Quinquagesima (About 50 days until Easter)

Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 | 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 | Luke 18:31-43

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

First Corinthians 13 is one of the most beloved passages of all Scripture. It is a favorite passage for weddings. It is written on knickknacks and tchotchkes we decorate our houses with. Pardon the pun, but we love this chapter of the Bible. And rightly so. It puts front and center what is essential to living in Christ. Without it, none of our good works, or even great works have any value whatsoever. But love covers all that we cannot do. 

But by today, these words—faith, hope, and love—have become disembodied slogans. They are no more than an allegory to a lost and forgotten past, the same way the works of Homer or Virgil used to be referenced as common knowledge. Faith, hope, and love are just decals to adorn your Hobby Lobby-inspired décor.

Meanwhile, our actual lives have become whatever we want them to be. By nature and by practice, our lives are the product of philosophies and peers. And because there is nothing new under the sun, it was not much different for the Christians in Corinth.

The Stoics believed only the spiritual mattered, so they denied the body everything of meaning. The Epicureans believed only the spiritual mattered, so the indulged the body in everything, no matter how degenerate. False teachers then and now emphasized that things like tongues, prophesies, healings, and powers were how to know you were spiritual. And Paul had to correct them all, while bringing them together.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” “As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” “Love never ends.”

There was nothing wrong with tongues, prophecies, knowledge, or powers. In fact, they could be good. But only so far as they loved one another. Without that divine love, none of those other things mattered. Without love, they were even a hindrance.

But what does it mean to love one another? The world alienated from God defines love differently than God and His people do. They show us that it’s a feeling you fall into. It’s a sense of comfort, of happiness. It’s your source of joy when you get what you want, and a source of sorrow when you don’t. It’s the emotion that drives people to do great things…or even terrible things. “They did it for love,” and that makes it all worth it. But love for our world is found inside you. There’s a selfishness to the world’s love. It can motivate one to do a lot, but always for one’s own sake. We want our feeling validated by others. We want to be loved in return. And when we don’t get what we want, when our feelings fade, so does our effort, our work. This “love” is a passing mist.

That’s not the kind of love that God has for us. His love is an action, not a feeling. God loves because that’s who He is, not because we have something He wants. In fact, when we do not do what He desires, He acts in love all the more, because we are in need. God’s love is selfless, self-sacrificial. And it never fades or fails. 

But such a love doesn’t look like we expect it to. Love is demonstrated for us in the Gospels. In Luke 4:16-30, Jesus does not give the people in His hometown of Nazareth the signs and miracles He did in Capernaum. They wanted them, and they would have loved Him for it (at least the way the world loves). Instead, He gave them something better: His Word which declared that the Lord’s Christ was in their midst. But they would not have heard His Word if He had given them miracles.

At other times, like when He met the rich man in Mark 10, we hear,

21  Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:21-22)

To us, it sounds like that love doesn’t get desirable results.

More importantly, do we love one another as Christ has loved us? I dare say we have not measured up too well. We have been impatient and mean to those who are not on our side. We have been envious, wishing we had what others seem to get. We have boasted about ourselves, how we know better than the rest. We have been arrogant enough to think we are better than others. Sometimes, we’re rude enough to tell that to their faces. We have insisted on our own way in all things. We have been irritable and resentful to all. We have rejoiced at wrongdoings, calling it justice, or comeuppance, or karma. We have borne little, believed little, hoped little, endured little. And had the audacity to say that we did it all in love. That kind of love cannot end soon enough.

Therefore we are to repent. We are to renounce such things. We must see all people as ones for whom Christ died, because He has—even those who irritate us the most. After all God loved us when we not only irritated Him, but openly rebelled against Him with our sin. Our neighbor needs our love. Not our feelings. Not our self-centered attempts to get what we want out of them. But self-sacrificial service. Jesus has done no less than that for us. 

