Sunday, February 7, 2016

Blinded by Sight

February 7, 2016
 Seeing is believing, right? Someone tells you an amazing thing and you can’t bring yourself to believe it. You have to see it for you to believe it. You can’t know it until you know it for yourself. Sometimes taking the word of another person isn’t enough for us. We have to see to believe.

And so it was with the disciples. They weren’t much different from us, we’re not much different from them. Jesus spoke to them often of who He was, what He had come to do. He was clear in why He had come and what specifically would happen to Him. But they continued to not get it. They continued to not believe.

In the Gospel reading Jesus says to them that they are going up to Jerusalem where everything that was written in the prophets concerning the Son of Man would be fulfilled. Now, they knew the Scriptures. They knew what the prophets had prophesied. They knew Jesus was the Son of Man, the messiah promised in the Old Testament. And yet, their faith was lacking. They didn’t believe that the promises would be fulfilled in the way Jesus said they would.

Handed over to the Gentiles. Mocked, shamefully treated, spit upon. Being flogged and then actually killed. Even the part about after three days being raised from the dead didn’t register with them. How could the prophecies of the Old Testament be fulfilled in Jesus if He was going to His death? The Gospel reading says that they didn’t understand anything Jesus was saying to them. The saying was hidden from them and they didn’t grasp what He was saying.

They were blinded. Jesus was spelling it out clearly, but they couldn’t see it. They weren’t able to comprehend the clear Gospel message of the suffering and death and resurrection of the one they were putting their hope in. Their eyes were blinding them. Their insistence on trying to grasp this, to make sense of it, was clouding the clear picture of a Savior who got down in the muck of sin and dealt with that sin by putting it to death in His own.

You can well imagine that when the moment actually came and they were seeing Jesus with their own eyes being beaten and mocked and hanging on the cross, slowly dying, that their eyes saw only their Master who was now coming to an end. What they were seeing did not appear to them as fulfillment of the Old Testament but a tragic loss.

But what their eyes saw was exactly what Jesus had said would be seen. They were blinded by sight. They were unable to grasp that Jesus dying on the cross was good news. It was the Gospel itself. This is why Jesus had told them beforehand.

On His way to Jerusalem He came to a town called Jericho and there was a beggar on the side of the road. He was blind so obviously couldn’t see what was going on. But he heard. He heard the commotion of a crowd of people going by. What was going on? What was he missing? When he was told that Jesus of Nazareth was going by he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

This is the cry of faith. It is true understanding, true knowing of who Jesus is. It is seeing Jesus not by sight but by faith. Jesus had spelled it all out for the disciples and they didn’t get it. They just couldn’t see it happening, it made no sense. The blind man, however, he heard. They spoke to him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by and he believed in Him. He wasn’t going on sight, he couldn’t see. He wasn’t questioning the people who told him, he simply believed.

And so, when Jesus had given the man his sight, He said to him, “Your faith has saved you.” The man was granted mercy by Jesus not because he calculated the likelihood of it being true. He wasn’t blessed by Jesus because he understood Jesus any better than the disciples did. He was granted his plea because he believed in Jesus. The blind man was the one who could truly see, whereas the disciples, whose eyes worked just fine, were the ones who were blind.

Why do you suppose when Jesus told them He was going to suffer and die and rise He didn’t just tell them, “Hey guys, this is going to happen, you’re going to have to be prepared for it”? Why was it that He made a distinct point of saying that these things would happen as fulfillment of the Scriptures? It is because faith comes by hearing. A follower of Christ does not have faith because he sees. It’s not because he’s got it all figured out and understands the mysteries of God becoming flesh and suffering and dying and miraculously rising from the grave. A person has faith because he has heard.

The apostle Paul says in Romans 10 that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. This is exactly what happened to the blind man. He heard the proclamation of Jesus of Nazareth and he believed. The disciples heard it too but their faith was not right. They didn’t hear this Word of Christ as the simple, blessed Gospel that it was. They wanted to make Jesus their Savior in their own image. As one who didn’t have to suffer and didn’t have to die. They were blinded by their sight.

Early on in the Christian Church there was this struggle between what is seen and what is not seen. In the Old Testament it was commanded that God’s people be circumcised. Shouldn’t Gentiles being converted to Christianity be circumcised just as the Jews were? After the resurrection of Christ and the enlightening day of Pentecost Peter now understood that salvation was not through a neatly-wrapped method but by the work of Jesus in suffering, dying, and rising. So what he said to the people who were struggling with what they saw with their eyes, namely, that you have to fulfill the command of God in order to be saved, was this, from Acts 15:

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us, and He made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.”

Is anything different today? Do we still look for God to show us His love before we will believe it? When things we take for granted in life begin to unravel do we question God’s power and His love for us? Do we have to see it before we will believe it? How many people look around in the world and see a messed up world instead of seeing the loving stamp of God and therefore do not believe in Him? How often do we ourselves call His Fatherly care for us into question because we struggle through trials?

We need to see as the blind man did and not as the disciples did. We need to see with the eyes of faith not the eyes of the mind. We need to come to be at peace with the truth of what the apostle Paul says in 2Corinthians 5, that we walk by faith, not by sight. We need to rest in the promise of God, that, as He says in Isaiah 55,

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

This is the beauty of faith. It is the great blessing God gives to us that His saving us doesn’t rest upon us. True faith does not look to itself. It doesn’t rely on the act or the desire of mustering up enough faith. It clings to Christ. It doesn’t look to ourselves but to the one who came to fulfill all that was written in the prophets, our Lord who was delivered over, was mocked and beaten, and who suffered, died, and was raised. Faith doesn’t try to figure it all out or wonder about God, whether He is going to get on track with us, but simply rests in the promise, as Paul says it in the Epistle reading, “Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

When we live by faith we live by the promises of our Lord, not by sight. We don’t look at Baptism and believe what we see but what we don’t see. We believe that in that very water connected with the Word of Christ is new, eternal, and abundant life. We look at the bread and wine our Lord offers us in His meal and don’t give thanks for what we see but rather what we don’t see, the body our Lord gave over on the cross now given to us and the blood He shed on the cross now offered to us for the forgiveness of our sins.

Otherwise we are blind. We see only what we want to see. Living by faith is living as a blind beggar, crying out for mercy, believing your Lord will give you mercy. Resting not in your sight but the faith given you in Baptism, which clings to your Lord and His promises and His salvation. Amen. 


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