Jesus Will Stop For You. Quinquagesima 2016
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 18:31-43
February 6, 2015
“Jesus Will Stop for You”
Why should Jesus stop?
That may seem like a harsh question. Yet it is in the back of the minds of many people. Sometimes you’ll hear people say something like, “I don’t pray much. Why should God pay attention to my prayers? There are billions of people in this world asking Him for help. What’s so special about me, that He should listen to me?”
It’s a question that might have occurred to the blind man on the road to Jericho. It might even have seemed a little arrogant for him to shout at Jesus as Jesus passed with a great crowd down the road to Jerusalem.
After all, Jesus is the Son of David, the promised Christ, the King anointed to rule the nations forever. Does this man think this great King has nothing else to do, that He should interrupt His business and stop for a blind beggar? How do you feel when a beggar approaches your car when you’re waiting for a red light, on your way to work? Do you ever feel a little irritated or put out? What if they are yelling for help with a loud voice?
Besides this, Jesus is surrounded by a great crowd of people. Does this blind man think that no one else in the crowd might want to ask Jesus for a healing, for a miracle, for mercy? But they don’t interrupt Jesus’ procession to Jerusalem.
Maybe this is what the people who rebuke the blind man are thinking. Their rebuke could even seem devout and pious. “Why are you screaming at Jesus? You’re being prideful. Who do you think you are?”
Does this man think the world revolves around him? Does he think he’s so important that, of course, Jesus should stop what He’s doing and come to serve him, a blind beggar?
This is how we might think. But Jesus makes it clear by His actions and words that He does not think this way. He stops what He is doing to answer the blind man’s prayer. He puts Himself at the blind man’s disposal. He praises the man for his faith.
What gave the blind man such boldness?
He had heard good news about Jesus. He had heard that Jesus was able to cure the sick, the lame, the paralyzed. And he had heard that Jesus not only possessed such power, but that He was gracious and kind and did not turn away those who came to Him for help. Perhaps he had also heard about how Jesus had mercy and received even the greatest sinners in Israel. Perhaps he drew the conclusion that Jesus was the promised anointed one, or perhaps others told him that.
The blind man believed the good news that he heard. He had faith. And when his own conscience and others rebuked him and told him that Jesus had other things to do, he persevered in faith and believed that Jesus would have mercy. He believed in spite of everything that Jesus was able to heal him and that he wanted to heal him, even if it meant that he was the only one in a great crowd of people for whom Jesus would stop and give him his attention.
It was not that he thought highly of himself. He thought highly of Jesus’ mercy. He believed that Jesus’ mercy was greater than everything else. The blind man didn’t believe that he was the center of the universe. He believed that Jesus’ mercy and love were so great that Jesus was willing and able to deal with him as though he was the only one in the world.
Although this man couldn’t see with his eyes, he saw Jesus far better than most by faith. By faith He saw that Jesus was the son of David, the promised King and Savior. And by faith he saw—perhaps even better than the 12 disciples—what kind of a King Jesus was. He was and is not a king who came to be served but to serve. He came to give of Himself freely; to have mercy.
On the other hand, the earlier part of the gospel reading shows us how the disciples did not understand fully who Jesus is.
Of course the disciples understood that Jesus was God in human flesh. Three of them saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain. They saw Jesus tell the stormy winds and sea to be still and they obeyed Him. They saw Him raise the dead. Peter had confessed what all the disciples believed—that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is what the season of Epiphany that is now ending is about—Jesus revealing Himself as God incarnate, God with us in our flesh and blood.
The disciples believed and knew that Jesus was God with us, but they did not clearly see what that meant. They did not grasp well what the apostle John later wrote in his first epistle, that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
They believed Jesus was God. But when Jesus told them that what had been written by all the prophets was about to be fulfilled in His going to Jerusalem, they could not understand Him. They did not understand what the Scriptures said about God, nor did they fully understand Jesus.
“And taking aside 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.’ But they understood none of these things.” (Luke 18:31-34)
This was the third time Jesus told the disciples about His impending death. But they didn’t understand Him. Why didn’t they?
This did not fit with their understanding of who God is. They understood that God was all-powerful and glorious, holy and righteous. It was beyond their comprehension that the Son of God should be mocked, treated shamefully, spit on, and killed.
