My first point by way of introduction is:
1. Do You See?
As Christmas approaches, we're looking at Luke's account of Jesus going up to and entering Jerusalem as the very first Easter approaches. Why, some of you ask? Don't you know what time of year it is? Well one reason why is because Jesus was born to die, he was born at Christmas to die at Easter, to rescue us from our sin, which separates us from God, to rise from the dead bringing eternal life and to ascend into heaven and then send the Holy Spirit to change us and empower us. Do you see? You might or might not have your physical sight, but do you really see? Do you see the truth about Jesus and how you should respond to him?
You see Jesus' journey to Jerusalem began back in Luke 9.51, where we read this:
"When the days drew near for him to be taken up [to heaven], he set his face [he set out resolutely] to go to Jerusalem."
I don't know if you've ever resolutely set out to go somewhere – perhaps with the St Joseph's walking group, or on a longer hike with the aim of reaching the summit to achieve a personal goal, or with the aim of getting to that breath-taking viewpoint to capture it for posterity on camera, or to get on in your work to win the praise of colleagues. You knew where you were going and why and you weren't going to turn back.
Jesus knew why he was going to Jerusalem and it wasn't for the sake of personal achievement or for the view from the Mount of Olives and certainly not for the cheers of the crowds. No, he was going there resolutely, not to be served but to give his life as a ransom for many, he was going to take the punishment you and I deserve for our rebellion against God, he was going to suffer and die for you and me, for our forgiveness and to bring us to God. He was going to be rejected by his own, mocked, insulted, spat on, flogged and handed over to be killed by the Gentiles, rise from the dead and ascend into heaven. Yet he was going to Jerusalem knowingly and willingly, to fulfil Scripture and the will of his Father, for our sake, for the sake of the lost. That's why Jesus came. That's why he was going up to Jerusalem. Do you see? Remember what we looked at from Luke 18.31?
"And 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 spat upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.'"
For you and for me. Do you see? Next Sunday we'll see from the next section of Luke that Jesus says to Zacchaeus:
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
Namely me and you. Do you see? Now some of you here this morning might be thinking, hang on Jonathan, what is Jesus saying? I don't understand. Jesus says that he's going to Jerusalem even though he knows all these terrible things are going to happen to him and then be raised back to life? Why? What was the point? And all this was because I'm lost? You might be but I'm not!
Well, look at verse 34, Jesus followers didn't see or understand either. "But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said." They couldn't grasp that Jesus, the Messiah, would suffer and die. They only really understood after the cross and resurrection. Luke chapter 24 says that their eyes and minds were opened as Jesus appeared to them and explained the Scriptures to them. Well he can open your eyes and minds today by his Holy Spirit as you hear the Bible explained and as you begin to meet Jesus as he walks off the pages of Luke's Gospel.
It's what happened to David Suchet, the actor who plays Poirot on TV. He discovered that as he read the Gospels from a Gideon's Bible in the bath in his hotel room, his eyes and mind were opened, and he put his faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. His life began to change, as he started to follow Jesus. And it happened to me. And to many of you. My eyes and mind were opened by God to the truth of Jesus as I was reading from Romans 5.8:
"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
As I read that verse it was as if a light had been turned on in my head. I could now see. Christ died for me! Suddenly everything clicked. I knew that I had to accept Jesus as my personal Saviour and Lord. He loved me and died for me. He paid the price for my sin so that I could have a relationship with God for ever. I was lost but now am found. I was blind but now I see. That's the amazing grace of Jesus.
Here at St Joseph's some people's eyes and minds have been opened as they've read the gospels and discussed them at Christianity Explored . So, if you've got questions make sure you're on the next course. You see one of the things we learn from the healing of the blind beggar is the use of the means of God's grace. God uses means. Verses 35 to 39:
"As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he enquired 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!'"
If you're seeking, asking questions, wanting to know the truth and have your eyes and mind opened to see Jesus and the salvation he offers then, like the blind beggar who sat by the roadside rather than hiding himself away, put yourself where you can meet Jesus: read a gospel, get along to church where God's word is taught and discussed: Christianity Explored, Women's Bible Study, Middle Eastern Group, Midweek Group, Sunday Services etc. Be persistent in this. Ask God to reveal himself to you. Ask him to open your eyes and mind. Ask him to have mercy on you. Do you see?
