Jesus Predicts His Death and Heals a Blind Man
Jesus has been going on about hard core discipleship in the last few chapters – better, Jesus has been going on about how to enter the Kingdom – entry is only for those who come with nothing to offer, willing to receive like a little child – humble and desperate; entry is closed to those who come pointing to their achievements. And entry to the Kingdom is costly – he demands all we have, all we are, all of us.
Today we see that all this is because of the nature of the Kingdom itself – Jesus opens the way to the Kingdom by lowering himself in our place, by enduring scorn and disgrace for us, by giving his own all for us as he dies in our place. Only after his humiliation and suffering will he be elevated to his glory and honour. If that is how the King comes into his Kingdom, could we expect anything grander?
So I want to make just two points this morning and the first is this:
The King comes to this Kingdom via suffering, insult and death
Look at verse 31:
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be turned over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again."
I want you to notice the details: First Jesus says this to the 12, the disciples, not to everyone. This is the plan, but it isn't for broadcast now. He says it in advance so that they know that he's in control; but they have to keep it close for now so that the plan can proceed. He tells the disciples, his witnesses…
Second he tells them: We're going up to Jerusalem – we heard this in chapter 17 verse 11; Jesus is determined to go to Jerusalem, he's set his face towards it and there's an urgency and purpose about him, he will not be put off. As far back as chapter 13 Jesus predicted that Jerusalem would be the place of his death: Luke 13 verse 32-35:
I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day--for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
Third: Jesus knows what is going to happen in Jerusalem because he's read it in the Old Testament. Where? Well he will go on to explain after his resurrection – see Luke 24 v25 and v45; Peter preaches from the Old Testament on Pentecost, so does Stephen later on and then Paul – they quote from Psalm 2, 8, 10, 16, 22, 40 and 110 from Isaiah, Joel, Hosea, even Job, Lamentations, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. We're going to look briefly at two of those: Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Jesus quotes Psalm 22 from the cross,
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? …All who see me mock me: they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 8'He trusts in the Lord, let the Lord rescue him…Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."
Jesus would be mocked and insulted, surrounded by mockers laughing at his trust in God; his strength would fail – Simon of Syrene had to carry his cross for him; he would thirst and receive wine vinegar; his bones remain unbroken but his hands and feet pierced; his clothes divided among the watchers, lots cast for his garments… it's uncanny isn't it?
"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken… after the suffering of his soul he will see the light of life…"
Jesus knew that these things had to be fulfilled, God had committed to doing them, they were the very means by which God would save: that's why they were in the prophets, because he was coming to do these very things.
Fourth thing to notice: Jesus couldn't be clearer about this, but the disciples couldn't be foggier – Luke labours the point in verse 34 – three times he says they didn't understand, it was hidden from them, they couldn't get it. How can that be?
They were blinded by their expectations, deafened by what they thought they knew. Jesus was the Messiah, the glorious ruler, the son of Man – the one who Daniel saw taking glory and honour and eternal rule from God in Daniel chapter 7. Whatever Jesus was talking about he couldn't mean that he was going to die – how could he rule for ever if he was dead, there's just no sense in this at all.
They don't get it – yet, it but Jesus knows full well – This is how his Kingdom works, this is how the King enters into his glorious rule, this is how he claims his Kingdom. Before glory comes suffering – and it is that very suffering that gives rise to the glory – death first, then resurrection!
Think of it like this – picture a coronation. At the point that the King is crowned the Kingdom reveals it's glory doesn't it? This is a time for pomp and ceremony, for glittering crowns and towering thrones, a time for shows of wealth and power, a time to glory in strength, a time of hope … The disciples understand all that. How then could they understand that Jesus' coronation would come on a cross of wood, wearing a crown of thorns under an ironic pronouncement 'this is the King of the Jews'. How could they imagine that the power and glory of God would be revealed by a spear thrust in Jesus' side, by his blood poured out and his life taken? Yet this is the glory and power of God, and at the King's coronation we see the nature of his Kingdom: Jesus comes to conquer through sacrifice, to rescue and to rule by his death in our place.
Contrast Jesus with Mohammad, Mohammad rides into Mecca with sword drawn to kill and destroy his enemies. It is their blood that he spills for his glory. Today his followers continue to follow his example… but when Jesus rides into Jerusalem to conquer there are no drawn swords, he comes to offer himself, it is his blood that will be poured out, his body that will be broken. He comes to offer himself the sacrifice we need, to conquer and to rescue.
And this is God's great purpose in creation – the whole universe was made for this: to bear witness to God's great act of humility and love; the creator stoops to become one of us, a servant no less, and to humble himself to death, even death on a cross. And this is how God conquers every enemy and emerges victorious and glorious with all things under his feet – after the cross, resurrection; by the cross, victory even over death, life forever, for the King and for his subjects.
Jesus loves us to the very depths of hell, and he takes hell to rescue us. And for all eternity this will occupy our thoughts, and our praise. But from this side of eternity it just looks like weakness, like pathetic failure. Like a man hanging on a cross. And the disciples can't see the glory in that.
I wonder if you can see it?
And that is the question we're supposed to be asking – because Luke labours the point that the disciples can't see, then segues seamlessly into the story of a blind man. And this gives us our second point.
Point Two the Kingdom is open to anyone who will lower themselves like the King and throw themselves on his mercy
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.
"When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God."
Again we need to pay attention to the details: The blind man fits perfectly the profile of the people who are saved in chapter 18 – the poor and miserable: he has nothing to offer, he's blind, and poor with it, begging by the road. Because he's blind he's dependant on others even to know what is going on – he has to ask what the commotion is all about, he can't see Jesus going by.
Yet he sees more clearly that the rest – look what he calls Jesus – he recognises Jesus as the 'son of David' the Messiah. The disciples can't see it yet, but this blind man sees what they keep missing – the Kingdom is for the broken and the helpless, it's for him. So he cries out shamelessly for mercy. 'son of David, have mercy on me'. Have mercy. They try and shut him up – is this the same men who told the women not to bring the babies? They really don't see do they! They try and shut him up, but He won't be put off. He knows this is his chance and he's not going to miss it.
And Jesus hears, Jesus stops and Jesus heals. The crowds – even the disciples – see a pathetic beggar. Jesus sees a perfect candidate for his Kingdom. They tell him to shut up, Jesus asks him to say it again – what do you want? He knows exactly what he wants and he asks 'Lord I want to see'. And Jesus says 'receive your sight' and better yet 'Your faith has saved you'. Immediately he could see and he left his life of begging to follow Jesus and praise God.
And so the blind man provides a model response to Jesus – we need to do just what he has done: to recognise Jesus as our King, to call on him for mercy, to look to him for salvation, to ask him to help us to see, then to follow him, praising God.
It really is the most simple, and the most glorious thing in all the world. We put ourselves into his hands, and he takes us into his Kingdom and all that belongs to him he shares with us. And following him we endure the shame, the mocking, the persecution he endured – but just like him one day our suffering will produce glory as he welcomes us fully into the Kingdom he has won for us.
So Luke chapter 18 ends with a glorious picture which can only be seen by faith – the greatest and most glorious kingdom of all time, arrayed in all the splendour of glorious, purposeful suffering. And it gives us a model of how to respond to this King in such a way that you will enter into his Kingdom – do the blind man: throw yourself on Jesus, forget dignity and shame, forget the crowds, forget what anyone else says and cry out for mercy like you really mean it. And then follow him, and you too will be saved.