Sunday, March 3, 2019


Luke 18:31-43; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Samuel 16:1-13

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In Jesus’ teaching, seeing and hearing have nothing to do with being able to physically see and hear. That is to say that, neither your possession of fleshly eyes and ears nor their proper functioning will provide you the sight and the hearing to which your Lord is calling you. Indeed, many people in Jesus’ day, as well as in yours, see and hear well enough, and yet their eyes and their ears are closed to Jesus’ Word and teaching. And, if you believe that you see and hear, but you do not do, then Jesus’ Word to you today is a call to repentance that your eyes and ears may be opened more fully to His Word that you may both receive and share His love.
In last week’s Gospel, the Parable of the Sower and the Soil, your Lord called you to have ears of faith that you might hear the Word of God and “hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience”.Today you are told of a conflict which occurred on the road to Jericho between those having eyes to see and a blind beggar sitting along the roadside. In this account you are called to see that neither the seeing nor the blind have the 20/20 vision of faith to believe and hold fast the truth that Jesus must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die and rise again on the third day.
Immediately prior to the encounter with the blind man on the road to Jericho, Jesus had taken His twelve disciples aside to share with them this Paschal mystery. His first word to His disciples was this, “See”.This imperative was much more than a mere attention-getter, but it was a creative and performative Word; it was good and life-bestowing seed having the power to create faith and trust unto fruit-producing life. “See,”Jesus said, “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 the third day He will rise.” But, hearing, they did not hear, and seeing, they did not see“they understood none of these things”.They could not grasp the meaning of Jesus’ Words. Moreover, the Evangelist tells you that the meaning was hidden from them. This is in accord with what you confess in the Small Catechism about the work of the Holy Spirit, that you cannot by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, your Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit must call you by the Gospel, enlighten you with His gifts, sanctify and keep you in the true faith. It is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that you receive eyes and ears of faith that you may believe in Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior and bear fruit in love.
Though the disciples certainly believed in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they were blind to the fullness of what that meant. They could not comprehend or believe in the Paschal mystery which Jesus taught them because their hearts were overcome with worldly values, concerns, and anxieties. The soil of their hearts was at times thorny, stony, and even hard. Like Peter, all of them were at once capable of the bold confession that Jesus is Christ and Lord and denial of what the Christ must accomplish. Thus, their faith, like yours, often struggled and languished and, at times, failed to bring forth the fruit of works in love. Indeed, St. Paul provides you a long list in today’s Epistle lesson of seemingly glorious works that count for nothing if they are not borne from a heart of faith and love.
Thus, when Jesus, His disciples, and a great crowd encountered the blind man sitting along the roadside as they traveled to Jericho, their response to the man’s plea for Jesus’ mercy was not to bring Him to their Master but to rebuke him and command him to be silent. Even though they confessed Jesus to be their Lord and Master, they did not understand that He had come to redeem the least of men, whom He counted as brothers. Likely, they considered the man’s blindness to be the result of his sin; thus, rather than show him mercy and compassion, they stood in judgment over him and counted him unworthy of the Master’s presence or time. They failed to understand that Jesus had come in mercy and compassion and in love to all because their eyes and their ears were not fully open to the Word of God. Moments earlier Jesus had taught them that He must be delivered over. Indeed, God the Father, even then, was delivering overJesus for the sake of sinners, to release them from bondage and slavery to sin, sickness, and death.
When the blind man asked what all the commotion was, the crowd could confess only the humanity of Jesus, His name and hometown. But, the blind man, in his blindness, could see considerably more than they. He cried out to Him saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Though he was blind, he had heard and seen through the Word of the Prophets about the Messiah and what He would do and how He would come. His only plea is for mercy. And, mercy is precisely who Jesus isand what He had come to do.Jesus, God’s anointed, isthe love and mercy of God incarnate, dwelling amongst us as our brother. Those having the Spirit-given eyes of faith will see this Truth and cling to it for life and salvation.
When Jesus asked the man “What do you want me to do for you?”the blind man replied, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.Ironically, the blind man could already see better than most who were not blind. He trusted in Jesus completely that He could, and would, restore his sight. Jesus granted the man his vision, but He said that it was the man’s faith that had made him well. Indeed, the restoration of the blind man’s vision was the outward sign of his inward faith, with which he could see already that this man Jesus was the Lord of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love.
Faith in Jesus is the one thing needful. The blind man had faith, arguably even more than the disciples. Even though he was blind, he had the necessary vision to see that Jesus was God’s mercy and compassion in human flesh. Upon his healing, that man became a disciple of Jesus too and followed Him, glorifying God. And yet, even His vision could be improved upon, for the Lord and Master he followed was going to the cross to suffer and die. Though he could see clearly now, could he see that this was necessary and good, that Jesus’ death on the cross was the true healing to which the recovery of his sight only pointed? The truth is, no, he could not. For, in truth, all of Jesus’ disciples abandoned Him unto death and not a one believed that He was raised from the dead until they saw Him in the flesh with their own eyes once again.
Dear Christians, disciples of Christ, brothers and sisters of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, you are those who believe even though you have not seen. Your seeing is a gift of God’s grace and mercy delivered by the Holy Spirit though Word and water, body and blood. You no more chose to believe than does a blind man to see, and yet, you believe, and this is a pure gift of God’s grace by the creative power of the good seed of His Word. You have joined in the train of the disciples and blind Bartimaeus in following Jesus through suffering and death on the cross to the resurrection to new and eternal life. Now we set our faces with our Lord Jesus to go to Jerusalem to die with Him that we might rise and live with Him in the resurrection. In baptism you have already died with Him and have been raised with Him, but still the flesh must have its end and its new beginning. Now you must journey with Jesus down from the mount of Transfiguration glory, where all can see and believe, into the valley of the shadow of death where all men live, where all men experience suffering, pain, loss, and death – for lost and suffering men are whom Jesus was sent to redeem, men just like you.
But, when you have been given eyes to see Jesus for the Suffering Servant, Lord, and Savior He is, then you must share the mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love of Jesus with all you encounter, as did blind Bartimaeus, that all the people, when they see it, give praise to God. And, to forgive you, sustain you, and to strengthen you in faith, Jesus still comes to you in humble means, Word and water, bread and wine, that in receiving Him in these humble and lowly means you may see Him, not according to outward appearances of lowliness, but according to His heart of mercy and compassion, that you might behold Him by faith and follow Him to the cross through death into life.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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