Today Christ says to the blind man, “Your faith has saved you.”
What is this faith like? It is a saving thing. It is not impotent and useless. It is not irrelevant to our culture, since everyone needs salvation.
But people so often do not think that they need saving. They think that they are just fine. They are good people, or so they say. They are self-sufficient. This is how blindness talks. Only a blind man could think that he is self-sufficient, when death threatens the whole human race. Only blindness could say that we are good people, when we pour out iniquities all day long. Only blindness thinks that we need no salvation.
The problem is, our sinful flesh is always blind. Ever since Eve used her eyes to covet the delicious-looking fruit that brought death, our eyes have been easily deceived. Ever since Adam stood by while the tempter lured his wife and the whole human race into sin and destruction, we have failed to notice when spiritual danger is near. Although we may dimly glimpse the wickedness of man, or even our own wickedness, our flesh never quite grasps the full depravity of the corrupted human nature. We cannot accurately discern our sinful condition.
Yet we Christians recognize our condition, although not from our own abilities. The Word of God reveals it. The Spirit convicts us of our sins. By the grace of God, He opens our eyes.
So we recognize that without God, we are helplessly blind and unable to function. Without God, we cannot perceive the Law of God. Without Him, we cannot follow the way of salvation. By ourselves, we are liable to stray upon the wrong paths.
Even though the moral law is written by God upon the hearts of all mankind, we still have difficulty recognizing the commandments. We do not recognize them in our daily lives when we have difficulty understanding what is right and wrong. This is even apart from the question of whether we keep the commandments. Every day, we break commandments without even realizing it. We are like a blind man, stumbling around in a room, knocking over and breaking everything in our path.
Even now that we are set upon the way of salvation, we are still so blind that we are prone to wander off in the wrong direction. Temptations to sin try to lure us away from God. False beliefs can creep in, blurring our faith. Or we may trust our feelings that prompt us to go away from the path laid before us by Christ, thinking all the while that we are doing better than ever. Spiritually speaking, we are so directionally challenged that we may as well be blind.
But the Holy Spirit keeps us going in the right direction. That is to say, He guards and protects us in the one true faith. Through Word and Sacrament, He feeds our faith to keep us strong, even in trials and difficulties. As we stumble about, He guides us and leads us by the hand. He will not abandon us.
Because of the Holy Spirit, our faith clings to Christ in spite of all circumstances that may try our faith. Sometimes we are like a blind man who hears noises and does not know what they mean. There are things out there that frighten us, many of which are invisible enemies of God and man. Horrifying demons prowl the entire world, seeking to destroy us. What is visible is bad enough: terrors on every side, attacks upon body and mind. The culture sometimes threatens us, and sometimes entices us to join them in their sinful lifestyles. On top of all this, there are everyday dangers that are constantly around us. Then again, we sometimes invent our own dangers from the fears in our heads. Our emotions sometimes run wild in us.
But through all these things, the Spirit is with us to defend our faith. When our hearts would fail, He upholds them. When our fears attack, He speaks reassuringly. He will not let our faith fail.
Sometimes, the circumstances that oppose us come from brothers and sisters in the faith. We must sometimes, like the blind man in the Gospel, endure opposition from the crowd that follows Christ. The blind man cries, as we do, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd warned him to be quiet. The crowd seems to feel that we should not let someone crying for mercy interrupt the Lord.
Except that the Lord’s ears are always listening to hear cries for mercy. He loves their sound, because it is the sound of faith speaking out loud. Sometimes, we who have faith forget that, and we take on the role of asking others to be quiet. We may speak discouraging words that deflate the spirits of fellow saints. We may look in contempt upon the actions of those whom we perceive as weaker brothers. Perhaps out of a completely innocent desire to make things better in the church, we may be the source of discouragement for others.
May we avoid that when possible, and quickly repent when it is not.
Even more importantly, we blind men should not let others shush us when we cry to the Lord. We should not let others discourage us from the heartfelt cries of faith that well up from our souls. We are weak creatures, unable to see or stand on our own. We need the mercy of Jesus constantly. The Spirit-given faith that fills us cannot be quiet. Like the blind man in the Holy Gospel, we must continue begging for our Lord’s mercy, no matter how many people tell us to stop.
This is the pattern in the Church. We sing the Kyrie, “Lord, have mercy upon us,” because we must. We blind beggars have no choice. We could pretend to be self-sufficient, sighted men who can get along just fine without a Savior. But that is not how faith thinks. So the Spirit drives us instead to beg.
If we become too prideful, we may decide we do not need to beg. We may get tired of crying abjectly to our Lord. We may get sick of approaching Him from a position of weakness. In this way, we may take the place of the crowd, and tell ourselves to be quiet and stop bothering the Lord.
But we must approach from weakness. That is the only position our blindness allows us.
The faith in us must therefore make itself blind to what our eyes see: hardships, opposition, pain, sorrow, even death and the devil. Faith chooses to be blind to these, and see only Christ, our dear Savior. If we look at the troubles of the world that try to lead us away from God, we may conclude that God does not love us, or else He would not let such troubles come. In the same way, the blind man might have thought, “If God really cared about me, He would not have made me blind. Why should I go beg to Christ? God will never help me.” But no, the blind man did not say this. Instead he trusted in the mercy of God. He knew and He saw with perfect clarity that God is gracious toward the lowly. God lifts up the weak because He delights in mercy. The blind man believed this, and his faith saved him.
May we be always like him. When our flesh tries to make us look at all the troubles and dangers of life as if God did not love us, may we instead choose to see only one thing – Christ and Him crucified. May we judge God’s grace by the Cross, not by what our eyes see around us. What we see with our eyes will deceive us. But faith sees our Savior, who purchased life neverending for us. He rose to show us our future, so that we look forward to the resurrection life to come, instead of putting our hopes in this present world filled with decay and corruption.
Faith sees Christ’s work of Passion and Resurrection as the only true reality. Our future is determined by these things, not by the things our eyes see. So faith clings to Christ and what He did. Faith holds on to the Savior, steadfastly crying out and trusting, no matter what, in the Man who suffered all for us.
Today Christ says to you, “Your faith has saved you.” You are the blind man – helpless, by nature unable to see the things of God. Yet He has opened your eyes through faith. Others brought you to Christ, the Light of the world, who has opened your eyes.
So now, as a follower of Christ, you journey in the footsteps of your Lord. As He faced Cross and suffering, you must also do so. As He went onward to resurrection, so you are journeying to immortality.
Therefore you rightly praise and glorify your God and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be all honor, power, dominion and might, forever and ever. Amen.
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