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Quinquagesima

February 11, 2024; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
Proper 25 B. william_blake_-_christ_giving_sight_to_bartimaeus_-_google_art_project.jpg


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He Who Has Eyes to See

Dear people with eyes to see,

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Last Sunday we heard Jesus say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 8:15). This week in our Gospel reading He seems to be saying, in not so many words, “He who has eyes to see, let him see.” Indeed He said something like that to the blind man who asked to recover his sight. It seems this blind man had eyes that once could see but they went blind. He was excited to hear that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And Jesus answered, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” Or, perhaps we could paraphrase, “He who has eyes to see, let him see.”

 

“Don’t you see?” We use that expression to ask if you understand what is happening. Don’t you see what is going on? Don’t you see what He did there? Don’t you see what this means? The blind man did understand who Jesus of Nazareth is. That is why he was crying out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” He could see that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the descendant of King David whom the LORD sent to rule over His kingdom forever.

 

He could see that the Messiah’s coming meant what the prophet Isaiah said it would mean: “He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Isaiah 55:4-6). The blind man could see that Jesus of Nazareth was the One promised at whose coming all of the impediments of this fallen sinful world would be removed. All of the physical impairments would be healed. All of the physical losses would be restored to an everlasting life of wholeness and completeness. Everyone will have ears to hear and eyes to see and legs to leap and tongues to tell of the wonderful works of God.

 

Sometimes we fall into the arrogance of thinking that people in Bible times somehow knew less of who Jesus is than we do. They didn’t have the written New Testament. They didn’t have the theological depth of expression that we have in the letters of Paul. They didn’t have the historic Christological debates to hone their confessions of the Christ. But the New Testament presents us with people who had an incredibly clear understanding of who Jesus is, like this blind man on the streets of Jericho. After all, they had Jesus.

 

Was this blind man just calling out to Jesus as a miracle healer? That is the common condescending stance we often assume. Or was he conversant with the Old Testament Scriptures and fully aware that Jesus was fulfilling all that they promised? We contemplated the same thing with Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). Did she really only expect him to be a source of needed wine, or was she looking for her Son to fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah recorded in the prophets?

 

And is it the same with this blind beggar? Could he possibly see what was happening in the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, even before his sight was restored? Did his eyes read the prophecies in the Book of Isaiah the Prophet before they went blind? What did he see or perhaps just hear in those prophecies?

 

If it is indeed possible that the blind man could see who Jesus truly was through the words of the prophets, what then must we conclude about those leading the crowd through Jericho who tried to silence the blind man? They rebuked him. Who were those people leading the way through the city?... Who generally went ahead of Jesus to prepare the way before Him? Whom did He usually send on ahead? Who were seen to silence and rebuke others along the way?

 

One time, a Canaanite woman came out and was crying, “‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’...and His disciples came and begged Him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she is crying out after us’” (Matthew 15:22-23). Just a few verses ahead of our Gospel text for today, you can read: “They were bringing even infants to [Jesus] that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them” (Luke 18:15).

 

Was it the disciples who walked with and ahead of Jesus who had eyes but could not see who He truly was? That is the way that today’s Gospel reading begins. “And taking the twelve, He said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and 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 spat upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.’ But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said” (Luke 18:31-34).

 

They didn’t see what was about to happen. They didn’t see what was going on. They didn’t see who Jesus is. What was written about the Son of Man by the prophets was hidden from them. And yet, the blind beggar could see what Isaiah was getting at when he wrote, “the eyes of the blind will be opened.”

 

When Jesus spoke in parables He said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” When we hear what is written in the prophets He says, “He who has eyes to see, let him see.” When our ears hear the Word, then the eyes of faith are opened. The blind man could see, so He cried out for Jesus, the Son of David, to have mercy and restore his sight.

 

The eyes to see who Jesus is are eyes of faith, faith which clings to the words of the prophets that have been heard. That is why the blind beggar cried out to Jesus. He believed in the words of the prophets about the Messiah, and not just some of their words, but all of their words. It is also most likely that he heard that Jesus had healed other blind men, made lame men walk again, and deaf men to hear, and loosed the tongues of the mute to speak.

 

The Gospels display Jesus doing all of those things, and Jesus Himself told the disciples of John the Baptist to pay attention to such signs and “go tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 8:22).

 

This was not all about healing, making parts of the body work properly. These were signs of a promise fulfilled, the promise of a Saviour to reign over His people forever. Did the disciples of Jesus only think He had come to speak the Word of God, and so try to clear away those in need of bodily healing? Did they think that Jesus was headed to Jerusalem only to take the place of King Herod, and so He would have no time for children and babies?

 

I think that we can fall into the ditch on either side of the road here. Sometimes we might think people are only interested in Jesus to give them bodily blessings in this life; and conversely we might think that we can only go to Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and the eternal gifts He promises for some future day of judgment. That is the thinking that leads us to neglect prayers for the healing of the sick, not just for them to bear their burden of suffering with patience, but that Jesus would come to them with healing now as a sign of the full healing and restoration we will all have in the resurrection.

 

It is the kind of thinking that also leads us to resent the difficulties and distractions of having the little children with us in the divine service. His Word to us is important. We should not despise preaching and His Word but gladly hear and learn it. But He is also present with His Word and His holy Sacraments and as we gather here with the little children between the font and the altar we are surrounded by the presence of Jesus who welcomes children. This is where His Word echoes from Lectern and pulpit, between the locations of His sacramental presence. He is present to speak, to heal, and to bless for today, as well as to forgive, restore, and to seal for the eternal day.

 

We join with the blind beggar in our cry to this Jesus who does so much more than we often ask or perceive. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Our antiphon to his cry continues in the Kyrie of the Divine Service: “Lord, have mercy.” As we make our cry, may the Lord Jesus through His Holy Spirit open our ears and our eyes to see Him coming to answer our prayers for peace, peace not only of mind and Spirit, but peace in the physical world in which we live globally, in our temporal homes and community, and even peace for living in these fleshly bodies.

 

Peace permeates body, mind, and spirit. It comprises physical and spiritual aspects for us whom God formed with His hands and into whose bodies He breathes His Spirit. Getting back to having eyes to see who Jesus is, this is all a confirmation and confession that we believe Jesus to be God incarnate, the full divinity of the Deity encompassed in the full humanity of the nature we share with Him.

 

He came to redeem all of which He assumed, that is our entire human nature. He did not come only with a human spirit to save our spirits, but He took also a human body. He came not only as an adult of thirty-three years, but He came also as a baby and child. He came with ears and eyes and legs and tongue in order to heal and to restore all of these things through His suffering, death, and resurrection on the third day. And that is the stuff He was up to, all the while making His way to cross and grave and glorious throne.

 

The simple cry from a blind beggar reveals to us the profound mystery of who Jesus is, what He came to do, and for whom He came to do it. He came to preach, to heal, to give Himself into death and rise again so that we, too, might have life restored. And these are not things that He compartmentalizes or keeps track of on a time sheet. He doesn’t preach for a while, and then heal for a while, and then dispense forgiveness for a while, until it is time to finally resurrect.

 

While there was a day on which He rose from the dead and there is a day on which He will come again to raise all the dead, He continues to preach through pastors and heal through healers. He continues to answer our prayers for forgiveness and our prayers for healing and restoration. And He is much better at doing both than we are at asking for either. Jesus can restore the sight of those who cannot see, those who have lost the sight in their eyes of faith as well as those who have never seen Him.

 

Don’t you see what is going on? Do you see what He did there? Do you see what He is doing here? He has ears to hear our cry. He has eyes to see our plight. He gives Himself so that we might have his life. He who has ears to hear, and eyes to see, will find healing and restoration in this Jesus of Nazareth.

 

 

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus

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