Quinquagesima Sunday – February 6, 2004

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Quinquagesima

February 6, 2005

Text: Luke 18:31-43

Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 “For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 “They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” 34 But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken. 35 Then it happened, as He was coming near Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the road begging. 36 And hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. 37 So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. 38 And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, 41 saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” 42 Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

Who is really blind in the text before us today? On the one hand we have the blind man, the man who cannot see. He is blind because his eyes do not work right. He cannot physically see. But what about the disciples? Are they blind? Jesus tells them plainly what is going to happen to Him, His suffering, death, and resurrection. Yet how are the disciples described? “They understood none of these things.” There is a blindness at work here, too.

In the Old Testament there are many examples of God’s works of power and love. But so often the promises of God were not trusted until after the fact. God had just delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt – all sorts of miraculous signs were done: all the plagues. The people rejoiced, they were freed! A few days later they had come to the Red Sea and had the army of Pharoah in hot pursuit. Do these people remember God’s great works for them? No, they see the Egyptian army, and it looks strong and deadly. So they fear and doubt. The works of God are forgotten, His promises to keep them safe are blocked out of their minds by the terrible army bearing down on them. Yet God makes a way of safety for them through the waters of the Red Sea, and takes care of their enemies with a powerful display of His strength.

A few weeks later Israel is ready to enter the promised land, but their spies tell them of all the powerful cities and armies in Canaan. Do the people remember God’s promises and works of power and love? No. They fear to enter the land.

Centuries later we find young David, not yet king, coming to the Israelite camp. He hears this booming voice from across the valley shouting obscenities and curses against Israel and God. David wonder where the champions of Israel are who will take on this giant named Goliath. No one goes. So David goes out to meet this giant armed only with a stick and a slingshot. His countrymen are afraid to look at the disaster that will soon come on David. He is small and basically unarmed. Goliath is huge and equipped with all the armaments of war. But David goes out trusting in the promises of God. Minutes later Goliath is dead, with David holding up the giant’s head in victory.

Time and time again we find in Scripture examples of the many who are blind to the promises of God, and the few who will trust no matter what they see. Here in St. Luke we have the disciples failing to see who Jesus is, and the blind man calling out for help, even though he’s never seen Jesus. Guess which ones you and I are like.

It is good, though, to remember what the disciples are thinking here. Have they ever seen Jesus lose? No. When His enemies try to trick Him with questions Jesus always knows the best answer, answers that really shut them up. When people possessed with demons have been brought to Jesus not one of those demons has been able to withstand the power of Jesus. Time after time those demons must run away when Jesus speaks. All the different diseases Jesus is confronted with meet the same fate. Even here in our text we are told of blindness being defeated by Jesus. Whether it be lameness, deafness, blindness, even death, none of these have been able to remain after Jesus says go away. Jesus never loses. That is the disciples experience for the three years they’ve been following Him.

Therefore, when Jesus speaks about His suffering, when He says: “He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again” what can the disciples do? This is so different from what they have seen time and time again. Isn’t Jesus talking about losing? Isn’t He talking about not being able to defeat His enemies and their evil? Jesus doesn’t lose, so how can He die? Isn’t God with Him? Isn’t He the very Christ? How then can He talk about dying?

What is it that the disciples don’t see? They don’t see that the death of Jesus is not a loss. They are like us, which means they see death as losing. And this is the natural thought of people. Death is not about winning, about getting our way. Death is seen as the last word in someone’s life, and that word is not one of victory but of defeat. So if Jesus never loses how can He die?

A shift in thinking has to be made. The shift is this: when Jesus does something, no matter what it is, it is a victory even though it looks like a defeat to us and the rest of the world. Such a shift in thinking comes only through faith in the Word of God, trusting in the promises despite what is seen and experienced. Luther preached this text in this way:

This is the lesson: that we should not trip over God’s Word, even though it sounds extraordinarily incredible, even impossible, but firmly take our stand: God has spoken it; it must happen. One should not ask whether it’s possible but only be concerned about God having said it. For if God has spoken it, he is mighty and truly able to bring it to pass. For that reason believe it!

This is going to be a test for us throughout life. In our experiences we see and feel things that do not seem to agree with God’s Word. We see death but no resurrection. We see illness, and so often no healing. And we see in our own lives sins that keep going, even though we try hard not to, and even though we are forgiven. Why is there still sin? Why do I not feel victorious and show it in my life more and more and more?

Such doubt and wondering come from our inability to trust fully in God’s Word. God says: You are forgiven. Yet, we still don’t feel very different. Jesus Christ gives us His Body and Blood, yet how often do we really feel like we’re in heaven with the angels and saints after communion? We are always struggling against our doubts, our flesh and blood. Therefore we keep needing to hear God’s Word, to learn to trust it more and more, and to see that even though we don’t always see what look like the victories of God, still it remains true: Jesus never loses.

His own suffering and death were designed to bring about victory, and they did. He took our sin, He took our death, that was why He suffered and died. It was not about Him losing, but about how He chose to win in our place.

This week we being the season of Lent, a time when we even more on the suffering and death of Jesus in our place. God help us during these days to keep hearing His Word, trusting it above everything else, and knowing by faith that our own victory is certain because we are connected to Jesus, and He never loses, not for Himself, and not for us. God grant us such confidence and an ever-growing faith in our Savior. In His name. Amen.

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