Sermon for Quinquagesima: Luke 18:31-43

Our Lord certainly moves in mysterious ways. In our Gospel reading we hear that Jesus tells His disciples about His impending death for the third time. Jesus then prevents the disciples from understanding what He has just told them. Then He turns around and gives a blind man sight; physical and spiritual sight. It seems Jesus is treating this blind beggar better than He is treating His own disciples. Jesus is so weird sometimes.

First, let’s deal with the blind man. Jesus has been on the border of Samaria and Galilee, teaching and healing in Gentile territory. Now he has entered back into the Holy Land and coming into Jericho with a large crowd following Him. Sounds like Joshua and the people of Israel all over again. Jesus, the one man Israel, is now on His exodus. The exodus that Jesus discussed with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.

And like Rahab, this blind man has heard the coming crowd and of the great deeds done by the Lord. He has heard of Jesus, his heart “melted”, and so by hearing he believes. He ignores the grumbling and murmuring of the crowd for him to be silent. He shouts out, “Son of David, Mercy me!” Yes, you heard that correctly, “mercy me.” In the Kingdom of God mercy is a verb. It is action. Mercy is not a mere feeling or emotion.

And so our Lord acts. He called for the man to be brought to Him. The crowd of Israel which was just a second ago grumbling about this blind man, now jumps and does all that the Lord commands. They bring the man to Jesus, which is always the task of God’s people.

Jesus asks the man what he wants and the blind man asks if he might see again. Jesus responds, “See again! Your faith has saved you.” The man instantly saw, followed Jesus, and was continually glorifying God.

Now a couple of things in regards to that phrase, “Your faith has saved you.” First of all, faith was given to this man by the Lord. The blind man had heard the report of Jesus and as Scripture reveals to us, faith comes by hearing the word of Christ. In other words, this faith, this belief, this trust was not generated from his own heart or mind. Faith is not something you conjure up on your own. Faith was given to him by the Lord. Faith is given to you by the Lord.

Secondly, that faith has saved him. I know your English translations say “made you well,” but it actually says, “has saved you.” The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. This man’s sight is not the only thing restored. Jesus restores the relationship between this man and the Father in Heaven. He has been saved from sin, death, and the devil.

Finally, I would encourage you to look at all the other instances when Jesus says something like “your faith has saved you.” Who is the one saying it? Jesus is! He is the one who can see the heart and declare great faith. In every instance that Jesus declares faith to be great, look at what those faithful folks are doing. They are pleading with the Lord to mercy them or mercy one of their loved ones. They approach the Lord as beggars and you know what?… that is exactly where the Lord wants you. Because then there is no ego, there is no self-reliance, all resources have been exhausted, all other gods found lacking, and you stand stripped and naked before the Lord begging for mercy…..and our Lord gives it….or rather our Lord does it.

For you see that is our Lord’s modus operandi; to love and mercy us. That is what Jesus’ exodus is all about. Jesus as Israel, Jesus as everyman, leads us out of slavery and bondage to sin into forgiveness and freedom. He offers Himself as the innocent sacrifice without spot or blemish so that eternal death passes us by. His blood is place upon our foreheads and our hearts in Holy Baptism and upon the threshold of our lips in His Holy Supper so that we would be saved. Our Lord’s love and mercy is for all mankind. And yet at the same time it is individual and specific.

Behold again the different way that our Lord treats the disciples and the blind man. He hides from the disciples and He reveals and gives sight to a blind man. The reason for the difference is again centered in our Lord’s love and mercy.

What would have happened if Jesus did not hide understanding from the disciples? I think it would safe to speculate some possible outcomes. Firstly, if the disciples had a full understanding of what was to come with Jesus’ death and burial, perhaps they would have done their best to prevent it. We already know Peter tried when Jesus predicted His death earlier. It was out of love and mercy that our Lord spared them that trial, because it was necessary for them and for all of us that Jesus die.

Secondly, if the disciples had a full understanding of what was to come with Jesus’ death and burial, perhaps they would have been lost to despair. The knowledge would have been too great a burden. The glory of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration was brief and not fully understood. It was hidden once again because the disciples, nor any of us, could handle it. Same thing here. Maybe the burden of foreknowledge would have been too great for them to bear. Leading them to despair like Judas. It was out of love and mercy that our Lord spared them this trial.

But whatever the case may be we can assuredly say that the Lord acted out of love and mercy in a specific way to His disciples and to this blind man. Also, eventually the disciples did understand. They understood after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. They understood later on, in the upper room, in the breaking of the bread. Then their eyes were opened.

Our Lord loves and mercies you also. Your eyes are opened in the same ways. Your eyes are opened to behold, understand, and confess the necessity of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection because, like the blind man you have heard the Word of Jesus and are given faith to believe it. You approach this altar as beggars and disciples and have your eyes opened in the Holy Supper where you are given the body and blood of the Lord of the Sabbath; giving you peace that surpasses all understanding, and rest from your trespasses and from those who trespass against you.

Your Lord Christ loves you. Your Lord Christ mercies you.  All He has done, all He has created, and all He has recreated has been done for you. Now come and open your mouths and receive our Lord’s Body and Blood so that your eyes may be opened and you be mercied and saved.

Sermon: Luke 8:4-15 Sexagesima Sunday

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In Genesis 3 the once fertile and abundant ground is cursed as a result of the rebellion of Adam and Eve against the Lord. Man will now have to labor and fight with the earth in order to produce bread. Prior to the fall, man knew that the Lord would provide from abundance. Now man will have to know that the Lord will provide in suffering and seeming scarcity. The earth will harden in times of drought, the rocks will creep up from under the earth, and thorns and weeds will grow alongside the good grain and choke it off. And yet despite all that, the Lord will provide daily bread to the just and the unjust.

The sower in this parable seems to take that to heart. But in our way of thinking, this sower is one ignorant son of man. I mean, doesn’t he now that the places he is casting the seed upon are ill suited for growth? It’s like this guy still thinks in terms of Edenic abundance. Just throw and it will grow!

We told are then told what happens to all those seeds foolishly cast. We are told about what happens to the seeds and sprouts that were cast upon poor ground and we smack ourselves on the head and say “Duh, what do you think would happen!” Birds snatch up some, rocks with no moisture dry out shoots, and thorns grow up alongside healthy plants and choke the life out of them, and finally some seed does happen to fall on good ground and produce fruit. Now since this sower is acting so foolishly, our Lord has to explain this parable to those who have ears to hear.

By the way, that means you. The world views you as you view this sower, naïve and foolish and as trusting as a child that is still wet behind the ears. Well you are wet behind the ears. You are baptized and that means you have ears to hear, so listen up.

Jesus explains that the seed cast all over the place is the Word. He is the Word made flesh. The key to this parable is Himself.

Yet what is the first jump you make in trying to understand this parable. You ask yourself, about yourself, “Am I good ground? What kind of soil am I? Will I receive this seed and let it take root and be fruitful?”

You see what you just did there? You placed yourself at the center of this parable. It is the Word; it is Christ that is the center of this parable. It is not about you, get over yourself! This parable, like Scripture, is not about you. It is about Christ and what He has done FOR you.

This seed of Eve is now made flesh through the Virgin Mary. A new and perfect Adam has come and he acts as if the abundance of Eden can and does exist. As if by his coming there will be life and it will be had abundantly. What audacity!

This new Adam has come to undo all the wrong that the first Adam and you have done. Where our Lord cursed the ground because of the first Adam, in the new Adam the ground is restored. Because of the Word made flesh that was planted in the good earth…that is because Christ was buried in the grave with all your sins…the curse of the hard earth, rocks, and thorns is reversed. The ground is now made good and fruitful. Sure some tares may grow with the wheat, but that is not your concern. You rejoice that the curse is lifted and the seed, the Word, Christ is perfectly fruitful.

Like the first seed mentioned, Christ descended from heaven and was cast upon the sin hardened earth. He was lifted up by the adversary and his minions; the Lord taken from the hearts of His disciples for a while and lifted up upon a cross. Then He returned to His disciples, to His Church, by His resurrection thereby giving us good and holy hearts to bear fruit in patience by receiving the perfect fruits of the cross, His Holy Body and Blood.

Christ has defeated the hard earth, the adversary and the adversary’s flock that would scoop up the seed. What then of the rock you say? In the parable the plants die due to lack of moisture. Christ takes care of that too. Like the children of Israel in the desert water comes from the rock and that rock is Christ. What of the thorns? Christ took that curse on also. The crown of thorns encircled the perfect shoot of Jesse and choked off His life so that we could have eternal life.

Christ, the new Adam, comes and appears to act foolishly by casting Himself everywhere, even upon parched, thorny, rocky, hard hearts. But He has undone the old Adam. He has undone and recreated you. The soil was repaired, prepared, and made good by the water and blood from His side. You have been made good and holy by the water and blood from His side. The Lord has prepared your salvation. Quit looking inwards to see if you are good enough soil. Instead, look and listen to the voice of the Father that we heard twice already these past three weeks, “You are my beloved son and daughter with whom I am well pleased.”  Let he who has ears to hear, come and eat.