Peter we have pledge a loyalty we can not live out. “I will never leave you, Lord,” we say. But even the righteous falls seven times in a day.
We are the betrayers, we are the scoffers, we are the ones who are ashamed of Jesus’ shame and His Gospel. God help us, for we are blind and lost. Even now as we live in His Kingdom, how often do we turn back to sin? God help us. Son of David, have mercy on us!
Yet even our sin is turned into a reason to praise God. Shall we continue to sin that the grace of God may abound all the more? Certainly not! But should we glorify God that His Son went to the cross so that we could enter heaven? Should we rejoice that our Lord’s three-day rest in the tomb has hallowed the grave of all the faithful? Should we give thanks that God does not turn away from us when we sin, but welcomes us into His family? Certainly yes.
Let us rejoice that our blindness has not kept Jesus from looking on us with His favor. And let us continue to cry out: Son of David, have mercy on us. For He hears our prayers. He, who opened the eyes of the blind, will surely also guide us in the way of peace. He will lead us to where we will receive Him in His crucified yet living body, His blood shed, and outpoured. There we will recognize Him in the breaking of the bread and glorifying God follow Him even to death and the grave, and certainly to the resurrection.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria