Quinquagesima 2013 – Luke 18:31-43

10. February 2013
Quinquagesima
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

The Sunday of Fatherly Mercy ’12 – Luke 6:36-42

01. July 2012
The Sunday of Fatherly Mercy (Trinity 4)
Romans 8:18-23; Luke 6:36-42

Our prayer this day is that God would order the world by His governance according to His peace. This is asking for a lot and a lot more than we could ever manage. Our world is a chaotic and messy place. Order is the last word we’d use to describe politics. Backbiting, slander, and deceit are the marks of the government.

The reason for the chaos is simply this: this is a world of corrupt sinners, utterly unable to serve their neighbor with his best interests in mind. Even when we try to aid those without health insurance through a health care law, we can’t do it without trampling on individual rights of the free exercise of religion and unjust taxation.

This does not mean that government is evil. Far from it. There is good government and bad government. And as long as we live in this flesh, in this unjust country, on this corrupt planet, we will always see both the good and the bad. Nothing we do can be done without sin. Everything, even the most good natured attempt to care for the sick among us, will be done in sin.

Yet, you prayed that in the midst of this corrupt and fallen world, governed by unjust and wicked men (yourselves included), that God would bring peace and order. Every week you pray for our government, especially that they would rule justly and according to God’s peace.

The hope for peace on earth is not a bad thing. The desire for good government is something we ask for each day when ask for daily bread (in the Lord’s Prayer) and confess God as creator of the heavens and the earth (in the Apostles’ Creed). Yet, this is a hope that we know will always be more or less and never perfect the last day when the Prince of Peace rules in His kingdom that never ends.

It is the height of man’s hubris to think we can bring perfect peace though rule of law or anarchic lawlessness. Some advocate socialistic legislation with more and more laws to bring about peace. John Lennon’s solution of “giving peace a chance” doesn’t work either. “All we need is love” by his definition is freedom to do whatever one wants as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody. Unfortunately, liberty without law results in anarchy.

In the end, you can’t make perfect peace here. Creation groans in pain, all subjected to futility. You can try to make peace but it will always be corrupt, imperfect, and unjust. Everything is in bondage to decay. Don’t believe me? I’m not surprised. Most people don’t think of themselves as sinners to the core. It is your fallen nature to think of yourselves higher than you ought.

For example, you are apt to complain to the me about how I always talk about sin, death, and hell. Why? Because you don’t actually believe it. Well, you believe these things exist but that either they are not that important to consider or they don’t apply to you. Sin? That’s talking about the next guy. Death? Nah, that’s a long way down the line. Hell? It might not even exist.

It’s true. Most people, and probably you included, act as if this world and your lives are how they should be. You act as if you are immortal. You naively hope that God will not punish the evildoers like yourself as He promised. You live as if there is a tomorrow. You live like there’s nothing gone horribly wrong with the world and you. You think there’s no need for God to regularly give you His Word and the blessed Sacrament.

Ah, but pastor, you’re judging us. Didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not, and you will not be judged. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned?” Doesn’t that mean you’re supposed to just tell us how good God is, how high and mighty He is, how we have such an awesome God, and leave all that talk of sin, and death, and especially hell at the door?

This would be true if Jesus were speaking to the preaching office. But not so. Preachers speak God’s Word faithfully, completely, and rightly distinguishing the Word for the hearer. Preachers are commanded to speak the Word that always judges, condemns, and even kills. But they also must and even more so speak a Word of forgiveness, mercy, and new life. Preachers speak in the stead and by the command of Christ, declaring God’s own judgment and condemnations but all the more proclaiming His forgiveness, His grace, and His mercy for the sake of the blood of Christ crucified.

Today, Jesus is speaking directly to you, His church, in this Holy Gospel. He is telling you how to joyfully serve Him in godly quietness. You serve God by serving your neighbor. Today’s Gospel tells you precisely how you are to relate to your neighbor, whether spouse, child, and fellow pew-sitter. Do not judge him for his faults. Do not condemn him for his errors. Forgive him even his worst and most terrible sins against you. Give to him even when you seem to have nothing. In a word, love him to a fault. That’s the Christian life.

Who has joyfully held back a word of judgment? Who has served their neighbor by loving them even when they are in error? Who has forgiven the one who has grievously harmed you? Who has shown mercy when utterly undeserved? Be honest. Not one of you. Not me.

There is yet a problem. The thing we ought to do, we don’t. The things we shouldn’t, we do. The Christian life is more than not judging, not condemning, forgiving, and giving. The Christian life is more than simply being merciful. The answer is that the Christian life begins outside of us. It begins in the freedom of the glory given to the children of God. It begins with God the Father. It begins, continues, and ends by receiving the Father’s mercy.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Understand Jesus. Your Father is merciful to you first. Your Father is merciful. Your life is a testament to His mercy. You do not love God completely and He has still spared you the death you deserve. You fail to pray in time of joy and in time of need and he mercifully has not forgotten you. You are unwilling to hear His Word preached and taught and to receive His body and blood often, and yet he still mercifully speaks and gives when you finally show up.

God the Father is merciful for He has not punished you as you as you deserve. He has spared you from judgment, condemnation, and sin. He has given to you Jesus. Not a little Jesus. Not just enough Jesus. More Jesus than you could possibly imagine. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.

In the trial of Jesus Christ under Pontius Pilate, your judgment is declared upon another. In Christ crucified, dead, and buried, your condemnation is suffered by another. In the shed blood of the Lamb of God, atonement is made for you and your sins are forgiven. For the sake of His Son Jesus, God the Father mercifully gives you to great spiritual and earthly blessings.

This mercy in Jesus is the source of every good and gracious gift of God. Every blessing of body and soul is given to you by your gracious Father. His chief gift is Jesus and everything else is given to support you in the faith until He comes again. You are fed and clothed to wait eagerly for the adoption of sons. You have house and family to order your days in His peace though preaching and study of the Word of God. You are given society and government so that you may serve your neighbor in godly quietness and thus testify to the mercy of the Father.

The world is a chaotic and messy place. Government is full of lies and deceit. Our families and our own lives are as corrupt and tainted as the world and the our government. But for the sake of Jesus Christ crucified, the Father is merciful. He does not judge us according to our sin, condemn us according to the just verdict, but instead forgives and gives every good blessing.

Not just a little Jesus. Not even just “enough” Jesus. Jesus in good measure. Jesus proclaiming. Jesus teaching. Jesus baptizing. Jesus hearing confession and absolving. Jesus giving us his own body and blood for our forgiveness. Jesus in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, and put in your lap.

He is given abundantly not just for you but for your neighbor. Be merciful because you have received mercy in Jesus. Judge not for you have been freed from judgment in Christ. Condemn not for you are not condemned to death but will receive eternal life. Forgive as you are forgiven. Give because you have received.

This is not like anything in this world. This is the sort of ordering for church, family, and community you will never see apart from the Father’s mercy. This is a life received and given. We pray that the course of the world be ordered according to his governance and that we, His church, would receive mercy and show mercy in all godly quietness. May God grant it. Amen.

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

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