Christian love is Christ’s love. Christ’s love is patient, bearing with our sin, like when He was betrayed by one of His closest friends. His love is kind, caring for us though we made ourselves His enemy, like he healed the ear of the high priest’s servant as they arrested Him. HIs love does not envy, like when Jesus was falsely accused before the Sanhedrin. His love does not boast, as He remained silent before His accusers. Jesus’ love it is not arrogant. He did not elevate Himself above others—even though He is truly the Son of God—but He was humiliated before all Jerusalem for our sake as He was carried before Pilate. His love is not rude, telling even Pilate, a gentile polytheist, of the truth. 

Jesus’ love, It does not insist on its own way, letting the soldiers put a reed in His hand to later be struck with, and a crown thorns upon His head in mockery. His love is not irritable, patiently bearing the blasphemous call from the chief priests and Pharisees to come down from the cross. His love is not resentful, as He even promised paradise to the repentant thief who earlier had mocked Him.

His love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. So at the last, He says it is finished, and gives up His Spirit. There He finished His great work of love. The ultimate self-sacrifice for every sinner. To pay for our sin, even the sin of failing to love as we ought. He gladly laid down His life for your sake and for mine. His love truly bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And the cross is the place He has loved you. By action, not by feeling. Jesus died for your sake. And has purchased you out of your slavery to your sin. 

The love of God never ends—not even death can snuff it out. After Jesus gave His life for your sake, He took it back up again. On the third Day Jesus rose from the dead. Another work accomplished for you, and a promise given to you. Since He died your death in your place, His resurrection is also made yours. A promise coming on the last day for you and for every believer.

 “The Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever.” (Ps. 100:5) This love is so intertwined with the cross, that Christians have made a practice of tracing the cross on themselves. That tradition is still preserved to this day, by the little Latin cross in the hymnal. Notice the places where it is:

  1. When we invoke His saving Name, remembering Holy Baptism where Jesus’ death becomes our death, and His resurrection our hope of the same (Romans 6:3-11)
  2. At the end of the Creed, where we confess our certain hope in the life of the world to come, which is made ours through the cross (Luke 18:29-30)
  3. Although it’s not printed, some choose to cross themselves at the final petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil,” because it is by the cross that “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame.” (Colossians 2:15)

This is what love actually is, by which He loved the world and us, so that He gave His only-begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). This is what He teaches us, and in Him, we grow daily in Christian love for those same people God has loved. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.


Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 | 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 | Luke 18:31-43

Text: Luke 18:31-43

The theme for Quinquagesima is “Grace is not easily understood” and you could broaden that to say that “God’s ways are not easily understood.”

In the lesson from 1 Samuel, we saw that God’s choice for king of Israel is not what Jesse, his sons, or even the prophet Samuel, expected. Was that because God just wanted to keep them on their toes, guessing at what He is going to do next? Not hardly. It’s an indictment against our understanding which we prize so much. It may have been a while since any of you thought of this, but consider the word, “sophomore” for those who are in the second year of school. From the Greek, it literally translates to “wise fool,” with a definite emphasis on the latter—a fool who thinks him or herself wise.

And this is the way that God humbles us in our wisdom, as we heard recently from 1 Corinthians 1: “In the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the foolishness of what we preach to save those who believe…For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:21, 25) What is the key which unlocks this wisdom of God?

Consider what happens in the Gospel today in Luke 18. Our Lord clearly predicts His passion (not for the first time):

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.

Even though He says it in plain words, there’s this blindness—a threefold blindness that overcomes the Twelve (v. 34):

  • They understood (comprehended) none of these things.
  • This saying was hidden from them.
  • They did not know/understand what was said.

That is, they were totally in the dark when it came to understanding exactly how Jesus would save them and be the Savior of the whole world. It was as if they couldn’t even comprehend the sounds coming out of their Lord’s mouth as He was saying this. How ironic that those who were with the Lord day in, and day out, and yet utterly powerless to understand this crucial teaching! This is why we say today that “Grace is not easily understood” and why our Lutheran confessions explain, “[God] gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel.” (Augsburg Confession, V)

To illustrate how this isn’t a matter of what “makes sense,” they went on to Jericho.  Even though the disciples were helpless to unravel these things, the Holy Spirit granted understanding to an unexpected person:

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!”

