A myHT Fortress

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lord, Have Mercy: A Homily on Mark 10:46-52

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Lord, have mercy.” The words are so simple, and yet so profound. “Lord have mercy.” Three little words in English – and it only takes two in the Greek – and yet so much is packed into those few syllables.

“Lord, have mercy,” or some variation thereof, is spoken on many occasions as a prayer to Jesus. Here, Bartimaeus the blind beggar is excited to hear that Christ has come. He cries out to Christ Jesus with these words of faith and humility.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” In other words: “Master. Savior. I believe that You are the descendant of King David that we are waiting for: the Christ! I will never be good enough to deserve this, but you are my loving God. Give me help. Give me healing. Give me forgiveness and life. Give me all that I need for body and soul. Give me salvation. I have nothing good to give in return. Yet I know You can do all this and more!”

“And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’”

Blessed Martin Luther went through much of the same thing. No, he was not blind, but he came to a fuller knowledge of our Lord, and was crying out in faith. Others around him were rebuking him, telling him to be silent. The Holy Roman Emperor called a special hearing, in which Luther was told to recant of his writings – to take back what he said and wrote. The Empire and the Pope were rebuking Luther, and telling him to be silent. If he refused, he would be an outlaw, and it would be legal to kill him. He would also be excommunicated, and thus cut off from the Sacrament. What was he to do?

Luther followed Bartimaeus’ example: he cried out all the more. “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen!”

The pure teaching of God’s Law had been brought to light once more, and the clear message that we are poor, miserable sinners who can never be good enough for God was proclaimed. And hand-in-hand with that is the pure teaching of the Gospel, with the clear message that in His mercy, God gives His undeserved love and forgiveness that we call “grace.” He redeems us and rescues us from our own wretchedness, and gives forgiveness, life, and salvation as gifts!

The world had slipped into some blindness, losing sight of our Lord’s mercy, relying on our imagined ability to cooperate with God. We were in a spiritual darkness that was fearful of God’s wrath, but had no idea on how to escape it. The time leading up to the Reformation looked at the cross of Christ with His body on it as a grim sign of God’s judgment that we would face – sort of a “This is all your fault!”

Yet that is not the message to the Christian at all. God in His great mercy says: “Look to the crucifix as a most blessed image of My love.” There, the Body of Christ hangs in death, not defeated by death, but victorious! He died, but in dying, He became the Champion! He became the Victor who triumphed! The beaten, bloodied, broken Body of Christ is the clear delivery of the Lord’s mercy! Death was destroyed by His death, so that the lifeless flesh of Jesus on the cross is really the greatest picture of hope! His resurrection then confirmed this great truth.

We can still be blinded. When we think we can cooperate with God for our salvation, we are blinded to the reality of our sinful nature. When we talk about our believing as if we have the power to believe harder or more sincerely, we turn faith into a good work, and end up teaching salvation by works! We end up as blind to God’s grace as some 16th century indulgence sellers.

Dear, blinded friends, our gracious Savior comes and restores our sight. Like He called Bartimaeus to Himself and healed him, He has called you through Holy Baptism, and washed the filth of sin from you, including from your eyes, that you may see.

The Holy Spirit worked on Bartimaeus, giving him faith so that when Jesus called him, he jumped up, tossing off his cloak. And why is that important? As he begged, people would toss coins onto that cloak. He just lost all of the money that people had given him, trusting that he would no longer need it – Jesus was going to heal him!

That day Jesus gave Bartimaeus physical sight. He also healed his soul. And a short time later, as Christ’s own eyelids closed in death, He claimed sight for all who would come to faith.

The Holy Spirit has worked on you too. He has shed from you the old covering of sin, death, and hell, and replaced it in your baptism with forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and the promise of eternal salvation. He has brought you out of darkness into Christ’s marvelous light. He gives you sight, that you can now behold your Lord and God in His preaching and in His Sacraments. He heals you!

We can slip back into moments of blindness. Times when we refuse to see the Gospel touching the lives of students and others here in our church, and school, and over at Luther North. It is easy for humans to become negative and overlook the good blessings that God is giving in these places. There are times when we turn a blind eye to ways we can help instead of rebuking those who would seek the Lord.

But the Lord delivers us, even when we have not wanted it! He calls us to repentance. And He renews our sight, our vision. He gives light to our eyes and leads us in His Word. And from there, He brings countless good things out of the trials and hardships. Throughout all suffering, He carries us, looking it straight in the eye and defeating it in the end.

How? Jesus, the Son of David, [has] mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. The scarred hands of our Savior reach out and open our eyes, having endured it all for us. In His grace and mercy, He heals, restores, and gives life everlasting! Our magnificent Messiah re-opens our eyes and fixes them on Him.

He fixes your eyes on Jesus in His Word. And soon He will fix your eyes on Jesus as you behold Him in the Host and Cup. At that time, He will fill you with Himself, so that you cannot but help to cr[y] out all the more: “[Lord], have mercy!”

The Lord has mercy as He comes to you in His Holy Eucharist, filling you with His Body and Blood – the purest forms of His mercy on this earth! Praise God for filling you with His mercy! Amen.

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