Sermon for Quinquagesima based on Luke 18:31-43
Dear saints calling to Jesus for mercy: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus foretold His suffering and death on multiple occasions to His disciples. He clearly and specifically told them what must happen to Him in Jerusalem. This should not have been news to them. It is the same thing the prophets had preached and written for thousands of years. It is the same thing that was preached in the synagogues and wherever the Word of God was read.
Jesus told them on this occasion, “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.”
The disciples understood none of these things. The disciples were content to follow a great teacher and miracle worker. They could not see Him as a sacrifice.
The blind man could see what the disciples could not. Mark provides his name to us: Bartimaeus. Blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus for mercy. He prayed for Jesus to have pity on him and show him compassion because He is the Son of David – the Son promised to David who would reign forever (cf. II Sam. 7).
To Bartimaeus, Jesus was not just a great teacher and miracle worker. He was the promised Saviour of the world, the eternal king who reigns in grace and mercy, the Son of David on His way to Jerusalem to be the sacrifice for sin.
Thus, Bartimaeus would not be hushed. Even as the crowds rebuked him and told him to shut up, he would not be deterred. He cried all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” He didn’t care what the crowds thought of him. He didn’t care what the crowds said to him. He cared only for Jesus to have mercy on him.
Sin has infected all of us. It causes our behaviour to to be out of line with what is good and right. It causes evil words and wicked thoughts. It causes discontentment, anger, lust, jealousy, pride, and every other sinful desire.
Sin also causes ailments of body and mind. It is the cause of blindness. It is the cause of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and every illness of the body. It is the cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, and every illness of the mind. Thus, there really is no distinction between physical and mental infirmities and the affliction of sin which afflicts us all.
Bartimaeus believed that Jesus was his Saviour from sin, which meant that he believed that Jesus was his Saviour from all the effects of sin, including his blindness. When Jesus forgives sin, He also removes all the evil and harm that sin causes. We will not realize the removal of all evil and harm that sins causes until these bodies of ours that are corrupted by sin rise again, but Jesus forgives our sins now so that we have His promise to which we look forward.
This is why Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and this is what the prophets had foretold about Jesus. Through His suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus restored all that was lost in Adam. He overthrew the devil, killed death, destroyed hell, opened heaven, and restored life again. He conquered sin and all the effects of sin, whether mental, physical, or spiritual.
By pointing to the writings of the prophets, Jesus shows also that the Gospel is not a new teaching. There has never been any way to be received by God except through the mercy of the Son of David. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not saved by their works, but by the mercy of God through the promised sacrifice for sin yet to come. So also we are not saved except by the mercy of the promised sacrifice for sin who has come and been sacrificed for our offences.
Jesus headed to Jerusalem willingly, even though He knew what would face Him there. The disciples did not understand why Jesus was going to Jerusalem or why He had to die. Jesus went to Jerusalem and died for them anyway. He suffered and died for those who did not understand His clear words and the words of the prophets predicting what would happen, and He saved them.
Afterward, they would understand. They would understand and take this good news of victory over sin to the ends of the earth. They followed in their Saviour’s footsteps, picking up their cross and following Him, which meant that they too would suffer for His name’s sake, and all but one be killed by those who hated Jesus.
Once their eyes were opened to who Jesus is, they too realized with Bartimaeus that nothing else matters as long as Jesus has mercy on them and gives them eternal life.
The world will act like the crowds acted to Bartimaeus. The world will tell you that you are wasting your time praying to Jesus. You’re not important enough for Him to help you. You’re just a poor, blind beggar on the side of the street. Be quiet. Of course, the crowds telling Bartimaeus to be quiet didn’t believe that Jesus was anything more than a good teacher, so they may even have suggested to him that Jesus cannot help him.
Jesus cast all this aside and called for Bartimaeus to be brought to Him. Jesus healed him and said, “Your faith has made you well.”
Despite what the world tells you, Jesus also calls you to Him. In Baptism He put His name on you. In Absolution He forgives your sin so that its effects will one day no longer afflict your mind, body, and soul. He gives you His body and blood to strengthen you to life everlasting.
Therefore, you will continue to call to your Saviour for mercy. You will continue to praise Him, glorify Him, and thank Him more emphatically, so long as He gives you breath. And He will continue to show mercy to you and take you to Himself, that where He is, you may be also. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.