Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sermon for February 18-19, 2012

50 Days Till Easter
Luke 18:31-43
February 18 – 19, 2012

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

Our Lord set His Face toward Jerusalem for all the things the prophets wrote: the delivery to the Gentiles, the mocking, the insulting, the spitting, the scourging, the killing, and finally, the rising. But that is not all the prophets wrote. They also wrote: “Strengthen the weak hands and make strong the feeble knees.” He set Himself to suffer violence in order to remove fear and bestow salvation.

But the disciples did not understand. It was hidden from them. They saw a glimpse of His power in the miracles. They felt the depth of His wisdom in His teaching. They recognized that He was the prophet greater than Moses, that John was His Elijah, that He was the Son of the Living God.  But the real point of His compassion, of His mercy, what it would cost Him, was mostly lost on them.

That is because they were not yet ready to beg, not yet ready for the mocking, insulting, spitting, scourging, and killing. They didn't want to face what their sins would do to Him. They read the prophets like a book of quotes, skimming about for the good bits.

But where they were blind: the blind man saw. He was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. But he cried out for mercy from the Son of David.

We might have thought he would ask for justice, for something to make up for his sorrows and the hardships of his life, that he would appeal to the inequities and indignities that he had suffered by an accident of birth. We expect him to say: “This is not fair. Make me whole.”

And if he was afraid, if he was uncertain as to whether the mercy of Jesus could help him or not, we'd expect him to follow the warning of the seeing. Don't they better understand what is happening than he does? And isn't he dependent upon them? Does he risk annoying them?

But where they blind, were he saw. He would not be silent. But neither would he complain. He did not say, “This is not fair.”  He made no appeal to his own virtue or difficulties. Instead, he cried for mercy.

Again, they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was coming. But he called Jesus by the Messianic title: Son of David. He knew what he was doing. He knew who Jesus was. He brought the full weight of the prophets to bear. He did not approach the Lord as one who had been cheated or who was a victim, who was wronged by fate or by men. He cried out as a criminal and a beggar, as a man desperate for the prophecies to be fulfilled, for God to keep His Word. He cried out for mercy that he did not deserve.

How could Our Lord refuse? He was on His way to Jerusalem for the sake of mercy, to save sinners, to rescue criminals. His mercy endures forever.

He set His face toward Jerusalem to re-create and re-order creation, to endure the most unjust judgment the world has ever known, the greatest affliction in body and soul, the most heartbreaking of betrayals and self-serving weakness from his friends. And along the way His face was turned to this blind man, to a need for mercy.

It is for this that the Lord would be mocked and spat upon, derided by all, even forsaken by His Father. Who is blind and He is not blind? Who is hurt, betrayed, afraid, or in any way afflicted and He is unmoved? He keeps track of the sparrows. He counts your hairs. He knows your sorrows, feels your pain. He has compassion. Because His mercy, which drove Him to the cross like a lamb to the slaughter, endures forever.

And everyone who asks the Lord for mercy finds mercy. The blind man received mercy: His eyes were opened.

Then he was full of joy. He had mercy, forgiveness, grace. He followed Jesus to Jerusalem. He glorified God for the delivery to the Gentiles. He glorified God for the mocking, insulting, spitting, scourging, and killing.  And he glorified God for the rising. The Word of the prophets was fulfilled in Jesus. Mercy came to earth. God in the Flesh made good on His promise by giving His life as a ransom to save fallen men.

We set our faces to Jerusalem today. We are fifty days from Easter. Three days from ashes. We brace ourselves for the fast, eager for the feast. Skull Hill and the burial plot of Joseph of Arimathea are not our true goal and destination. They are the means. Our real goal is the new Jerusalem, where all suffering, all blindness of eyes and minds, comes to an end.

So let us learn from the blind man to hold Jesus to His Word.  Let us not be too proud to beg.  Stop the excuses.  Stop the pretend piety and insincere attempts at reform.  Make this Lent a holy preparation, a cleansing and renewing of body, mind, and soul. Come not as a victim, as one entitled, as one who has been wronged. But come as a criminal, undeserving. Admit. Confess. Tell the Truth.

Ask not for justice or vengeance. Ask not that things to be set right, that life be fair. Ask - nay -- beg! -  for mercy. Because everyone who asks Our Lord for mercy finds mercy.

Embrace the sufferings and sorrows of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Do not be ashamed of the prophets or of the holy cross. It gave way to His resurrection.  It delivers your justification. Praise God for the mercy of Jesus Christ. Adore the Blood that He has shed. Glorify Him for the Life He gave. He has compassion, mercy, on us poor sinners. He has compassion on you.

This is the Love that abides.  It suffers long and is kind. It does not envy or parade itself.  It is not puffed up, and does not behave rudely or seek its own. This Love is not provoked. It thinks no evil, and does not rejoice in iniquity. It rejoices in the Truth. This is not how we love one another, it is how God loves us in Jesus Christ. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus never fails.

Easter is coming.

In X Jesus' Name. Amen.

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