Sunday, February 14, 2021

Only Jesus Gives Sight


Luke 18:31-43

And He took the twelve aside and said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.  For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again."  And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.

And it came about that as He was approaching Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the road, begging.  Now hearing a multitude going by, he began to inquire what this might be.  And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  And he called out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  And those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"  And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he had come near, He questioned him, "What do you want Me to do for you?"  And he said, "Lord, I want to regain my sight!"  And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well."  And immediately he regained his sight, and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God.

Sermon for Quinquagesima Sunday                                    02/14/21

Only Jesus Gives Sight

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Our Gospel lesson stitches together two seemingly disconnected bits of the life of Jesus.  In the first half of the lesson, Jesus is telling His apparently clueless disciples about His approaching crucifixion, death, and resurrection.  As we read those words, we can picture every single event, but it hadn't happened yet, back then, and the disciples could not imagine what He was talking about.  Luke tells us with painstaking detail that "they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said."

The second half of the Gospel lesson is a brief account of Jesus healing a blind man on the road just outside of Jericho.  At first glance, the two might seem to be disconnected and not addressing the same things at all.  First glance, however, would be wrong.  The Church across the centuries has stitched these two elements together as the Gospel for Quinquagesima for a reason - they both address the same thought, but from different perspectives, and with a subtly different meaning.  The lesson is our theme this morning, Only Jesus Gives Sight.

The second half of the Gospel reading tells the easier part of the lesson.  Of course, by "easier part" I mean to say the easier to understand part, not easier to do.  Jesus heals a blind man by simply telling him to receive his sight.  That is something that only Jesus can do - since He is God, He has the power to do stuff like that.

There are several striking points in the account of the healing.  The blind man hears that Jesus is passing by.  His curiosity was piqued by the sound of a crowd - usually a noisy thing - passing by.  When he asks why this crowd is passing by, what's the occasion, so to speak, he is told that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.

Now we do not know for sure what this man has been told about Jesus.  We can venture to guess that he has heard of Jesus' power to heal.  It is possible that he has been party to someone's speculation that Jesus is the Messiah, God come in the flesh to rescue His people.  Perhaps this blind man was told that Jesus was kind and was the sort of man who would help if He could.  Whatever he had heard led this man to begin to cry out for Jesus.  He cried out, confessing faith in Jesus, by saying "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

The appeal was a cry of faith, because the title, "Son of David" was a Messianic title.  It had belonged to the kings of the Davidic line, but there hadn't been a legitimate heir of David on the throne for hundreds of years.  In the time of Jesus, this title was used of the Promised One, the One who would sit finally and forever on the throne of David and reign and save God's people.  "Have mercy on me", is the cry of the sinner when he comes face-to-face with God.  It is a cry for help, greatly needed, for relief from the pressures and consequences of sin.  So this blind man obvious identified Jesus with God - or God's chosen One.  Someone told him something that led the blind man to see the truth about Jesus.  He asked Jesus to do something that everyone knew, and certainly that would include this blind man, everyone knew that only God could do.

In that light, it is almost ironic that when Jesus asks the man what he wants from Him, the man asks for his sight.  Here is it obvious that he could see the truth which seemingly escaped so many in the time of Jesus - and today - and what he wanted most was to see.  And note, too, the words Jesus speaks: "Receive your sight; your faith has made you well."  Actually, Jesus said, "Your faith has saved you."  His faith had done much more than simply return his sight.  

In fact, his faith had not returned his sight - only Jesus gives sight.  Jesus gave him his sight - "Receive your sight!"  Jesus simply coupled the healing action to the announcement that the man's faith had saved him as an outward sign of that reality.  His faith had saved him from his sins, and Jesus demonstrated the truth of it by alleviating the gross, outward symptom of sin in his life, his blindness.  Jesus did not heal this man just because Jesus was such a nice guy, or because the man asked nicely.  He healed him as a sign, showing how blindness is healed by the gift of God - and demonstrating both kinds of blindness - physical and spiritual.  The blind man was physically blind, but he could see the truth about Jesus.

He disciples, on the other hand, were inwardly blind.  Even when Jesus laid out the coming days and their deeds, the disciples were unable to see. "And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said."  There was nothing obscure or mysterious or symbolic about what Jesus told them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.  For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again," and yet they did not understand.  They did not understand because the saying was hidden from them.  They were not given to understand it at this point.  It was deliberately incomprehensible - although not in what was said, or how it was said - it is just that only Jesus gives sight.

Why would Jesus withhold such understanding from them?  The Bible doesn't say, but we can speculate.  He may have known that if they understood, they might have tried to stand in His way, as Peter did once.  Jesus had to rebuke him strongly, calling him "Satan", and telling him that he was thinking like a man, and not according to God's ways.  Perhaps He withheld this understanding so that only after all things were accomplished they would have the "Aha!" moment and realize that Jesus had predicted every single thing that happened to Him, and that none of it was an accident, or misfortune, or even unanticipated - at least by Jesus.

Their lack of understanding, and the blind man's faith, coupled with his healing, demonstrate for us the truth of our theme, only Jesus gives sight.  The things of faith are given to us.  We believe by His gift, and we also possess the ‘what' of our faith by God's gift.  Our doctrine is not ours by invention or by our wisdom - it is all revealed in the Word of God.  Our faithfulness to the Word is also not our own talent or worthiness, but the gracious gift of God to us.

So, what do we do with this lesson?  We live it out.  First, we must give thanks, daily.  Our faith and our hope and our salvation are all gifts of God.  So is our health and our wealth and our ability to enjoy these good things and recognize them.  The Blind man in our text immediately he regained his sight, and began following Him, glorifying God.  So, we also give thanks for all the gifts of God, both temporal and spiritual, and that God has given us the eyes to see them and the ears to hear about them - by which I mean, of course, faith.

Living in the truth that only Jesus gives sight would also include humility.  We did not earn, nor did we deserve all that we have and all that we are.  God gave it all to us.  So we should understand ourselves as blessed and not as important in and of ourselves, or someone special because of what we possess or what we can do that others may not be able to do.  In fact, we should recognize that we have what we have for God's purposes, and for the welfare of our neighbor, not for ourselves, primarily.

Then we should live in trust toward God and confidence about life.  God made us who we are and has taught us to see the truth in Jesus Christ, and has place in a congregation where His Word is taught in all of its truth and purity.  With so much good already poured out on us, we know that God is good and loves us and is watching over us and is abundant toward us in all things.  We can be confident as we live because we know the good will of God toward us - and what is the will of God toward us?  (Our Salvation.)

So, how do you live out that knowledge and that confidence and that trust in God?  You live your life for His purposes.  You spend yourself, and even your stuff, on caring for and caring about your neighbor.  What do you have to share?  Time?  Energy?  Ideas?  Abilities?  Money?  
And where is it needed?  

Can we do more as a congregation than we are doing today?  

You can pray.  You can give thanks.  You can live a life which is openly holy.  You can wear your confidence in God on your sleeve.  You can faithfully gather where God dispenses His gifts - in worship and among His saints in Word and Sacrament - as though you know and actually believe what God is doing in worship and how precious it truly is.  You can encourage one another, and submit to one another and support one another with word and deed.  And we can reach out to all those outside of this sanctuary who do not see what you have been given the gift of seeing.  There are so many out there who do not see.  They are blind, and lost in sin, and dead in their transgressions and unbelief until now, and only Jesus gives sight.

We are children of light- walk as those who can see.  Live your forgiveness by losing the fear of the future, as though God is going to finally turn on you and give you trouble.  Live your forgiveness by forgiving others.  Live the love of God by loving those God gives you to love - those around you.  Live the unmerited grace of God by being unnecessarily kind and good.  You can do, as they say, random acts of kindness.  Live the gift of holiness by being holy.  Live the truth of the great gift of eternal life, which you possess already, by living as one who is not going to die, and doesn't need to be frightened by it, or worried about it.

In short, live the truth Jesus has given you to see, not just what passes for the truth that the world pulls over your eyes to blind you to it.  Live Jesus, because only Jesus gives sight.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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