10 February 2013
St. John’s, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“How many times do I have to tell you!?” the frustrated parent tells the disobedient child. “We’ve been over this before.”
Jesus does not lose His patience, but this is the third time He has plainly told the disciples that He will be handed over, suffer, die, and on the third day rise. And yet, when it all comes to fulfillment a short time later, they are blown away, not expecting any of it. Really!? Seriously, guys!?
The disciples are like everyone else. They have lost sight of why Jesus has come. Christ Jesus did not come in the flesh to simply show off with some miracles. He did not walk the roads of Galilee and Judea simply to be popular. He was not on His way to Jerusalem to force His way into earthly government and enforce His rule over some geographic empire.
It is easy for you to lose sight of why Jesus has come too. At times you focus too much on sound bites and quotes, liking Jesus to fit neatly in some Facebook meme or 30-second television commercial. At other times you jump on some bandwagon with other Christians who work for some cause – that may be good and helpful to others, yet lacking in a true proclamation of the Gospel of forgiveness. Still other times you ignore Jesus altogether, and think you can dismiss Him throughout the week, and make up for it next Sunday. Yes, you have lost your sight.
That is one of the problems, actually, when we sing, “Amazing Grace.” The song goes, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” The problem is, we go back and forth from blindness to seeing, all the time -- even after being brought to faith.
The topic is all over in our entertainment. Mary Ingalls, the older sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House on the Prairie fame, became blind in real life, as well as in the television series. On TV, she adjusted to it, fell in love with her dashing,young teacher, and lived happily ever after. In real life, she briefly went to a school for the blind, and then spent the rest of her life living with her parents and then her sisters.
Soap opera stories will sometimes have someone who dramatically loses her sight in an accident or illness, only to have something trigger the return of vision at a dramatic moment. And when the plot needs a new twist, another relapse into blindness may occur.
Daily you fall back into various sin and failure. You become blind once more to our Savior. Yet Jesus still has compassion. And just as with Bartimeus, He rescues you and restores your sight, day after day.
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimeus was blessed with the gift of faith. He had the trouble and struggle of a first century man, challenged with blindness. Yet even in his darkness, Bartimeus recognized Jesus as the Christ. “Son of David!” King David was promised that he would be the ancestor of the Christ. “Son of David” became a proper title, much like the British title “Prince of Wales” can only refer to the heir who will one day be King.
Jesus, the Son of David does indeed have mercy on you. He has mercy on you in being far more than some earthly king. He is the King of kings, who comes into His glory at the cross. He wins and secures mercy for you in the blood and water that issue from His holy wounds. The mercy of Christ, the Son of David, is washed onto you in Baptism, and fed you in His Holy Supper.
Like Bartimeus, like the disciples, you had lost your sight. But having received His mercy, Jesus blesses you to recover your sight. "Lord, let me recover my sight.” Jesus responds, “Recover your sight.” And you do.
The recovered sight of faith looks, and says with Jesus, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished." The blindness of sin refuses, and merely looks to Jesus as one option among many; a single part of the crazy "Coexist" bumper sticker mentality.
Jesus the rabbi. Jesus the good man who teaches people to love each other. Jesus the all-powerful, mighty sovereign One. Yes, Jesus is the almighty One, and great teacher of love. But that should never be the what you dwell on. As you focus on these items, you remain blind.
Yet the Holy Spirit has led you to cry out, "Lord, have mercy!" and Christ has opened your eyes, washing them in Baptism, and giving you godly sight. The Son of David restored the eyes He created in Bartimeus to see, and He restores the eyes of faith that He created in you, to look for Jesus in Jerusalem, in His suffering and death on Calvary.
Our Savior brings this ultimate truth that will shed light on the subject of salvation.
Dear friends in Christ, you are baptized, and you have received your sight! Jesus has heard your pleas for mercy, and has lovingly answered them with His abundant grace and love. And now, you see Jesus, setting His face toward Jerusalem, for you. You see Jesus, suffering and dying for you. You see Jesus, rising for you.
Your dear Lord and Savior is about to usher you into the holy season of Lent, to prepare you for the blessed and amazing Feast of the Resurrection. And today, before plunging into the depths of that season, he does not raise His voice and use that parental tone, saying, "How many times do I have to tell you?!" No. He speaks tenderly, preparing you for the preparation: "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished." Amen.