Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sermon for Quinquagesima

Quinquagesima Sunday – March 2nd, 2014 – Luke 18:31-43

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
          Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not understand.  Last week, Jesus quoted these words from the Old Testament to describe a lack of belief, a lack of faith.  And they seem quite apt for today’s Gospel lesson as well, for in today’s Gospel we see a contrast, a contrast between the disciples who hear but do not understand, and the blind man who sees more clearly than they do.  So, let us dive into our text and see what we learn today.

          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.’  Jesus speaks these words to the Disciples just before Palm Sunday – He is trying to prepare them for Holy Week and His own Passion.  And it’s not the first time.  In fact, this is the third time Luke records for us Jesus telling His disciples bluntly that He is going to have to die and rise.  This is why we are going to Jerusalem, this is what the entirety of the Old Testament is pointing towards.  Christ’s death and resurrection.  And Jesus spells it out for them: 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.”  Everything we get starting Maundy Thursday through Easter, spelled out in detail.  All the things we will ponder in just a few weeks ourselves – what we confess in the Creed – and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.  He suffered and was buried.  And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures.  This is some of the basic stuff, this is the sort of thing for which we had been waiting for the Messiah to come.

          And the Disciples don’t get it.  But they understood none of these things.  This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.  They don’t get it.  Why?  Well, what had we heard last week – that Satan would come and snatch the Word away, and some would not understand.  And at this moment, that describes the Disciples.  What Jesus says to them is utterly incomprehensible.  It’s not how they want the story to go, it’s not what they want to happen, and it doesn’t matter if Jesus has told them three times, they still don’t want things to go that way.  Some of them were zealots, and they wanted the glorious revolution against Rome.  Some of them wanted at least power and respect amongst Jewish society, and having your Leader slaughtered doesn’t bring that.  Jesus doesn’t tell them what they want to hear.  And at this time – they blow Him off.  They have their own dreams, their own visions, and who cares what the Word of God has said, indeed, who cares what Jesus Himself says – He must just be confused because He isn’t describing the awesome life of power and success that I want.

          Be wary here, my friends in Christ, because this same temptation can be thrown against us.  How often are there things in Scripture that we don’t like?  And think about this?  How many times does the Word of God show you your sin, condemn you?  The Scriptures are very good at popping holes in the self-righteous bubbles we try to live in.  And it’s easy to ignore that.  It’s much easier to focus on and lament the things others are tempted towards, to focus on the sins of “those people”, and ignore the log that in is our own eye.  Or not just dealing with sin – but what of the Christian life?  Is the Christian life one of power and success and triumph because we are just such good people and we are buddy-buddy with Jesus?  Man, we are in like Flynn!  But then Jesus says, “take up your Cross and follow Me.”  St. Paul says that we are to be living Sacrifices.  That we are to suffer for the sake of the neighbor, that we are to serve them, even surrender our rights and not demand our own way.  This says nothing of my own personal power and glory – in fact, it calls me to be a servant!  We are taught that we are to love God and to love our neighbor – and in our sin, we don’t.  Of ourselves, we have not love, and we are nothing.  I have heard it said that as people we prefer affirmation instead of information – and when the Scriptures inform us of our sin, of our lack, of the fact that we do not control our lives and that there will be hardship, we can brush the Word aside.  We will instead run after any lie or false dream or vision that Satan whips up to affirm our sinful pipe dreams.  Thus is the way of our sinful flesh.

          In our text, the Disciples with their disbelief stand in stark contrast to a blind beggar just outside of Jericho.  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!”  The blind man sees.  He does.  His day doesn’t start with any grandiose pipe dreams.  He’s not plotting the downfall of the Roman Empire, or running all of Jerusalem.  He hasn’t asked to rule at Jesus’ right hand.  He doesn’t pretend his life is perfect and grand. No, what’s his day been?  Begging.  His wild hopes are, “hey, maybe I get enough food today.”  There’s no delusions.  And then he hears a crowd, and he hears that Jesus is coming.  And he does the only thing he can.  He begs.  He calls out to Jesus, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!  I am blind, but see me, Jesus, see me and show me compassion!  There’s no planning, there’s only the hopes for some mercy now that Jesus is here.

