Healed For Service

MP3 Audio: WS330335_Dn-Joseph_Healed-For-Service.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, March 2, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

~

Gospel Reading: Luke 18:31-43

“For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and spitefully entreated, and spitted on. And they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death and the third day, He shall rise again.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, God is One. Amen.

In this passage from the Gospel of Luke, we see a pitiful, poor, blind man, helpless beside the road, begging for bread, for spare change, for anything that a kind soul might be willing to give him. Then he hears that Jesus is coming by, and he beseeches Jesus to heal his sight. Jesus heals the blind man.

Have you ever tried to think about life from the perspective of this blind man who now could see? Now that he could see, he could try to go get a job. He might have an income now. He might be able to marry. He might be able to have a family. It may be that Jesus not only gave him his eyes back, but his entire life.

If you were this blind man, what would be going through your mind? At first, you’d just be amazed at everything, “I can see the sky, I can see the ceiling, I can see the walls, I can see the snow and the ice, and I can see the trees, and I can see the grass, and I can see the road, and I can see my feet and my hands, and I can see!  You’d be excited about everything that you could possibly see. But then your imagination would start getting a hold of you. “I wonder what things my eyes are going to see? I wonder what things are just around the corner in my life? I’m going to go work hard. Am I going to go find this field that I can work in and earn some money? I wonder what my house is going to look like once I have money to buy it? Am I going to meet a beautiful woman? And now that I can see, and now that I can get a job, she’s going to marry me. I wonder what my children are going to look like? I’m going to be able to see my kids!” He was probably very excited, looking forward to all the things that he would see.

But earlier in this passage, Jesus was telling his disciples about things that they would see, and they simply did not understand. For you see, what Jesus said was coming soon, was not weddings or the births of children, but it was the cruel torture and murder of the Son of God.

“For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and spitefully entreated, and spitted on. And they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death.” When Jesus healed the eyes of this blind man, he was healing him just in time for him to see this horror. The man may have had grand plans for the things that he was going to see, but if he stayed anywhere near Jerusalem, what he was going to see was going to be crowds of people screaming at the tops of their lungs, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” What he was going to see was an innocent man, shamefully condemned to a criminal’s death, carrying His own Cross on His bloody back, dragging it down the Via Dolorosa, on the way to His own execution. If this man was anywhere near Golgotha, then what he would see with his own eyes were the hands of the Man who had healed his sight, nailed to the Cross of a common criminal.

Have you ever seen something in this world that is so horrible, that at that time, you almost wished that you didn’t have your sight? And I have to wonder, when this man saw the innocent Son of God being cruelly whipped, mocked, nailed to the Cross, and ultimately killed, insult being added to injury as the spear of a Roman soldier pierces His dead side, blood and water pours out – if this man saw this with his own eyes – I have to wonder if there wasn’t just a part of him that said, “I almost wish I couldn’t see. I almost wish that I was still blind.”

You see, this was not the only blind man in Israel. All of the men that thought they were well, all of the men that thought they were healthy, all of the men who were following Christ, were blind. Jesus told them plainly, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.” The prophets already told you about it. You’ve already read the book of Isaiah. You should know this is coming. “For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and spitefully entreated, and spitted on. And they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death. And the third day He shall rise again. And they understood none of these things as this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” 

Then the very next verse says, “And it came to pass, that as He was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the wayside begging.” This is the man whom He heals.

Often in Scripture, instead of giving us explicit commentary, it will simply take two events and put them side-by-side, and then expect us to figure it out. You see, it’s told that Jesus prophesied His own crucifixion, and death, and resurrection, but that His apostles were blind to what was coming. And the very next thing spoken, is that this blind man is begging, and Jesus heals him so that he can see. See, not too many weeks hence, the apostles saw with their own eyes that Jesus was illegitimately condemned to death, that He was scourged to within an inch of His life, that He was cruelly tortured, made to carry His own Cross, that He was crucified and cried out, “It is finished,” gave up His spirit, and died. The spear of a Roman soldier pierced His side. They took His body down from the Cross and laid Him in a rich man’s tomb.

