Behold, we go up to Jerusalem
(Matthew 20. 18)
The Gesima season ends with an invitation to take up another beginning. Behold we go up. (Matt. 20. 18) We are invited onto yet another road, a spiritual road that leads to our death and new life with God. The road which we will tread is not an easy one. As we have said, it will require humility, temperance, courage, and concentration. Our self-discipline must be used in the service of a more difficult task. We must learn how to hand over our sin to the Lord for death. It will demand a death to all else but the love of God in Jesus Christ. Progressively our journey will be an invitation onto the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am the way, the truth, and the life, (John 14. 6) Follow me, Jesus says, for behold we go up to Jerusalem. In other words, behold we must go up if we would follow Jesus to His Kingdom.
Our journey will teach us many things about ourselves and about God’s Love. First, of course, we shall learn what happens when sinful man cannot endure the love of God in the heart of Jesus. Every one of us is fallen away from the love of God and the love of neighbor. Fallen man rejects God’s Love. God’s Love never ceases to be itself and this means that it insists upon conditions that most men cannot endure. Love is made flesh for us in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is that perfect Love that never ceases to offer itself to all people in all ages. But fallen man rejects this persistent, insistent, and determined Love of God in Christ. God’s Love ceaselessly reveals the truth in Jesus Christ. That Love is consistent God’s expectations of us all.
Long before the coming of Christ, the prophets foretold of how God’s Love would be received in the heart of sinful man. They foretold of how fallen man would not be able to endure the persistent presence of God’s Love in the world. Fallen man resents it when God’s Love threatens to challenge and disrupt the universe of material and earthly comfort. The prophets knew that most men would be hard pressed to abandon the false gods of this world for the sake of God’s Love.
Even the Apostles themselves bear witness to how difficult it will be to embrace the love of God in Jesus Christ. They believe that Jesus is the Love of God the Father made flesh. But they cannot see that He must be delivered unto the Gentiles. (Luke 18. 31) Nor can they allow themselves to imagine that He shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on. (Luke 18. 32) That Jesus will be demoralized, derided, and despoiled is beyond what they think is right or appropriate for God’s Son. The problem is that their idea of Love knows no struggle, difficulty, or sacrifice. What they see of Love involves neither suffering nor self-denial. The Apostles desire to go up with Jesus to Jerusalem and yet they have no conception of how God’s Love in the heart of Jesus must suffer at the hands of sinful man in order to save them all. Jesus prophesies that they shall scourge Him and put Him to death. (Ibid, 33) But the Apostles understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.(Ibid, 34) Calvin says that they had formed the expectation for joyful and prosperous advancement and therefore had reckoned it to be in the highest degree absurd that Christ should be ignominiously crucified. (J. Calvin: Harmony of the Gospels, xvii) Their hearts and souls want only to be lifted up and to feel good. They cannot see. They are blind to what true love means and does.
And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the wayside begging: And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.(Luke 18. 35-37)
The Apostles cannot see or understand what Jesus has said to them. And what do they find? A man who is literally blind in another way stumbles onto their path. They are spiritually blind, but he is physically blind. But this physically blind man sees what the Apostles do not see. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.(Luke 18.38) What he could not see with his eyes, he saw and knew with the eyes of his heart and soul. So, he cries out for God’s love in the heart of Jesus for mercy. In some deep way, he knows that the Jesus who is going up to Jerusalem will come down to minister to him. The Apostles are blind and thus cannot see the point. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace. (Luke 18. 39) The Apostles are confused and irritated enough. Why should they allow some pathetic blind man to interrupt a journey already suffused in confusion? Yet, the blind man sees. He sees that he must reach out to God’s Love made flesh. He sees that he cannot let Love made flesh pass him by. With the eyes of faith and the determination of hope, he sees God’s Love and the Power in Jesus, and so he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. (Luke 18. 39) Let the Apostles luxuriously wallow in philosophical confusion. This man sees plainly and will have some of that Love that condescends to men of low estate! Love is near. The blind man is determined to have it!
Behold we go up to Jerusalem. And as we go up, we find one who was blind and truly sees, who has only heard of this Jesus and yet sees and understands! Love is going up to Jerusalem, and He will take with him those who see His love and desire more of His mercy. The relationship is established. Will we go up to Jerusalem? Will we follow Love, cry out to Love, implore Love’s mercy as we travel into the depth of its meaning and purpose?
And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. (Luke 18. 40-42.)
Yes, behold we go up to Jerusalem, and as we go up, the Love that will be mocked, spitefully entreated, spitted upon, still loves. Love reaches out to all. Here to a new friend who knew more than Jesus’ disciples because he truly saw who Jesus was and understood the power of His Love. The blind man reveals a faith that sees the Love that heals. This is the Love that is going up to His death. Thus, Jesus finds one who can assist Him in beginning the process. This Love cannot help but love. This Love cannot help but die to Himself as He comes alive to God in the life of His brother. Jesus sees faith and hope and responds with God’s Love. His says Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. (Luke 18. 42) Love says to the blind man, because you see me inwardly and spiritually, you shall see me now outwardly and materially. And, blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe. (John 20. 29) Behold, we go up to Jerusalem. (Idem)
On the journey up to Jerusalem, Love in the flesh is always Himself. It will never cease to be the Love received from the Father and passed on to all –friend and foe alike. Here a new friend asks for its power and receives it. The new friend has the eyes of faith with which to see. Will we desire this Love with the faith and hope of the blind man? We have been blind, but Love desires for us to see. As St. Paul reminds us this morning, Love or Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. Love or Charity is always Himself. Love made flesh is always Himself. Jesus is Love or Charity made flesh. He suffers all resistance to God’s Love. His Love never ceases to be kind, benevolent, humble, and meek. He is never puffed up or proud, never seeks his own advantage and worldly comfort. In fact, Love always reaches down to lift others up. It stoops down to lift the blind man into the light of day. It will reach down from the Cross to see and know that those who are killing Him on Good Friday might have a change of heart on Holy Saturday to embrace Him wholeheartedly on Easter Sunday.
Behold we go up to Jerusalem. (Idem) Will we begin to imagine that Love in the flesh must suffer innocently to reveal God’s persistent desire for all men’s salvation? Will we begin to imagine that Love in the flesh must become sin who knew no sin to vanquish sin and death? Will we participate in this death to sin, death, and Satan that we might begin to find new life in Him? Will we embrace the love that forgives the worst of sinners and their sin? Will we cherish the love that calls forth more generosity at the cost of loss to ourselves and sacrifice? Will we treasure that love that must suffer real mental and even physical anguish and loss in order to be made one with the suffering Christ? Will we see, with the blind man, that unless we believe and hope in the invisible work of God’s love in the heart of Jesus, we cannot be saved?
Today, let us forsake all, follow Jesus, and glorify God. (Ibid, 43) With Calvin, those who are healed of their blindness show a grateful mind in presenting themselves to others as mirrors of the Grace of Christ. (Idem) With the blind man, we might even gratefully anticipate the Resurrection that stands behind the Cross.
Most blest believer he!
Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes
Thy long-expected healing wings could see,
When Thou didst rise!
And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun!
(Henry Vaughn: The Night)
In the midnight of darkness, behold we see! Behold, we go up to Jerusalem. (Idem)
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St. Michael and All Angels Sermons