          That, dear friends, is who you are by faith.  You are one who has turned a blind eye to sin and your own delusions, and instead simply cry out to Christ Jesus for mercy.  There’s a reason why we sing over and over have mercy upon us.  There’s a reason it comes up in our prayers, over and over again.  Because in our lives, in our time here in this Church, in this place, we are being trained to see God’s mercy.  To seek His forgiveness, His strength, His righteousness, His life.  Luther’s last words were that we are all beggars before God.  It is not that God needs us, nor that He owes us anything because we are just such good people, but rather we are those who repent, who understand the wretchedness of our sin, our flesh, and the world, and who by the power of the Spirit seek mercy from Christ.

          And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent.  That’s a tough crowd.  You don’t even have the gawkers thinking, “Holy cow, we’ve got a blind guy here, maybe Jesus will heal him!”  Eh, just be quiet.  They hear his pleas for mercy, his cries for help, and there is no love that wells up with in them, no compassion, no pity.  Rather, simple disdain.  And let’s face it – what do we often receive in this world?   The same disdain.  What happens when we live as though we believed that we were actually poor miserable sinners?  We face disdain, we face the rebuke of the world.  Our faith is mocked, and folks wish we would just shut up with our talk of sin, with our talk of needing mercy.  But He cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  He is not put off.  Neither false dreams nor the scorn of men stop him – again and again he cries out for mercy.

          And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to Him.  “What do you want Me to do for you?”  He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”  This is a bold request… but it’s a simple one.  Let me recover my sight, let my body work again, let me be relieved of the impact of sin upon me.  Fix me.  Make me whole.  And Christ responds, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him, glorifying God.  And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.  And Jesus heals the guy.  And the guy can see and he praises God.  Simple and straight forward.  And, dear friends, it is what happens to you.  And no, don’t worry, Pastor Brown isn’t going to go all faith-heally blawhbalahwalaha here.  What are you asking of God when you ask for forgiveness?  What is Jesus giving you when He forgives your sin, when He gives you His Body and Blood in His Supper?  Let’s remember our Catechism:  What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?  These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words.  For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

          When Christ forgives you, you are given life.  Life now.  Now, will that normally show up as eyes that couldn’t see seeing again, or ears that didn’t work suddenly working again.  Eh, most likely not.  But you do have life.  You are filled with Christ’s life, with His love, and that spills out through you.  You do have life – and there will come a time when your aches and pains will go away, when your eyes, your ears, or whatever else doesn’t work will work again – and that is on the Last Day, when on account of Christ you will rise whole and perfected and follow in His train singing His praises.  You are forgiven, life and salvation are yours – and some things we see now, but much we will have to wait to see, to know, to experience.  Because this is the promise that Christ made to you – not that you would not have to struggle against sin – while you are in this life, you are going to have to fight and beat down your sin daily.  Nor has Christ promised you earthly wealth or power or might.  Rather, He has promised you that your sins are forgiven and will be remembered no more, that the power of death and the grave is broken, and that you will rise to be with Him for all eternity in your resurrected body.  This is the hope that He has given you, this is His promise to you.

          And so dear friends, we are called to walk by faith, not by sight.  We are called to beat down our own sinful desires and to ignore the false hopes and dreams the world or our flesh will parade before us.  Rather, we are called to be beggars, beggars who call out to Christ for mercy and await His love and goodness to us.  He will not fail in showing this love to you, for indeed, as we will see in the next few weeks this Lententide, He will fight and beat down Satan and sin and even death itself, so that He may with great love give you life eternal.  In the Name of Christ Jesus, the light of the world + Amen.

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