Text: Luke 18:31-43
As Jesus drew near to Jericho in the Gospel text, He encountered a blind man sitting beside the road. Hearing the crowd passing by, the man cried out to Jesus saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd threatened the man in order that he should be silent, but he continued crying out to Jesus – all the more loudly. Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to Him. He said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has saved you.” If you look in the bulletin, that’s not how the ESV renders Jesus’ words to man; but, literally, that is what He said. This is an important distinction.
Though we missed our opportunity to gather together last week, you might remember that, two weeks ago, I mentioned that this little season in the Church year, “Pre-Lent,” is liking packing our bags before joining our Lord on His Lenten journey. Two weeks ago, we heard the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard where, by the master’s grace, they each received the same wage. Last week the Gospel reading was the Parable of the Sower, which teaches us that God’s Word produces fruit in us hundredfold by giving us the gift of faith and the forgiveness of our sins. With today’s Gospel we see what role faith plays in the work of our salvation. Through faith we receive the salvation which Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.
Our text this week from St. Luke’s Gospel has long been associated with the beginning of our Lord’s Lenten season. St. Augustine preached sermons on this text and the same epistle from St. Paul that we heard today over 1500 years ago. St. Luke’s text is fitting for this Sunday because, not only are we now 50 days away from our Lord’s resurrection, but, also, a nearness to Jerusalem is brought up in our text. The events today take place as Jesus is nearing Jericho, one of His last stops before Jerusalem.
As the time of His passion was approaching, one final time Jesus took the disciples aside to explain to them privately what He was about to do. St. Luke recorded for us,
“Taking the twelve, [Jesus] 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 spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.’”
Since shortly after the Transfiguration, Jesus’ face has been set toward Jerusalem and He’s been teaching the disciples what would happen there. Everything that was delivered through the prophets about Jesus will be completed. Jesus was be delivered over to the Gentiles, He’ll mocked and humiliated and spit upon. Then, He’ll be killed. But, after three days He will rise.
This is all to fulfill, among other things, what the Holy Spirit spoke through King David, that Jesus would be, “scorned by mankind and despised by the people.” Through Isaiah, the Spirit said that Jesus would be “despised and rejected by men,” but also that He would bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, and be pierced for our transgressions. And, this all, so that we – by His wounds – might be healed. Jesus taught the disciples one more time that He was going to Jerusalem to suffer and die, to fulfill God’s promises, and bring salvation to us all. But, they didn’t understand, St. Luke wrote; they couldn’t “see” what Jesus meant. Soon, Jesus would encounter one who could.
As He went on and drew near to Jericho, there was a blind man sitting beside the road begging people for alms. St. Luke writes, “Hearing a crowd going by, [the blind man] inquired what this meant. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’” Hearing this, the man cried out those words we’ve already heard, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” The reports of Jesus had gone out into all the surrounding regions – reports of Jesus’ preaching and teaching, and of His miracles. This man believed those reports and desired this Doctor’s healing medicine for himself. Notice, how he referred to Jesus: as the Son of David. This man also knew his Bible. He knew the Messiah would be an offspring of David, and he knew that the miracles Jesus was doing were the works that would accompany the coming of the Messiah. In a few ways, the man grasped what the disciples fumbled over; though blind, he saw what they didn’t.
St. Luke writes that the crowd tried to silence the man by rebuking him, but he cried out all the more. Jesus stopped and commanded the man be brought to Him. He asked the man what he wanted Jesus to do for him, and he responded that he desired to regain his sight. Jesus spoke, and immediately the man was healed. He then began following Jesus and glorifying God. The whole crowd, also, when they saw this, praised God, too.
I said at the start of the sermon that what the ESV translates as, “Your faith has made you well,” may be better translated, “Your faith has saved you.” And, this, perhaps, is the greater point in this text. Jesus did heal him, this is true. But, as great as that healing is, Jesus also secured for the man an even greater healing – forgiveness and eternal life. And that, the man had already received. When he heard the report about Jesus and by the work of the Spirit, received it in faith – he had, then and there, the forgiveness of his sins. Or, as Jesus said, he was saved by faith. The miracle demonstrates Jesus’ great compassion, and is a preview of the full restoration we will all receive in the resurrection.
This is a good point for us to take away from the text this week. Jesus said to the man, “Your faith has saved you.” Earlier in the Gospel, when Jesus’ own synagogue rejected Him, He told them that there were many widows in Elijah’s day, but he was only sent to one. Likewise, there were many lepers in Elisha’s day, but only Naaman was cleansed. This means, that God doesn’t always work miracles in the way we expect them to happen. The Lord is not a miracle vending machine. The Lord works miracles where He wills, such as in this text to this man. But, had it not been our Lord’s will to heal him, that man still would have looked forward to a heavenly healing at Christ’s return – for he was still saved by faith. So are we.
When Jesus said to the man that his faith has saved him, it’s in what’s called the perfect tense in Greek. The way that this word is formed shows that it was something in the past that is presently ongoing and continues into the future. When he first believed he was saved, he is saved now, and he will be saved by faith unto eternity. The same is true for you. The same faith which saved this blind man has saved you. Through God’s Word, in your Baptism, you have received the gift of faith. This faith is not something that you have created, but it is something produced in you by the Spirit of God. Through this faith you were forgiven your sins, and you are forgiven now. You also, by faith, will be saved unto eternal life.
We hear these words today because it might not always be our Lord’s will to preserve us from suffering. It wasn’t for our Lord. Jesus prayed to the Father to remove the cup of suffering from Him – according to His will; but it wasn’t His will. Yet, after His suffering, the Father raised our Lord from dead and seated Him at His right hand. By faith, we also will stand before the throne of God to sing with joy and happiness. We won’t be there because of something in us, but by the grace of God poured out on us richly in Jesus Christ, which we have receive by faith alone.