Quinquagesima – Luke 18:31-43

“Get your shoes on, boy. Let’s go.”

That’s how my brother Jim would let me know it was time to go with him somewhere when I was a child. It might be running errands. It might be a drive through the country. No matter where we went, it was fun to tag along with my big brother.

Jesus tells His disciples in Luke chapter 18 that it’s time to go to Jerusalem. Unlike my trips with Jim, the disciples knew where they were going and why they were going. They heard it, but they didn’t understand it.

Perhaps you have forgotten why Jesus goes to Jerusalem. You’ve heard it all your life but for one reason or another it doesn’t sink in why Jesus will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. It doesn’t make sense why the Church spends time pondering why He will be scourged and killed only to rise from the dead.

The disciples forget why these things must happen to Jesus. He says to them, Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem. Saint Luke adds [The disciples] understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken. When Jesus tells His disciples about His upcoming Passion, it’s a mark of confidence He has in them. Nevertheless, their thoughts are still earthly minded. It’s as if our Lord spoke one language and the disciples another. No habla Espanol. Jeg ved det ikke. What did He say?

No one can say that about the blind man. He has excellent lungs. He sits by the road and hears a multitude passing by. He wonders what is going on. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. What happens next puts the disciples, you, and me to shame. He cries out Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! The blind man doesn’t call Him “Jesus of Nazareth” but Jesus, Son of David. That’s a cry of faith. The blind man knows Who Jesus is and why He is among us. The blind man believes without seeing. Just in case you didn’t hear it the first time, he yells our Lord’s name again.

Jesus stands still. The cry for the Son of David stops Him in His tracks. He goes no farther until He helps the one making that racket about the Son of David. Jesus came to the blind man and healed him. If Jesus restores sight to the blind, what sickness of yours might He heal?

The worst sickness you have is sin. You daily suffer from the ravages of sin. It is Jesus’ heart and will to suffer as well. He will cry out too. He will cry out in agony as He suffers torture and death for you. The grave will cry out in defeat when Jesus rises triumphant from the dead.

Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection go together. You can’t see the one without the other. The disciples are clueless about why they must walk with Jesus to Jerusalem. When they see everything that happens on that great and holy week, they can’t help but speak God’s mercy over His children through Jesus Christ. The message of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and destruction of death is why they journey with Jesus to Jerusalem. The healing of the blind man is only the beginning.

Consider the first stanza of Paul Gerhardt’s familiar Passion hymn:

A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,
The guilt of sinners bearing
And, laden with the sins of earth,
None else the burden sharing;
Goes patient on, grows weak and faint,
To slaughter led without complaint,
That spotless life to offer,
He bears the stripes, the wounds, the lies,
The mockery, and yet replies,
“All this I gladly suffer.”

            Did you catch that last verse? “All this I gladly suffer.” Perhaps it would be nice if Jesus stands still another forty days. He won’t have to go to Jerusalem. He won’t have to suffer. He won’t have to die. He’ll stay put to comfort, console, and love.

Jesus cannot stand still any longer. Neither can you. Remember, He said, We are going to Jerusalem; first person plural. You’re in it for the long haul. It’s your sins, and mine, that nail Him to the cross. If we were to view Christ’s external suffering and agony, we would be greatly saddened and sympathetic. Maybe that’s why the Passion narrative is so painful to hear each Lent. It’s my fault, but I don’t want to hear it.

Look past the pain and hear again the Lord Jesus say, “All this I gladly suffer”. His suffering and death is for you. The brightness of our Lord’s death shines on through dark, dreary days when pain and suffering shatters our souls. Jesus stands still today long enough to forgive your sins and invite you to walk with Him to Jerusalem.

“Get your shoes on, beloved. Let’s go.”

(from 2007 and 2010)

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