Reason would dictate that those who had the most exposure to Jesus, heard the most of His teachings, would be the best informed when it comes to recognizing who He is and what He has come to do.  But this chapter 18 in Luke’s Gospel is about faith receives, not what reason can accomplish.  Just the very city in which this takes place carries a reputation.  Jericho was the first Canaanite city the Israelites encountered (Joshua 2). Even before God’s way of conquest—marching around the city walls—was demonstrated, there was seen an unexpected believer in Rahab. James commends her as a woman of faith: “In the same way [as Abraham] was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:25-26) The place on the way to Jerusalem, which was expected to be a place of ignorance, actually was the place where Rahab, the faithful woman, had lived.

So near Jericho, they meet another believer: a blind man who has been listening in faith about Jesus: He is the Son of David—the one seen by God not as man sees—that is to see with the eyes of faith.  Just like with Jesse and his sons, God is not choosing as man would, but as God does, who works in the inner man or heart.

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.

Those who were leading the procession of the Lord through Jerusalem ought to be the ones who had the best understanding, but instead they were trying to silence this stupid beggar. “Kyrie eleison!” He’s crying after Jesus. Doesn’t he know this will get us in trouble with Rome, who insists that we give this cry to Caesar?

But the “problem” isn’t this blind man who is crying after Jesus; it’s us, who aren’t. This physically blind man has been given eyes to recognize Jesus with the sight which truly matters: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Kyrie, eleison! He’s crying out the most simple, and yet profound prayer in the Church: “Lord, have mercy.” To our thought, it doesn’t sound like much. How could you ask the Lord for so little as to have mercy? But in asking the Lord to have mercy is to ask Him to remember more than His just judgment against us. Instead, look upon us through the blood of Jesus Christ. Look upon us in your promise to save, and be as merciful to us as possible!

Look at us and our children, and do not give us what we deserve, but what your mercy toward sinners appoints. Like blind men who can only receive what your grace pours out, give us eyes to see Jesus and your mercy upon the cross!  Give us eyes to see why He goes to the cross.

Up to this point, many people have been asking Jesus to arbitrate (Luke 12:13-14), and to settle theological arguments (Luke 11:53-54).  But notice the ones who the Lord answers: Those who call on Him simply saying, “Lord, have mercy upon us!” Kyrie Eleison. Through granting us repentance, God gives us an understanding which our reason can’t see: “For He will be delivered over…mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him.” Yet, how often do we think of this merely as a cold transaction between the Father and the Son for us without any connection to us?

What repentance reveals is that it is actually our own sins for which Christ suffers. We would choose for someone else to suffer instead of us bearing the punishment we deserve. Our pride mocks the Son of God who has come in order to liberate us from sin, death, and the devil. By continuing in our sins, so that grace may abound, we are no better than those who mock Him to His face saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.” (Luke 23:35) And yet those wounds and mockery were for you.  The flogging He endured is testimony to the ways we deserve to bear punishment for our disobedience to God and flagrant disregard for His stern commandments!

This grace is most difficult for us to understand, and without the Holy Spirit, all of us would be hopeless to find it! Yet, despite what we deserve, “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” (Small Catechism, Creed, 3rd Article)

And rather than the judgment that we well know we deserve, He comes to the repentant heart with the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  [The blind man] said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And here we see how the Lord answered this poor man with more than He ever imagined or deserved. He asked simply for his sight to be restored. Yet in the Lord’s answer, He answered His request and gave him all that he truly needed: “Your faith has saved you.”

This is how the Lord deals with each of us, whom He draws in humble repentance, with eyes that He Himself has opened. Kyrie, eleison, Lord, have mercy. We don’t know what we ought to ask for, but the Holy Spirit has taught us that HERE in Jesus is where to look for help. Though we sit on the darkened side of that “mirror dimly” which St. Paul describes in those rich words in 1 Corinthians 13:12, our Lord and God has given us the sight which is better. By His grace, we are given to see Jesus Christ with all His gifts: Our sins, small and great, are atoned for by His blood passion. Through Him, God the Father has made peace with us. Now, we approach Him as dear children asking their dear Father. However weak or strong we look in the eyes of man, He has given us a heart which He knows and named us as His own.

