19 - Blind Man of Jericho, Jan 19, 2014

Colossians 3:12-16

Luke 18:35-43

It says that “as He was drawing near to Jericho, there was a certain blind man sitting alongside the road, begging.” When he learns that it is Jesus of Nazareth passing by, he cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The LORD is greatly compassionate. Judging from the parable of the “Good Samaritan” – which also takes place on the road to Jericho – I warrant that Jesus would have noticed the blind man sitting by the side of the road and stopped even if the blind man had not been crying out.

But, did you note that the blind man cries out: “Jesus, Son of David”, when they told him that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was passing by? How did the blind man know to call out, Jesus, Son of David? It recalls for me the LORD’s baptism by John in the Jordan. Remember, that was a coronation, an epiphany or showing forth from heaven of Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God, which therefore means that He is the true King of Israel – or rather, of the New Israel, the Israel that is not of this world, the Israel of Heaven, of the Resurrection from the dead, since the old Israel, the earthly kingdom, was long since destroyed. But, if He is the Son of God, the true King of Israel, that means that He is the Christ, the anointed one, which means in turn that He is the Son of David. I wonder if the blind man calling, “Jesus, Son of David,” is what caught the LORD’s attention, and if this is the faith that the LORD refers to when He says to him after restoring his sight: “Your faith has saved you.” That is to say, through faith you know what only those who believe can know: that I am the true King whose Kingdom is not of this world, and who alone can really do what a king is supposed to do: viz., give life and wholeness to those who receive Him as their king.

Moreover, if Jesus is the Son of David, the King of Israel, then He is the one of whom Isaiah prophesied: “Behold, your God will come and save you, and the eyes of the blind shall be opened.” (Isa 35:4-5)

The LORD commands the blind man to be led to Him – the scene reminds one of the candidate for baptism being led to the font, or the candidate for ordination being led to the altar to receive from the bishop the laying on of hands – and He asks him: “What do you wish me to do for you?”

Beloved faithful, imagine what the blind man was feeling when he is brought to stand before the LORD. St Luke describes the blind man as a certain blind man, a way of saying that he stands for everyman; i.e., the blind man could be you and me.

Are we not standing before the LORD this morning? Is not the Church, where we are now sitting or standing, the very body of Christ? If we cannot see the LORD with our physical eyes, in whose presence we now stand, are we not exactly like the blind man in this morning’s Gospel? And, if we are in the presence of the LORD, I believe He is putting to us the very question He put to the blind man: “What do you wish me to do for you?”

Let us note the grace and humility of the LORD. He is the Son of David, the King of Heaven and Earth. And yet, see how He condescends to hear the lowly blind man’s cry. Note what gentleness He shows him. He is the very Word of God who made heaven and earth and everything in it. He has absolute power. He knows all things. And yet, He does not impose Himself on the blind man, and does nothing without asking: “What do you wish me to do for you?”

Beloved faithful, you are the blind man. If, from out of the depths of your heart, you have been crying out to Him Who Is, to Christ, the Son of David, you may take it that you are here, standing before the LORD this morning, because the LORD has bid your guardian angel to bring you to Him. And, in the goodness of His Grace, He is asking you: “What do you wish me to do for you?”

I am struck by how the blind man answers the Savior. He says, “LORD, that I may receive my sight!” There is no trace of anger or of proud entitlement in the blind man’s answer. Rather, his answer shows that he is speaking from a broken and contrite heart: “LORD, that I may receive my sight”. How was it that he came to such brokenness and contrition?

Perhaps, when he first began to lose his sight, he was angry. Two paths, I think, are presented to us in the passion of anger: either we can take the path of pride, which leads to bitterness and hardness of heart, because in our pride, we believe we are entitled to have whatever we want; or, we can take the path of biblical “mourning”, which drives us into the depths of our heart, breaking its hardness and making it soft and moist with our tears. In such “humility”, we see that we are dust, that we are darkened and dead in our sins and trespasses; and it gives rise to the broken and contrite “prayer of the heart” that the LORD does not despise: “O LORD, have mercy on me!” I think the blind man somehow found the second path, and followed it into his heart, so that when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, his heart leapt, like St JBapt in Elizabeth’s womb, for it had already attracted the attention of the Holy Spirit, and in the grace of the Spirit, it recognized Him at once as the very LORD he had been calling out to in his prayer, as it says in the Psalms: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who opens the eyes of the blind, and lifts up those who are bowed down.” (Ps 146:5-8) Perhaps this, then, was why he was able to call out immediately and without hesitation: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” If so, then the faith by which he recognized Jesus as the Son of David was the brokenness and contrition of his heart, and this is why he was saved, i.e., comforted, even to the point of being made able to see again.

Beloved faithful, we who identify ourselves as the certain blind man: what do we wish the LORD to do for us? Perhaps, we are not ready to ask that the LORD restore our sight. Perhaps, we need first to clear away the busy-ness of the world that distracts us and diverts us away from our heart. Perhaps we need to find a spot beside the blind man on the side of the road and ask him to help us find our heart, that we may begin to mourn in that spiritual grief of the soul that the LORD says is “blessed” and begin to call on the name of the LORD not with our lips only but from out of the depths of our heart.

Brothers and sisters, two Sundays from now, we will be in Jericho again; it will be the Sunday of Zaccheus. Two Sundays from now, the spires rising from the gates of Great Lent will begin to show on the horizon. Perhaps this morning, as we stand before the LORD, who asks us from His Holy Gospel: “What do you wish me to do for you?” we should answer, “LORD that I may taste Thy goodness so far as I am able and thereby find the resolve to take up my cross – the Church’s ascetic disciplines of prayer and fasting, charity and confession of sins – and learn the way of repentance and find my heart, that I may call to Thee from the depths: ‘LORD, hear my voice! That I may receive my sight, and give glory to Thee in the joy of Thy Holy Pascha!’” Amen.