Quinquagesima Sunday March 5, 2000
Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken. Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
In Christ crucified, who went the way of the cross for us, dear fellow redeemed in His name.
At the 1994 CLC Convention in Eau Claire, I noticed a poster attached to the back wall of the gym. It was one of those colorful pictures that you have to look at a certain way in order to identify the image hidden within a pattern of colors. I remember standing there awhile before I saw it. The hidden image was Christ on the cross. As I walked away, I thought to myself, “Isn’t that the way it is with Christ and the people of this world, including ourselves?” We can’t see the real Jesus unless we look at Him a certain way. It won’t be the way of human reason. We can’t look at Christ through the pride of self-righteousness. The Bible will give a very clear picture, but sin has made the picture blurry, out of focus, hidden from our view.
God must do for us what Jesus did for the blind man. God must overcome the blindness that we have in the heart. God must open the eyes of faith, which He has certainly done for us by sending the Holy Spirit. Our theme today:
In my New King James Bible, there’s a caption right before the first verse of our text, Luke 18:31. The caption reads, “Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection a Third Time.” If you go through Matthew, Mark, and Luke, you will find three different occasions where Jesus flat out told His disciples what would happen Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. He wanted them to get ready for a change; so He gave them clear, advance, repeated warning.
But you heard the reaction. “They understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.” They just didn’t get it. They did not grasp that Jesus came to die. Nor did they understand the prediction that He was going to rise. They were expecting the Lord to do something else.
Now we can understand the trouble they would have with emotions. These men had become rather fond of their Teacher. The idea of losing Him, even for a time, would be a shock to their system. But that alone does not explain their lack of understanding. In the Jewish way of thinking, which at the time was also their way of thinking, the death of Christ did not fit the picture—or shall we say, the expectations of a hero. Like so many other Jews, the disciples had bought into the false idea that the Messiah would come to liberate the Jewish nation from Roman authority and restore the glory days of David’s and Solomon’s empire. You can see the conflict, can’t you. According to the popular viewpoint the Messiah would have to be a powerful, charismatic leader of men and armies—certainly not a human sacrifice.
It just goes to show how blind human nature can be. Not only with unbelievers, but also with Christians. Our human reason keeps bringing up questions and raising doubts about the Gospel. Our pride still has a problem with this whole idea that we need a Savior from sin. If not for the Holy Spirit guiding us, we have the same vision problem as the disciples. Like the apostle Paul said, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14) Here’s where you and I must confess, “Lord, we’re totally blind to all things spiritual. We can’t see unless you make us see. Open the eyes of our faith and sharpen our vision to see You as You really are."
God answers such a prayer with His Word. The Gospel has power to take away the cataracts of the heart. The Word has power to illuminate Christ and give us the faith to see His true identity. As you focus on the miracle Jesus did, healing the blind man, what exactly do you see? You believe it really happened, right. What else do you see? You see the Creator healing one of His creatures. You see the Lord in action, doing the things that only God could do.
Maybe you feel at a disadvantage, not having been there yourself, not having the perspective of an eyewitness. We don’t get to see the Savior right in front of our faces. We don’t have the benefit of a live news report from Galilee or a video-tape of the crucifixion. Then again, did face-to-face contact make much of a difference for the people who were there back then? How many thousands of people saw Jesus with their eyes and still rejected Him? How many thousands witnessed the miracles He did and still did not believe? The problem was a matter of the heart; in their hearts they rejected the Word. Only the Word can give you the eyes of faith. In our case we have the entire Bible—Old and New Testament working together to make us even more sure that Jesus is for real.
We’ve talked about this before. Jesus Himself brought the issue up: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.” Take the prophet Isaiah as an example. He lived about 700 years before Christ was born. He put down on paper the prediction that the Messiah would die for other people’s sin and also the prediction that He would do this without objection. He would make this sacrifice without complaint. Now the New Testament record makes it clear that Jesus did what Isaiah said He would do. We have two different documents, separated by nearly seven centuries of time, yet both are focusing on the same person, the same event, and the same details. That could never happen unless it came from God. That gives your faith added assurance. It leads you to see the true identity Jesus had as the Savior. It also leads you to see His willing attitude as your Substitute.