Jesus' disciples were still spiritually blind to what was about to happen to Jesus and why, which brings us now to zoom in on Jesus' contrasting encounter with the blind beggar who truly sees and later with Zacchaeus who wanted to see who Jesus was. So
2. The Blind Beggar Who Sees (v35-43)
In 2011 I had the privilege of visiting India and preaching at Holy Trinity Church in Chennai, formerly Madras. I was also invited to a Christian Centre for the blind who were also very poor. If it wasn't for the Centre they would have been beggars. They love Jesus and enjoy meeting and eating together. They love singing and hearing the Bible taught. Their leader who is also blind has the most amazing singing voice. They are full of faith and joy. And they can't wait for heaven. But they're not so heavenly minded they're no earthly use. No, they make items to sell, feed the poor and share the good news with others who are blind. But what keeps them going ultimately is the hope they have through faith in Christ. They may be physically blind and have nothing materially, but they can truly see and therefore they are spiritually rich.
This blind beggar in Luke also sees spiritual reality very clearly. He sees who Jesus is and that the Son of David can heal him. God is already at work in this humble man, enabling him to see these truths. In verse 37 the crowd tell him that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. His response is to immediately call out to Jesus, believing that Jesus can help him. Verse 38: "He cried out, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'" The crowd rebuke him and tell him to be quiet (v39). They see him as annoying or unworthy. But he persists, which is a mark of his faith in Jesus. Verse 39: "he cried out all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'"
His humble appeal echoes the humility of the tax collector and the child of faith earlier in this chapter. And he contrasts strongly with the rich ruler back in verses 18 to 30, who had everything materially but saw nothing. "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (v24)." The blind beggar has nothing but sees so well. He's totally dependent on Jesus. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me," he cries out.
Who here this morning sees their need to humble themselves before God and cry out to Jesus in faith, have mercy on me? If you do, don't let others put you off and don't think God's not interested in you, even if the world thinks you're a nobody or just annoying. No, "he who humbles himself", says Jesus in Luke 18.14, "will be exalted". He who cries out to Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner, will be justified or declared not guilty or be 'just as if I'd never sinned' before God because of Jesus. You see as Galatians 2.16 says, "we are not justified by observing the law but by faith in Jesus Christ." He hears those who cry out to him in faith. Do you see?
And Jesus heard this blind beggar cry out to him in faith. Look at v40:
"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 made you well.'"
In the original, verse 42 says: "your faith has saved you". There's a double meaning here. He receives physical healing and salvation through faith in Jesus. It's not just that you gotta have faith as George Michael once sung but faith in Jesus.
"And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God."
If we cry out to Jesus to be saved from our spiritual blindness and sin, then his response is immediate. You can turn to Jesus in repentance and faith now, this very day and he will respond. And that is the greatest miracle. He doesn't always take our physical difficulties away this side of heaven, as with those blind believers in India. But he does want us to truly see. Taking away our spiritual blindness and sin is far more important than any physical problem to Jesus because it affects where we spend eternity. That's not to say we shouldn't bring our other needs to him. Of course, we should. He cares for you. He has the authority and power. But often his purposes are different to ours, which we can't always see at the time. Also here in Luke 18, Jesus' healing of the man's physical blindness points the crowd to who he really is: God the Son, the Messiah and Saviour. Getting Jesus' identity right is vital if we're going to relate to him in the right way as the blind beggar did. Do you see? What do you want King Jesus to do for you?
This man can now see in every sense and in response to what Jesus has done for him he follows Jesus, giving thanks to God. As he received his sight new light and life have dawned and he's full of thankfulness as he follows Christ. Does thankfulness to God mark our walk with Christ? He has changed us and is changing us if we're trusting in him. Praise God. The man, a poor social outcast, is changed. Even the crowd's attitude is changed. Verse 43:
"And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God."
Truly seeing Jesus means being transformed, which has an impact on others.
3. So How Should You Respond After Receiving God's Mercy? (v43)
Well, as I've already mentioned, when the blind beggar received his sight both physically and spiritually, he followed Jesus, glorifying God. And if we're trusting in Jesus that's to be our aim: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Yes, it's not always easy. He'd already experienced some opposition in verse 39 but that didn't bother him. He was willing to trust Jesus whatever anybody else thought. He knew for himself that Christ is worth following. You see, he could now say, "I was blind but now I see". So, what about us? If we can say the same, then surely we'll be grateful and want to follow Christ, whatever the cost. Grateful love will lead to real obedience to Jesus. We won't take up our cross and tell the world of our faith in Jesus and live for him unless we know and feel we're indebted to him for pardon, peace, purpose and hope. You may have been a Christian a long time but are you full of faith and joy?
Perhaps we need to examine ourselves or take a spiritual health check. Are we seeing clearly and truly believing and trusting in and following Christ, even if we make mistakes sometimes? Whom do you follow? What are the great ambitions you live for? You see the one who has real hope in Jesus may always be known by the direction of his or her life and their fruit. Please don't waste your life. Step out in faith with Jesus. Do you see?