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See, We Are Going Up To Jerusalem (St. Luke 18.31-43)

Quinquagesima

“See, We Are Going Up To Jerusalem”
Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus       

St. Luke 18.31-43

27 February 2022

 

SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Today we stand at the gateway to the Passion of our Lord. 

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.”

I usually prefer the first word to be translated “Behold,” calling attention to something important, but our ESV uses the word “See.” It marks something of significance. On the pilgrim way to Jerusalem one went through Jericho. Jesus’ journey will continue to Bethphage and Bethany. Then he will enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

This is the third Passion prediction by Jesus. He has been teaching his disciples what must happen at Jerusalem. Everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man is about to be accomplished. 

For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. 

We would be right in saying that they “didn’t see it.” They were blind to what his words meant. They couldn’t grasp it with their feeble minds. 

At first, I didn’t see it—pun intended!—where this reading was going. The two parts don’t seem to fit. The journey is interrupted by Jesus healing a blind beggar. Luke presents a man who is physically blind. His life has been reduced to begging for alms and whatever people will put in his bowl. Yet when this blind man hears that Jesus is passing by he shouts out to him, calling him by his messianic name, “Son of David.” The crowd tells him to be silent but the more they tell him the more he shouts out to Jesus to have mercy on him. He sees, but not in the physical sense. He has faith. Jesus healed him of his blindness so we can say that this man was twice blessed with sight. Another pun fits here: “‘I see,’” said the blind man.” We get the play on words when we listen carefully. To “see” in this context is to have faith, to understand, to “get it.” What is more, this man followed Jesus, that is, he became a disciple.

There is a certain tension in the Gospel accounts of our Lord’s announcement, like two musical themes playing out against each other. While I am certainly no musical scholar there are a few pieces where even I can pick out the opposing themes. I should have paid closer attention in Mrs. Anderson’s Music Appreciation class at Concordia Prep. She was a kindly, elderly lady, much like a grandmother. Being a multiple-degreed graduate of Juilliard School of Music should have been enough, but I think my classmates and I  likely would have been more attentive if she had been a shapely young woman! Take Brahms First Symphony for example. The opening 16 bars are very ominous, heavy, much like the well-known opening eight notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The listener is not yet sure of the endings because other motifs are brought in. The music seems to be struggling against itself much of the time until there is finally a resolution in the fourth movements. Such tension and themes pull the listener through to the conclusion. The composer has told his story musically.

I want to run with that today. The disciples, who have been with Jesus for almost three years are blind. “See,” Jesus said, but the Twelve didn’t see. They couldn’t grasp mocking, shameful treatment, spitting upon, flogging, and then, crucifixion before resurrection. The journey to Jerusalem is completely puzzling to them. It’s the suffering part that they cannot see. We get frustrated with the disciples. “Why can’t you see this?” we ask. They simply did not understand any of it. God had hidden it from their eyes, so to speak. To fail to grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words is the same as not believing. Misunderstanding and unbelief are major motifs in Luke’s Gospel, kind of like those musical themes I mentioned. We aren’t sure where the music is going. It isn’t until the resurrection that we finally “see” it. Our risen Lord said:

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [Luke 24.44-47]

Human reason always gets in the way of faith. That you get forgiveness of sins and eternal life by doing nothing, not contributing anything, flies in the face of sinful human reason. That you get all of the merits Christ has earned by being baptized with water is scandalous to many even though they call themselves Christians. Reason says one must decide. Faith simply accepts what God says. 

What Jesus accomplished in his trip to Jerusalem with all the malignant things that happened to him serve to purchase our redemption. Luther said:

“It does not even occur to human reason that alone by baptism and faith in Christ, everything necessary for salvation is done.” [House Postils, vol. 1, p. 304]. 

At times we are blind to what God is doing in our lives. In spite of our Lord’s own words that we are to trust and not worry, we don’t trust and we do worry. What if the outcome isn’t what we want? What if my plans are completely changed? We are prisoners of our own sinful emotions and defective reason. We simply cannot see anymore than this blind man could see what was in front of his eyes. We don’t like to see things are they really are, and so we block out reality. We delude ourselves. We don’t see with the eyes of faith.

But God the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, enlightens you with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the true faith by means of the Word and Sacraments. So, we are now going with Christ up to Jerusalem again in this Lenten season. Unlike the twelve disciples we see! We understand that our Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed the world by his death and been raised to life again where he lives and reigns to all eternity. We are like the blind beggar who was twice-blessed with sight. We see with the eyes of faith. God the Holy Spirit bless your Lenten journey by helping you to see Christ and God’s will in redeeming you, that you see the glory of Christ’s resurrection and your own. God keep strengthening your faith and all Christian virtues!

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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