February 14, 2020 A+D
St. Luke 18: 31-42
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel is mostly by parables and signs, but three times He explicitly and clearly foretells where He is headed and what will happen to Him. In Luke’s Gospel it goes like this:
Luke 9:22 (NKJV)
“The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
Luke 9:44 (NKJV)
“Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.”
Luke 18:31–34 (NKJV)
Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
Immediately after that third prophecy, Luke records a three-fold ignorance of the apostles. He writes: “But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.”
There is a kind of progression in the three prophecies. In the first it is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected. In the second, the Son of Man is betrayed. In the third, the things foretold by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be completed. Our translation reads “accomplished,” but Luke happens to use the same word that John records as Jesus’ last word on the cross. It is one word in Greek, but we usually translate it with three words in English: “It is finished.” The Greek word has the sense of being perfected or completed. In our Lord’s final prophesy of His passion He says that everything written about Him in the prophets will be completed, perfected, finished. And the disciples are largely clueless.
This last prophecy takes place immediately after the rich ruler comes to Jesus asking how to inherit eternal life. He goes away sad when Jesus tells him to sell everything that He has. The disciples balk at this and ask who then can be saved. Jesus says: “The things that are impossible with men are possible for God.” Then Peter says “We have left all and followed you” and Jesus tells them where they will follow but the disciples do not understand.
Some of this is their own fault. What He was telling them was too outrageous or too scary or too painful to consider. This demonstrates they hadn’t really left everything. They were still clinging to their lives. But what He said was also hidden from them. Jesus didn’t want them interfering or getting themselves hurt. They are to be His ambassadors to the world, not His co-commanders sharing in His glory. They will be His representatives to the world after the resurrection, but before the resurrection they are our representatives. They stand for all of mankind. Jesus goes to the cross for them and for us.
The things that the prophets wrote about, that which will be perfected, are His being betrayed and handed over, to be mocked, insulted, and spat upon, scourged and killed, and then, having defeated death on our behalf, to rise again on the third day. This is His holy mission and purpose. It is what is necessary for our salvation and to fulfill the promises of God as recorded by the prophets.
American Christianity’s favorite Bible passage is John 3:16 which is sometimes called “the Gospel in a nutshell.” Maybe Luke 18:33 could be called the Old Testament in a nutshell: The Messiah is scourged and killed as a sacrifice and rises on the third day of His own accord. This He does to atone for the sins of the world that the world might be reconciled to His Father.
Now that the Resurrection has come, as have the Ascension and Pentecost, we must mirror the threefold ignorance of the Apostles with a threefold knowledge. We must become, as they did, His ambassadors to the world. To do this we must understand the events of Jesus’ life, particularly those of Holy Week, as fulfillment of the Old Testament and Jesus Himself as the God of the Old Testament. We must reveal this, along with what Jesus says about the ransom that He has paid for the world, to the world. And we must know the actual facts of His death and resurrection, not on the basis of tradition but as they are recorded in Holy Scripture.
In this way we might have the vision of blind Bartimaeus, refusing to be silenced as we cry out for mercy and as we follow Jesus praising God with a loud voice. Then we might be truly ready to sell all, even our health, and let Jesus lead the way. For the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.