That The Blind May See

Luke 18:31-43

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

Luke 18:40-43 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And he said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.”  And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God.”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  Sometimes those who can see are blind and those who are blind can see.  That is how it is in today’s Gospel.  The disciples, whose eyes are healthy, cannot see what Jesus is saying, even though it is all right there in front of them.  But a poor blind beggar on the side of the road sees the truth of Jesus and understands who He is and looks to Him in true faith.

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem; He was going there to fulfill all things that were written in the Scriptures concerning Him.  He would be mocked and insulted and spit upon and scourged.  He would be killed.  On the third day He would rise from the dead.  All of this He told the disciples straight out.  But in spite of the fact that He had spoken so clearly, St. Luke writes, “But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.”

Just because we know the facts about Christianity does not necessarily indicate that we understand their meaning or grasp their significance.  You can know the whole story about Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, but the true meaning can still be hidden from you.  True faith does not consist in mere knowledge, for even demons know who Jesus is and what He has done.  True God-given faith has to do with spiritual understanding and a heart that trusts and relies on Christ.

Truth be told, none of us are capable of having true faith.  It is as we confess in the meaning of the Third Article of the Creed: “I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.”  On our own, we just don’t get it.  St. Paul writes in II Corinthians: “The god of this age [that is, the devil] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel in the glory of Christ” (4:4).  And more to the point in I Corinthians he writes, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (2:14)

In and of our sinful selves we may indeed have it all right there in front of us; but apart from the Holy Spirit we can neither see it nor believe it.  Only by the working of the Holy Spirit are we granted true spiritual vision and genuine faith.  We confess this truth further on in the Third Article meaning: “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…”  God is the One who gets all the glory for us being believers; He is the One who gives us spiritual sight.  God is the One who has shined the light of His Gospel on us that we may see rightly what He has done for us in His Son and believe in Him.  Through Holy  Baptism by water and the Spirit we have been brought from groping in the dark to walking in the light.

In order for any of us to be a true Christian and true believer, we must become like the beggar on the side of the road – nothing to give to Christ and everything to receive from Him.

In our text the blind man heard a great crowd passing by and asked the age-old Lutheran question, “Was ist das?” What does this mean?  When he was told that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, the blind man shouted with a loud voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  And by this prayer the blind man showed that he already had faith in Jesus; for the term “Son of David” is a Jewish term for the Messiah.

The blind man had certainly heard about Jesus and the things Jesus had said and done, and he believed the Word which he had heard; his ears were his eyes.  Seeing Jesus would not have helped the blind man believe in him; for as Scripture clearly says, “faith comes by hearing,” not seeing.  Even without earthly sight, the blind man could see that Jesus was the promised Son of David.  Not only did he believe that Jesus could heal him, he believed more importantly that Jesus was the Christ, the redeemer of His people.

We do well to learn the humble prayer of this blind man: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  We do well to have it always ready in our mouths, for it is a prayer for those times when words fail us when we are unable to pray, when we do not know how to pray as we should.  It is a prayer that the Holy Spirit stirs up in us  It is the prayer of humble faith that looks to Christ to receive His gracious gifts.

That is why this prayer shows up so often in the Church’s liturgy: “Lord, have mercy upon us; Christ have mercy upon us; Lord have mercy upon us.”  “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world: have mercy upon us…”  This is a prayer you can pray any time, anywhere, especially at a time of need.  When you are driving in bad weather you can pray, “Lord, have mercy!”  You can pray this prayer at school, at work, at home, in the dentist’s chair, in the treatment room at the hospital, in the emergency room, or waiting in line at Sprouts  If the situation permits you might even wish to pray this prayer with empty palms facing upward, in the position of a beggar, confident that the Lord will fill the hands of faith with good things.  Learn well this prayer of faith that it may be on your lips at the hour of death: “Lord, have mercy on me.”

The crowds did not like this prayer of the beggar; they warned him to be quiet; he wasn’t following proper etiquette or protocol.  But he cried out all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  For you see, faith doesn’t let anything get in the way of life in Jesus; faith simply does not care what people will think or what they will say.  Faith seeks a gift far greater than earthly approval.

`And this seemingly little prayer is a prayer that draws Jesus’ attention; it goes directly to His ears; it stops Him in His tracks; it draws His undivided attention.  And at the sound of this prayer Jesus bids the crowd to be silent and commands that the blind man be brought to Him.

Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”  He asked this not because He did not already know, of course, but that the blind man may exercise his faith and say specifically what he wanted.  In response the blind man answered, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.”  He believed that Jesus had the power to do this for him.  And then Jesus said, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.”  Jesus speaks, and it is so.  His Word accomplishes what it says.  The blind man’s eyes are opened, and the very first thing he sees is the face of his Savior.

In the Greek the word that is sometimes translated “made well” is literally the word for “saved;” the New King James Version has it right.  This man received much more than sight from Jesus; he received eternal life.  He saw in Jesus more than One who heals eyes; he saw One who gives unending healing of both body and soul.

Like all of Jesus’ miracles, this was a costly one; it cost Him His life on the cross.  It was there Jesus won the victory for you by bearing all your physical ailments and infirmities, all your sin and pain and sorrow, and suffered them all to death in His own body.  And He shares that victory with all who cry out to Him in beggarly faith: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  For the One who healed the eyes of the blind man, Himself hung on a cross in the darkness to bring the light of His resurrection to the world.

Know, then, dear fellow redeemed, that the Lord hears your prayers, even when they seem to go unanswered.  Ultimately, they have all been answered in His dying and rising.  For now, we walk by faith, and not by sight.  But on the Last Day our God-given faith will turn to sight, just like the blind man in today’s Gospel.  Every bodily disorder and every disability will be done away: from failing vision to poor hearing, from arthritis to paralysis, from aching joints to weakening minds, from headaches and stuffy noses to clogged arteries and heart disease and cancer.  Even sin and death itself will be done away completely, and the Great Physician will raise you in both body and soul to share in His own glory.

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