But Jesus told them this so that when the Scriptures were fulfilled and Jesus was handed over to shame and execution, they would not think that it happened accidentally, that Jesus didn’t know about it and couldn’t prevent it.
How could God be handed over to enemies, be mocked and spit on and be killed? Clearly, the only way this could happen to the eternal, Almighty God is if He let it happen. If He allowed Himself to be taken captive. If He allowed Himself to be mocked and spit on and nailed to a cross.
But in their minds, God would never allow this to happen. Why would He?
For the same reason He let Himself be stopped by the blind man on His way to Jerusalem. God is as great in mercy and love as He is in majesty and power. As His power and knowledge far exceed our ability to understand, so does His mercy.
His mercy is so great that He interrupted His procession to Jerusalem to be the servant of one blind beggar. He stopped to give this man his request, to heal him.
But His mercy is greater still. He finished His journey to Jerusalem so that He might serve each one of us individually by becoming sin for each one of us. He went and accomplished what no one was asking Him for, what no one would think of asking Him for. He bore our sin and atoned for us with His death.
Jesus saw clearly what was coming in Jerusalem and He went anyway. He did not go grudgingly but willingly to shame and spit and abuse and flogging and death. He went joyfully and suffered for the sins of each one of us. As He was lashed, as He was spit on, as He was laughed at and scorned, He healed us our guilt before God. As the prophet prophesied seven hundred years before, Jesus was “wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Is. 53: 5)
If the disciples had understood the Scriptures, they would have understood that this is what Jesus came to do, and that nothing short of this would save them from their sins and from condemnation.
And if they had known that only Jesus’ blood would save them from their sins, would they have dared to ask Him? Would they have said, “Please bear my sin; let Your divine majesty serve me, a sinner with no excuse. Let yourself be captured, mocked, put to shame, spit on, and crucified to pay for my transgressions”? Do you think they would have dared to ask for that?
Would we dare to ask that of the high and holy God, of our innocent and gentle Jesus?
Yet this is what God proclaimed through the prophets that He would do.
Like the disciples, we are slow to believe the Scriptures, and we are slow to believe in the love of God for us. We do not think highly enough of His love toward each one of us individually, or grasp the greatness of His mercy.
When the blind man yelled out for mercy Jesus allowed Himself to be stopped and caught by the man. He made Himself the man’s servant. In the depth of His love He allowed Himself to be taken captive by the man’s faith in Him.
Like the blind man we also cry out to Jesus for mercy in the liturgy. Like beggars we sing, “Lord, have mercy upon us” in the Kyrie. When we pray that to be sure we are asking that Jesus would bless and help and heal us in this life. But we are asking for an even greater gift; the forgiveness of our sins and for salvation.
But long before we started singing that, Jesus answered our cry. Or better—He answered your cry individually. He did not go to Jerusalem simply to die for the sins of the world as a mass. He died for each one of your sins individually. For your guilt, for your sins which cry out for your condemnation, Jesus willingly went to Jerusalem and was mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed to present you holy and righteous before God.
In answer to our cries for mercy, Jesus still stops and serves each one of us. He cleanses us with His blood as it is sprinkled on us in the preaching of the good news of his cross.
He feeds us the body that was nailed to the cross for us; He tells us to drink His blood which was poured out for us for the forgiveness of our sins.
Today as we prepare to enter the season of Lent in which we remember His suffering and death, Jesus tells us that He willingly endures all this for each one of us. Nothing else can take away your sins except for Jesus, who has mercy on you and endures your shame and punishment.
By the blind man’s example He encourages you to hold fast and believe that His mercy is for you, and is greater than you can comprehend. His love is deeper than we can grasp. No matter how much your faith expands it will never be able to exhaust the riches of His love and mercy.
We are often doubtful about whether God will listen to our prayers. He is so great and we are so small; the world is full of people and we are just average individuals, with nothing special about us. More than this He is holy and we have provoked His anger with our many sins.
We would never have dared to ask God to pay for our sins with His own humiliation and suffering. Yet He did, even when we did not ask. He did it for each one of you specifically and bore your sins. And if He did that, how will He deny us any other good thing?
Take courage. Jesus will stop for you.
In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Soli Deo Gloria