Jean’s Gospel: The Gospel Is For Christians Too
“As he 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 made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:35-43)
The rebuke of the blind man by followers of Jesus was a shocking and gross violation of the commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). Even if the bind man was loud and obnoxious, who were these Jesus followers to exclude a needy person from getting to Jesus? Is not this violation all the more outrageous when you consider that Jesus came specifically for the needy? Is it not Jesus himself who says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28)? This blind man did nothing more than obey the command of Jesus. His followers were without excuse.
This is now the second time, within a short period of time, in which followers of Jesus attempted to prevent the needy from receiving from Christ: “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.” (Luke 18:15) (As a side note, sandwiched between these two events was Jesus’ conversation with the rich ruler. Notice that the rich ruler had absolutely no problem reaching Jesus with his questions. (Luke 18:18-30))
“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!’ ” (Luke 18:39)
We hear increasingly about the issue of discrimination that originates from secular or non-Christian religious governments or institutions, which attempt to suppress Christians’ free exercise of their religious faith. Here in America we occasionally hear about Christians who are prevented from praying, meeting together, handing out religious tracts or displaying religious symbols or art in certain public venues, such as classrooms, courthouses or local public squares. Christians are rightly concerned about the suppression of their religious liberty and should be vigilant.
But what should concern us even more than suppression from outsiders is when the Church that bears His name is involved in preventing their own members from receiving grace and mercy from Christ. Think about it: if Christian churches are not giving their members Christ, then who will? The text this week shows us that this problem is not new: “And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent.” Is it any surprise that the suppression originated with leaders? But we also need to learn how to identify this problem when it occurs in our churches today.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)
Paul teaches us that the power of God to save sinners is present only in the word of the cross (i.e., the Gospel). This powerful word is effective to make God known to humankind, to accomplish salvation, to defeat evil and to transform lives. By this word Christ becomes “wisdom”, “righteousness,” “sanctification,” and “redemption” for the believer (1 Cor 1:30).
But notice that Paul says “to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This is present tense in a passive voice. God’s saving activity in the life of the believer is an ongoing process, which is accomplished through the word of the cross. This makes perfect sense because elsewhere Paul teaches that faith comes through hearing the word of Christ (Rom 10:17), and it is by hearing with faith that believers receive the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:2).
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2)
Therefore, Paul was quite adamant that Christian preaching must focus on the saving work of Christ crucified (i.e., the word of the cross or Gospel), because only in this powerful word does God give himself to us fully and completely as a gracious God. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Rom 5:10)
“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.” (Luke 18:40-42)
Jesus did not command that the blind man to be brought to Him to convert him. The blind man already knew Jesus as the Son of David. Jesus however confirmed his faith with the gift of sight. As a result, the crowd gave praise to God. Jesus was not finished with the blind man, and he is not finished with any of us.
Christians need the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ every day of our lives. He is our manna from heaven. The astonishing fact is that Jesus has more than enough grace and mercy to bless each one of us every day. He bestows his grace and mercy through His powerful word, specifically the good news of His death on the cross for our sins. He places this word in the mouths of faithful pastors who are called to proclaim His grace to all people. He also applies this word to water in Baptism and to bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.
In a world where Christians are under constant siege from the devil and world and our own sinful flesh, we need the saving power of the word of the cross regularly. I have no idea when or why so many of our churches have abandoned the word of the cross as the primary focus of Christian worship. However, Jesus and the apostles teach otherwise. Therefore, if we are not being fed the Gospel regularly in church, then we need to follow the example of the blind man on the road to Jericho. Let us pray for the word of the cross to grow and prevail in all churches that confess the name of Christ. Amen.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 5:23) Amen.