Monday, February 12, 2018

Sermon on Luke 18:31-43, for Quinquagesima "Fifty" Sunday, (1 Yr Lectionary), "Two Kinds of Sight"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. This past Christmas I was immersed in different versions of the classic story: “A Christmas Carol”, about Ebenezer Scrooge, his poor clerk Bob Cratchit, and Bob’s son, Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim is crippled, undernourished, and walks with a crutch; but his parents love him dearly. In one scene, after bringing Tiny Tim home from church on Christmas Day, the wife asks Bob how Tiny Tim behaved. “As good as gold” he replies, and then explains how Tiny Tim said the most remarkable thing. Tim hoped that people would see him in church, “because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made the lame beggars walk and blind men see.” Tiny Tim hoped he would remind people of Jesus. Today, in church, we remember Christ, who made the lame beggars to walk and blind men see.
But there’s another connection to our reading. This touching scene shows Tiny Tim has a spiritual awareness or sight, that sees something bigger than his own suffering. He glimpses a way that even his own suffering can be part of God’s bigger plan, giving glory to Jesus, while others might only pity him. The blind man in our reading has lost his eyesight—yet he displays a spiritual awareness or spiritual sight, much like the fictional Tiny Tim. He “sees” by faith that something monumental is happening near—Jesus is God’s Savior—and he insists that he find a share in that kingdom. And when he’s healed, he brings glory to Jesus.
These are two different kinds of “sight”. One way to see is with our physical eyes, which requires both light to see by, and working eyes to take it all in. But another way of seeing is spiritual sight, or faith—which the Bible tells us is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). To have spiritual sight requires that God enlighten us, shining His light on what we need to see—and it also requires that we have faith, our spiritual “eyesight” to take it all in. We all know whether we can see physically or not, but we aren’t necessarily aware of spiritual blindness, until our eyes are opened. We can experience partial, or even whole spiritual blindness, without even knowing it.
Imagine you’re the blind man. You’ve sat for years outside your hometown of Jericho begging. You can probably guess that family and others who would normally support you are not in the picture. Your other senses of hearing, smell, and touch are heightened to compensate for your blindness, and every day you hear the tramping of feet and the murmur of voices passing by, and you raise your familiar cry, “Lord, have mercy”, “Alms please!” It’s about daily survival for you. But today, it’s a near stampede—a huge, bustling crowd moving by—and an unusual level of excitement and energy. Something major is going on. “What is it?”, you ask. “Jesus of Nazareth!” Come the excited replies. Suddenly you start yelling out as loud as you can, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” But the crowd turns angrily to you and tells you to shut up, to be silent. They want to see and hear Jesus without your distraction. But this is your chance; you won’t be silenced, so you cry out even louder, till finally you catch Jesus’ attention.
This scene unfolded as Jesus came by. The crowds were trying to stifle the cries of the blind man, and he wouldn’t let up, until Jesus had them bring him forward. Jesus asks what he wants—a seemingly unnecessary question, but one that gives the blind man the chance to express his faith. “Lord, let me recover my sight. And Jesus said to him, ‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you well’” Jesus praises the man’s faith. I began today by saying that there are two kinds of sight, and that faith is spiritual sight. How did the blind man show his faith? First, he believed that Jesus has the power of God to heal him. He didn’t look on Jesus as just an ordinary man, who could only help with a coin. Second, he believed that Jesus has compassion on the poor, including him. So he wouldn’t let Jesus pass, without getting a blessing. Third, he believed that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah, and also his Lord. The crowd identified Jesus by His hometown—Jesus of Nazareth—but the blind man, on his own, called Him “Jesus, Son of David!” This uncommon title for Jesus expressed his faith that Jesus was Savior or Messiah sent to fulfill God’s promises to King David from long ago. For a blind man, he “saw” remarkably well! He “saw” the old promises of a Savior merging together with the present day events of Jesus’ miraculous ministry, and he called on Jesus’ name to be saved! And Jesus answered, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” His faith was on target, and Jesus opened his physical eyes as well.
Now, our reading from Luke 18 began with a seemingly unrelated passage, just before this healing of the blind man. In that passage, Jesus gives His disciples His third and final prediction of His coming crucifixion, death, and resurrection. He taught about this three times before it actually happened. This time He shared that He would be betrayed, mocked, shamefully treated, spit upon, whipped, killed, and on the third day rise. “But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what He said.” This section features the reverse of what we’ve been talking about in the healing of the blind man. The blind man had strong spiritual sight, and understood and knew who Jesus was, but he lacked physical sight. The disciples, in this case, had the reverse. They had good eyesight, but their spiritual sight failed them here. They had a spiritual blind spot, and didn’t even realize it. The meaning of Jesus’ prediction of His death and rising was lost on them. They didn’t have faith to see or perceive. They required God’s enlightenment and to be given faith, or spiritual eyesight, to take it all in.
When it says this was “hidden from them”, it implies that even though Jesus said the words, God was hiding the meaning from them. Why on earth would God do that? Because it seems that no one was ready or able to grasp what Jesus’ death on the cross would mean, until they actually saw the whole thing through from start to finish, with Him rising from the dead and giving them the explanation. In fact, this is just what happened. After He rose from the dead, Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and God temporarily hides Jesus’ identity from them. But then Jesus carefully explains that it was necessary to die on the cross for our sins, and all part of God’s plan laid out in what we call the Old Testament—the Law, Prophets, and Writings. Gradually they start to get it. Then, at their home, Jesus gives thanks to God and breaks bread with them at table, and suddenly they recognize Him. It says, “their eyes were opened.” God opened their eyes of faith; He enlightened them, and they recalled how their hearts burned within them as Jesus opened to them the Scriptures (Luke 24). Jesus granted them spiritual sight.
We also live with or without these two kinds of sight. None of us here today, are blind, I think. Our sight might be better or worse, glasses or not, cataracts or not, one eye better than the other, or not. Thank God, due to amazing advances in medicine, more and more physical eye problems are treatable. God has blessed those who have spent their careers learning and studying His incredibly engineered creation of the eye, to pay off in treatments and cures that make our lives so much better through glasses, surgeries, and other helps.
But if our physical sight can be improved, what about our spiritual eyesight? Can we successfully pass the reading chart God has drawn for us? Can we read and understand His salvation plan in Jesus Christ, as the disciples did at long last, or do we squint at a blurred image, have blind spots, or maybe see nothing at all? Do we do a double take at the image of Jesus suffering and dying on the cross for our sins, and say, that can’t be possible, that can’t be for us? Or do we see with the clarity of the healed blind man, that Jesus, the Son of David has mercy on us? Faith to see Jesus as our Savior comes by hearing the Word of Christ. Right here in church, God gives us the prescription of His Word and the working of the Holy Spirit to have your spiritual eyesight “tuned up”, to see Jesus better!
Our spiritual eyesight, or faith, equips us for many things in this life; also like our example of Tiny Tim, to make sense of our suffering in the world. Can we read God’s hand at work in our lives, and in the world? Are we only looking for glory and success, when perhaps God has traced a cross and suffering for us? Jesus said whoever would follow Him must take up their cross and come after Him. But how do we “see” that cross? Do we see hardships that we face as disciples of Jesus Christ, as some sign of God’s anger or hatred toward us? If so, we are still suffering from spiritual blindness. We all need to come to Jesus, the Son of David, and pray that He have mercy on us, and restore our sight. And only when Christ and His cross and resurrection is front and center in our vision, will we understand why Jesus tells us that those who bear the cross with Him are blessed, not cursed. He tells us that those who try to save their life, will lose it, but if we lose our lives for His sake, we will find life in Him.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t grasp His teachings in a day, or even a year. They heard Him speak about His cross and suffering many times over, while misunderstanding and confusion still hung thick like a veil over their eyes. But in Christ Jesus, that veil is lifted. Most especially by Jesus’ dying and rising to life again, the pieces start to fall in place; we begin to see how Jesus saves us from our sin. It is our sin and our dark understanding that leads to spiritual blindness, where we can’t see or understand God’s grace and love for us in Christ Jesus. But the Good News is that Jesus makes the lame beggars to walk, and the blind to see. His forgiveness and His light opens eyes of blindness—He gives both kinds of sight. Jesus is that Light that shines on us and if we, like the blind man, desire to stand in His light, and to see Him face to face, then we will muster all our strength and voice, and cry out to Him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” We’ll call upon Him for the healing that He alone can give; that He wants to give us. And with new eyes of faith, we express that faith by calling on Him, as our Savior and Lord. And with new spiritual sight, we begin to see and understand, and to learn more and more, that God’s purpose for our life is to give glory to Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read sermons at:
Listen at:

