“The Blind See”
Seminarian Brendan Harris, Vicar
St. Luke 18.41-42
14 February 2021
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus ☩ Christ; Amen.
Friends in Christ, the journey is about to begin. Today we have the relief of St. Valentine’s Day, but with the coming of Quinquagesima, we stand before the precipice of Lent, with Ash Wednesday arriving this very week. We stand before a time where we shall be called to gird up our loins, tighten our belts, and journey on through the hardest leg of the course. And yet, if we have learned anything, we know that we do not do so without reason, and we don’t go at it alone. It is then fitting in our Gospel this morning that we begin with an address from Jesus, an address given to the troops about to go out into battle: “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.” These said troops, of course, it must be said did not catch the full meaning of what Jesus was talking about. Even though Jesus was speaking to His apostles, His twelve closest friends and companions, out of concern for their hides, for their health and wellbeing, out of their caring of themselves and of their master only according to the flesh, they failed to comprehend this thing which has been prophesied which must come to pass. The world of sin, which they were born into, which we have all been born into, left them blind to the greater good which Jesus was willing to forfeit His life for. Indeed, it was for this reason that Jesus undertakes His journey, so that the eyes of His blind loved-ones might be opened, and they might see what great love was about to be accomplished, even though the road had to be long, and hard, and painful.
And so we set off, on to Jerusalem, blissfully unaware and blind to the greater significance of things. Now, it’s easy to rag on the apostles for their shortcomings, but which of us, I ask you, could have comprehended the sayings? Which of us could have opened the Scriptures of old and told the time and the season? We can’t even see what’s going to happen tomorrow, and those who are wise know full well they have not even truly comprehended the many things which have already come to pass. Truly, we look through a mirror dimly, we try to interpret the entire course of the world through a glass darkly, and all we see is the reflection of our own eyes, our own twisted figures looking back at us; we might as well not be able to see at all. For who can look past the veil of death and tell us what’s on the other side? Who has looked on a dead man and seen breath in his lungs or a spark of life in his eye? We look as if at a brick wall. We see no evidence with our eyes of the things to come. But thanks be to God that we have a Savior who has seen, and who can be seen, and who will open our eyes to those things which we cannot now see.
Thus it is with eyes wide open that our Savior marches up to the city followed by a crowd, by a gang of supporting groupies, who were even blinder as to what was going to happen than the apostles. Yet it is also along this road, along this way, that we encounter one who was not blind. Oh yes, we know for certain that this man’s eyes didn’t work, he was truly and clinically, completely diagnosably blind, and yet, he saw something that no one else there could see. This man, who St. Mark tells us was surnamed Bartimaeus, had been made blind—maybe at birth, maybe when he was older, we don’t know for sure—but what we do know, is the Lord saw fit to allow this man to be blinded, so that he could receive a great gift from the Lord. And we have the blind with us even today—some are born without ever receiving the gift of sight—yet the Lord only withholds such gifts for a time and a season, so that we might turn to Him with the eyes of faith, the eyes which really see, so that we might look to Him to be our eyes. For this man, this Bartimaeus, felt the Spirit of the Lord move his heart, he felt a change in the wind blowing as the chattering crowds came by. Through the noise of the spectacle, this man had been given the gift to see through it all and zeroed in on what was important like a scope. Bartimaeus full well knew what the Scriptures had said of old, for he knew that the prophet Samuel had anointed David, the greatest king over all Israel, and that the Lord had promised David that another would come from him in time in order to also be anointed, but as the Christ, the eternal King of Israel. Therefore, Bartimaeus did what anyone should’ve done in the presence of their king; he hailed Him. While the crowds were blind to the status of their guest, Bartimaeus refused to let the king pass by without His dues, and so cried unto Him: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Now the crowds had their peace disrupted, and this unsightly and unseeing man was shouting over top of them. And what’s more, this beggar did not cry out for alms from just anybody. In the days of old, when the king would come to town, whether it be Alexander the Great or Augustus Caesar, the proper thing to do was to go out to the streets to greet him, and hail him with the call of “Lord, have mercy.” That is, Kyrie Eleison. Thus, Bartimaeus had just effectively used the call-sign of the Roman emperor upon this Jesus of Nazareth; he had acknowledged Jesus as a king. The crowds here were friendly to Jesus, however they were not so friendly as to risk their lives for such a confession as this, and so they duly attempted to shush the man. Yet he would have none of it, for the eyes of faith had found their mark, they had seized the king’s mercy and clung to Him for dear life, and so he cries again, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” And this time, the crowd failed to stifle the uproar, and the cry fell upon the king’s ears, and Jesus stopped. The Lord knew that this man, though he was blind, truly saw Him and who He was. And so the king called His court, and they assembled around Him, and this petitioner was brought forth before His holy see, and the king gave the customary address: “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” So the blind man asked for his gift of sight to be extended from his heart to his physical eyes, that he might see his Lord with the eyes of body and of soul, and so the king graciously and immediately grants it with His effective decree: “Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee.”
Yes, dear friends, we are blind in this life. We look through a mirror dimly, a glass darkly, but here we have been given something we can see, and can feel. For this Son of David has come to remove the scales from your eyes, the anointed one comes to give your eyes the proper ointment of His blood, that they might see with Bartimaeus and acknowledge their king. In His Baptism, you have been given these same eyes which pierce the veil of blindness that you received at birth, for through the waters you are reborn in Jesus’ blood. Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, you now see the Cross of Christ for what it is: love, love outpoured for the entire world, love that runneth over unto all who would see it. Through Him, you now see the world with bloodstained eyes, and may rejoice even though we must journey along this hard road. So look upon your brothers like they were Bartimaeus, for like him, you were blind but now you see; you see your Savior, and you see your friends and brothers in Jesus’ image. Do not hesitate to share this love with them, for the king is most generous, and shall never stop giving. And so friends, let us go up to the City of God, for He is present here in His court, and will most graciously hear our pleas. Take heart, friends, for in this coming journey, in this Lent, we shall walk in the love of God all the way. Happy St. Valentine’s Day.
In Jesus ☩ Name; Amen. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; Amen.