IN NOMINE JESU
Our text for today marks a turning point in two regards. First, regarding Jesus' earthly ministry, this text is the last pericope covering His ministry as we would know it. Chapter 11 ushers in Passion Week, beginning with the Palm Sunday narrative. Secondly, this is the last continual reading from St. Mark's Gospel for this liturgical year. Following next week's reading for the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, the Gospel readings will focus on the last days, preparing us to meet our Lord when He comes again on the Last Day, the end of all time, when He will come and gather the faithful to Himself into all eternity. Until then, let us focus our attention on the Holy Gospel appointed for today.
Jesus and His disciples came to Jericho. They were on their way to Jerusalem for Jesus' triumphal entry into the holy city. Leaving Jericho, Jesus, His disciples, and a large crowd of followers who would shout "Hosanna" before long came upon a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, son of a seemingly well-known Timaeus, sitting at the side of the road. He heard that Jesus of Nazareth was coming, and so he cried out for the Lord: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (v. 47b). Many of the people told him to be quiet, to not bother Jesus. He let out an even louder cry, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" (v. 48b). His prayer should ring familiar in our ears because we offer up this prayer each time we are gathered here, regardless of whether we are celebrating the Divine Service, praying Matins or Vespers, or worshiping with the "Page 5" service. His prayer is the basis our Kyrie: "Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us." His prayer reflected our Prayer of the Church as we conclude each petition, saying, "Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer." Bartimaeus wanted the Lord to hear his prayer, his petition that the Lord would restore his sight. The Lord called for him and heard his simple request. The blind man simply wished to see. The Lord, knowing all things, saw into the blind man's heart and saw his faith. The blind man knew who Jesus was, for he called Him the Son of David; he knew that the Messiah would come from David's line, that the Messiah would come from Nazareth. The Lord rewarded Bartimaeus's God-given faith and restored his sight. "Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your faith has made you well'" (v. 52a). Which way did he go? He went the way Jesus went, following Him on the way to Jerusalem. His following Jesus was an act of worship as he responded to the Lord's goodness.
Such is the rhythm of our worship of God. God is the Actor in the liturgy. He runs the verbs. He does the verbs. He is the Do-er in the liturgy. The word liturgy means "service," and God serves us in this service of word and prayer. He comes to us, just He came to Bartimaeus. We respond, crying out, "Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer." He hears and answers our prayers. We respond with songs of thankfulness and praise. The Lord places His thrice-holy Name upon us, moving us to serve Him in our vocations.
Why do we ask our Lord to have mercy upon us? We ask because we are in need of His mercy. We are in need because we are in need of His healing. Bartimaeus was blind. Our eyes do not see as well as they once did. For some of us, our eyes have never seen well, and we need stronger prescriptions for our glasses. Making moves that were once simple are now more difficult, and in some cases almost impossible, as arthritis and the effects of old age begin to take their tolls on us. The list of shut-ins in our parish seems to have reached a plateau for now, but we have recently been including in the Prayer of the Church more and more names among the sick, infirm, and recovering. Our bodies are not perfect. We lack a clean bill of health because we each have a deadly disease that ravages us. This disease is called sin. The disease is congenital. Our condition is terminal. We were conceived and born in sin. We are by nature sinful and unclean, sinning against God by thought, word, and deed. God, our great Physician, has given us the prescription for living a spiritually healthy life: the Ten Commandments. Yet these tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai are bitter pills for us to swallow. When we feel some pain inside us or when we hurt ourselves, we tell ourselves that we are fine, that the pain will soon pass. That physical pain can come and go, but sometimes it does not. Even if the pain does not subside, we do not like to seek treatment for our ailments. This is even truer when dealing with our sinful condition. We think we are in good shape. We forget about God, the only One who can bring about healing for our souls, the One from whom we receive healing for our bodies.
We forget about God, but He does not forget us. It can be a terrible thing to be remembered by the Lord in His wrath. But is a beautiful thing to be remembered by the Lord in His love. He remembered Bartimaeus and came to him with His word of healing. He remembers us as He comes to us. He comes to us in the liturgy, as we are gathered in the Lord's house in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He comes to us in His Means of Grace. He comes to us with His word of healing—His word of forgiveness. As the Lord said to Bartimaeus, so He says to us, "Go your way; your faith has made you well" (v. 52a). As He prepared to turn His face toward Jerusalem to win our forgiveness for us on the cross, He turns His face toward us, making it shine upon us and being gracious to us, looking upon us with favor, and granting us His peace, that peace which the world cannot give.
This peace first came to us from the cross. Jesus asked us the same question He asked Bartimaeus, "What do you want Me to do for you?" (v. 51). He answered His own question as He was being crucified for us and for our salvation. He said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Lk. 23:34). He answered the question again when He said, "It is finished!" (Jn. 19:30b). What was finished? He finished the work needed to be done to bring about our forgiveness. Only Jesus could pay the debt of our sins. Only Jesus could die in our place. As the writer to the Hebrews says in our Epistle for today, [Jesus] "holds His priesthood permanently, because He continues forever. Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens" (Heb. 7:24-26). Only Jesus could rise from the dead, that we may have eternal life with Him and in Him. Only Jesus could ascend into heaven and be seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, forever interceding for us, pleading for us on our behalf, that the Lord would have mercy upon us. The Lord shows His mercy and hears our prayers in Jesus' Name.
Our heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers out of His love for us in Jesus Christ. As the Psalmist writes in our Psalm for today, "The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. ...Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him" (Ps. 126:3, 5-6). The Lord hears our cries for mercy and he delivers on His promises. He says through the prophet Jeremiah in our Old Testament reading for today, "Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and her who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel..." (Jer. 31:8-9). God is our heavenly Father. The Lord is our shepherd, leading us beside the still waters, bringing us to the living waters of Holy Baptism. He leads us, in our fallen condition, to where He gives His gifts—here in His house, where He comes to us and serves us. He is the Host, and we are His guests. As host, our Lord gives us His gifts of grace, that we would receive healing for our souls: the forgiveness of sins. The One who grants healing to our bodies in His time and according to His good and gracious will is the same One who grants healing for our souls on account of His Son, our dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who in St. Mark's Gospel is set to turn His face toward Jerusalem to get ready to die for us, and who in the liturgy turns His face toward us in His grace, the love God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. God grant this in Jesus' Name and for His sake. In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Pr. Mark Schlamann Our Savior/Redeemer Lutheran Churches, Pettibone/Woodworth, ND
We treat of the forgiveness of sins in two ways. First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But He has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in the Supper or Sacrament. There He has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once for all on the cross. But the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world. For inasmuch as He had determined once to achieve it, it made no difference to Him whether he distributed it before or after, through His Word, as can easily be proved from Scripture. (Luther)--
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