Sunday, February 11, 2024

Who was really blind?

 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                               2/11/24

Who Was Really Blind?

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Have you ever wondered why the pericopes of the Gospel include the accounts they do?  Our lesson this morning is a perfect example.  What does the healing of the blind man have to do with the prophecy of the coming torture, death, and resurrection of Jesus?  At first glance they seem to be disconnected bits of the life of Jesus.  Perhaps nowhere else is the nature of a Gospel as a theological document more clear.  Luke, admittedly, was trying to assemble a more or less chronological record of the life and ministry of Jesus, but His task was obviously theological – he was trying to make a point by the way he stitched the accounts together.  There is a lesson here in how and in what order the "stories" of Jesus were being told.  Our theme in Luke's lesson here is, "Who was really blind?"

Naturally, we would want to answer that the blind guy was the one who was really blind.  It is so simple that it might make one wonder why the question might be asked at all.  It stands to reason, then, that the simple answer is the wrong answer.  He was blind physically.  There is no doubt about that.  The juxtaposition of the two accounts in the gospel tells us that the real blindness belonged to the Disciples.  Their blindness was even more severe, because they thought that they could see.

Jesus was intentionally heading toward Jerusalem to die.  He was approaching the center and the purpose of His ministry – and everything that the Bible spoke about the Messiah was going to be accomplished.  Jesus knew what He was going to face.  I imagine that His divine knowledge showed Him clearly every pain and betrayal.  What an amazing thing!  Jesus walked to His death deliberately, knowing what was coming.  The disciples, however, didn't have the faintest idea.

So Jesus told them.  He explained how the Jews – referring to the leadership of the Temple – were going to seize Him and turn Him over to the Gentiles.  He described without much detail how they would mock Him, and abuse Him (meaning, beat Him), and spit on Him, scourge Him – which everyone understood to be the infamous 39 lashes – and then kill Him.  He didn't have to say "crucify" because that is how Romans executed non-Romans.  Then He told them that He would rise again after three days.  He didn't necessarily see the resurrection with divine insight, but found it prophesied in the Scriptures.

Luke tells us that still, even with the explanation, they did not understand.  None of it made sense to them.  Luke says that they did not comprehend the things that were said.  Now it could have been that they were dull.  It might be that they could not conceive of how the things that Jesus was saying could happen.  After all, Jesus was so popular and things were going so well!  There may be a lot of dynamics at work, but their failure to see what Scriptures said, and to hear what Jesus was saying to them is a form of mental and spiritual blindness.

Luke also says "this saying was hidden from them."  Their blindness may not have been entirely their fault.  Being "hidden" suggests that God did not allow them to comprehend at the moment.  His reasons, while not being spelled out, may have included avoiding their well-intended interference.  We know that when Peter finally understood, he tried to talk Jesus out of it.  "God forbid that such a thing should happen to you!"  It is possible that their blindness served the purpose of the Lord.  Jesus wanted to tell them what was coming, so that when it happened, they would remember that it was supposed to happen!  It also served the plan of God to accurately prophesy the crucifixion and the resurrection.

Then Jesus healed the blind man.  Healing the blind man and all of the accompanying details made a couple of points.  First, it shows that Jesus has the power to cure blindness.  He can fix the blindness of the eyes, and He is the One who alone can heal the blindness of the mind or heart.

Secondly, we can see that the will of God is always good.  He wants to heal.  He is willing to lift the blindness of any and all who seek that healing, who know that they are blind and desire to see.  Jesus demonstrated that will in how responded to this man.  There was no hesitation.

The third lesson is that the man's physical healing was something subsequent to his true healing.  Jesus did not actually say, "Your faith has made you well."  He said, "your faith has saved you."  The physical healing was merely the outward evidence of the inward reality.  His blindness and corruption in sin was corrected by the Lord of life and the Source of Righteousness.  When the blind man saw, it was the evidence for those who were watching – and for us today – that the man was, in fact, saved by grace through faith.  His faith brought Him to Christ, and finally to salvation.  And His salvation from sin brought him sight, a cure for one of the symptoms and consequences of sin.

