This morning Jesus takes the twelve disciples aside privately and tells them: “we’re 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. After flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” So says our Lord. That’s straight talk. No mincing words here. Jesus is speaking of Himself, “I’ll be mocked, spat upon, and beaten. I will suffer and die for you. The third day I’ll rise.” He couldn’t have said things more clearly, and yet “this saying, this saying about his suffering and death,” Luke tells us was utterly hidden from their eyes. They did not grasp what he said. The disciples were as good as blind.
So, it should really catch our eye, that immediately after we hear of the disciple’s inability to see, Jesus comes upon a blind man begging on the side of the road. His eyes fail him but not his ears, and surely not his tongue, for he heard that Jesus was near. And with his mouth he cries out loudly and clearly “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” The followers and people in the crowd were irritated with the man’s shouts, his doggedness, he was breaking some basic social protocol. But he didn’t relent and called out all the more: “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Jesus brought him near, and restored His sight saying to the man “Your faith has saved you.” Those dim eyes became unclouded. They fluttered, and opened, and what a great sight he saw – the face of Christ. He saw before him the One who opened the book of Isaiah the prophet and read those words concerning Himself: "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.
Isaiah proclaimed: Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.” So prophesies Isaiah of the Messiah to come. Like those disciples, we like living in the world of Isaiah chapter 35. Because we want the wrongs of this world to be made right. We want the sick to be made well. We want the troubled and despairing to find comfort. We’d like our family conflicts and struggles to all go away. So what a cause of celebration to remember the miracles of Jesus, like the healing of the blind man in today’s Gospel. Things are being made right.
As Isaiah has it in chapter 35 the eyes of the blind are opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped, the lame running like a deer, and the tongue of the mute singing for joy. It’s a picture of the new creation in Christ, where everything is restored. Everything made right. So this morning the disciples saw Isaiah 35 before their eyes - but what they didn’t see – what they couldn’t see was Isaiah 53 – Isaiah 35 inverted. And yet Isaiah 53 was very source and cause of that healing breaking into this world of ours!
So how perfect that last week’s Bible study was focused on Isaiah 53, a picture of the suffering servant King Jesus. For He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with His stripes we are healed.
With remarkable clarity, 700 years before the Servant King was born, Isaiah vividly portrayed His life from manger to grave to resurrection. He wrote how the Servant, born of a virgin, would atone for the sins of the world with His own suffering and death. You may as well call Isaiah the 5th Evangelist for preaching Jesus before our eyes in such a clear way.
So open your eyes and behold your God, carrying your sins and its condemnation on his back. See Him suffering, forgiving and dying on the cross. Because there is no Isaiah 35 without Isiah 53. There is no healing apart from his wounds. No glory apart from his bitter death. No crown without his cross.
What do we learn today? Strangely enough, that blind man, it was he who had perfect vision, because he saw that Jesus was the true Messiah, the Lamb of God, while others with perfect retinas couldn’t see why Christ had come nor could they see his true mission – to go to the cross.
You see, the worst sort of blindness is to not see Christ. Because to not see Christ, the suffering servant, is to not see God. And to not see God is to be completely and utterly lost.
And we know who is behind this. Paul teaches us that the god of this age, the devil, has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the very image of God. But you do see. You confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. You are saved. You are baptized. You were blind but now you see.
So as begin our Lenten journey. And begin our walk to Calvary once again, just ask yourself, how is your vision? How is your focus?
Are your eyes focused only on your own problems, your own lot, your own life? How attentive have you been to the needs of your neighbor and those around you. Have you turned a blind eye to the poor, the troubled, and the forsaken? How many hours a week are your eyes glued to a glaring tv screen, with idols galore, and glitzy merchandize? And then, well, how many hours are spent in prayer, with eyes fixed on the words your Bible, and on Christ crucified? Yes, we too have a problem with seeing clearly! Confess that your vision has become cloudy because of sin.
But know also that there is good news for the likes of you. Because today’s Gospel in Luke is really something of a setup for what comes later – on the evening of our Lord’s resurrection. Because risen Christ walked alongside a couple disciples and they didn’t have the eyes to recognize him either. Their hopes were dashed and seared into their eyes was the vision of the one to redeem Israel impaled and crucified on a cross. Their eyes didn’t see any good thing in that.
But Jesus said to them: O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory? And beginning with the books Moses and all the prophets, and through all the Scriptures He interpreted the things concerning Himself.
And then, at a table, he took bread and blessed it, broke it and gave it to them to eat. And their eyes, oh they’re eyes opened like never before. For in that resurrection meal, they saw clearly where the Risen Christ wants to be found. In a resurrection meal – an eye-opening feast of lavish love, where there is forgiveness, life, and salvation, in which we taste and see that the Lord is good.
That blind man this morning isn’t given a name, but it may as well be Adam. May as well be you. Blinded by the curse of sin, troubled, lonely, and nearly forgotten. But not by Christ. He draws near to you in mercy.
The children of Adam, living in darkness have seen a great light; for those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. And that light is Christ. Your Jesus has given you a wonderful promise: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Look at that blind man, with 20/20 vision, and see a picture of yourself. Healed, cleansed, and richly forgiven, eyes focused on Jesus, and glorifying God. So fix your eyes on Him. The suffering servant - the crucified, glorified, and raised up servant of your salvation, in whom you have redemption and eternal life. And then move your eyes to your neighbor. And don’t forget to find Christ there too, remembering the words of Jesus: “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”