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

Quinquagesima (Luke 18:31-43)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR

Quinquagesima + March 3, 2019

Text: Luke 18:31-43

The Lord often confounds our understanding—He chooses the least, the lowly, and here in today’s Gospel it is a blind man that sees while the disciples are dumbfounded.

But on the cusp of the holy 40 days leading to the crucifixion of our Savior, is it any wonder that God confounds our thinking and teaches us that all our thoughts and desires are dust and ashes?  We do not know how deeply sin has corrupted our innermost thoughts and degraded our will so that, as it is quoted in Matthew 13, “This people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)

And sometimes it makes us angry.  Though we are dust, we presume to talk back to God about His ways.  How dare you hold out on us!  We demand that you release your secrets to us, God!  Tell us what’s going to happen in the future, tell us why you let evil prosper, tell us why parents must bury their children!

This Gospel falls in a long succession of humbling and contrary teachings in Luke 18: After the story of the persistent widow, the Lord asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”  Then the sinful tax collector goes down to his house justified, “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Then even infants are blessed by the Lord, because “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  Lastly, someone who is successful in the world with money and power is denied the Kingdom, for “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  He kicks out every prop we would by which we would hold ourselves up.  The last of them is our intellect.  We are so convinced that our perception of things is correct!  But, we can’t even trust our eyes or our mind when it comes to the things of God.

Jesus plainly tells His disciples what must happen to Him: “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.”  From this side of the resurrection, I think we give ourselves too much credit.  We know the end of the story, so a part of us looks down on the disciples here and at Emmaus who are blind and deaf to what Jesus is saying.  But even though we see it with our eyes and hear it with our ears? Do we see as we ought?

It’s not that the disciples don’t get it because they’re unintelligent.  They don’t understand because “This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”  There were words coming out of Jesus’ mouth, but they were clueless, and this was the Lord’s doing, a kind of small-scale Babel.  The words had been encrypted (Greek for hidden) so that they wouldn’t understand it.

These past weeks leading up to Lent, we’ve learned that grace is undeserved and grace is passively received.  Now is the hardest lesson to receive, because, as the prophet Daniel said, “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.” (Daniel 2:28)  God’s ways, especially His grace, is a mystery which He must reveal on His terms.  No matter how much we think we know, no matter what power we think we have over our heart (or another person’s heart), God is the gatekeeper of grace.

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.”

In this story, nobody envies the blind man until after he’s received his sight.  But eyesight aside, this man is actually our role model.  Would that we were aware of our blindness and our desperate need to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” asking the Lord to heal us!  The man is blessed because God has given him a sense not worked on earth.  In fact, that might be a good prayer for all of us to ask of God: Restore my sight, so that I might see you, see myself, and see those around me as I should.

Last week in the Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians 11 and 12, we heard St. Paul talk at length about his weakness and eventually reached the point where he boasted in his weakness “so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)  I wish I could tell you this is an easy process, but we’re not in control of that, and it’s often painful.  This process of sanctification, being made holy, is compared to purifying silver from impurities: “Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel.” (Proverbs 25:4; also Isaiah 1:25)  There’s good reason for this, because silver is extracted from ores that are mixed with other metals like copper, zinc, gold, and lead.  Separating out the silver requires either extreme heat or acid baths, depending on the source.

We too need to be purified from our sinful heart.  Purging the alloys of sin from our lives is lengthy process in which the Holy Spirit leads us through fiery trials, intense temptations, and painful and humbling failures.  Sanctification doesn’t happen on our timetable, but the Lord’s.  St. Paul pleaded with the Lord to take a thorn from His flesh, but the Lord’s reply was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  How can it be that God’s will is actually to leave us in weakness?  Take for instance a persistent sin—a destructive tongue, a hot temper, lust, greed, jealousy, or gluttony.  You know from the Word of God that these things are evil, but try and pray as you might, you can’t seem to be rid of it.   What could possibly be the problem?  Am I not trying hard enough?  Am I not praying right?  What a failure of a child of God I must be!

