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Quinquagesima - February 19, 2023

[Luke 18:31-43] 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. 32 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.

35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant.37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

 

The Cross, a Sight for the Blind

“But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”

​In today’s Gospel, a blind man receives his sight from Jesus. The disciples, on the other hand, who see Jesus, are blind to what He’s telling them. “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.” He will be mocked, treated shamefully, whipped, crucified, and killed. On the third day He will rise.

​Jesus tells them this about Himself in plain language, “But they understood none of these things.”

​The disciples, though seeing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, nevertheless remained blind regarding His coming cross. This isn’t the only time. In Matthew 16:21-23, directly after confessing the truth of who Jesus is, Peter then denies the cross of Jesus - “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

​Peter was thinking the the things of man and not the things of God. This is the state of natural man - unable to see the things of God - blind - “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them” [1 Corinthians 2:14].

​And, we, His disciples, sometimes keep more of this blindness in our own way of thinking than we realize. We are blind to the things of God until He opens our eyes and gives us sight. The cross is a sight for the blind to see when the eyes of their heart are opened. “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” [1 Corinthians 2:10].

​Just as our Lord’s words about His cross were not understood by His disciples in today’s Gospel, sometimes in His church today there are those who are present, who have been in the church many years perhaps, who see crosses before them every Sunday, but don’t actually know what the cross is about.

​What was happening on the cross? Why was Jesus up there? Is it merely an example of injustice, an innocent man being wrongly condemned? Is it merely a moral example of the dedication or sacrifice for others you must make? Is the cross of Jesus a bad thing that happened - something that makes us either mad or sad - which we are glad to be past?

​Some in the church, not understanding the cross, desire only empty crosses. They want the Lord to put the crucifixion behind Him. But Jesus, in His resurrection, though no longer on the cross, does not put the cross behind Him. Instead, He shines it forth.

​The resurrected Jesus, when He appeared to His disciples risen and alive again, showed them the nail marks in His hands and spear mark in His side - not because He was still suffering - but because His crucifixion for you is His glory and His love. The resurrected Lord proclaims and shows forth His crucifixion.

​Even after His resurrection and ascension into heaven, the New Testament sill calls Jesus ‘Christ-Crucified’. “We preach Christ crucified” [1 Corinthians 1:23]. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” [1 Corinthians 2:2]. Even in heaven, Jesus on the throne is called the Lamb on the throne - [Revelation 5:6-12] “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”

​The risen and living Lord is always the Lord-crucified-for-you. This makes Him your Savior. It’s in the cross of Jesus - Jesus crucified for you - that you see God’s love. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” [Romans 5:8]. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation - the atoning sacrifice - for our sins” [1 John 4:10].

​Many people are willing to believe many things about Jesus, but the truth about His cross has always been a stumbling block. “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” - but to those who are called, Christ on the cross is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” [1 Corinthians 1:23-25]. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

​Jesus came into the world so that those who are blind may see - and that those who think they see will become blind [John 9:39]. In every circumstance, do not hold on to your pride claiming you see best. Instead, be the blind man in today’s Gospel who knew himself to be blind and cried out, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”

​The purpose of the cross of Jesus is that sinners may be counted righteous because the Righteous One was counted the sinner. Now, in Jesus, we may die to sin and live to God. This is for all who believe.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” [1 Peter 2:24]. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” [1 Peter 3:18].

​The disciples saw the crucifixion and the resurrected Jesus physically, with their eyes, yet did not comprehend or believe it [Luke 24:16,30-31,37]. Yet, after His resurrection, Jesus did open their minds to understand the Scriptures [Luke 24:45] so that they could see.

​By nature, we don’t understand the cross of Jesus - we are blind to it. And, by nature, we don’t understand why we bear the crosses we bear. In every circumstance, ask that your eyes be opened - more and more, time and again - so that you may have seeing eyes which believe the goodness of Christ-crucified-for-you. Amen.

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