25 October 2015

Now Joshua Comes Again to Jericho

Now Joshua comes again to Jericho.  Not to bring down the walls, but to raise up the people from death to life, to rescue them from every evil of body and soul.  He comes to save His people from their sins, and to bless His heritage.  And with that, He comes for something more specific and more personal:  To honor one poor man among the many.  To give him hope.  To give him life.  To give him the good land the Lord has promised.  To give him a place in the Kingdom of God.

His disciples and a large crowd accompany Him, as the Israelites followed the Joshua of old.  But the blind beggar by the side of the road perceives something about this Jesus, the Nazarene, more clearly than anyone else at this point.  He hears the Word of the One who has come, and by the Spirit of Christ he acknowledges the promised Son of David, the true King who gives rest.

The blind man’s name is Bartimaeus, the “son of Timaeus,” which is to say, the son of “honor,” of “worthiness” or “worth.”  Yet, look at his predicament!  There’s no presuming of any merit or worthiness here.  He looks not to his own pedigree, but to the House and Lineage of David.

Bartimaeus knows his need, or at least he has begun to know his need in part, and already he has realized that his only hope and help shall be in this Lord Jesus Christ.  In this he sees truly, what even the twelve were not yet able to comprehend.  They have wanted the Lord to share with them His greatness and His glory, and they have offered their boldness, their bravery, and their sacrifice as barter.  But not so, Bartimaeus.  He offers only his blindness, in hopes of regaining his sight.  He pleads not his strength, but his weakness.  Not his contributions, but his emptiness.  Not his honor, but disgrace.  Not his merit, but the grace of God in Christ.

He is a charity case, and he knows it.  And in this beggary of his, blind Bartimaeus worships and honors and glorifies Christ, who comes not to be served but to serve, and to give His life to man.

The beggar receives what he sought, that is, the mercy of the Lord and grace to help in his time of need.  But he is also given far more than he asked.  In regaining the use of his eyes, he begins to realize a much deeper longing and a far greater need, namely, to see God, to behold the glory of Yahweh, and to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord — all of this realized in the face of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, along with his eyesight, Bartimaeus receives the Lord Jesus Himself.  He becomes a disciple of the One he has called “Rabboni,” a Teacher.  He begins to follow Jesus “on the way,” that is, to be catechized in the way of the Cross, which is paradoxically the way of Life in Christ.

In calling upon the name of the Lord for mercy, in the hope that he might see, the blind beggar has become a catechumen of the Cross.  In this way he enters with Joshua into the Promised Land, and with the Son of God into the presence of the Father.

So now, the question is: What do you want the Lord Jesus to do for you?  What do you need?

If you are blind or losing your sight, of course you want to see.  You need to see!  But, with or without your eyesight, what is your real blindness?   What is it that you do not see?  What do you refuse or fail to recognize?  What shadow lies upon your heart, what darkness clouds your mind?

If you are hungry, you need food, and you want to be fed.  But as soon as you have eaten your fill, you are seized by some new appetite.  If you are naked, you need clothes; you want to be covered up.  But as soon as you are dressed, you long for some further adornment, beauty, or comfort.

There is no final contentment or satisfaction when it comes to the wants of your flesh, nor with respect to the needs of your body in this life on earth.  For you are dying and wasting away, and no amount of food and clothing, nor anything else, will ever be sufficient to prevent that.  And yet, even so, how easily are you preoccupied with attempts to pamper and preserve your mortal life?

Vanity, the Bible calls it.  Chasing after the wind!  None of it does any good.  But neither should you resort to the opposite extremes, nor succumb to despair.  That, too, is sinful, and useless.

With food and clothing, let us be content.  But even as regards those most basic wants and needs of the body, the Lord teaches you not to be anxious or worry.  Your Father knows what you need, and He will provide for you.  He feeds the birds and clothes the flowers, along with all the wicked who neither know Him nor acknowledge Him.  He shall do no less for you, dear Christian, for you are His beloved child.  He has created you in holy love, and He delights to serve and care for you.

As for you, then, seek the Lord Himself while He may be found.  Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and you shall lack for nothing at all, but everything else shall be added unto you.

That is what you truly need.  But that is also what you cannot see.  That is your real blindness.

We are all blind beggars, that is the truth.  So, then, repent of your pride.  Acknowledge your need.  Call upon the name of the Lord for mercy.  Pray to Him for your daily bread, as He has taught you and invited you to pray.  And doing that, pray also for the true faith which is what you need the most; that the Lord God would grant you patience to wait on Him, and to receive your bread with thanksgiving; and that you would thus learn to live by every Word and promise that He speaks.

Pray to the Lord Jesus for mercy, that you would receive your sight, which is to have faith in His forgiveness of sins.  Pray, then, for the Holy Spirit, which is the gift of God Himself.  Not simply a gift from God, but God the Father gives to you His Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, His Son.

And then it all gets raucous and scary, as though all hell were breaking loose against you, no less crazy and chaotic, all around you, than when that other Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho and burned the city to the ground.  So it seems there is no hope or help for you.  Partly because the Lord Jesus comes by the way of the Cross, the grace and the glory of which are hidden from sight, whether you have eyes or not.  And partly because there are so many voices, whispering and shouting, within and without, all of them telling you to “sit down” and “shut up.”  As soon as you begin to pray, to call on the name of the Lord, those voices tell you sternly to be quiet.  Loudest among them is God’s own Law, which exposes your sin, your dishonor and unworthiness.

But now God speaks another Word, a different Word, a new and better Word than all those many voices put together.  This Word cuts through all the chaos and the noise, and it reveals to your heart and mind the truth that is hidden from your eyes.  It speaks of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, the merciful Son of David, the promised Savior who has come.  He has drawn near.  And though He seems to be passing by and going away, He has now taken His stand both with you and for you.

Take courage!  Arise!  He is calling you to Himself by His Ministry of the Gospel, His preaching of grace and forgiveness.  So He did for Blind Bartimaeus, and so He does for you.  Have no fear, but fix your blind eyes on this Jesus by hearing and heeding His call.  It is a gentle command, or, really, a most gracious invitation.  Not that you must save yourself by some heroic effort, or by some great bold act of courage, but that He has come to save you, and that He is here to help you.

Your dishonor does not disqualify you.  Your unworthiness shall not undo you.  Your beggary honors this Lord Jesus, who is worthy of your petition.  Your need is met with the abundance of His charity.  Bring nothing else than that.  In fact, cast off your own wretched garments, whether fig leaves or fine threads, and be clothed in Christ Jesus, dressed in His glorious righteousness.

Find your life in Him who is calling you to Himself, and follow Him by faith, by the catechesis of His Word, on the Way that brings you into the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

That is what He has already given you, by His grace, in the waters of your Holy Baptism; and that is what your Baptism still indicates for each and every day of your life on earth.  For it is by “streams of water” that the Lord Jesus leads you on a straight and narrow path, that is, by the way of His own Cross, through death and the grave into life and salvation.  You die with Him, in order to live with Him.  That is your vocation, your calling as a Christian, that is, to live and die by faith in Christ according to His Word and Spirit, and so to live before God in righteousness and purity.

For Christ Jesus is your merciful and great High Priest.  Which is another way of saying that He is the new and greater Joshua, who goes before you into a new and better Canaan, crossing over through the waters of the Jordan in order to possess the Land of God and to bestow it upon you.

He has drawn near to you, not only in proximity, but in making your predicament His own.  He is up to His neck and immersed in the same waters that you are drowning in.  Therein He shares your griefs and bears your sorrows.  He fully takes your sin and death upon Himself, your blindness, your poverty and shame, in order to remove the curse.  At the same time, He dedicates Himself entirely to God on your behalf.  He is the sacred Sacrifice, who offers Himself for the Atonement of all sins, for the Redemption of all people, and for the Reconciliation of the entire world to God.

Therefore, He has come, and He has drawn near to you here, in order to take away your sins on the one hand, and on the other hand to gather you to Himself and to bring you near to His own God and Father as a beloved child.  So fully has He taken your place, that His place is now yours.

As you bear His Cross and share His death by your Baptism into Him, so do you also share His bodily Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension in the flesh to the right hand of the Father.

As He has been made perfect in holy faith and holy love by His sacrifice upon the Cross for you, so does He bring you and all your prayers to His God and Father, who is now your own God and Father, in perfect peace.  “By supplication He leads you.”  Which is to say, not only does He ever live to intercede for you, but He Himself is your Prayer in the ears of God, your sweet-smelling Incense in the nostrils of His Father.  As He is thus heard and received in the heavens, in the Holy of Holies made without hands, in the very bosom of the Father, so are you heard and received.

By His own faith and faithfulness, the Lord Jesus upholds and sustains you.  His steadfast love is your salvation, which endures forever and ever.  Indeed, He holds His Priesthood permanently.

In Him, in His Face and in His Flesh, in the Sound of His Voice, which is the Gospel, the true Sun has risen upon you, which shall never go down nor be eclipsed.  He shines on you, and He remains forever your Light and your Salvation.  No more darkness, no more night.  Instead, you live and abide in His glorious, eternal Day — as He abides with you here, and with His Father in heaven.

In Him shall you see God.  As you do even now by faith in His Gospel, so then with your own two eyes, in your own resurrected body, you shall see Him as He is, and you shall be like Him.

Take courage!  Arise!  He is calling you to Himself, to eat and drink, to taste and see, and to live.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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