Quinquagesima – Fifty Days to Easter
“Jesus Gives, Faith Receives”
St. Luke 18.31-43
03 March 2019
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
+ In the Name of Jesus +
A year or so ago we studied the book of Exodus in our adult Bible study on Sunday morning. As you may have read in the newsletter, we are now studying the letter to the Hebrews which draws upon so much of Exodus. But in Exodus chapter 10 we learned that before the bodily redemption from slavery of the children of Israel out of Egypt there came a plague of horrifying darkness, so that for three days no one could see anyone else, and no one could even get up from the place where he was. This showed the Egyptians’ inner darkness, unbelief, and bondage, because they did not want to recognize or acknowledge from the great miracles God had done through Moses the all-powerful hand of the living God, through which He wanted to redeem the children of Israel.
Likewise, before the spiritual redemption of the human race from the slavery of sin, which happened through Christ our Lord, there came a spiritual darkness of unbelief among the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, which also fell on the Lord’s disciples. For when the Lord preached beforehand of His suffering and eternal redemption, they didn’t understand it, it was hidden from their eyes, they didn’t know what was said and would not assent to it. St. Peter would even say, “Far be it from you, Lord” to suffer in such a way. This was a spiritual blindness and darkness.
To illustrate this, God arranged that sitting on the road was a man bodily blind, but spiritually seeing, enlightened in his heart through faith with the knowledge of Christ, and for this reason, for his prayer and faith, Christ also made him see.
So too our Lord Jesus, the eternal Light, wants to enlighten our blinds hearts, so that we might rightly understand the great work of our eternal redemption, and might recognize Christ in His Words and miracles, but especially from His suffering, and might enter into the heavenly Jerusalem with Him through the cross, and be saved eternally.
True faith, the faith through which we are forgiven of our sins and saved from death and hell, must not only know that Jesus suffered and died for us, it must also agree with it. Faith trusts in that suffering and death, through which Christ gave of Himself for the life of the world. Those who won’t hear of, think upon, or assent to the passion of Christ are faithless. They are not Christians.
What was it that the disciples were so blind to, but the blind beggar was so trusting in? Jesus said,
Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.
God himself willed the suffering and death of Jesus. Right after our first parents sinned, God promised a Savior who would suffer and die for them. God cursed Satan after he led Adam and Eve into sin. God told him that the seed of the woman would crush his head. Many years later, the Virgin Mary gave birth to a baby without ever knowing a man. Her baby, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and true man, was born to fulfill the promise God had given to his people repeatedly for thousands of years.
Christ’s suffering is not just some sentimental human tragedy. It was divinely ordained and divinely executed. St. John refers to Jesus in Revelation as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The prophet Isaiah said this about the Savior who suffered silently as a lamb to the slaughter, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him.” God planned and promised this for His own Son.
The offering of Isaac on Mt. Moriah foretold it. Isaac wasn’t sacrificed. Jesus was. The entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament typified it, as we’ve learned in our Bible classes on Exodus and Hebrews. A thousand years before his crucifixion, the psalmist spoke Christ’s words from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God told us what He intended to do for our sinful human race. The disciples and everyone else have little reason to be shocked about Jesus predicting His shameful death in Jerusalem, and obediently following through on it!
Jesus’ death was necessary, not for his own sake, but for yours. Apart from the sacrifice that He offered up to God on Calvary, the sin of the world would have remained on the world. When the righteous Son of Man bore the sin of sinners and made it His own, He gave to sinners His righteousness so that it would be their own. Jesus took your place in Jerusalem, at the hands of angry men, and upon the shameful cross. Out of great love for you, Jesus took the blame for your sins and freely gave you the credit for His righteousness. This is where your forgiveness comes from. This is how you are justified by God, and reconciled to Him.
There is no other way to be forgiven. We sinners cannot make ourselves righteous. It is impossible. Sinners sin. That’s what we do. We sin against God in thought, word, and deed, we do not love Him with our whole heart. We act out against our neighbors, we fail to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. No one is righteous, the Psalmist teaches, no not one. All have sinned and fallen short.
Jesus is the only human being who has purely thought, said, and done those righteous things that make one righteous before God. He alone is holy and pure, the spotless Lamb of God. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ to God on the cross is the only way sin could be forgiven. Apart from the suffering and death of Jesus, nobody is forgiven by God and the whole human race is lost forever. The suffering and death of Jesus is the only way we can receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Faith is knowledge, assent, and trust. Christians hear and know who Jesus is and what he has done for us, that He was handed over to evil people to be mocked, treated with contempt, and crucified, and knows that He rose from the dead. Christian faith knows this and assents to it, agrees with Jesus taking our sin and suffering for it, and trusts in this forgiveness that He alone wins for us. To trust in Jesus is to trust in the forgiveness of sins He alone can give. Faith doesn’t make forgiveness real. Jesus does. What so offended the disciples when Jesus told them about it – that He would be shamed, ridiculed, whipped, and killed – is what we trust in. All that Jesus suffered, He suffered for our benefit. Our faith receives that gracious benefit: forgiveness of sins and eternal life, on Jesus’ account.
“Jesus, I will ponder now, on Thy holy passion,” we sing every Lenten season. We don’t ponder the passion of Christ to see how perfectly our love conforms to Christ’s love. We ponder the passion of Christ to see how His love destroys our sin and reconciles us with God. At peace with God we can live at peace with our neighbor. Forgiven, we can forgive. Loved, we can love. The source and strength of our love is the love of God that sent his dear Son to be mocked, insulted, spit upon, whipped, and killed. There love triumphed over hatred. Christ’s resurrection proves it. Faith knows this, assents to it, and trusts in it – and thus receives all the blessings Christ has come to give, and still comes to give in His holy, Christian Church.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +