Saturday, February 13, 2021



Luke 18:31-43; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Isaiah 35:3-7


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

Three weeks ago today we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. On that day we heard how Jesus lead three of His disciples high upon a mountaintop and there was transfigured before them and how He shone with the glory of His divine nature. But the glory of that mountaintop experience was but a glimpse, a brief foretaste of a glory that would be revealed in Him later. Though Peter, like all men, would have preferred to stay on the mountaintop in glory, Jesus lead his disciples, and He leads us, down from the mountain of glory and into the valley of the shadow of death amongst people possessed by unclean spirits and afflicted with all manner of disease, where men struggle for greatness over and against each other, where Jesus is rejected and opposed by most, and where He taught in parables so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. For, although Jesus is the glory of God the Father incarnate, His glory is not revealed in power and majesty as men desire to see, but His glory and His power and His majesty are revealed in weakness and in humility, in sacrificial love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness that must be seen for the glory that they are with eyes of faith. Indeed, Jesus’ glory, the glory of God the Father, was revealed in its fullness upon another mountaintop, a mountaintop which is called Golgotha in Aramaic and Calvary in Latin, which means the place of a skull.

Through the Church’s liturgy we have walked in that valley with Jesus these past three weeks, but truly we live each and every day of our lives in that valley, surrounded by enemies, darkness, and death. But we do not faint with fear, we are not overcome with anxiety, for our Lord and our Good Shepherd is with us in the valley of death to lead us and to feed us, to guide us and to chasten us with the rod and the staff of His Word. And now, in the Church’s liturgy, Jesus has set His face to go to Jerusalem to suffer and to die. Jesus said to His disciples, and He says to you, “See.” His Word is a performative and creative Word, the very Word of creation and life, but it was not understood and it was rejected. The disciples were blind to the way in which Jesus’ glory as the Son of the Father would be revealed.

Jesus said, “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 the third day He will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

The disciples heard Jesus well enough, yet they did not hear Him with the ears of faith; they saw Him and His teaching in action, yet they did not see Him with the eyes of faith. This was not the first time that they had heard Jesus teach about His suffering, death, and resurrection, but they were blind to His meaning because it did not make sense according to their human reason and expectations and their sin-wrecked ideas about glory, power, and majesty. The disciples’ blindness, the blindness of Quinquagesima, stands in contrast to the glorious sight of the Transfiguration. Indeed, it is a blind man who can see that, despite His humble appearance, Jesus is the Son of David and the Son of God, while His own disciples stumble in blindness.

Indeed, it is a physically blind man who can see better than Jesus’ disciples who Jesus is and what He has come to do. He called Jesus by the Name given at the Annunciation by Gabriel, Jesus, God’s Salvation, and He called Jesus by the Name of His human lineage and nature, Son of David. The blind man had heard of Jesus, His teaching and His wondrous deeds, and he confessed with his mouth what He already believed about Jesus in his heart, that Jesus is God dwelling amongst men as a man and that He is, above all else, merciful. The blind man cried out to Jesus, not because of His powerful, glorious, and majestic deeds, but because he believed Jesus to be God in the flesh, and because he believed Jesus to be merciful.

And so, it is a blind man who can truly see, while the seeing show themselves to be blind, rebuking the man and telling Him to be silent. Yet, the blind man cried out all the more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped dead in His tracks; He never passes by a cry for mercy. Even though He had set His face like flint to go to Jerusalem, to suffer and to die, He stopped and commanded the blind man to be brought before Him. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “Lord, let me recover my sight,” the man replied. And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.

It was indeed the man’s faith that made him well, but this was not a work that he performed that earned Him Jesus’ favor, but it was trust, simple, child-like trust that clung to Jesus and would not let go. The blind man’s faith gave him true sight to see that Jesus was the most important thing to him, his one thing needful. Apparently there was a time that this man could see, for he plead “let me recover my sight,” but even without his sight he could see better than most. Jesus said to him “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well,” but the real healing had occurred sometime before that, when the blind man believed, for then he could truly see. As glorious, powerful, and majestic as was this man’s healing, the recovery of his sight was truly secondary to the healing of his sin-sickness unto death that he received through faith in his merciful Jesus.

In the recovery of his sight the blind man glorified God, for God’s power is made perfect in weakness. God is glorified when you receive His gifts in faith, for the highest worship of God is to receive His gifts in faith. The blind man recovered his sight and followed Jesus, glorifying God in His worship. And so, our Gospel lesson today began with Jesus’ disciples who, though they had seen Jesus’ glorious works and wonders with their own eyes, could not see that Jesus must suffer and die and be raised from the dead on the third day just as the prophets had written, but it ends with a blind man who could see this and so much more, who simply trusted and embraced Jesus as His merciful God in human flesh.

The disciples were at a crossroads, so to speak, for Jesus was going up to Jerusalem to suffer and to die. This was the reason for His appearing; it was a path that He submitted Himself to willingly in love for His Father and in love for you. All who trust in Him, who cling to Him desiring mercy will receive it, and they will follow Him through suffering and death into eternal life. Though surely blindness, disease, persecution, suffering, and death are common to all men, you, Christians, will experience these acutely as you love others as you have been loved and as you show mercy as precious mercy has been shown to you. For, God is love, and Jesus is God’s gift of love for the world, and mercy is love in action toward others.

Dear Christians, do not subject yourself to a self-imposed blindness, refusing to see that love is mercy and forgiveness and sacrifice. As we journey with Jesus to the cross this Lenten season, let us remember the great love and mercy that has been poured out for us in Jesus and let us glorify God by showering this same love and mercy upon our neighbors, even our enemies, and especially upon our brothers and sisters in Christ. And, take comfort and receive strength in faith and knowledge that you do not make your pilgrimage alone, but that God’s love incarnate, Jesus Christ, goes with you and that He has blazed the way through death for you unto eternal life. Jesus’ glory is not in His power and majesty as men count glory, power, and majesty, but it is in His selfless, sacrificial love and mercy laid down and poured out for the world. We were given a foretaste of His resurrection glory in the Transfiguration, and even now we are given a foretaste of His victory feast in this Supper of His glorified body and blood. Now water breaks forth in this barren wilderness and streams well up in this desert that your eyes may be opened, that your ears may be unstopped, that you may leap like a dear and sing for joy as you follow your merciful Lord unto Jerusalem, to Calvary, to the Kingdom of God.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

No comments: