Sermon for Quinquagesima, AD 2022

Luke 18:31-43

What would you say if Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Is there some dire need you would ask for? Would you ask for something big and frivolous? Or maybe the opposite – would you ask for something small because you don’t want to presume? Would you not ask at all, assuming it is some sort of test? Would you even believe that Jesus was serious about it?

Whatever you would ask demonstrates your faith. It shows what you believe about Jesus. Faith is true when the object of faith is true. If your faith is in the true Jesus, you have true faith. If your faith is in a false idea of Jesus, you need to learn the true Jesus from the Word of God. So what you may ask or not ask of Jesus shows who you think Jesus to be. If you will not ask for something because it is too big, maybe you don’t think Jesus is able to answer. Maybe you aren’t sure Jesus is dependable to answer, that he hasn’t shown his answer before. Or possibly you wouldn’t ask for much or anything because you believe Jesus doesn’t want to answer.

Jesus does want to answer. This is the last Sunday before Lent, and as you approach this season of repentance, it is certainly good to recognize your sin and focus on your spiritual priorities. Yet don’t get too caught up in yourself, as if you need to make yourself spiritual. Do not think that you are not spiritual enough to fast or to devote yourself to daily prayer. Some may think, “Lent is really for the spiritual ones, people who are really religious. All those extra services are for people who are (or think they are) hardcore top-tier Christians, not for me.” This is the same mindset which says, “Jesus wouldn’t really ask me what he can do for me.” It says Lent is only for the Spiritual. It says Jesus is only for the Spiritual. This is false. Lent is for beggars. Jesus is for beggars.

The blind beggar on the side of the road had nothing to offer Jesus. He had no spirituality to prove to anyone. He had faith. Faith with begs and calls out to Jesus. He knew Jesus was able to answer, had shown he would answer, and wanted to answer. For He knew Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of David, who came to heal and forgive and bring peace between God and man.

The blind beggar called out to Jesus as Son of David, knowing He is a king. The crowds which walked by told him that the man they were following was Jesus of Nazareth. This is a very generic way to refer to Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth makes no faith statement about Jesus besides where he is from. Modern scholars will talk about a “Jesus of Nazareth” in the most sterile and clinical ways. There’s nothing wrong with saying it, but it doesn’t indicate any belief in the person who says it. The beggar however, goes above and beyond. He does not cry out to Jesus of Nazareth, but “Jesus, Son of David!”

What is the Son of David? David was Israel’s great king. You heard about David’s first anointing as king in the Old Testament reading, when Samuel poured oil on David’s head. David too, did not have an appearance of a king like his older brothers, but was known to Samuel by faith in God’s Word. By faith, David is anointed king, which is what Messiah, or Christ, means. As a Christ, an anointed king, David would foreshadow the work of his future son, the true and full Christ, Jesus. David knew this, as God promised him that he would have a Son who would reign on his throne forever. All in Israel awaited the coming of the Son of David who would establish His kingdom and save them all.

How the blind beggar knew Jesus was the son of David, we are not told, but somehow he had heard news of the works of Jesus and identified him as the promised Son. By faith, he trusted that this man who had done so many works, who had healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead could also bring him sight. Not because of who he was, because he deserved it more than anyone else. He knew Jesus could help him because this blind beggar could see who Jesus was – the Son of David, the King who gives good gifts to his people.

A good king is like a good father, he protects and provides. So the Son of David, the Christ, the greatest king, would protect and provide perfectly. Surely this man needed a king’s favor in the state he was in. He was poor and blind and had no one to care for him. You see in the response of the crowd that they did not want to hear him cry out. The people of Israel were supposed to care for the poor, to not have any beggars among them, yet you see the neglect that has happened here. Jesus is the king who comes and answers those who are neglected, those who should have been cared for. Lack of importance to others does not keep Jesus away. He is a good king who cares for every single person, all who he himself has made. This king can and will save his people.

The disciples saw Jesus as the Christ, as the anointed king, but did not understand at this time how Jesus would reign. Jesus does not save his people like David or Solomon by setting up an earthly kingdom. This is what Jesus is saying to the disciples at the beginning of the gospel lesson - See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise. The disciples did not understand that this is how Jesus would become king.

Jesus’ death and resurrection did not surprise him. He knew exactly what he was going to do. For He knew he was the true Son of David, and for his kingdom to last forever, it would not be a kingdom of this world. His kingdom would not be established on conquest or might, but on his death for sinners and resurrection from the dead. The disciples knew that Jesus would save Israel and beyond as a king, but they assumed going up to Jerusalem was to save by conquest. Jesus tells them this the third time, to set their minds on the right thing – Jesus is going to save by taking on shame and spitting and death and in three days rising again.

Do not let this be hidden from you. Especially as we move toward Lent and Holy Week, realize that Jesus has gone to his death and risen again purposely to win salvation for you. The blind beggar probably heard of great works of healing that Jesus had done. You hear of the completion of all these works. You hear of Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. He shows in these that He willingly goes to the cross for your sins, to bear your afflictions, your burdens. He is not overcome by evil men, but willingly and purposely let himself be taken to be mocked and flogged and spit upon and finally killed in order that he could show you that he really would do anything for you. When he says “what do you want me to do for you?” He wants you ask thinking on what he has already done.

For Jesus wants to answer you. He doesn’t ask as a test, or to ignore you. Jesus’ question to the beggar was completely earnest, and it is the same to you. You know that he can answer. You know that he has shown his trustworthiness. “What do you want me to do for you?” This is the question of the Son of David, the King, who rules all things in heaven and earth. It is the question of the one who willingly died for you, who took on flesh and was beaten and bled so that you could be saved. It is the question of the one who loves you more than anyone you can ever know.

Maybe you don’t know still what your answer would be. Yet as beggars you have the same refrain you can cry to Jesus, Lord, have mercy! Son of David, have mercy on me! And your Lord will say, “your faith has saved you.” So do not fear asking the Lord for what you need. Do not be slack in seeking his word. Do as the beggar did and call out to him, and he will answer.

As you approach this Lent, do not think that you are not spiritual enough so need to make yourself more spiritual or just should give up on the whole thing. Lent is rightly observed when it is observed in faith. Faith in Jesus, the Son of David, who has shown his faithfulness through his death and wants to have mercy on you, to give you every good thing. Most of all, to give you the forgiveness of sins he won on the cross. In the Lenten services we come for these gifts as beggars. For in the forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation.

Let us follow Jesus to his cross again, acknowledging your sins so you may be forgiven. We go up to Jerusalem where Jesus will be handed over and killed. Yet the resurrection and Easter are not far behind. It’s a yearly remembrance of Jesus’ work, and the life we live in him. For while sorrow lasts for the night, joy comes in the morning. Therefore, trusting in Jesus, recover your sight. See the path Jesus has made for you to eternal life. For your faith has saved you. Amen.  
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