You see, when the man heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he called to Jesus using a prophetic name for the Messiah - Son of David.  In doing that, he confessed that Jesus was the Messiah.  He acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God, God come among man, just as the prophets said that the Messiah would be.  He further confessed it by asking for mercy – what a sinner cries out to God for.  Then he asked Jesus to do something that was commonly known to be something that only God could do.  And in his asking, he confessed that he expected that the will of God toward him was going to be good, even though he did not deserve it, and had no apparent reasons to think that it would be.

That was the faith that Jesus spoke of when He said, "Your faith as saved you."  It was the sort of faith that sees God for who and what He is, and lays all of its hope in Him and trusts in Him.  The Blind Man saw more without his eyesight than the disciples did with full sight.  And Jesus showed us that He is the One who can heal our blindness.

Finally, the man followed Jesus and praised God.  He even caused others to praise God!  He saw Christ and responded.  His faith was not a mere "head thing" but a life changing power, and he followed Jesus.   His situation showed us that blindness is not merely a physical thing.  

Who was really blind?  The disciples!  The blind man saw – and as a consequence, he also began to see physically as well! But the sight that was of greatest value was one he had already, and the disciples were, at least temporarily, without.

How about you?

Do you see?  Can you see clearly?  What does this sight do in you, or for you?  What is it that you see?

I ask these questions because many times it is difficult to tell who the Christians are, and who is not.  The forgiveness of sins should transform your life!  It should change how you deal with others.  It should act almost as an inoculation against sinful conduct and evil behavior.  It should make you patient and forgiving toward others and humble and caring as you deal with those who are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Having, knowing, and believing in the resurrection from the grave, life everlasting, and salvation should color everything you do.  It should be making a difference in how you approach life and its challenges, You cannot die.  You cannot run out of what you need, because God is your supply.  When your body does finally give out, it is a good thing, and you go on to a better and fuller life!  Where in that scenario is there room for the fear of death and anxiety about illness?  

Where is there room for selfishness?  How does your new relationship with God factor into your stewardship?  How does God freely giving Himself for you match up with you withholding yourself or your offerings to Him for whatever reason?  Or is your stewardship aimed at someone or something other than God?

I mean, if you have a full supply in the Lord, do you need to grasp and hoard for yourself?  Where is the care for your brothers in Christ – or for those who do not know Christ, who depend on you and our stewardship to make the message known?  If you have been forgiven of great sins – and all of us have been forgiven of great sins – where is your patience and forgiveness with the other guy?  If God has given you everything you have, how can you withhold from Him just because you do not like or understand what is going on around you?  Don't you trust God?  Don't you expect Him to be good to you?  Don't you know how great His love is for you?  Who is really blind, here?

Look at the love of God.  Don't look at your feelings, look at the cross.  That is how much God loves you.  He sent His Son to die for you.  Not only that, but Jesus Christ is true God.  God was willing to endure unimaginable pain and torment to save you.  We will spend the next six weeks contemplating that torment and why it was necessary.  But it was love that moved God to rescue you.  It is because His will toward you is tender and kind that you are here, and that you have the Word preached to you.

The blind man followed Jesus and glorified God.  He did it so clearly that others saw and praised God.  That is, frankly, what we need today.  We need faith lived out in such a clear and unmistakable fashion that others see it and praise God.  Peter wrote in his epistle, "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."  We need the sort of faith that trusts God daily, and lives by that confidence.  We need the sort of faith that sees God where He has promised to be, and depends on Him to do what He as promised to do, and glorifies God in such as way that others are drawn to the cross to know this God of love and salvation and healing, and then also to praise God.

After all, this is the sort of faith that the blind man had, and Jesus said, "Your faith has saved you."  We want to see Jesus.  In this life, we will not see Him with our eyes, but with the eyes of faith, like the blind man.  We want to see His truth, His love, and His saving power.  To do that we have to see Jesus as He is, and as He reveals Himself in His Word.  We also have to judge our circumstances not by what our eyes tell us, but by what God and His grace reveals.  If we do that, if we walk by faith and not by sight, and when they ask "Who was really blind?" the answer will never be "us."

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

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