in Sermons

Quinquagesima 2013 – Luke 18:31-43

10. February 2013
Luke 18:31-43

Jesus took aside the twelve and 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 third day he will rise.”

“See,” he says. See? How can they see? What Jesus describes is unbelievable. This man—whom the crowds receive, who attracts the sick, the lame, the leprous, and the sinner, who speaks with authority—this man will be crucified, dead, buried, and will rise on third day. How is can they believe? Indeed, they did not. “They understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” But why not? See, he says. “See…everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.” The prophets had already told them but they did not grasp either the prophets or Jesus.

Everything written by Moses, David, and the Prophets testified to Jesus work of saving you from your sins. For example, the Psalmist sang, “You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people.” What does He mean? The Psalm might tempt us to think of our God as some kind of miracle worker. Or perhaps as a mighty warrior who will defeat our mortal enemies. But the Psalmist confessed that our God redeems His people with His arm. Who is God the Father’s arm—His right hand man—but His son Jesus Christ. How has God then worked wonders? How has He made His might known? How has He redeemed His people?

Jesus gives us the answer key, the secret decoder ring, to understand the Scriptures. Understanding our Lord and grasping our reality requires the saying to be revealed to us. He has shown us in definitive action by cross, grave, and Easter morning. Our eyes are opened to understand how Jesus’ death and resurrection is the key to unlocking the Scriptures. Faith is not blindness. It is knowledge and trust grounded in Jesus. It is seeing through the eyewitnesses the fulfillment of the promises of God in Jesus.

As [Jesus] drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. Immediately after he testified to the spiritual blindness of the twelve, St. Luke recalled the opening of the eyes of a blind man. This is no coincidence. Three times Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to Jerusalem and there He will die. Nine chapters previous He said: “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men” (Luke 9:44). But they did not understand what He was saying. Only after His resurrection will they see the prophecy fulfilled and see its goodness and believe its purpose. For now they are still blinded by their false expectations and confused hopes.

It has been said that the problem with the Gospel isn’t that it is complicated but rather it is too simple. Christ Jesus gave His life for to redeem me. He shed His blood for my forgiveness. He rose again and so He will give to me the resurrection, too. That can’t be it? There must be something more. Something to do. A complicated set of dogma to memorize. A set of steps to follow or hoops to jump through. The “something more” clouds our salvation vision and confuses the clarity of the Gospel.

Not with the blind beggar. When he heard the 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!” two times. He may have been blind physically but spiritually his eyes were open. At the name of Jesus he confessed him the Son of David and pleaded for His mercy. He didn’t know exactly what mercy Jesus would have but he knew it would be good. And Jesus stopped … [and] 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.”

With Jesus’ statement the connection between eyes and faith is made. Believing and seeing go together. But did you notice the order of things? Seeing did not give him faith but rather hearing. Only then was his sight restored. First, he heard, then he believed, and then he saw.  So also for us. First we hear the Word of God—the testimony of Moses, Prophets, Evangelists—then we believe their testimony. Having faith, we see Jesus for who He is.

Those who act only in the moment and do not consider the future we say lack vision, are near-sided, need perspective, can’t see the big picture, have tunnel vision. And for those who are missing the obvious we say they lack the ability to see what is staring them in the face. They cannot see the writing on the wall. They’re blind to reality. Seeing is important for the present and future reality.

Seeing is also believing, it is said. To see is to know. “I see!” means “I know!” Saint Thomas begged to see the Lord’s wounds and to touch them. “If I only put my hand in his side… then I’ll believe.” Believing is a physical thing. If Christ is not raised from the dead in His body then our faith is vain. To believe that Jesus has forgiven your sins requires the death of Jesus to be the acceptable sacrifice for that sin. If Christ still lays in the grave then all your sins are still yours. To believe in the forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting requires the eyewitnesses to speak to you, those who beheld His glory, the glory of the only-begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth.

But Jesus also says, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.” We see not with eyes of our own but through the eyes of the Apostles, the women at the tomb, Philip and the eunuch, and all the witnesses. Their eyes are our eyes. Thus we can say with all confidence, I believe that Jesus Christ suffered, was crucified, and was buried. I believe He rose on the third day. I believe He rose into heaven. I believe because they saw. They saw and they testified. John the Evangelist says it this way: “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe” (John 19:35). We have not seen and yet believe.

Therefore our faith is not blind. It fully sees the reality of Jesus, of our sin and salvation. It is revealed by God through His Holy Spirit. Our eyes are opened to see Jesus through the eyes of witnesses. This is unlike those claim to know and believe in a god or gods but have no reason to believe. The world is full of such blind faiths. You might have even come to believe baseless lies. “That’s just what I believe.” “Pastor, that’s between me and God.” If your faith lacks any evidence then it is empty and pointless. If your faith was not revealed to you by God to His holy prophets, Evangelists, or Apostles, and delivered by His holy Christian church, you have no idea if its true or not.

That evidence of faith cannot be the inner workings of your mind or heart. Faith is not first about how you feel, what you think, or who you think you are. Faith is begins with how God feels about you, what He thinks of you, what He calls you. The actor is God and the actions are His. They come from outside and are seen. When they are heard and thus seen, then they are believed. Only then does faith results in feelings, thoughts, and an identity, all grounded in Jesus.

Like the seeing-again man, we follow this Jesus and glorify God. To believe in the forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting begins when the eyewitnesses to speak to you. Then by the power of the Holy Spirit, you believe this Word to be true and for you. Believing, you follow Jesus and receive Him in the gifts He gives. Thus, your eyes are open to behold His glory, the glory of the only-begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth. Believing you see and seeing you are saved.

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana

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