************ Sermon on Luke 18:34 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 6, 2016
"Three Blind Mice"
I had my annual appointment with the eye doctor this past week. They do all sorts of tests and take all sorts of pictures. My eyes are in good shape. What a miracle the eye is. So intricate and complex. So many different components need to work together. Yet, atheists and fools try to tell us that the eye and sight is an accident of nature. How is that even possible?
As I was sitting in the eye doctor's office I started to think about our Bible reading for this morning. They didn't have eye doctors back then. They didn't have eye glasses. If you were blind, suffering from macular degeneration or cataracts, there was nothing you could do.
My trip to the eye doctor also made me think of the children's rhyme:
Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?
With all of this in mind, do you know how many people in our Scripture reading needed an eye doctor? The twelve disciples were blind. The beggar by Jericho was blind. The crowds were blind. Three blind mice. As we prepare for the Lord's Supper and observe Lent this year we will start by looking at spiritual blindness.
I The Blind Beggar
A Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem (cf Lk 9:51). He is on His way to Jerusalem to accomplish the Father's purposes. As we see in our Bible reading, the cross and the grave are never far from His mind. He is weighed down by this. Even burdened by this.
Since starting off for Jerusalem, Jesus has passed through Samaria (Lk 9:52). He has sent out the seventy-two (Lk 10:1). He dropped in on Martha, Mary, and Lazarus -- probably to say good-bye (Lk 10:38). He said the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (Lk 15). He healed the ten lepers (Lk 17:11). And, there is still so much for Him to do: miracles to perform, teachings to say, training of the disciples, sinners to confront, children to bless. His attention is focused on doing His Father's will. Yet, in the middle of all this busyness, Jesus stopped and showed compassion to a man in Jericho.
B We aren't told much about the man. We know he was blind. But we don't know if he was born blind or if he became blind later in life. We know he was in Jericho -- the scene of one of God's greatest Old Testament miracles. We know he was begging. No disability insurance back then. No group home. No government program to look after him. So he was entirely dependent on the generosity of his friends and neighbors to provide life's necessities. We know he was probably a Jew because he addressed Jesus as "Son of David." Lastly, and most importantly, according to Jesus he was a man of faith.
C We see he was a man of faith. He was told "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by" (Lk 18:37). There were lots of people back then with the name "Jesus." And they didn't have last names back then. So our Lord was identified quite often as "Jesus of Nazareth" ((Mt 26:71; Mk 1:24; 10:47; Lk 4:34; 18:37; 24:19; Jn 1:45; 18:5, 7; 19:19; Acts 2:22; 6:14; 10:38; 22:8; 26:9).
The crowds saw our Lord as "Jesus of Nazareth." But the blind man saw our Lord as "Jesus, Son of David." It was given to the blind man to see more deeply and more clearly than anyone else. He saw more clearly than the twelve disciples. He saw more clearly than the Jericho crowds.
So what did he see? What did he believe? Seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the "Son of David." This raises the question of how Jesus could be the son of David if David lived approximately 1,000 years before Jesus? The answer is that Jesus is of the lineage, the genealogy, of David. Matthew 1 gives the genealogical proof that Jesus, in His humanity, was a direct descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, Jesus' legal father. The genealogy in Luke 3 traces Jesus' lineage through His mother, Mary, who was also a descendant of David. Jesus is a descendant of David by adoption through Joseph and by blood through Mary. Romans 1:3 puts it this way: "who as to his human nature was a descendant of David."
The title "Son of David" is more than a statement of physical genealogy. It is also a Messianic title. When people referred to Jesus as the Son of David, they meant that He was the long-awaited Deliverer, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. He was the Son of David Whose throne and kingdom would be established forever.
It was given to the blind man to see that Jesus is the "Son of David." The Messiah. So he cried to Him for help: "have mercy on me" (Lk 18:38). People in the crowd tried to quiet him because he was making a disturbance. He cried louder and louder until Jesus asked that the man be brought to Him. The man asked Jesus for sight, and Jesus healed him. The man then followed Jesus, praising God (Lk 18:35–43).
I repeat: it was given to the blind man to see more deeply and more clearly than anyone else. It was given to Him by the Spirit.
II The Blind Disciples
A Our text indicates the disciples were also blind. Just like the blind man was before Jesus healed him:
(Lk 18:34) The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
In what way were the disciples blind? What form did their blindness take? They were blind about Who Jesus was. They were blind about Jesus' mission.
(Lk 18:31-33) 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. (32) He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. (33) On the third day he will rise again."The disciples did not understand any of this. They were blind. Completely blind. Totally blind. They were in darkness. They didn't have a clue.
B Jesus spoke to the disciples about the Son of Man (capital "S" capital "M"). I need to stress this because many people think "Son of Man" means Jesus is human, a man, with our flesh and blood. It is true that many times Ezekiel is called "son of man" thereby drawing attention to his humanity. But when the title is applied to Jesus it points to anything but His humanity.