The life story of John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace is like that.  He was shaken out of his proud, libertine life through the humbling experiences in West Africa and nearly dying at sea.  He was converted to God, but his life wasn’t immediately made pure.  He still continued in the slave trade for another 7 years. He continued in studies for the ministry, and was eventually ordained in 1764.  Not until 1788, 40 years after his initial conversion, did he publicly renounce slavery and speak out as an abolitionist.

Though it may not happen on the schedule we think, God’s will for you is your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3)—on His schedule.  If you cannot see it right now, continue in His grace.  You will sin, you will be humbled—but do not despair or give in!  As often as you realize your sin, seek His grace where He gives it—in your Baptism, in the Absolution, and in His Body and Blood.  The disciples were kept from understanding the crucifixion before it happened, but that was part of His plan.  He revealed to them when the time was right, and on Pentecost, their eyes were opened to truly see, understand, and preach what this suffering, death, and resurrection mean.  He will open your eyes and give you relief from your blindness in His timing.

Though these are unpleasant in the moment, the end result can only be credited to God: a stronger faith, a heart that seeks Him alone, and a more steadfast hope while living in this temporal life.

And all these teachings put together—grace undeserved, grace passively received, grace revealed—give all the credit to God.  As St. Paul writes in Ephesians 2: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Rejoice, you saints of God, because He is accomplishing His work in you, a people who praise and acknowledge Him, and who humbly live by His every Word, and who prove the mighty works of God in the weak and lowly. Amen.

Quinquagesima (Luke 18:31-43)

Bethlehem and Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon and Sweet Home, OR
Quinquagesima + February 11, 2018
Text: Luke 18:31-43

