Quinquagesima (2014)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
March 2, 2014
Central Passage
Luke 18:31-43
Description

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

Here we begin the journey to the cross. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the penitential season of Lent and the Great Fast of the Church. As winter closes and spring begins to flower and warm the earth, sure signs of life and blessing, the Church, in dramatic contradiction to what the eyes and senses behold, begins to focus her attention and rituals on the passion of the Christ, His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. When the whole world seems to be stretching after hunkering down for winter, the Church seems to be hunkering down in prayer and fasting, almost seeming to prepare herself for death.

That is what the dying do. They pray and fast. They pray for relief, for healing, even for death. They pray for their loved ones, their families and friends. They pray even for the world and for those who are helpless. They pray for themselves. And without seeming to plan for it, they fast. Their stomachs don’t desire food and their palate has no longing for taste. Which is why doctors and nurses have to remind their patients to eat. Without such reminders, they may well never eat again. The dying pray and fast.

And that is what the Church does. She is always praying and fasting. If you wait for Lent to pray and fast then you’ve missed the point of both. But even if we are not praying and fasting, elsewhere in the world the church prays and fasts, for that is what she does while the Bridegroom is away.

We pray and fast that we would do as our Lord does and have compassion on those who cry out for mercy. For our Lord fasted from His glory, from His divine rights and power, subjecting Himself to the will of the Father in prayer so that He would have mercy on those that cried out to Him.

That is what Jesus did for this blind man. He had mercy on him. Rejected by society and even the crowd that followed Jesus, the blind man called out for mercy from the Son of David, the King of Israel. And no cry for mercy fails to reach the attentive ears of our Great King. Even on His way to do His work of redemption on the cross, the Lord of heaven and earth stops and even stops the multitude that is around Him and commands that this blind beggar be brought to Him. “What do you want me to do for you?” No more loving words have ever been spoken.

Love seeks the good of others. It rejoices in their well-being. Love seeks to bless others. So our Lord seeks to bless this man of faith who cried out, “Lord, have mercy!” What do you want me to do for you? “Lord, let me recover my sight.” That’s the blind man’s request. My blindness has caused be to become a beggar. It has removed me from society. It has hindered me on the way to Jerusalem where I would gather with the people of God in the house of the Lord.

The Lord answers: “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” Or it might well be translated, “Your trust has saved you.”

What faith? What trust? Trust that Jesus is the one sent to make all things new. Trust that this man on His way to Jerusalem is the prophesied Son of David who will restore sight to the blind and make the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and who will even raise the dead. Trust that God wants to bless and not curse; that He wants to heal and not hurt; that He wants to give life and not death.

We are not the Christ. We don’t march toward Jerusalem to atone for the sins of the world and to bring life and immortality to light by our resurrection from the dead. We are this poor blind beggar. We need the Lord’s mercy and compassion. We need His blessing and benediction. We need His attentive ear to hear our cry and we need His merciful answer: “What would have me do for you?”

It is done. Whatever you ask is done. Whatever it is yours. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to cry out to the Lord, “Lord, have mercy!” His ears are attune to your voice and the voice of your supplication.

So why do we so often – unlike this blind beggar – not get what we ask for? O you of little faith. It is all yours, heaven and earth and all things are yours for all things are Christ’s and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. Already you are kings. Already you have all that you want. So you suffer now? So, too was the man blind for a time. Christ opens the man’s eyes and He will heal you, too. Now? Who knows? That is not for us to debate. Rather, ours is the promise that the Son of David has mercy on sinners and loves His own. Already you have hidden in Christ all that for which you ask. All things are yours.

Consider Jesus. Already He had all things from His Father, even before His passion and death and resurrection. All things were made for Him and through Him. Yet still He suffered and died even though all things were His. Still He bore the crown of thorns on His brow and still He suffered the lashes of hell, the stripes by which we are healed. All things are His, and still He suffered and still died. Still He prayed and still He fasted.

So did the once blind beggar die. Who knows how or when, but all flesh is like grass: the grass withers and fades. Not only so, but is blind eyes that now see allowed him to follow Jesus to Jerusalem where his new eyes saw the Lord of Glory who had healed him, suffer and die a terrible death at the hands of wicked men. One might wonder if the man once blind prayed again for mercy, that his eyes would be shut so that he could not see. His now working eyes beholding the weeping Mary and the fearful Peter and the conversion of the Centurion. His now seeing eyes beheld the life-giving cross on which hung the salvation of the whole world, which was his salvation too. And your salvation.

So we pray and fast. Not to accomplish the salvation of the whole world, but to love the world as Christ has loved us. To do for them what they ask of us. Not that we would close our doors or acquiesce to their demands and false doctrine and lies, but that we would pray for them and show them the salvation of the whole world. We pray and fast because we suffer with the world as Christ suffered with and for the world. We suffer the effects of sin and we suffer the throws of death. But we are not blind as they are. The Lord has restored our sight so that we see.

We see the salvation of the whole world, a light to lighten the nations and the glory of His people, Israel. We see the risen Christ and therein lies our hope and our joy. We, like the blind beggar, cry out because we trust in Him to have mercy: “Lord! Have mercy!” And His ears hear our cry and He answers us: Here is my body, given for you; here is my blood, shed for you. Take, eat; take drink. My life is yours.

+ In Nomine Iesu +