The Resurrection of our Lord is the fulcrum, the center point, of the church year. Everything flows from it, and everything flows to it. It is the greatest mystery of godliness. Christmas time introduced us to this mystery as God is revealed in the flesh. Lententide, which begins Wednesday, covers this mystery in an even deeper and more incomprehensible way. The incarnate Son of God humbles Himself in the suffering of His crucifixion in order to earn salvation for lost sinners.
The next six weeks compels a lively and more faithful knowledge of the blessed mystery of our salvation in Christ. The healing of the blind man by Jesus on His way to Jerusalem is the ideal way to enter into Lent. We hear today that our salvation is only in the crucified and risen Son of God.
The first promise of a Savior is given to Adam and Eve. God willing we will hear the full context next weekend. For now we hear the promise itself. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. The last promise comes from the mouth of Malachi under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. In between these two prophecies are many more assurances that Messiah is coming.
Messiah comes to suffer. 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. Jesus suffers in His soul. He suffers agony in Gethsemane. The wrath of His Father goes on Him. He suffers the torments of hell for our sake, even crying out My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? This terrible suffering pays for the guilt of sin. It is the atonement, the sin offering, for the punishment of our sin. Through it Jesus overcomes the devil, death, and hell. Divine righteousness is satisfied. Redemption is perfected, prepared for, and acquired for all sinners. Hence our Lord’s last words from the cross: It is finished.
Christ’s suffering and death is the penultimate note. His rising from the dead is the ultimate note, the confirmation of His work of atonement for our sake. Without the resurrection, everything that comes before it is in vain. In the resurrection we see the revelation of His glorious victory over all our enemies. We see the completion of His work of salvation sealed, for Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
It is one thing for our blessed Lord to acquire salvation. He also appropriates His salvation to us. We don’t often hear the word “appropriation” these days. We usually think of it in the context of our government. Congress sets aside public funds for a specific use. That’s federal appropriation. The Illinois General Assembly does the same thing on the state level. Another definition of “appropriation” is “to claim or use, especially as by an exclusive right.” That’s what Jesus does with His salvation for us. He uses it by an exclusive right to save us.
Our Savior could cling to His salvation on our behalf. He could dangle it as a carrot in front of us. He could demand that we clean up our act, get our spiritual room tidied in order to make way for His saving benefits. He does no such thing. His work of salvation is exclusively for sinners, not for those who used to be sinners. Yes, you are holy by virtue of believing that Jesus Christ shed blood for your sin and was raised from the dead for your sake. Yet while you remain in the flesh, you also remain a sinner. You need Jesus to appropriate what is His for you.
Consider the blind man in today’s Gospel. He believes Jesus is able to do something about his malady. We get a clue that the man believes Jesus is more than merely a man when he persistently cries out: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Note that he says this after the crowd tells him Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. What’s the difference between the two titles? One is Jesus’ earthly title. It’s like saying David from Du Quoin. Calling Jesus Son of David, however, is a Messianic title. The blind man knows more about the Lord than perhaps most of the crowd.
Hearing the blind man call Him Son of David, Jesus stops dead in His tracks. What do you want Me to do for you He asks? Lord, let me recover my sight. Jesus gives what the blind man desires. Immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him, glorifying God. Jesus appropriates sight to a blind man. He has the authority to do it.
You, like the blind man, outside of Christ, are spiritually blind. You can’t see your way to Paradise. Jesus, however, has the authority to give you sight. He appropriates vision. He creates trust that He is your Savior in hearing His Word, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
Jesus appropriates salvation by the Holy Spirit when He shows from the Law the misery of sin. Once you hear your miserable state, He then proclaims an end to misery in Christ Jesus. He alone accomplishes redemption. He alone is able to give His redemption to you. When you receive it, when you believe it, you are born from above as God’s own child. You are washed in the waters of baptism. Your desire is to receive more of what the Lord has for you. Your desire is to live in peace with God and with your neighbor, putting your body to work to serve Him as you serve others.
Lent is the season when we consider the depths of our depravity because of sin. Lent is a special season where repentance is encouraged. Yet sin and repentance run through every season of the church year, as does the joy we have in Christ’s completed redemption and resurrection for us. It is, indeed, a happy Lent. Our joy is muted, but not fully silenced. We know what lies at the end of the forty days of Lent. When we get there, we will see what a wonderful Savior we have, Who is willing to trample down death and cover us with His blood that we might be His children.