Saving Faith

St. Luke 18:31-43 (2/7/16)

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Luke 18:31-34  [31] Then [Jesus] took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. [32] For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. [33] And they will scourge Him and put Him to death. And the third day He will rise again.” [34] But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.

Wow.  The disciples didn’t understand one single word that Jesus said.   It was kept hidden from them, and they didn’t get it.

And so here we are, one more time before Lent arrives, and we hear that our Lord’s way of doing things is nothing like our way of doing things.  Our way of doing things is to put Jesus on a big white horse, dress him up in armor with weapons and go parading into Jerusalem to give the Romans and unbelieving Jews a good old fashioned what-for!  Our way is to have the Son of God blasting away at bad guys in glory and power and majesty and might.  Our way is for Jesus to come along and do things our way.

And that all sounds great…  but not one of those ways saves one single sinner.  Jesus goes to Jerusalem His way; He goes the way of salvation; He goes the way of fulfilling the words of the Prophets; He goes the way of being handed over to the Gentiles; He goes the way of being mocked and abused and spit upon, scourged by rock- and glass-laden whips and then killed on a cross.

No wonder the disciples don’t get it.  It’s not how they would have things done.  It is the Lord saving us in a way we never could have imagined.  No, the Lord’s way is like a man who pays everyone the same no matter how long they work, like we heard two weeks ago…  or like a farmer who scatters seed like it’s his to waste, like we heard last week.  The Lord’s way is the same way God the Father sends His Son to die for sinners, to suffer and die in our place.

What is amazing is that Jesus’ disciples were with Him.  They had been taught for THREE YEARS and still they had no idea what He was talking about.  True, it was hidden from them.  And not until Jesus’ resurrection and Pentecost did they know and preach and die for that Good News.  But still, three years?  And they didn’t understand a word He said?  Where does that leave us?

Do you understand perfectly what Jesus is all about?  Do you understand perfectly why He came?  Do you understand perfectly what He came to do?  Boy, it’s a good thing we understand it all so much better than those disciples did back in the day…  or so we think.  “Hey, I did the Catechism thing.  I come to church.  I hear about Jesus dying for my sins week after week after week.  It’s the same old stuff.”  But do you GET it?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t think for a moment that you somehow have it better than the men who spent three years with Jesus Himself, or that you know more than they did.  If your thoughts are going there, then repent!  Repent, because you don’t really get it.  You don’t give a second thought to the fact that the Son of God took on flesh just so He could be killed for YOUR sins.

No, we would rather do like the disciples did: Jesus tells them that He is going to Jerusalem to suffer and die, but they don’t get it. So they decide to argue about who among them is greater.  Well, guess what, folks: that’s us!  We have the Good News put into our ears that Jesus goes to Jerusalem to die for our sins.  But is that our treasure as an individual and as a congregation?  Is that our true joy?  Is that our gladness?  We would rather grumble about our circumstances.  We would rather gripe about other people.  We would rather complain that the world is a mess because people can’t be more like us…  and all the while we are paying no attention to the Word of God which teaches us that Jesus suffers for us.  Yes indeed, we are definitely His disciples in that regard.

But do you know who gets it?  Do you know who teaches us true faith in this story?  A blind beggar on the side of the road!  Here’s a guy who, when he hears that Jesus is coming, won’t shut up until he can get the Lord’s attention.  Even when the crowds try to shut him up, he just yells all the louder.  And what does he cry out?  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Have mercy on me!”

Take note of this man.  Here’s a guy who is blind.  He is a beggar.  He has nothing going for him.  He is not one of Jesus’ long-time students like the disciples.  He has not been taught like they have been taught.  He certainly has not seen what they have seen.  And yet, He knows; he believes.  He knows that this Jesus is his only hope, his only salvation.  All that this poor blind man has in all the world is Jesus.  And it is all he needs.

And that is your faith, dear Christians, that all that you have in the world is Jesus.  All you have is the prayer that you cry out that the Lord would be merciful.

And Jesus stops.  And He gets the blind man to come over to Him.  And He hears the blind man’s confession: “Lord, that I may receive my sight!”  And then Jesus speaks His Word and the man is healed and he can see.

There is your faith – that you come before Jesus and acknowledge your sins and beg for His mercy.  And in response to your begging for His mercy He gives His Baptism, His Absolution, His Gospel, His Supper – His gifts which forgive your sins and open your eyes.

That is repentance and faith, folks, to recognize that we need Jesus and that only His Word will save us.  Such a faith ignores the world.  Such a faith tells the world to shut up.  Such a faith confesses that it cannot see and that it cannot do anything for itself.  Such a faith cries out for Jesus’ mercy and then sticks like a cocklebur on a dog’s tail to Him for help and salvation.  And such a faith is only possible where Jesus and His Word and gifts are given.

And once again we see the difference between ourselves and Jesus.  The crowd just wants the blind man to be quiet so they can parade around Jesus.  But Jesus comes to the blind man to save Him.  This should teach us what is most important to our Lord.  He is not impressed with our parades for Him.  He is not impressed with how loudly we can sing or how long we can pray or how creative we can be in our worship.  He is not impressed with songs that tell Him how much we love Him.  No, what is most important to our Lord is His speaking His Word into our ears to save us from our sins and opening our eyes of faith to see and trust in Him alone, and we speaking back to Him what He has spoken to us.

This is why, above all things in your life — above your job, above your home, above your money and toys, above your grumbles and problems — above all of that is Jesus.  When these things surround you, when they hem you in, when they tell you to keep quiet, then you cry out all the louder! “Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!”  When the crowds of this world and the devil and your sinful flesh tell you to shut up, then cry all the louder: “Lord, have mercy on me!  Lord, remind me of my baptism.   Lord, absolve me of my sins.  Lord, feed me with Your body and blood.”  And He will.  He would stop a parade of people all hopped up and excited to see Him just to turn and save you, dear sinner.

And He does.  Right here with His gifts, He saves you.  He opens your eyes, the eyes of faith, to see Him, your Savior.

Dear friends, in three days the holy season of Lent will be upon us.  Now is the time for leaving behind ourselves and our notions and our doings, and to put our eyes and ears upon Jesus.  Now is the time to watch Him as He goes to Jerusalem to suffer and die for us, to go the way of death to give us life, to go the way of suffering to restore us to the Father.

That is not man’s way.  That is not the world’s way.  Those ways are to shove themselves to the front of the crowd and act excited and get religious and get holy and pious… and then a short time later to kill the Son of God.

But we know that our sins have killed Jesus.  He took them upon Himself so that those sins would not be our death.  And now we follow Jesus through the 40 days of Lent to Calvary and to the resurrection.   We go there with those who were paid what they did not earn or deserve.  We go there with those who receive the word in hearts made good and noble by the Lord.  We go there with this blind man who received His sight.  With them we follow Jesus, giving praise to the Father for what He has done for us in His Son.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.