Saturday, February 10, 2018

Jesus' Journey to Jerusalem

Luke 18:31-43 Taking the twelve, Jesus 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.
            Over the course of his life Jesus traveled up to Jerusalem many times to fulfill the religious requirements of the law—but this would be his final journey and he wanted his disciples to go with him. 
He wants the same for us this Lenten season--that we would travel with him to the cross.  Jesus wants us to see what he did for the salvation of the world and for our own salvation.  He wants us to once again see and know how great is the Father’s love for us.    
In the old King James Version Jesus says:  “Behold”!  In other words:  “Pay attention”!  “Feast your eyes upon this”!  “Look at what I am about to show you”!  And then Jesus tells us what we are going to see: 
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.” 
What do we see as Jesus makes that journey to Jerusalem one last time?  We see the words of the prophets accomplished. 
We see Jesus ride into Jerusalem, not as a mighty warrior, but as a humble King mounted on a donkey just a Zechariah had promised.  We see Jesus pierced for our transgressions and wounded for our iniquities just as Isaiah had foretold.  We see Jesus spit upon and ridiculed as David had prophesied.  And we see Jesus stand victorious over death just as Job had looked forward to in faith.
Jesus wants us to know that he is the fulfillment of all of the promises of God—that is why he took his disciples on this final journey to Jerusalem and its why we travel with Jesus to the cross each Lenten season—so that we can once again feast our eyes of faith upon the promises God that have been fulfilled in Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection—so that we can understand what it all means for our lives.  And yet, the Bible says that the disciples:
…understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
            That Jesus was handed over to the Romans—that he was mocked and shamefully treated—flogged and crucified-- is a matter of the historical record—it happened.  That Jesus rose again on the third day is a matter of the biblical record that hundreds of people bore witness to—they saw him alive.
There was nothing difficult in the words Jesus spoke about what would happen to him in Jerusalem—he had said them before.  There was nothing unusual in the crucifixion scene he described-- it happened every day in the Roman world.
And so what was the difficulty the disciples had in understanding these things?  Why couldn’t they grasp what Jesus was telling them? 
At least part of the problem is that they didn’t want to believe what their master was telling them.  To think that this terrible thing would happen to someone they loved, was unbearable-- and there had been other occasions when they tried to deny it.
People still shy away from the scandal of the cross—even in the church.  Many Christians are perfectly happy with a cross in the sanctuary but a crucifix is a little too graphic.  That the bread and wine of Holy Communion are actually the broken body and shed blood of Christ is a bit over the top for many Christians who deny the very words of Jesus.  Countless sermons are preached every Sunday where the suffering and death of our Lord have no place whatsoever. 
Then and now the death of Jesus on the cross is a scandal. 
The other reason that they couldn’t get a handle on what he was saying is that they really didn’t see the necessary connection between the Messiah and the cross. 
They were perfectly willing to accept Jesus as the Messiah because they thought that role was about earthly things like position and power.  But to accept that the Messiah of God HAD to suffer and die—that death is what sin required--they struggled to believe it.
But the fact of the matter, is that if we are to live a life with God—it can only come through the cross of Jesus Christ and the death he suffered there. 
That is why Jesus invites us to go with him to Jerusalem-- so that we can understand that salvation and wholeness and new life are only found in what he accomplished in Jerusalem in his death and resurrection.  The Bible says that:  As Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.
            At the beginning of their journey to Jerusalem we heard the Lord tell us and the disciples:  “Behold”!  “Feast your eyes on this”!  And yet they couldn’t see the truth.  But as they traveled on, they met a blind man who could see what they couldn’t see because the truth about Jesus is discerned by the heart-- not the eyes.
Can there be a picture of anyone as helpless as a blind man in the ancient world?  No social agency to help him.  No vocational training to give him some place in life.  Nothing for him to do but beg for pennies from other peasants, hopeful that his basic, human needs could somehow be met by their mercy. 
That was his life until Jesus walked by him on his way to the cross.  The Bible says that:
Hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
This little exchange really is the key to understanding what the Holy Spirit is telling us this morning about Jesus’ journey to the cross.  It’s why the disciples and the crowd didn’t understand what Jesus was about-- and why the blind man did.
When he asked about what was going on, the crowd said that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by—and so he was—the humble man of Galilee. 
The crowds of that day, and the crowds of this day, are perfectly content to confess the same—to recognize and accept the historical facts that Jesus of Nazareth was a good man- who said wise things- and died a terrible death. 
But that was not the confession of the blind man.  He said:  Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!  Not Jesus of Nazareth—but Jesus, Son of David!
There are great confessions of faith that are found in the Bible.  Peter says of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God”.  The centurion at the cross says of him, “Surely this man was the Son of God”.  The confession of the blind man was just as great.  Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. 
This was the confession of a faithful child of Israel who recognized by faith just exactly who Jesus was—that he was the Messiah that they had been hoping for and praying for—the One who would make EVERYTHING right that sin had destroyed.  It is in that faith and hope that he cried out for the Messiah’s mercy.  The bible says:
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!”
            Things really haven’t changed that much in the last two thousand years have they? 
There are still those in the crowd who try to shout us down as we confess that Jesus is the Savior of the world.  There are still those who want to silence the witness of Christians that we have in Jesus a God who is merciful and willing and able to help.  
The blind man shows us the way to respond to the unbelieving crowds of our own day when he refused to be shouted down or ridiculed for his confession and instead cried out all the more:  Son of David, have mercy on me!  The Bible says that at these words:
Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. 
            The blind man couldn’t come to Jesus by himself.  He couldn’t find him in the darkness.  He didn’t posses what was necessary.  All that he could do was recognizes his own great need and cry out for mercy.  And that is what he received. 
Jesus commanded others to bring him to him just as he has commanded us to bring others to him by carrying our children to the baptismal font and inviting people to church. 
There is a world full of people who need what only Jesus can give and yet they lack the ability to make it to him on their own.  Jesus has commanded us who can see the way, to bring them to him to be healed of all that is broken in their lives.  The Bible says:
When the blind man came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight
            700 years before this moment the prophet Isaiah promised that through the Messiah’s work “the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped; and the lame shall man shall leap like a deed and the tongue of the mute sing for joy”.
Jesus of Nazareth—the Son of Man and David’s Son-- accomplished every one of these messianic signs just as the prophets had written.  And the benefits of his saving work are received today in the same way as they were that day:  by faith in Jesus. 
Jesus told the man that his faith had made him well.  And so it had—not because the power rested in his believing—but because the One he believed in was able to do what was promised of him:  give forgiveness, salvation, and wholeness.
So it is for us.  Faith is necessary to receive what Christ has done for us.  His saving works were done for all but to receive the benefits of forgiveness, life, and salvation (and the wholeness that will come on the Last Day) it is necessary to have faith—to recognize that we have no claim upon the Lord but our great need for his mercy-- and to come to him in faith for the new life he gives—just like the man did that day. 
The Bible says that the man who was healed:  followed Jesus, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
This is the life of faith!  That we who have received the Lord’s gifts follow him as his disciples—that we praise God and give him all the glory for the great things that he has done for us—that our lives bear witness to the goodness and mercy of Jesus Christ.
The man who was healed that day was a man reborn.  He had a brand new life ahead of him.  And that life was dedicated to the glory of God.  Many the same things be said of us, who are also the recipients of our Lord’s saving work!  Amen.

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