These two accounts in St. Luke’s Gospel are arranged very intentionally.  Side by side, the disciples are placed next to a blind beggar.  The disciples are sighted, but blind to see who Jesus is.  The beggar is blind, but has faithful eyes which see who Jesus is.  So we have the comparison of the blind man’s sight, and the sighted men’s blindness.
There are two names of Jesus which are featured in the Gospel: Son of Man and Son of David.  Jesus speaks of Himself as the Son of Man.  The title, “son of man” is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to a human being.  It is “ben Adam,” a descendent of the first man, Adam.  And that carries with it a lot of baggage: the first man sinned and died, bringing sin to all his descendants, and “death spread to all men because all sinned.”[1]  The sons of man are dishonest and corrupt in their loyalties, so that God must point out, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.”[2]  And the sons of Adam—all of them—return to the dust from which they were taken, as Moses says in Psalm 90, “You return man to dust, and say ‘Return, O sons of man!’”[3]
But when Jesus uses this term, He chooses to identify with these sons of Adam.  He truly shares in the mortal existence of the sons of man.  It’s precisely what He does as a son of Adam that’s important: Jesus, Son of Man, is born without sin and He does not sin.  He loves the Lord His God with all His heart, soul, and strength, and does not worship any idols.  And even though He is without sin, He suffers to be “delivered over to the Gentiles…[to] be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon”…flogged and killed.  This Son of Man dies, but “on the third day” rises again.
Therefore, as Jesus, the Son of Man, goes, so do the sons of man with Him.  The sinless Son of Man knew no sin, so that the sons of Adam would be reckoned free from sin.[4]  He suffers, bleeds, and goes down to the grave with the sons of man.  But on the third day, He rises from the dead, “never to die again.”[5]  And He brings the sons of man with Him, out of their graves.  He ascends into heaven with the Father, and the sons of Adam follow Him and return to the presence of God.
The blind man, on the other hand, uses another name for Jesus: Son of David.  And this is more than Solomon, or Rehoboam, or any of David’s other descendants.  This is He of whom David wrote in Psalm 110, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’[6]  This is the Anointed One, the Messiah, of whom Isaiah spoke: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[7]
So the blind man cries out after Jesus saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And who he thinks this Son of David is comes out when Jesus asks him what he wants done for him.  The blind man asks for a remarkable thing: “Lord, let me recover my sight.”  It may seem obvious that he wants to see again, but nowhere among any of the prophets, was a blind man ever given his sight.[8]  There had been healings, resurrections, and miraculous feedings, but none had ever opened the eyes of the blind.  That was reserved for the Son of David, God in the flesh.  Through a faith granted from above, this blind man understood better than the disciples who Jesus really is.
On the way up to Jerusalem, Jesus had taken the twelve aside.  He spelled out why “His face is turned to Jerusalem.”[9]  In plain language, Jesus speaks to these twelve men and says, “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.”
What He says is no breaking news: Everything that is written is all of the Scriptures, from Moses to Malachi.  Abraham took his son up the mountain to sacrifice him, but the true sacrifice would be God’s own Son.  Samuel (in today’s Old Testament reading) anointed David, the man after God’s heart.[10]  This David later sang of His sufferings and how evildoers would pierce his hands and feet.  Isaiah foretold the Lord’s servant who would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.[11]  All the Scriptures were to be fulfilled, as Jesus was handed over, suffered, died, and rose on the third day.
But the disciples understood none of this.  In fact for the time being, “this saying was hidden from them.”  They knew in part who this Jesus they were following was.  They heard Him teach many things, heal many diseases, and challenge the status quo both in society and the synagogue.
Actually, it’s not unlike what many people take Jesus to be today.  They follow Him because they regard Him as a teacher of love.  Like a good rabbi or guru, Jesus gives direction on how we can be better people.  They proudly ask, “What would Jesus do?” and then adopt Him as sponsor of whatever their cause is—tolerance, social justice, or a convenient addition to a political speech.
But such a view of Jesus, even though it comes from people with supposed sight, is spiritually blind.  Why was Jesus going up to Jerusalem?  To make atonement for the world’s sin—for your sin.  If we’ve been a Christian for long enough, we mouth the words, I, a poor, miserable sinner, but we make a half-hearted confession.  The old Adam in us thinks our sins aren’t that bad, because there are other people who are worse.  I only fudge the numbers on my taxes, but I’m not Charles Ponzi!  Sure I called the President an idiot, but it’s not like I plotted to kill him!  Sure I occasionally check out women, but I’m not as bad as Larry Nassar whose sexual sins make the headlines.  As another pastor put it, “We damn ourselves by our faint confession.”[12]  We are blind men and women who really only want a Savior who only saves us from socially acceptable sins.
If your sins aren’t that bad, or aren’t that condemnable, why must the Son of Man be “delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him.”  If your sin is not that bad, then God paid too high a price for your life.  Maybe He should ask for a refund.
But indeed we are poor and miserable, and would that the Lord would give us spiritual eyes to recognize that!  Martin Luther’s dying words were, “We are all beggars. This is true.”  The blind beggar is us, chasing after the Lord for mercy.  And casting aside every voice that says, “You’re a good person” and “Just believe in yourself,” we fall down on our knees before the Son of David and say, “Oh Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.”[13]  And He asks us what we want Him to do for us.  He already knows what we need, but He listens to us as we say,
…I pray you of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.
We ask Him for the forgiveness which flows from His betrayal and mocking and shameful treatment and being spat upon and flogged and killed.  And He hears and answers each of us: “Your faith has made you well” (v. 42).  Your faith in His innocent suffering and death has saved you.
We, the 12 disciples, and the blind beggar are all the same.  We all need God the Father, by the Holy Spirit, to open our eyes to see Jesus for who He is.  He is the Son of David, who came, not only open the eyes of the blind, but also to bestow the Lord’s favor and raise the dead to eternal life.
And He comes to you here, today.  He came in the waters of your Baptism to nail your sins to His cross, and raise you to new life.  By His mercy, you, son of Adam, will follow the Son of Man where He has gone, to be with your God forever.  Amen.
[1] Romans 5:12
[2] Numbers 23:19
[3] Psalm 90:2
[4] Genesis 15:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21
[5] Romans 6:9
[6] Psalm 110:1, cited in Luke 20:42-43
[7] Luke 4:18-19, citing Isaiah 61:1-2 and 42:7
[8] cf. John 9:32
[9] Luke 9:51, 53
[10] 1 Samuel 16:7
[11] Deuteronomy 18; Joshua 5:13-15; 1 Sam 13:14; Psalm 22; Isaiah 52-53
[12] Pastor David Peterson, Sermon for Quinquagesima, March 10, 2013
[13] Cf. Luke 18:13