Who or what is the Son of Man? This is a title that first appears in Daniel 7. Let me set the scene for you.
Daniel has a vision of four great beasts that emerge from the raging sea, each one different from the one before (Dan 7:3). They emerge not at the same time but one after the other. The four beasts that Daniel sees are a roaring lion (Dan 7:4), a hungry bear (Dan 7:5), a swift leopard (Dan 7:6), and a ferocious animal so horrible in appearance that Daniel does not know what to call it (Dan 7:7-8). In a later verse Daniel tells us that the four beasts are four different world empires that make their appearance throughout history (Dan 7:17). Notice, the four world empires are depicted as beasts of prey. Daniel sees them as agents of destruction and death. Their anger and hatred are directed against God (Dan 7:25) and the church (Dan 7:21,25). Daniel makes clear that the nations of this earth are anti-Christ, anti-God, and anti-Christian.
In the face of these beasts, is the church destroyed? Does the name of God suffer unending profanity and indignity? Not at all! Watch as it unfolds.
Daniel also has a vision of God. He is called the "Ancient of Days." That means He is old beyond imagining, older than the beginning of times; He has existed before time and will continue to exist after time. So, He is above time and over time and beyond time.
This "Ancient of Days" sits on a throne flaming with fire. Not only that, but a river of fire also flows from His throne. A fire of judgment that will fall upon the beasts and the kingdoms they represent. He is attended by thousands upon thousands; ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him.
Do you get the picture? God is over all. He is sovereign. He is almighty.
At this point, Daniel introduces us to a figure described as "one like a son of man" (Dan 7:13). Listen to Daniel’s description:
(Dan 7:13-14) In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. (14) He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
The "Son of Man," I want you to notice, has authority and glory and power. He is exalted and worshiped. Like God, He is over all, He is sovereign, He is almighty. So what does He do? He destroys the four beasts and the kingdoms they represent.
C In the Gospels, Jesus uses the title "Son of Man" to describe Himself and His work. Never once in the Gospels will you find anyone other than Jesus using this term; it is not a title used by Peter or James or John or any of the other apostles. It was a title used by Jesus alone for Jesus alone.
Why did Jesus use this title? Because Jesus was claiming to be the exalted "Son of Man" we find in Daniel. Someone with authority and glory and power. Someone exalted and worshiped. Someone Who is over all, sovereign, almighty. Someone Who is God.
Now, I want you to notice what Jesus said He could do as the "Son of Man." A paralyzed man was brought to Jesus to be healed. What did Jesus do? He forgave the man’s sins. The Pharisees were scandalized by this. Listen to Jesus’ response:
(Lk 5:24) "But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home."Do you see what the "Son of Man" can do? He can do what only God can do; He can heal diseases and forgive sins.
Another time, the Pharisees complained to Jesus because His disciples picked some heads of grain on the Sabbath. Remember what Jesus said that time?
(Lk 6:5) Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."Do you see what the "Son of Man" can do? He has the authority to do what only God can do; He can revise or change what happens on the Sabbath.
D Jesus identifies Himself as the "Son of Man." Divine. Powerful. Glorious. Forgiving sins. Changing the rules for the Sabbath. The disciples have no problems understanding this. It was the next part which gave them problems. Handed over to the Gentiles. Mocked. Insulted. Spit upon. Flogged. Killed. Rise again on the third day.
How can this happen to someone so glorious and mighty? How can this happen to someone divine? How can the Son of Man die a criminal's death?
The disciples did not understand any of this. Why not? Because they were blind! Because its meaning was hidden from them. Because the Spirit had not yet revealed the truth to them. In fact, they didn't understand until Easter.
III The Blind Crowd
Our Bible reading leads us to conclude that the crowd was also blind. What did they call Jesus? They called Him, "Jesus of Nazareth." Not, "Son of David." Not, "Son of Man." Instead, "Jesus of Nazareth."
They saw the miracle done by Jesus. They joined the blind man in praising God.
But within a couple of days they were screaming for His blood and His life: "Crucify him!" "Crucify him!" (Mt 27:22). They stood watching as Jesus was crucified and mocked Him and reviled Him (Lk 23:35).
They were blind, I say. They were blind to the Lord of Glory. They were blind to Who Jesus was. They were blind to Jesus' mission. It took Pentecost to open their eyes.
Our Bible reading teaches us something about ourselves and something about God.
As we prepare for the Lord's Supper and observe Lent we are being reminded of our blindness, our spiritual blindness. Sinners are blind to Whom Christ is and what He does. Sinners are blind to their sin. Sinners are blind. They are like the three blind mice.
And, we learn it is God Who gives sight. It is God Who removes the scales from our eyes. As the song "Amazing Grace" puts it, "I was blind but now I see." Thanks to the work of God's Spirit, the closed heard is opened, the hard heart is softened, and the uncircumcised heart is circumcised. Thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, the dead will is made alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant. The result? I see Who Jesus is. I see what Jesus does. "I was blind but now I see."
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