When people read the Four Gospels, especially the events leading up to His death, they reach the conclusion that Christ was a tragic victim of ruthless men. Is that a valid conclusion to make? Certainly, Jesus was innocent of wrongdoing. He did not bring this on Himself through any fault of His own. Yes, He suffered at the hands of other people. But we could never say that He was a victim of circumstances way beyond His control. At every moment the Lord was in total control. Look at His awareness in v. 32. He knew exactly what would happen once he entered the city of Jerusalem. He knew beforehand the arrest, the trial, and the outcome. He knew what the soldiers would do—the contempt, the abuse, and the whip. He knew that human hands would nail Him to a cross and put Him to death. He had all this foreknowledge, and still He went forward into the city of His death!
Surely that tells you something. If Jesus wanted to avoid death, He could have stayed away. The fact that He goes shows you His willingness. He was not forced against His will. He volunteers … for all of it. The mistreatment, the mocking, the beating, and the crucifixion too. He lets it all happen. You have to remember: there’s never a time when Jesus stops being God. He’s in charge of every moment. Therefore He can stop the arrest, He can stop the trial, He can stop the execution. The fact that He doesn’t shows you His intentions. He wants to go through it because of what you need.
During the season of Lent, we take a much closer look at the suffering and death of Christ. As you watch Jesus go forward to His trial and His execution, it’s good to look beneath the surface. Learn to focus on the big picture. God was using the Jewish leaders and the Roman governor to carry out justice. Not the human sense of justice, but the higher and holier justice of God, the one who has to deal with sin. By God’s own decree every sin has to be punished to the fullest extent. By God’s own decree the debt has to be paid to the very last penny. However, when you put together the justice of God and the grace of God, you don’t see the guilty person under fire. You see the Substitute.
Jesus took your place under God. He volunteered to take your guilt and your punishment on Himself. He volunteered to take your beating, your crucifixion, your torment of hell. Without using any of His supernatural resources, I might add. He did not use His power to make the pain less painful or to shorten the time of suffering. Nor did He get any help from His Father. In fact, the Father was the one measuring out and pouring out the pain, the suffering, and the torment that Jesus would endure.
We could never call it cruel or unfair. What looks like injustice to the casual observer is the only justice that sets you free. God put your debt on Jesus, so that you could escape the crushing burden. And Jesus paid everything that God was after. When you look at Jesus through the eyes of faith, you will see a great volunteer, and more. You will see a perfect Sacrifice, and more. You will see His almighty power working for you. He’s the only one who conquers those fearful enemies: sin, death, and hell.
When Jesus predicted His suffering and death, He also predicted victory. He said that He would rise on the third day. He would take on the forces of hell, win the battle over sin, lose His life in the process, and rise victorious from the grave. It’s the resurrection that seals the deal. Let’s face it—if Jesus is dead right now, we’re wasting our time. We might as well go home and never come back. But if He is alive like the Bible says, then the whole world had better tune in. The whole world had better drop their idols and embrace the truth of Christianity. Jesus made the promise that the grave would never hold Him. And He gave His disciples a sign that He would make the promise come true. It’s the miracle of our text: He healed the blind man on His way through Jericho.
This miracle had a message. Christ was showing those villagers and His own disciples what kind of power He had. If they looked carefully, if they looked at Jesus through the eyes of faith, they would see the only one capable of erasing sin, removing death, and giving them the victory too.
What you see in Christ makes all the difference in your life. When you look at His sacrifice, you see the proof that all your sins are forgiven. When you look at the meaning of His resurrection, you see the promise that you also will rise from the grave. When you add up the sum total of His mission, you’re going to discover a wonderful gift from God—a free pass to escape the judgment of hell and enter the glory of a life that never ends.
And in the mean time, with the gift of heaven as your future, you have Jesus there to help with every other trouble and necessity of life. Here we take our cue from the blind man. Though he could not see with his eyes, he was 20/20 when it came to his vision of faith. He was able to see with his faith the fact that Jesus was the merciful Messiah. We do well to copy his example. We look to Christ as the one who has enough love, power, and wisdom to handle our problems. Let Him be your refuge for healing, comfort, protection, relief from stress, and whatever else you need. With eyes of faith, you will see not only the Lord who cares, but also a Lord who does what is best for His glory and your welfare.
What you see in Christ will surely help you in this world and the next. Only through the eyes of faith do we see the God of love, the God who keeps His promises, the God who forgives all our sins. Only through faith do we see the only God there is, the only Savior that we have, the only path to eternal life. In His Word we continue to see a glorious identity for Him and a new lease on life for us. May we always be thankful to the one who gave us these precious eyes of faith and the wonderful sight that we see in Christ. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.