Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
Luke 18: 31And taking the twelve, he 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. 32For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
35As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39And 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!” 40And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42And Jesus said to him,“Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Before I came to Missouri, I was a pastor in a large congregation in suburban Detroit. As is typical in a large congregation, I had several opportunities each year to perform weddings. One of unfortunate personal side-effects of all those weddings is that 1 Corinthians chapter 13 is probably one of my least favorite chapters in the Bible.
Brides, never the Grooms, but Brides would want to use 1 Corinthians 13 to support a wholly unbiblical understanding of love. “See, how beautiful love is” and they where always talking about the emotion, the pitter-patter of hearts, the Hallmark celebration that combines attraction and feelings and hope and perception. But Hallmark has a hard time talking about the reality of marriage: growing together through hard times, bad times, disappointments; commitment to one another–the something that every successful marriage must have when the emotion is a little cold, attraction has to face the reality of mornings, and the idealize perceptions are tempered with laundry, and jobs, and raising of children.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Look back on the pattern of these three Sundays before Lent: the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, the Parable of the Sower, and now the healing of the blind beggar on the road to Jerusalem. This is the pattern of our entrance into the Christian Church, this is the pattern of our Christian life: “despite your resume” you are called into the Lord’s vineyard; that while “three out of four times” nothing seems to endure, new life has grown up in you by the sowing of the seed of God’s Word; and in faith you are enlightened, our eyes are opened so we can follow Jesus to the cross, as the blind man arises from his blindness and follows Christ.
This way of following Jesus, this bearing of the cross, is the way of love – not the sentimental love we have for those who love us back, or the romantic love of attraction and emotion, but the hard love we are called to have for our enemies, those who make our lives difficult, those we find burdensome. This is why we must be told by St. Paul today that love is long-suffering, i.e., patient. It is not rude or quarrelsome, it seeks the benefit of others, bears with them even when they are difficult.
How can such a love exist in what so often appears to be an increasingly loveless world? Where can we go to find this kind of love and to learn to love in this way? We know where we must go. We must go to where the blind beggar went. We must go to Jesus and we must cry out to Him just as that beggar cried out. And when we cry out to Jesus for that love that suffers long, is kind, doesn’t envy or parade itself, is not proud but gentle, humble, self-effacing, and pure, what does Jesus show us? Where does he tell us to look? Whence is the source of this wonderful love for which we yearn and yet that we cannot find within our own hearts? Jesus tells us. He points us to His suffering. Jesus said, concerning Himself, “For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” Oh, what an irony! If we want to see love, we must first witness hatred. If we want to be filled with love for God and for one another –and surely we cannot want anything greater than that! – we must first be willing to confront the most horrifying hatred imaginable.
Look at what true love cost our Lord! St. John says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us” [1 Jn. 3.16]. And again, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins” [1 Jn. 4.10]. Mark well the order here: God loves us first, and receiving His love we then learn to truly love, not just our friends and family but those who hate us and persecute us.
For only in the suffering of the Son of Man can we see love conquer hatred. We look upon Christ’s suffering. We see God’s promises fulfilled. We see true love displayed. We see our prayers answered.
“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. For 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.”
This was a prophecy of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. It was no secret that the Christ would suffer. The prophets foretold the suffering of Christ, even speaking His words for Him several hundreds of years before He spoke them. David speaks for Christ saying, “For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet.” (Psalm 22:16) Isaiah speaks for Him saying, “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6)
But it is precisely here in the whipping and in the crucifixion that we see love. Not only the love of Christ who patiently endures it, but the love of the Father by whose will it happened. Here is a love so wonderful it cannot find adequate expression in words. It is our heavenly Father’s love for us. The Father sees the purity of His innocent Son. He sees inside Jesus’ soul and witnesses a spotless and beautiful innocence. It is the purity they have shared from eternity with the Holy Spirit and now the Son become flesh has manifested it for thirty-three years on this earth. The Father, who knows with intimate personal knowledge the purity and holiness of His dear Son, watches as His innocent Son suffers shame. There is love! The Father watches as His holy Son is whipped and killed. He watches as His Son rescues us all from death.
The Father Himself requires this suffering. The Son willingly bears it. All because God loves us so much. This is no accidental death. It is not by the Romans or by the Jews but by the eternal will and purpose of God that Jesus suffers for us. And in this suffering God’s love for us is revealed. It was not His own sin that took Jesus to the cross, but it was the Son of God taking the place of sinful humanity in order to become a curse for us. Love required it. By bearing God’s curse, Christ removed the curse from us. He set us free from sin. We are forgiven by God.
No one can understand that unless he first understands his need for that. But, as St. Paul reminds us, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) Who are those being saved? It is those who are crying out for mercy.
It is the blind beggar at the roadside. The man with nothing. The man who cannot see. The man in despair and agony, who even the followers of Jesus tell to shut up.
That is who you are.
And the most foolish thing you could do would be to miss it, to puff yourself up and to say that you can take care of yourself, by working hard, managing your assets, staying out of trouble and keeping healthy, you will never find me begging on the side of the road. Do not be deceived. You are that beggar. We all are. We have become blinded by our foolish and persistent infatuation with the things of this life that are perishing with the world. We have served our own appetites instead of God. We have not loved our neighbor. We have been impatient and unkind. We have envied. We have paraded ourselves and become puffed up. We have been rude. We have sought our own benefit over others and we’ve been provoked when we haven’t gotten our way. We have though evil against our neighbor with no more basis in fact than the malice within our own hearts. We’ve rejoiced in the sins of others because it gave us opportunity to judge them. NO ONE OF US has anything that we can bring before God that He needs or wants. In fact, the only thing we have, the dirty beggarly rags of our sin, has been rejected and cursed by God.
Only Jesus, the Son of David, can hear your cry and answer your need. Of course, if you see no need for mercy you are in the wrong place. You don’t belong here in church. The church gathers together to cry out for mercy. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.” What are we saying when we sing the Kyrie? We are saying that we are the blind beggar standing at the side of the road, crying out to Jesus in our need.
And He never ever fails to hear our cry. Every time we gather in His name, and by His authority, He chooses to be present. Here we come, week after week, to bemoan our loss, to confess our sins, and to cry out for God’s mercy. Yes, we celebrate God’s goodness every day and we love to sing His praises. But our deepest and more pressing need is always for the mercy that only Jesus, the Son of David, can provide. He, who was delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, insulted, spit upon, whipped, and crucified did not remain dead in the grave, but rose from the dead and is here with us whenever we gather in His name. He gives to us the forgiveness He won by His bitter suffering and death. He answers our Kyrie with pure divine mercy, flowing from His wounds into our lives, blotting out every sin and healing our souls from the guilt that distresses us. By forgiving us, He opens our eyes to see the pure love of God. By giving to us the mercy for which He bled and died, He pours the Holy Spirit into our hearts who enables us to love one another even as we have been loved. And for every imperfection of our love, the mercy of Christ is the all-sufficient covering. The faith by which we are saved is the faith that receives the mercy for which we cry.
“Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.”
Thanks be to God that in His mercy we have been gathered together as blind beggars, and every time we gather Jesus deigns to give us our sight and confirm our faith.