February 10th, 2013 – Quinquagesima –
In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
They did not understand. The disciples, the twelve, those who had followed Jesus through thick and thin, His closest friends and allies, they did not understand. There is Jesus, on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus getting ready for His own Lenten Season, for the final push and struggle against Satan, and He tells the Disciples that the time is approaching – that the time is at hand. 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. For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.” Look, here is what is going to happen, this is what is coming up. Jesus spells it out pretty neatly. We have Good Friday and Easter pretty well summed up here. . . but the disciples, they just don’t understand.
But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Flies right over the disciples. And why? Because their minds are deluded, their vision is off. They do not see Jesus as they ought. Jesus tells them, behold, the time has come for me to fulfill scripture, to do all the work of salvation which the Messiah is supposed to do – I will be the suffering servant who dies for the people and wins them forgiveness. I will atone for the people, that is I will pay their penalty in their place. Everything that is written about the Son of Man will be accomplished – and the hour is at hand. It will happen once we hit Jerusalem. And the disciples don’t get it. They just don’t see it.
So why not? What does this teach us, what does this remind us off? Jesus uses a very important word to start off His sentence – see. “See, we are going to Jerusalem and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.” And the disciples don’t see. The idea of Jesus suffering and dying is completely foreign to them, they can’t comprehend it. This is Jesus, this is the Son of God – surely He wouldn’t suffer – He’ll just steam roll the Romans, take charge of everything, smack some people around. Their eyes were not upon Jesus, not upon the Messiah – but their eyes were upon false dreams of earthly power and glory. They saw things of the world – but they refused to see the Spiritual things – the Divine plan of salvation which Christ laid out for them.
This is typical, dear friends. What we are to remember is that by nature we are spiritually blind. When it comes to matters of faith, we don’t by our own strength or wisdom seek out and find God – we could search for God for a lifetime and never find Him on our own – because we don’t by nature have eyes that will see Him. When Sinful man looks for “god”, he looks for a powerful being, yet a “god” who is so stupid and foolish that somehow we can butter him up. When sinful man looks for “god”, he looks for someone like Zeus – lots of power, runs around chasing after gals, someone who we’d like to be like, strong and handsome – the type of god who would be a rock star or show up in a snazzy beer commercial. When sinful man looks for “god”, he looks for someone who is powerful and will give him stuff, if he just prays the right prayer. Sinful man looks for god to be a kindly uncle who will send blessings our way but otherwise leaves us alone. By nature, that is what we want to see, that is the type of God we want to find – a god who simply gives us stuff here on earth, makes our life better here, and just sits back and smiles. The problem is – that isn’t God, not the One True God.
After the fall, God does not simply sit back and smile at His fallen creation. For all the complaining and griping we do about others, we actually will put up with sin quite a bit. If it is someone we like or love doing something, we can shrug it off. Oh, you know how he is. Oh, well, you know, that’s just how kids are these days. We make excuses for the flaws in people we like, and this is particularly true of the person we like the most – ourselves. How many times this week have you rationalized something that you’ve done that you know you shouldn’t have, how many times have you come up with silly, vain excuses to excuse your bad behavior? We are beings who love to make excuses.
God doesn’t. God doesn’t brush off sin. God is not blind, He sees sin for what it is. Death. Destruction. Eternal separation from a Just God. Pain and suffering and anguish. People separated and cruel to each other. God is honest about things – but He doesn’t just sit back up in heaven, He doesn’t wash His hands of the human race – but rather this. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven. Christ Jesus comes, and He does all that God through the prophets said He would – to deal with sin. Christ bears that cruelty and separation that we know from sin when He is “mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.” He bears our pain and suffering and anguish when He is “flogged.” He bears our death when He is killed – all in our place – all as our substitute – so that the Father can look at Christ Crucified, so that the Son can show the Father the nail marks in His flesh and say, “I have done it, I have born the price of sin – for My sake give your people life in My Name.”
This is what we have been given to see here in Christ’s Church. Christ has opened our eyes. This is what we see through the Word, this is what we are taught to understand. That Christ Jesus has won us forgiveness – and that He comes to us today, even comes to us in His own Body and Blood to give us that forgiveness. This is what we see and receive and rejoice over every Sunday here in this place – the forgiveness won by Christ upon the Cross.
There is more to our text. As He drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Now, Jericho is on the way to Jerusalem, and as Jesus passes, this blind man hears that Jesus is coming, and He begs for mercy. And Jesus sees the chance for an object lesson here. Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he came near, He asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him, glorifying God. Jesus sets up an object lesson for the disciples and for us this morning with this healing. The man is blind, he cannot see. He realizes that there is nothing he can do to restore his sight, nothing to make himself whole. And so, having heard of Jesus, he calls out to Jesus. And note what Jesus does. He stops. He doesn’t continue on His merry way, leading a great parade of glory – He stops and shows mercy. Jesus restores his sight. Again, this is a profound truth – this is what Jesus is all about – fixing creation, restoring fallen humanity. Disciples, when you look at this, do you merely see power and might, or do you see God come to earth to fix things – first the little things like this man’s blindness, but soon fixing all the sin of the world by the Cross?
The crowds saw a healing that day, but you see something greater each week. You see something more wondrous every Sunday. In fact, you receive it, it happens to you. Sometimes we can think of forgiveness as a simple, one time thing. We can think of it as some dull event in the past – a mere fact. But we are sinful people in a sinful world, and Satan keeps throwing up things to blind us to Christ. We sin, and our eyes become closed off to God – we err and we are blinded again. Yet we are called to God’s house, we hear Him, Hear His Word – and we call out O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world – have mercy on us. We call out to God to take away our spiritual blindness, to forgive us our trespasses again so that once again we might see rightly. And our Lord does – He gives us forgiveness over and over again – He restores us to the salvation He gave us in our Baptism. With His Word of forgiveness, He removes the log of sin from our eyes, and we can see. With His Holy Supper, He opens our eyes to see a taste of the heavenly, eternal feast. What God does for you here in Church, dear friends, is more amazing than the miracle done for this blind man – for he takes what He has done for you upon the Cross and brings it to you, makes it first and foremost in your life once again.
The disciples do eventually see this – they see this on the third day when they behold Christ the Crucified who lives again. They understand the love that He shows to them in giving them what they truly need – the forgiveness of sin. Likewise, we see this as well – and we come to hear God’s Word, to receive His Supper, so that we might always see it, that we might be kept steadfast in the one true faith unto live everlasting. We understand that God shows His love for us in dying for us while we were yet sinners, and giving us free forgiveness. Satan will try to lure us away, Satan will try to blind us with thoughts of power and glory and wealth here on earth – just as he tempted Jesus – that is our text for next week. But our eyes are fixed upon Jesus, by faith our eyes yearn to behold our crucified Lord and no other, and to receive the forgiveness He gives. He has given us life, and so we live. He has given us sight, and so we look to Him, always and evermore. In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World + Amen.