11. February 2024
Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. (Is 35:3-7)
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
We learned two weeks ago that we receive our wages according to His desire to give. Last week, we learned that we receive the Word according to His reckless love. As with the last two weeks, this last Sunday in the pre-Lent season teaches us to despair of ourselves and rely on the grace of Jesus. We are beggars before a merciful King. The Alleluias are about to disappear, but the Kyrie never does. Jesus’ ears remain constantly open to our cries for mercy. Today, we learn to cry to Him as beggars who have nothing but expect to gain all good things from His nail-pierced hand.
“And taking the twelve, he 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.’” This is the third time Jesus has foretold His death. This third one is the most detailed because Jesus has now set His face to go to the cross. And beginning this Wednesday, we will begin our journey with Him again. “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. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” The disciples were blind to what Jesus was saying. They would certainly see everything happen to Jesus. Still, they wouldn’t understand it rightly until Jesus appeared to His disciples on the day of His resurrection: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” This is why they cannot comprehend why Jesus would spend any time with a blind beggar by the road near Jericho. They neither hear nor know the Scriptures despite having heard and learned them from their youth.
The prophecy from Isaiah 35, “written about the Son of Man,” will begin to be fulfilled on the way with the healing of the blind man (35:5). The remainder of that prophecy will be fulfilled at the cross where the “haunt of jackals” (35:7) on Golgotha is transformed into the restoration of paradise to mankind. It is the cross of Jesus that gives context and meaning to everything else Jesus says, does, and promises. Indeed, it is the Christ crucified that gives meaning to all of human history and to your life also. Without the cross, you cannot comprehend who Jesus is, what He does, or even why He does it.
We can see parallels between the disciples and the blind beggar. They don’t see for themselves but have to ask things of others. We should also see ourselves as the blind beggar. We have nothing before Jesus. Our great sin is failing to realize this. We become confident of ourselves, like a blind man who thinks he has 20/20 vision, like a beggar who thinks he’s a millionaire. As we approach Lent, Jesus prepares us to see ourselves for what we are: blind beggars who need to see Jesus. Jesus repents us and turns us around to see Him in faith and cry out, “Lord! Have mercy on me!” This is the confession of trust in Jesus for healing, restoration, and renewal.
“And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” This is what the devil tries to do. He tries to make you silent before Jesus: “He doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to hear it, he doesn’t want to be bothered by you.” This is because prayer is detrimental to the devil’s schemes, as it says in the Large Catechism:
“What do you think has accomplished such great results in the past, parrying the counsels and plots of our enemies and checking their murderous and seditious designs by which the devil expected to crush us, and the Gospel as well, except that the prayers of a few godly men intervened like an iron wall on our side?… Now they may confidently ridicule and mock. But by prayer alone we shall be a match both for them and for the devil, if we only persevere diligently and do not become slack. For whenever a good Christian prays, “Dear Father, thy will be done,” God replies from on high, “Yes, dear child, it shall indeed be done in spite of the devil and all the world.” (III.31).
The opposition to the blind beggar’s prayer doesn’t silence him but makes him cry out louder still. This is what faith given by Jesus does: it clings to what it knows of Jesus and ignores everything else. With the inward eyes of his heart, this blind man saw inside of Christ more than all the Jews did with their outward eyes. Jesus just told His disciples He has an urgent date with death and yet takes the time to pause for our lowly human needs. Our Lord is never too busy or preoccupied to hear our petitions and begging.
When we pray the Kyrie during the Divine Service or privately, we can think of Jesus asking us this same question: “What do you want Me to do for you?” We don’t pray the Kyrie idly or mechanically, with nothing in particular in mind, but we trust that the same Lord who stopped this entire procession so that He could inquire of a blind beggar stops before us poor beggars and inclines his ear to us, too. It won’t be long before our eyes will sleep the sleep of death. What’s important is that our faith saved us, that our eyes will open again on the Last Day, and behold the same Lord who stands before us when His Word opens our eyes. It is this faith that we desire: saving faith that sees Jesus.
Jesus hears our prayers because Jesus died for us. Having been redeemed by Christ crucified and given the promise of resurrection in Christ’s resurrection, we can ask in faith, trusting in His promises. He has promised to hear our cries of “Kyrie eleison!” and answer them both now and eternally. We pray the same thing going into Lent. “Let me see again. Jesus, let me see again your cross and passion, your precious death and burial (Luke 22:47—23:56). Let me see again your blood of the new covenant, shed for me for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 22:20; Matthew 26:26-28). Let me see again your patient and kind love (1 Corinthians 13). Let me see again how you give up your body (Luke 22:19).” And Jesus proclaims to us, as He did to the blind beggar, “Recover your sight! Your Jesus has saved you!”
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin