Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Luke 18:31-43 31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. 35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
The disciples could see Jesus. They knew him and walked with him for many years. They touched him, they ate with him, they went fishing with him. But they were blind. When Jesus told them that he would die, they did not understand, for these things “were hidden from them.”
The blind man was the only one who truly saw Jesus. Though he could not see what he looked like, nor had he dined with Jesus, or witnessed his miracles, yet, by the word of testimony which people had told him about Jesus, he saw that Jesus was the “Son of David.” He believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Seed who would crush Satan and would defeat death and restore us to the kingdom of God.
The blind man understood by faith what it meant that Jesus would suffer and die. His faith proves that scripture will not be fulfilled except by Christ’s suffering and that scripture speaks about nothing other than Christ. Everything has to do with Christ who must fulfill scripture by his death. As it is written, “Everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.”
In the first part of our gospel, Jesus announced his suffering and death. Everything else in this gospel hangs upon that and derives from Christ’s death. His death is the beginning of and the source of all blessing, love, and works that Jesus did and does for us. Here in this gospel he points out his will for suffering when he first prophesies that he will go to Jerusalem and be crucified, as if to say: “Look into my heart, and see that I do this willingly, freely, and gladly, so that you will not be frightened or shocked when you see it, and so that you will not think that I do this reluctantly, that I have to do it, that I am forsaken, or that the Jews are doing this with their power.
The right basis for knowing Christ’s suffering is to know and understand not only his suffering but his heart for that suffering. Whoever looks at his suffering without seeing his will and heart in them must be terrified at it rather than rejoice in it. But, if we see his heart and will in his suffering, this produces true comfort, confidence and joy in Christ. By his suffering and death, we all have been sanctified. By the will of God and of Christ we are sanctified through the blood of Christ.
The blind man saw this heart of Jesus, but the disciples did not understand these words. They were hidden from them. The disciples were the true blind men, and the blind man was the only one who truly saw. That is to say, reason, flesh, and blood cannot understand or grasp that scripture had to speak about how the Son of Man must be crucified. Much less does it understand that this is His will and that he does it gladly. It does not believe that this is necessary for us, but it wants to deal with God on the basis of its works.
God must reveal this through his Spirit after it is proclaimed externally in words in the ears. It is a great and wonderful thing that the Son of Man is crucified willingly and gladly to fulfill scripture, that is, for our good.
Yet, there are some today who reason that if you suffer and die patiently, you will earn a better place and go to heaven. To many people today, death is a door to life and a medicine against sin. They say that when one dies he goes to a better place. That death is the ultimate escape from suffering and pain. People do not see that these words are to be understood only about Christ’s death and suffering. No work, no suffering, no death can help or stand the test before God but the death of Christ alone. Your death is a sinful, cursed death. His is the death that has merit and comfort for us. His death is the death that frees us from sin; that delivers us from suffering; His death, not yours, is the door to the heavenly kingdom.
Christ’s suffering and willingly giving himself for us is an example of love, that we should give ourselves for our neighbor, with all that we have. Christ is to be preached in these two ways: faith and love.
The second part of the gospel is the blind man. In him we see shining brightly both the love of Christ for this man and faith in the blind man for Christ. First, he hears people saying that Christ is passing by. Previously, he had heard that Jesus of Nazareth was a good man who helps everyone who calls on him. His faith and confidence in Christ grew out of what he heard so that he did not doubt that Christ would also help him. He could not have had such faith if he had not heard about Christ, for faith does not come except by hearing.
Second, he believes firmly and does not doubt that what he heard about him was true. How do we know this? Unlike the disciples, the blind man had not known Jesus or seen him, but he believed what he had heard about him. He based his confidence on Christ’s reputation and was not disappointed. We are like the blind man, in that, we also have not seen Jesus or known him, but we base our faith on the words we hear spoken about him in scripture.
Now, in accord with his faith, this blind man calls and prays to Jesus. St. Paul says, “How will they call on him if they do not believe? Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be helped.” (Romans 10).
But the blind man struggled, not only with his unworthiness, but also with those who threatened him and told him to be quiet. He was an outsider, not one of the inner group of disciples. They wanted to terrify his conscience and make him fearful, so that he would look at his own sin, unworthiness, blindness, and worthlessness to society as a blind man, a beggar who had been marginalized by society and left to beg along the road. He had to struggle in order to come to Christ. He had to resist the crowds who tried to stop him. Have you ever been one of those in the crowd who has not welcomed the stranger into the church? Who has turned a cold shoulder to the guest? Do outsiders ever have to push their way through the crowd of disciples to get to Jesus in the church? But this man had faith to keep pushing his way to Jesus. Wherever faith begins, struggle also begins.
But he stays firm, prevails, and wins. He does not let the whole world tear him from his confidence, not even his own conscience. He overcomes Christ, so that he stops and offers to do whatever he wants. This happens to all who hold firmly to the word of God; who close their eyes and ears against the devil, the world and their own conscience.
Jesus calls the man to himself and then asks what it is that he wants him to do. Didn’t Jesus already know? Did he not see that the man was blind? But, Jesus was teaching the man, and us, to pray. Teaching us to come to him despite all resistance, stand up against all the struggles, be strong against the discouragement of Satan, and pray to him. To ask in all circumstances for what we need, trusting his love and mercy that he will not rebuke us or send us away, but give us only good and do for us what we need and what glorifies his Father. “Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15).
What is the spiritual meaning of this gospel for us? This blind man signifies all those who are spiritually blind, that is, each person born from Adam who does not see or know the kingdom of God. It is grace when he feels and knows his blindness and desires to be freed from it. These are the holy sinners who sense their faults and sigh for grace.
The blind man sits along the road and begs. That is, he sits and desires help. Begging means that he has no works. He has nothing to give Jesus. He can only hold out his empty hand and beg for mercy, trusting in the love of Jesus for him.
The blind man hears Christ, that is, when a heart hears about the gospel and faith, it calls and cries and has no rest until it comes to Christ. Those who would silence and scold him are the teachers of works who want to suffocate and quiet the doctrine of faith. But the more the gospel is restrained, the more it increases. And after he received his sight, all his work and life are nothing but the praise and honor of God. He follows Christ with joy. Letting all the world know the love and goodness of Christ, who by his willful suffering and death, frees us from sin, reverses the curse of death, and opens the door to the eternal Garden of Eden in the kingdom of heaven. Just as we, trusting in the goodness and mercy of Jesus, push forward to receive his grace in Word and Sacrament. And there, we too are filled with joy at this Jesus who willingly gave his life for us, for all our sins. His love is stronger than our lack of love and he has overcome the sin that lies within us that we too might cry out to him in time of need and he will hear us with kindness and mercy.
May it be thus for us all! Amen.