What the Apostles did not understand from hearing mere words, they understood when they finally saw it with their own eyes. What the Apostles did not know ahead of time from the prophecies, they knew when they saw it in its bloody gore, face to face. And three days after that, they also were witnesses to the Resurrection, seeing that this innocent Man, this Son of God, could go all the way to the very depths of death itself, descending even into Hades, and that He could still conquer it, that He could still come back – and that they themselves, if they would but follow Him, would make the same trip down into death, down into martyrdom, but then back to life in the Resurrection.

In our lives we often pray for healing. Sometimes it’s for things just like this, praying that our eyes will work better, that the blind will see, that our ears will work better, that the deaf will hear, that our wisdom will be increased so that we can have a better understanding of what to say, what to think, what to do, what to feel. We pray for God to heal our hearts, to give us greater compassion and love for one another. We pray for opportunities to show that love. And just as with this blind man, so often God answers our prayers positively. He gives us better physical health, He helps our finances, He increases our capacity for compassion and love and wisdom, He opens up opportunities for us to serve and love people in our families and our church and in our community.

But just as this blind man didn’t know what was coming, and how difficult it would be to witness the things that he would soon see, so it is with us. For God never gives gifts without added responsibility. You see, if God gives you a stronger back, He’s also going to give you a bigger cross to carry on that back. If He heals your eyes, He’s going to let you use those eyes to see the wicked, torturing and apparently triumphing over the righteous.  If God increases your wealth, God is going to provide enough poverty in others for you to meet their needs with that wealth. If God increases your wisdom, rest assured you’re going to face the trials and the temptations and the struggles in life which are going to require every last ounce of that wisdom that He has provided you with.

You see, with health, with resources, with capacity, comes added responsibility. God does not give you greater and greater gifts so that you can relax. God gives you greater gifts so that you can use them to the full, for the building of His kingdom, and for the furtherance of His glory in the world.  God does not give you talents and wealth, and health and opportunities, so that you can sit back, put your hands behind your head, and be like a fat cat just lapping up cream on the top of a warm rock. No! God gives you great resources so that you now – by His grace – you have the ability to make great sacrifices for Him. To whom much is given, much shall be required.

I believe it was King Solomon who once wrote in Scripture that “with increased knowledge and increased wisdom comes much sorrow”. The more knowledge you have of God’s Word, the more grief will enter your heart when you see yourself or other people in your family whom you love, that fall short of what God has called us to. The more wisdom God gives you, the more pain and grief it is going to cause you when you see people behaving foolishly. Just as this man had his eyes healed only so that – not many weeks hence — those eyes could behold the Crucifixion of the Son of God, in so many cases, the healing that we receive is simply a preparation for a holy suffering that we are yet to experience.

We are now entering the season of Lent – a time for fasting, a time for prayer, a time for repentance, a time for our very hearts and souls to put on sackcloth and ashes, and to fall on our knees before God in humility and repentance.

This is a time for forty days for us to mourn our own sins, to flee from those sins, to flee – not as Adam and Eve, our parents, fled from the face of God hiding from His voice – but to flee from our sins and run into God’s arms, for He it is, through the Cross, Who has made the only provision that is available for us to be saved from those very sins.

Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. Without humility, without suffering, without sorrow, there is no repentance; there is no cleansing.

You need to recognize that we are sinners. We need to recognize that we are the blind man. We are the ones who need to be healed. We need to pray to God that He would cleanse our hearts, that He would help us to put away sin, and that He would help us to walk with Him on this Lenten journey towards the Cross, as we ourselves pick up our own cross and follow Him. For only if we follow Him in his Crucifixion, will we also be allowed to follow Him in His triumphant Resurrection from the dead.

Pascha is coming! The Resurrection of the Son of God is coming! But you cannot get there without first going through Lent, without first going through the Passion, without first going through the Crucifixion and the burial in the tomb. So now, let us prepare to walk with Him on that road to the Cross, knowing that the Cross is the only path that is made available to us which will lead to Resurrection.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, God is one. Amen.

~

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, March 2, 2014,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
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