Quinquagesima

The Sunday before Lent, 2017

 

The Epistle. 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

The Gospel.  St. Luke 18:31-43

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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Blindness is a recurring theme especially in the New Testament.  Jesus uses the cases of blindness to demonstrate His power to heal…His power over all things, even those that seem like no man can bridle.

 

Jesus uses the case of blindness in teaching and rebuking.  He says at one point, “Can the blind lead the blind?  Won’t they both fall into a pit?”

 

“When you have a feast, invite the poor, the lame, the blind.”

“You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.”

“The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers.”

 

All of these are easily understood to mean a lack of seeing…a lack of not just sight, but insight.  A lack of truly being able to see.

Not just physically but spiritually as well.

 

And today the Gospel has an interesting order to it.  In the first part, Jesus is foretelling once again His death.

 

He is with the disciples.  He says to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man (about Himself) by the prophets will be accomplished. 

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.”

 

And the very next line says this, referring to the 12 Disciples, “But they understood none of these things.  This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”

 

And from this we can understand that Jesus was teaching something that to them was not clear…to them.  It was not understood.  They were blind to the meaning of “He will be handed over, treated shamefully, killed and then rise.”

 

But then the way Luke lays out his Gospel, he moves immediately to this story about a miracle Jesus does to a blind man…a blind beggar.

 

Jesus responds to the repeated cries by the blind beggar.  He asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”

 

The man says, “Lord let me recover my sight.”

And Jesus says to him, “Recover your sight. Your faith had made you well.”

 

And immediately He could see.  He glorified God for this blessing and He followed Jesus and the rest of His followers…and even the people around who saw this…they also gave glory to God.

 

If these two things happened in this order you can almost imagine Jesus doing this miracle and as the man who is healed is jumping around and praising God, Jesus is looking to His Disciples with an expression of, “Now do you understand?” “This is what I have come to do.  This is true seeing.  Not just with the eyes, but with the mind.  I have come to bring spiritual seeing as well as physical.  And true seeing brings joy, thankfulness to God, a willingness and a desire to follow Christ.

 

This is speculation of course.  We don't know whether Jesus gave the Disciples that look.

 

But in seeing the way in which Luke orders these two sections of Scripture, it would seem that the Holy Spirit is wanting to teach us something about Christ and blindness and seeing.

 

What is it that blinds the heart and mind of man?  It’s sin.

It is that which still clings to us. 

It is that which we fall into from time to time.

It is that which we confess of daily.

It is that which causes us to only see into a mirror darkly.

 

But it is what Christ came to overcome and to conquer.

 

Being very careful with this passage today we can find lots of parallels between this story and our own lives.

 

Not just the blindness, but first this man knows Jesus is passing by. Someone has told Him Jesus is coming and he knows from the stories going around that Jesus can and has healed people. 

 

 

He recognizes the depth of his inability and the infinite ability of Jesus.

 

So the first of parallels, this is where we are.  Not all people even will acknowledge that they are sinful or are in need of a savior, so the analogy is not perfect but we do know from Paul writing to the Roman Church that all men…no matter who they are, have the law written on their heart and they know right and wrong and they know that they don't always do right but should.

 

This man is more like the one who, when seeing his sin and his need for God, begins to ask God for help.  He cries out to God.

 

Someone has told him or he has come to the knowledge of his own condition and he has now realized that only God can save him.

 

This is the place that we all have or must come to…where we acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness and fall at the feet of our Savior for help.

 

This blind man today, is not completely blind.  He knows he has a need. He may not be able to see Jesus, but he knows that Jesus is near and is his only hope.

 

He is most likely not looking for eternal life at this moment or even knows that Jesus has that to give him.

 

He is more looking to be able to see again and stop his life of begging.

 

Even in ourselves we are said to be blind beggars in our sinful condition. 

 

And after asking, what happens?  Jesus comes to Him.  Jesus acknowledges the man and his asking.  This should direct us immediately to the place where we read that Jesus commands people to come unto Him.  Let the children come unto Me.  Do not hinder them.

 

Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden and I will refresh you.

 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (ESV)

 

These are the promises of Christ.

And He says that each one of those will get a reply.

 

 

This is what is being shown us today in this story.

The man sees his plight, asks, seeks and knocks…and Jesus comes to His aid.

 

Interesting there are also a certain men there who try to dissuade the man from calling out to Jesus.  This is also true in our lives.

 

How many forces are arrayed against us as Christians? If they could they would stop us from calling on God for things.  They would stop us from worshiping Christ.  They would hinder us or tell us that He really doesn’t exist or He is not listening…or our sin is too bad for Him to do anything about it.

 

The blind man today would not be hindered. He would not listen to any of this.  He was determined and so should we be.  We should not be silent about our faith either.

If we are told to be quiet about our Christian faith in the context of us having to yield to unbelievers or someone trying to silence us, we, in the right way, are to cry out all the more…be bold about our faith even more.

 

Not to be obnoxious, but in the right way, stand up for the Christian faith.

 

Calvin - “Perseverance is therefore necessary to overcome every difficulty, and the more numerous the obstacles are which Satan throws in the way, the more powerfully ought we to be excited to earnestness in prayer, as we see that the blind [man] redoubled [his] cry.”[1]

 

Finally there is the last scene where Jesus does what the blind man asks.  He gives him back his sight.

 

“Recover your sight.  Your faith has made you well.” …says Jesus.

 

What is he saying here to this man?  If Jesus is the healer here, how could the man’s faith been what healed him?

 

But this is not what Jesus means.  It would appear then that this man, because he was calling Jesus Son of David, knew he was the Messiah.

 

The man was not just expressing a confident hope that he would recover his sight.  He was saying something much more.

 

He was acknowledging that Jesus was indeed the Messiah that was to come into the world to save sinners and God had fulfilled His promise with and in this man Jesus.

 

By saying, though that this man’s faith saved him, Jesus is telling both him (and us) that even though the power of God extends to all mankind…believer and unbeliever alike, no one will enjoy and benefit and be thankful for God’s gifts in a true sense unless we receive them by faith…knowing that He gives them to us as a gift of grace.

 

When Jesus says “your faith has saved you,” the word saved is not limited to just an outward cure…the healing of sight.

 

Rather, it goes much deeper.  Your faith has saved you refers to an inward cure as well.  It includes the health and safety of the soul.

 

As we call upon God through Christ in faith, at least for the first time, it places us in a state of being justified before God.  As we continue in the Christian life, and call upon God through Christ in faith, our faith is built up and strengthened.  Our calling on Him is shaped and molded to learn to call on Him in the right way.  To call on Him for things that we need to sustain us.

 

Christ saves us through faith.  From this story today we can see that He desires that we call upon Him.

He desires that we do so repeatedly and boldly, looking to him and not to our own power and strength as we have heard about now for the past two weeks.

 

And in the end, the blind man who got his answer followed Jesus.  This is what we do as we come to faith.

It is what we do as we continue in faith.  Follow Him.  Remain faithful to Him.

 

The man’s following Jesus and praising God for the healing was truly an expression of gratitude for what Christ had done for Him.

 

Are we thinking often about what Christ has likewise done for us in healing our own spiritual blindness and sickness and bringing us to into His care?

 

This story has this ending specifically for us to see what is meet and right so to do when we think and dwell upon the great healing our Lord has done for us in saving us from destruction and granting us life [and sight] in the world to come.

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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

 



[1] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, p. 431). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.