Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Lord, set us free from the bonds of sin

As Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.  And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant.  They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."  And he cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"  And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he cried out all the more.  "Son of David, have mercy on me!"  And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to Him.  And when he came near, He asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?"  He said, "Lord, let me recover my sight."  And Jesus said to him, "Recover your sight: your faith has made you well."  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed Him, glorifying God.  And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.  Luke 18:35-43

TODAY the church makes us the blind man on the roadside, the man at the end of the freeway ramp, not begging uncertain riches from passing strangers, but calling out to Jesus to have mercy on us, and to deliver us from every evil, and why should we not?  For THAT is the sum of every prayer we utter; that our dear Lord Jesus Christ would look upon us with the beautiful eyes of His mercy, with true pity, and with divine love open our eyes so that we should recognize His mercy for what it is:  the end of all evil.

Yet the mercy of God is not only a future reality or a happy thought we use as a drug to get us through the rough times and then promptly forget.  Instead, God's mercy always takes on concrete form.  Like our Lord Himself, divine mercy assumes flesh and blood so that it is not only something we hold forth in our  minds to shield them from evil, though it is certainly that, but something that gives the measureable relief we pray for in today's Collect:

O Lord, we beseech Thee, mercifully hear our prayers and, having set us free from the bonds of sin, defend us from all evil:  through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

In the Old Testament church God extended His mercy to Israel by installing David as His own chosen king, but whatever Scripture posits of David was perfectly fulfilled in the Son of David, even our Lord Jesus Christ.

David was a shepherd who, by his given occupation, pointed to Jesus the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.   You are those sheep.

David was ruddy, which means reddish in color.  This points to the true humanity our Lord assumed in order to become our Savior and to the blood He shed on the cross to triumph over the world's sins, over death and to crush the devil's ugly head.

Scripture tells us that David was handsome, which in this context actually means boyish and innocent looking ... certainly too young to lead a nation.  We sing the same of our Lord: 

 This Child, now weak in infancy, Our confidence and joy shall be, The power of Satan breaking, Our peace eternal making.

This teaches us that looks can be deceiving when God is involved.  Goliath despised David's youth.  He wondered why Israel had sent out a boy to do a man's job, and we all know how that turned out.

As David was anointed with oil and with the Holy Spirit, St. Peter tells us that:  God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and that He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Today's epistle continues in the same vein.  The love that God's people extend to one another is the concrete manifestation of the love of God in Christ.  When we give and receive it, when we are patient and kind; not rude or envious; when we reject what is evil and rejoice in the truth, we are giving and receiving the material mercy of God to one another.  We are injecting light into darkness and vanquishing the devil's wicked works and wicked ways, so there is no greater endeavor in life, no more blessed and beneficial activity, than to believe, teach and confess the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the very thing we are engaged in at this time.

In today's gospel we hear about the ultimate mercy of God in handing over His Son to be our substitute in judgment, suffering and death.  The things He endured were our due for our crimes, for our willful blindness, for our refusal to know God and to worship Him as God, for our lust, our greed and for our immeasurable narcissism; but as we sing in the hymn: 

 God would not have the sinner die, His Son with saving grace is nigh!
("God Loved the World so that He Gave"  The Lutheran Hymnal 245 )

Thus the holy died for the unholy, the just for the unjust and the righteous for the unrighteous.  That is mercy.  That is love!  That is the greatest deliverance from evil there is.

Hence the things we pray in today's Collect, that God would mercifully hear our prayers and deliver us from evil, are answered for us by our Lord's suffering and death, and what was gained for us by His cross is also given and distributed to us in the Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day, for in the blessed Sacrament the deliverance we seek from our sins, from eternal death, from hopelessness and despair, are given to us in the richest possible measure.  Truly our "cup runneth over," because in the Sacrament we commune with Jesus our glorified Lord; not a mere symbol of Him or a contrived remembrance of Him, but His true flesh and blood "in, with, and under the bread and the wine given for us Christians to eat and to drink for the remission of sins, life and salvation."

Accordingly, may we continue to do as the church has done from the beginning, because today's gospel lesson is not only a description but also a prescription for the church to imitate until the end of the age.  May we too join in the Lord's festal procession, not to Jerusalem, but to the altar, where we cry out to the Son of David to have mercy upon us and to deliver us from every evil.  It is a prayer He will always answer.  Amen

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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