  1. In Luke 18:31-43, there are two seemingly unrelated stories—but on close examination there is a linking theme—sight. How were Jesus’ disciples lacking spiritual sight in 18:34? How did the blind man demonstrate that he had spiritual sight, even before he was healed? 18:38-41.
  2. When Jesus talks of His death as being the “accomplishment” of all that the prophets wrote about, He shows that His suffering and death were central to His costly mission. Why are we so often unwilling to recognize the instructive or even necessary nature of suffering in our own lives? What did Jesus say about “taking up our cross?” Luke 9:23
  3. In 18:34, God “hides” the understanding of these things from the disciples. In Luke 24:31, God gives understanding to them, after explaining Jesus’ death and resurrection. What language does it use to describe this change?
  4. Even before he was healed, the blind man showed that he had faith. What things did he recognize about who Jesus was, and how he could help? 18:36-41. What did the crowd try to do to him? 18:39; cf. Mark 10:46-52
  5. How did the crowd respond together with the blind man, upon his healing? Luke 18:43.
  6. Notice the titles used for Jesus in this passage: 1) “Son of Man”, 2)“Jesus of Nazareth”, 3) “Son of David”, 4) “Lord”. Jesus uses title #1 to refer to Himself in context of His suffering mission. Title #3 was a “Messianic” title, pointing to the promised Savior of the Jews. Title #2 identified Jesus’ hometown, but also for the Jews may have carried other meaning, as the nazar or “root” or “branch” was also a Messianic title. Title #4 wraps up all of these meanings and points to Jesus as Divine. How do our forms of address to Jesus give expression to our faith?

No comments: