St. Luke 18:31-43; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
March 3, 2019 + Immanuel Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Virginia
Isn’t it an incredible chapter, St. Paul’s description of love in 1 Cor. 13? Perhaps it’s incredible in the literal sense, as not credible, not to be believed. For who loves like that? The beautiful words become thunderclaps exposing our hypocrisy.
The Word of God declares, “You have not suffered long with your neighbor. Instead, you have lost your temper and spoken ill of him. You have not been kind, but sought your own benefit.”
Have you paraded yourself or been puffed up? Then you have not love. Have you behaved rudely, been arrogant and boastful? Then you have not love.
Have you measured everything by what pleases you? Too easily you are provoked. Has your mind been filled with anger, revenge, and thoughts of how you’ve been wronged? Is it love that fills your thoughts and fantasies – or is it lust? Have you rejoiced in iniquity, taken pleasure and delight in things you know are displeasing to God? Then you have not love.
Love bears all things, endures all things, but you have said, “Enough! I will bear no more! Love has a limit.” We want our sins forgiven, but keep a record of how we’ve been sinned against.
In all of this we show that we still speak as a child, understand as a child, think as a child.
And for all this we deserve God’s judgment. We are not good people, for we have not lived as God’s people. How can we expect God’s love when we have not loved? How can you expect God’s forgiveness when you place conditions on whether you will forgive?
But for all this, for all your lack of love, for all humanity’s lack of love, God comes not to judge but to be judged. God became man, the Word became flesh precisely so that after demonstrating His love in every act of compassion and kindness – through healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, feeding the hungry and raising the dead – so that after all these demonstrations of love, He could announce to His disciples one last great act of love: the atonement of the world’s sin, the dying of man’s death: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. And they will scourge Him and put Him to death. and the third day He will rise again.” This is how He demonstrates His love, by giving Himself over to the death we deserve, the judgment we deserve, the hell we deserve.
This is how He loves you. Do you see it? The disciples don’t. They cannot comprehend a judge who judges by being judged. They cannot fathom a messiah who conquers by being conquered. They cannot see the redemption of the world in the death of God’s Son. They cannot see any of this.
But look! Immediately after hearing that the disciples cannot see, we encounter a blind man. It is only the blind man who sees. He sees with his ears. He hears the tumult and commotion, a great throng on the road to Jericho. “What’s happening?” the blind man asks. They answer, “Jesus of Nazareth is coming.”
He’s heard of this Jesus. Having only his ears to go by, the blind man has heard the good news that Jesus is mercy in the flesh, that this Jesus loves the unlovable. He shouts, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” But this blind bedraggled beggar is a bother to those close to Jesus. “Shut up!” they hiss at him.
That’s not a nice thing to say. And yet don’t we say it in all kinds of ways to people whose problems we would prefer they keep to themselves? We like to converse with people who share our interests, or who maybe can make the right introduction and help us climb. But the annoying or awkward person? “Be quiet!” we say, hoping they will soon go away.
And then our conscience chimes in as well. “What, you’re going to pray now, when you’ve made a mess of things, but you couldn’t be bothered to pray before? Be silent, hypocrite!”
At other times doubts creep in. Why should I call upon God? He is not listening, perhaps He does not exist. Why waste your time babbling like a mad fool? Be silent!
Here on the cusp of Lent, we can learn from the blind man who sees. He will not be silent, but cries out all the more: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus does. Because that’s what Jesus does, that’s who Jesus is: Mercy, love, the One who keeps no record of wrongs, the One who pardons the unpardonable and repairs what seems ruined.
The blind man sees, and seeing with his eyes what he has already seen with his mind, he praises God and becomes a disciple of Jesus.
He follows Jesus. To where? To the cross. For that is where Jesus is going. Not by Himself. He is taking us with Him. It is a road of sadness and loss, violence and poverty, agony and strife. But at the end, life. For on the third day, Jesus will rise again from the dead. That is the journey we are setting out upon, as Lent begins this Wednesday. It is a journey with Jesus to His cross. But on the other side of the cross is eternal life. And through it all, the love of God for us loveless, selfish sinners.
So cry out to Him as the blind man, begging His mercy. He who is love, and has already loved you to the end, will surely give it.