Luke 18:31-43, The seeing are blind, and the blind see
February 14, 2021, 8:51 AM

Quinquagesima Sunday

Luke 18:31-43, The seeing are blind, and the blind see

Grace to us and peace from God our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus is on the long journey to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to the cross. And what Jesus tells his disciples is quite amazing. He says: “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, and after flogging him they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”

Now, we know that these things happened later on. We know that Jesus died on the cross and rose again. We know that he was arrested and handed over to the Gentiles. Jesus was tried by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. We know that he was mocked. We know that the Roman soldiers put a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head as a kind of sick joke, and jeered at him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

We know that the high priests and others who were walking past Jesus on the cross said to him, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.” We know that he was treated shamefully. He was beaten, and blindfolded, and falsely convicted. We also know that he was flogged, as Pontius Pilate commanded, and then Jesus was killed, nailed to the cross. We also know that on the third day he victoriously rose again from the dead.

But what is amazing about this passage in our Gospel reading today is the fact that Jesus is telling his twelve disciples about this in advance. It’s all very well for us to think about this after the fact, but can you put yourself in the disciples’ shoes and imagine what Jesus’ words today must have sounded like then?

Now, this isn’t the first time that Jesus prophesied his own death, in fact it is the third time. What were the disciples’ reactions to this third Passion prophecy?

St. Luke tells us: But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said

Here the disciples are completely blind. They have no idea what is going to happen in the future. They know that Jesus will reign as a king, but they don’t expect it to happen from a cross. Perhaps they think that Jesus is telling another kind of parable. It would only be after the fact that the disciples would realise what Jesus was talking about.

Jesus knows his own future. He is not blind to it. He is travelling to Jerusalem for this very purpose: to die and rise again for the sins of the world. In the garden of Gethsemane, he prays that this cup may be taken away from him, but he submits to the will of his Father. His disciples just don’t understand, they don’t see who Jesus really is.

And now we come to the second part of the reading. As Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

How many people today live their lives in black-and-white, when our Lord Jesus calls us to live life in all its color! How blind people are to spiritual realities—and live as if it’s midnight all day long! We are blind to the working of God’s hand, we are blind to the protection that God’s angels give us every minute, we are blind to the power of Jesus’ Blood which washed over us in Baptism and continually received by us in the Lord’s Supper. If only we could see all the wonderful things that God is doing all the time!

But if we could see all these things with our eyes, it would be too much for us, and we would be far too overwhelmed. And so for much of the time, we are left in the dark, just like the 12 disciples listening to Jesus talking about his future death and resurrection: The sayings are hidden from us. We don’t understand what Jesus is talking about. We don’t grasp it. Our sinful existence clouds our sight and our ability to recognise God and his work.

But here in our reading is a poor beggar, and blind too. And he hears the commotion, and asks what is going on. And in his darkness, he hears with his ears the words that will change his life: “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by!”

Today, Jesus of Nazareth is also passing by! He is walking through our town, through our home, through our life, through our church, ready and willing to distribute every gift to everyone, and to shower us with his Holy Spirit again and again. What an amazing thing: to think that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by me!

And so it’s no wonder that we sing again and again from Sunday to Sunday and week to week: Lord, have mercy. As the blind man says: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, I know you are passing by, I know that you are passing through my town, I know that you are speaking your word: Don’t pass me by and leave me with my sin, my shame, my problems! Come and have mercy on me too.

St. Luke tells us: Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”

Your faith has made you well. The literal translation here is, “Your faith has saved you.” That is fitting and right. St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”

Indeed saving faith sees whom Jesus really is, the Son of David, the Messiah come to save the world, the Son of God brutalized, beaten, and killed for your sins and mine. Saving faith in our Lord Christ sees him victorious in his resurrection, and sees Christ’s victory given to us in our Baptism. Saving faith looks at the bread and wine and sees what is really truly there, the very Body and Blood of Christ given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.

The poor, formerly blind beggar saw who Jesus was before he could see with his eyes. The disciples who could see Jesus with their eyes could not see who he really is. Thanks be to God that Jesus has had mercy on us and has given us eyes to see him for who he really is, the Christ the Son of God who mercifully saves us through faith in him.

Lord have mercy, and grant this to us all. Amen.

Blessing: The Peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Amen.