Monday, February 23, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009, Quinquagesima Luke 18:31-43
And having taken aside the 12, He said to them, "Look, we go up into Jerusalem, and all things will be completed, the ones written through out the prophets concerning the Son of Man. For to be given over to the Gentiles, and to be mocked, and to be ridiculed, and to be spit upon. And having flogged, they will kill Him; yet in the third day He will arise. And they, none of these things understood, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not understand the things spoken. And it happened, He, in the approach into Jericho, a certain blind man sitting along the road, begging. And having heard a crowd walk through, he asked what this might be. And they answered that Jesus the Nazarene is coming along. And He cried out, saying, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And those leading him forward rebuked him in order to silence (him), yet he all the more cried out "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus stood, and ordered him to be brought to Him; and having come near, He questioned him, "What do you wish I do to you?" And He said, "Lord, that I see again!" And Jesus said to him, "See again, your faith has saved you!" And on the spot He saw again, and was following Him, glorifying God. And all the people, seeing, gave praise to God.
Sometimes we are tempted to question the mercy of our God. Why does He seem to allow millions of babies to be aborted, while so many childless couples wanting to adopt wallow on some hopeless waiting list? How can it be that He appears to let the rich get away with squandering government bailout money, while so many who are truly in need are left high and dry? Why does He seem to allow heartless people to have almost perfect health, while some of the kindest folk become deaf, or ill, or blind.
We must be careful, not to misunderstand God's mercy. For His mercy isn't about eliminating all suffering, but rather, in embracing it! Suffering is not bad...it is actually good! It certainly feels terrible, but remember that feelings are often misleading. In its nature, suffering is actually a good thing. For suffering allows us to rely on God in faith. It builds character in trusting believers who have no other choice but to cling to God for help. Suffering is really a blessing in disguise, as an opportunity for God's mercy to shine.
The blind man doesn't choose to wallow in the plight of his own suffering. He will not be hushed by his friends and family members who suppose a Rabbi like Jesus cannot be bothered by such a lowly person. He ignores their rebuke, instead, boldly and confidently confessing his faith in Jesus as David's Son Who was promised to come by the prophets. He knows just who Jesus is, and He trusts in this Messiah to be God, and therefore to bring God's mercy directly to him. So he cries out, not once, but twice, "Son of David, mercy me!"
What a great faith this blind man had! He had many more reasons than most to want to give up on God's mercy...but he didn't. Without seeing Him, still he saw by the eyes of faith that Jesus was nearby, and beggar that he was, he begged for mercy. Jesus had mercy on him. He not only cured him of his blindness, but also blessed him further by the gift of grace. Jesus tells this blind man that he not only has his sight returned, but has salvation as well! His eyes and soul are both healed at that moment!
You are much like that blind man, in that you cannot behold Jesus today when He comes near to you. But you trust your pastor who tells you that Jesus is here today, speaking from this pulpit His words of Gospel love, that He has also saved your soul too by giving up His life for you on the cross to forgive you your sins. He proclaims your sins completely, totally, and absolutely forgiven in the sacrament of Confession, from the pastor as sure and certain as it would be from Christ Himself.
You resemble this blind beggar when you trust that Jesus is there invisibly in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. You couldn't see His hand come down from heaven to cleanse your heart that day, but you believe it was there. Through water and word, sinful you was washed clean to the cross, crucified there and buried with Christ into His death. That just as He rose on the third day, so too you rose in Him through baptism to walk now in newness of life–in His mercy of life everlasting in heaven above!.
You have much in common with the blind man when you come to the Lord's Table to receive Jesus, hidden there. At the rail, you touch and handle things unseen, but you know that the body and blood of Jesus are there in the bread and cup, respectively. His mercy is there for you in His real presence in the sacrament of the altar; there to forgive you your sins. And you know that where He is hidden there to forgive you your sins, His mercy is also there to bestow to you life everlasting, and the salvation of your soul.
Yes suffering is good. It is an opportunity for God's mercy. His mercy manifest for you in Jesus' Own suffering at the cross, and delivered to you where Jesus passes you by, in His word proclaimed and in His sacraments received. Rejoice that Jesus has answered your prayer, and has had mercy on you, time and again in this place. Amen.
Hymns for today from LSB:
#452 O Perfect Life of Love
#849 Praise the One who Breaks the Darkness
#841 O Son of God, in Galilee
And, being the Sunday before Lent begins, the Alleluia banner was removed from the sanctuary as the congregation sang #417, Alleluia Song of Gladness. The Banner and Word "Alleluia" will return Easter as we celebrate the Lord's Resurrection April 12.