Luke 18:31-43

Quinquagesima

11 February 2018

Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center—Shorewood, WI

The Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane

GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. The text is the Gospel Lesson, Luke 18:31-43, Christ’s final prediction of His suffering and passion and the healing of the blind beggar, who St. Mark tells us is named Bartimaeus.

It always seems that we understand why something happened only after the fact, and that any prophesy or prediction that contradicts conventional wisdom or human reason seems foolish—until, of course, it comes true. I mean, any reasonable person would’ve picked the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. They were, I’m sure you would agree, the superior team—something like Eliab, David’s older brother, who had the appearance of the Lord’s anointed, like Tom Brady in his shining smile and UGG boots. The Eagles were like David—a long shot out there on the field. And if you were one of those who picked the conflicted youngster Nick Foles, you may not have been so popular at the time, but you obviously saw something that others could not. And it’s only after the game that what you saw beforehand is clear to everybody else. Because here we are, and the city of Philadelphia finally has a champion.

But when a prediction contradicts conventional wisdom, it seems foolish—until, like I said, it comes true. Jesus made a bold prediction to His disciples. V. 31, JESUS TOOK THE TWELVE ASIDE AND SAID TO THEM, “LOOK, WE’RE GOING UP TO JERUSALEM, AND EVERYTHING THAT’S BEEN WRITTEN BY THE PROPHETS ABOUT THE SON OF MAN WILL BE FULFILLED. [32] HE WILL BE HANDED OVER TO THE GENTILES AND HE’LL BE RIDICULED AND ABUSED AND SPIT ON. [33] AND AFTER THEY’VE SCOURGED HIM, THEY’LL EXECUTE HIM. How’s that for conventional wisdom?

By all appearances Jesus was invincible. I mean that He was the very best of humanity, the Better Adam, the perfect specimen of holiness and power, wisdom and mercy, strength and humility. He was the Superman, who walked on water and raise the dead. His disciples at least knew this for sure: that following Jesus meant being on the winning team. Look at the track record: His birth was announced by angels. Every saint who held that Child knew He was the one to save Israel and enlighten the Gentiles. At age twelve, He amazed the teachers of the Law with His knowledge of the Scriptures. At His baptism, the Spirit descended and remained on Him and the Father’s voice from heaven testified bore witness that He is the Messiah, God’s own Son, and the Holy One of Israel. Then He was tempted, like we’re tempted, but He didn’t sin; He overcame Satan in the wilderness. He wins where Adam and his children had failed. And then He goes through Galilee casting out demons and healing every kind of sickness and disease. He preached about the Kingdom of God, about God’s judgment and mercy. He raised the widow of Nain’s son. He forgave the adulterous woman, and the wind and sea obeyed Him. He miraculously multiplied five loaves and two fish and fed over 5,000. Was there anything He couldn’t do?

You understand then why His prediction is so hard to hear. “LOOK,” He said, “WE’RE GOING UP TO JERUSALEM, AND EVERYTHING THAT’S BEEN WRITTEN BY THE PROPHETS ABOUT THE SON OF MAN WILL BE FULFILLED.” I suppose THE TWELVE had selective memory. They imagined that EVERYTHING THAT’S BEEN WRITTEN about Jesus was just about His strength. So when Jesus says, WE’RE GOING UP TO JERUSALEM, they think: “It’s about time! Finally, the King will sit on His rightful throne in the Holy City and put all His enemies under His feet, just like the Scriptures say!” But that’s not all the Scriptures say. Jesus had to spell it out for them, just as He always has to spell it. [32-33] The Son of Man WILL BE HANDED OVER TO THE GENTILES AND HE’LL BE RIDICULED AND ABUSED AND SPIT ON. AND AFTER THEY’VE SCOURGED HIM, THEY’LL EXECUTE HIM. AND ON THE THIRD DAY HE’LL RISE.

Jesus predicts an impossible defeat, the heavyweight champion of the world getting into the ring to fight a featherweight with a broken jaw and a bum knee—and the champ predicts that He’ll lose by knock out. Our reason can’t comprehend it. And neither could THE TWELVE. V. 34, THE DISCIPLES COULDN’T PUT ANY OF THESE THINGS TOGETHER. THIS SAYING WAS HIDDEN FROM THEM AND THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT. I’ve imagined that I’d be better than those disciples; I’d understand why Jesus had to go to Jerusalem and suffer those horrible things. But you and me are no different than them. We’re just as blind when it comes to suffering, death, and resurrection. We may and we should find comfort that we’ll rise again, but we’re still trying with all our might to avoid suffering. We don’t want it for ourselves. And we don’t want it for Jesus. We can’t seem to put His words together. Even if we focus all our attention on those beautiful words at the end of His prediction, “AND ON THE THIRD DAY HE’LL RISE,” we still can’t grasp it. Flesh and blood cannot receive it. Maybe there’s something else. Maybe it’s that if we put our hope in His resurrection, that means we’re admitting His bloody death, and we don’t want to face that innocent Man’s suffering. So our human reason says: “If He’s almighty, and He is, then why take the hits? Why suffer when You can conquer?” Which goes to show that our thoughts are not His thoughts. And our reason makes us blind to His ways.

Jesus says, “WE’RE GOING UP TO JERUSALEM.” And the Son of Man GOES AS IT IS WRITTEN OF HIM. But it would take a long walk on the road to Emmaus and the BREAKING OF THE BREAD for the disciples to understand WHAT HAS BEEN WRITTEN. It always seems to happen after the fact. But it’s by God’s mercy that after the fact, the Lord Himself strengthens faith, and shows us again and again that His Word doesn’t lie. What He predicts happens EXACTLY AS He HAS SPOKEN it.

Look at your life in Christ. Most of you didn’t understand your Baptism at all. But after the fact, the Holy Spirit has taught you what that WASHING has done. Look what it’s done and what God has done through it. He’s condemned our sinful nature to death, buried it with Christ through Baptism and raised us up out of that font as new creations made to live in righteousness and purity forever, forgiven and holy. We’re only just beginning to know what that means. WE SEE IN A MIRROR DIMLY. We’re only just now beginning to see with the eyes of faith. And the time is coming in the future life, when we will see fully!

The same is true about Holy Absolution. The Lord helping us, we come into church, and we try to prepare, we pray to get our hearts ready for the prediction that Christ has made: “that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command…and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.” Jesus promised His apostles: “WHOEVER’S SINS YOU FORGIVE THEY ARE FORGIVEN.” And with all the preparation those words still catch us by surprise: “I FORGIVE YOU ALL YOUR SINS!” It’s not until after the Absolution, surprised by His immeasurable grace, that faith is increased and that we learn to trust God’s Word.

After everything we’ve seen in Christ, you’d have to be blind not to see that what Jesus predicts comes true. St. Luke says that THE DISCIPLES COULDN’T PUT ANY OF THESE THINGS TOGETHER. Jesus’ SAYING WAS HIDDEN FROM THEM AND THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT HE WAS TALKING ABOUT. But it was only because their eyes were closed to WHAT WAS WRITTEN. They couldn’t see it.

But there was someone who could see better than those disciples. 35] AS JESUS WAS APPROACHING JERICHO THERE WAS A BLIND MAN SITTING BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD BEGGING. How long had been at that job, blind and begging? V. 36, WHEN HE HEARD THE CROWD PASSING BY HE STARTED ASKING people WHAT WAS GOING ON. You understand, he couldn’t see. The only thing he could do was listen. Vv. 37-38, THEY TOLD HIM, “JESUS OF NAZARETH IS PASSING BY.” AND, when he heard it, HE CRIED OUT AND SAID, “JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!” You notice, it’s a prayer.

[39] BUT THOSE LEADING THE CROWD TOLD HIM SHARPLY TO BE QUIET. BUT THE MAN KEPT praying ALL THE LOUDER, “SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME!” We don’t know how much that man knew of Jesus. But He knew enough about Him to call Him THE SON OF DAVID, which means the Anointed King of Israel, the Christ of God. And he knew enough about himself to know that He needed Jesus. He cried out and Jesus heard his cry for mercy. 

[40] THEN, STANDING STILL, JESUS ORDERED THE MAN BE BROUGHT TO HIM. And He didn’t say, why are you disturbing Me? Why are you stopping My procession to Jerusalem? No, WHEN HE CAME TO HIM, JESUS ASKED HIM, [41] “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU?” And this blind man asked what the disciples could not: HE SAID: “LORD, I WANT TO SEE AGAIN.” Oh, we’ve been blind to what God’s predicted and we’ve been slow to believe everything that’s been written and slow to ask God what we desire. But this is written for us, so that we’d know how to pray and to believe that Jesus Christ wants to help us in every need. LORD, I WANT TO SEE AGAIN. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s a request. Learn from this blind man, Bartimaeus, how to ask something from the Lord. He didn’t doubt, but firmly believed that Jesus could give him whatever he asked for. “I WANT TO SEE AGAIN,” he said. [42] JESUS SAID TO HIM, “SEE AGAIN; YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WELL.” Christ’s Word and faith belong together. His Word is to be trusted. And Jesus says, YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WELL. As if to say, “LET IT BE DONE TO YOU AS YOU BELIEVE.” If we don’t trust that Christ will give us what we ask, we won’t receive it. But here you see what faith in Christ’s Word does. Because it was after the blind man heard the words “SEE AGAIN” that [43] IMMEDIATELY HE SAW AND FOLLOWED JESUS GLORIFYING GOD. He followed Jesus wherever He was leading, because seeing is for following. And Jesus says, WE’RE GOING TO JERUSALEM. FOLLOW ME. Amen.

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