Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well” (Luke 18:42). That’s how it was read a few moments ago, but that’s not quite right.
The man is well. Jesus restores his sight. But the actual word that Jesus uses is saved. It could read, “Recover your sight; your faith has saved you.”
The King James has it that way, for what it’s worth.
And here’s why it matters: if faith makes you well, we’ll doubt our faith every flu season.
We’ll think the man was made well because Jesus restored his sight.
That’s wrong because faith doesn’t guarantee good eyesight, otherwise there’d be no blind, deaf, weak, hurting, or sinful Christians.
Jesus doesn’t say “made well.” He says saved.
Faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t guarantee good health. It doesn’t guarantee eight hours of sleep each night or nine months of ease whenever you need it.
Lots of other false gods promise those things—but not faith in Jesus.
But faith in Jesus does guarantee salvation.
And nothing else does that.
But here’s where it’s most difficult:
In our day-to-day lives, for which do we feel the greater need?
Eyesight? A clean bill of health? Wealth? Ease?
The Gospel lesson today hits us hard, because it contrasts the seeing (and unbelieving) disciples with the blind (but believing and therefore saved) beggar.
And we should prefer to be the blind beggar.
Though you don’t want to be blind, you really don’t want to be one of the Twelve, because at this point, they don’t understand.
“Taking the twelve [disciples], [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’” (Luke 18:31-33).
Jesus could not be more clear.
Seventeen times prior to these verses in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus refers to the Son of Man.
The disciples know it’s Him.
And yet, St. Luke writes that ”they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said” (Luke 18:34).
In three separate ways, Luke tells us that, seeing, the disciples do not see. Hearing, they do not understand. And having Jesus there, they yet have nothing at all because they lack faith.
And so we read of the blind beggar.
“As [Jesus] drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And 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!’ And 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!’ And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he 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 saved you’” (Luke 18:35-42).
This beggar is the example of faith.
This blind beggar is a perfect illustration of the Christian because he’s blind (which means he believes what he hears) and because he’s a beggar.
We are all beggars. This is true.
Each of us, before God, is an empty cup needing to be filled. Each of us, before God, has nothing to offer God that He needs. We are, arms outstretched and palms up, in need of what He has to give.
And this blind beggar gets it. Literally blind, he hears and believes and trusts.
Having Jesus there, he has everything.
Notice, Jesus is near and the beggar cries out, “Son of David, have mercy!” He knows who David was.
He knows who Jesus is.
So yeah, this beggar gets it. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy.”
But what happens? This blind beggar and example of the Christian faith cries out to what end?
He’s rebuked by the crowd.
And it at least seems like Jesus is ignoring him.
Jesus, who knows all things, doesn’t answer him immediately—and that’s on purpose.
We should all learn to be like the blind beggar.
He ignores the rebuke of Man out of faithfulness to God.
And he’s got thick skin. He remains faithful and cries out all the more even when it seems that God Himself is silent or uncaring.
Practical wisdom tells us the squeaky wheel gets the grease and the impudent friend what he needs.
But God wants to give you all that you need. So how much more will our Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (cf. Luke 11:5-13).
Prayers stay the same for years, sometimes.
That God doesn’t give you what you want doesn’t mean He hasn’t given you everything you need.
Maybe you want for yourself what God doesn’t want for you? If that’s the case, it’s not God who should change.
That’s a difficult lesson to learn.
But we’re not alone in having to learn it.
Nor are we supposed to keep our desires to ourselves.
The blind beggar can’t see Jesus, but he trusts that Jesus hears. He trusts that Jesus answers. So when rebuked by Man and seemingly ignored by God—when it would seem that he has all the reasons in the world to stop praying—he cries out all the more, because he knows that God is merciful.
Literally blind, he hears and believes and trusts.
“And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him…” He commands him to be brought to Him, because by your own reason or strength you cannot believe in Jesus Christ your Lord or come to him.
“…And when he 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 saved you.’”
The faith that saves the blind beggar was there before Jesus restored his sight. It was there before he cried out the first time. It was there when he was rebuked, and it was there when it must’ve felt like God was ignoring him and refusing to answer his prayer for mercy.
The faith that saves the blind beggar is there apart from the miracle of sight restored.
And—regardless of his sight—the man is saved.
Jesus heals the blind man for many reasons.
Because the man asked.
Because Jesus is there to give sight to the blind.
But our reason—the reason Jesus did that then but not now—the reason we don’t get our miracles the way they got theirs—is because Jesus wants us to seek and ask for more than eyes that see.
He wants us to believe and be saved.
So that in the resurrection we have all that we ask for and more.
That’s what’s at stake.
Jesus, in healing the blind man, is showing us what the resurrection looks like.
And in telling the blind man that his faith has saved him—Jesus is showing us what is most important.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
And then—in the resurrection—everything else will be added unto you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Quinquagesima Sermon, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt