Lord, I want to see!

March 7th, 2010 • Posted in Messages/Sermons • 1,639 views

Luke Lesson 59 (2010)

(One thing I desire)

Luke 18:31-43
Key Verse: 18:41-42

“‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied.
Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’”

A man once stood on a platform at a local park in Chicago, openly scorning Christians. “People tell me that God exists; but I can’t see Him. People tell me that there is a life after death; but I can’t see it. People tell me that there is a judgment to come; but I can’t see it. People tell me that there is a heaven and a hell; but I can’t see them.” As this man continued spoke, some people cheered him on. Then another man struggled onto the platform and said, “People tell me that there is green grass all around, but I can’t see it. People tell me that there is blue sky above, but I can’t see it. People tell me that there are trees nearby, but I can’t see them. You see, I’m blind.” This story is about spiritual blindness.

During Jesus’ ministry on earth, the main theme of his dialogue and preaching was the kingdom of God. It is most obvious in Luke’s Gospel, in which the phrase “the kingdom of God” is repeated 43 times. The Jews in Jesus’ time had different understandings about God’s kingdom. Some, like the Sadducees, thought of God’s kingdom in political and socio-economic terms. Others, like the Pharisees, thought of it in terms of moral, ethical and spiritual aspects. When Jesus came to Israel and talked about the kingdom of God, the majority of the Jews couldn’t accept his teaching. Even Jesus’ own disciples, at least for a certain period of time, didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. Most people were spiritually blind. However, it’s interesting to see that the man in today’s passage seemed to have had a better understanding about Jesus than any of the religious leaders or Bible scholars in Jesus’ time even though he was poor, physically blind and possibly uneducated. When Jesus asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” he said, “Lord, I want to see.” Jesus was pleased by this man’s faith and blessed him, saying, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

In today’s passage, we learn that the best way to understand God’s kingdom is faith in Jesus. Faith in Jesus heals and restores us from spiritual blindness. Last week, we heard a message about faith based on Hebrews 11:1-6. Hebrews 11:1 and 3 read, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see… By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made of what was visible.” Faith is being certain about invisible things, including God’s existence, His creation, His promise of salvation and the kingdom of God. We trust in God’s power, love and sovereignty and obey Him. However, faith is not meant to be a blind submission. It’s also about deep understanding. Therefore, good faith often requires us to question or prove things for a better understanding. As Christians and disciples of Jesus, we need to have good faith so that we may have a better understanding of God’s kingdom. Let us think about how we can be healed from spiritual blindness.

Look at verses 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. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” It was the third time that Jesus officially announced to his disciples about his upcoming suffering and death in Jerusalem. (9:22; 9:43-45) But Jesus emphasized here that it was not just the Jewish elders who rejected him but that the Gentiles also insulted, tortured and finally put him to death. We cannot just blame the Jews for the death of Jesus. We all participated in killing the Messiah because of our sins. But according to the Scripture, the Messiah would not remain in death but be raised to life on the third day of his death. What Jesus seemed to emphasize here is that all that would happen to him in Jerusalem – his suffering, death and resurrection – were the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah.

Why would Jesus take the Twelve aside and tell them these things at this point? First of all, it was because he wanted them to know what kind of Messiah he really meant to be. According to the gospel narratives, his disciples expected that when they arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus would use his divine power and authority to defeat all of the enemies and establish God’s kingdom in Jerusalem and they would rule the world. It may sound unrealistic to us but that’s what a lot of people in Israel, including his disciples, had expected. Those things would not happen until the second coming of the Messiah. So when Jesus talked about his suffering, death and resurrection, they didn’t understand him.

Look at verse 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.” Luke mentioned three times in his gospel narratives that the disciples failed to understand the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. (24:16, 25-26) This is quite surprising. How could these disciples, who had followed Jesus for almost three years, be so ignorant of such important teachings of the Scripture? The author said that it was because its meaning was hidden from them. Why was it hidden from them?

First of all, it’s because of the character of the gospel truth. The gospel truth is not a man-made story. It has deep roots in the prophecies and promises of the Hebrew Scriptures and the history of the people of Israel. In fact, the gospel truth had been hidden from the eyes of men, including the Jews, for many centuries. According to the book of Romans, written by Saint Paul, the gospel is God’s way of bringing the ultimate salvation and His kingdom to all creation through the work of the Messiah. This is a profound mystery. (Ro 11:25, 16:25) The deep meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be understood in one day. Why not? It’s because the gospel is not shallow. It’s a deep truth of God, which requires from us constant seeking and searching for a deeper understanding of it. Also it is possible only by the supernatural inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we as Christians shouldn’t dare to assume that we already have the full understanding of the kingdom of God.

We must admit that we are blind. It’s ironic to hear people say that they know something or see something that they do not actually know or see. Jesus said to the people in his hometown at the outset of his ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” (Lk 4:18) After reading the Scripture, Jesus sat among them and said, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (4:21) Most hometown people refused to believe in Jesus. We might think that we are better than Jesus’ hometown people.

But if we don’t realize that we are blind, imprisoned, poor and oppressed, what did Jesus come to this world for? Are we any better? Why do I need Jesus? In John chapter 9, after healing the man blind from birth, Jesus said to the people who were critical of Jesus because he healed the man on the Sabbath, “For judgment have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who heard Jesus’ words asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (Jn 9:39-41) According to Jesus, God’s judgment is closely related to our spiritual blindness.

What did they fail to see? They saw the faults of others and were very critical of them while they were blind to their own faults. Spiritual blindness is a serious spiritual problem, perhaps the most serious. Therefore, we can say that the real blind people are not physically blind people, but they are those who think they see, who think they know about life, who think they know the Bible, who think they are right, who think they have figured God out, who think God will act sometime in the future while ignoring what he has already done and is currently doing. They don’t believe in God’s judgment. They are those who try to correct others before correcting themselves. Most of all, the real blind people are those who fail to see the beauty of Jesus the Son of God and the coming kingdom of God.

Jesus came to this world and did what the Scripture had predicted about the Messiah. The miracles he performed confirmed that he was the Son of God, particularly in keeping with the prophecy of Isaiah. Jesus came to preach good news, heal the broken hearted, proclaim freedom, released the oppressed, recover the sight for the blind and proclaimed the Lord’s favor. (Lk 4:18-19; Isa 61:1-2, 42:7, 49:8,9, 58:6) Yet, who saw Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah? Did the religious leaders and Bible scholars see Jesus as the Messiah? No. It was not because of the darkness of their eyes but because of the darkness of their hearts that they were spiritually blind. Something that resided in their hearts was really dark and blocked them from seeing Jesus as the Messiah. They failed to see the coming of God’s kingdom and what is truly important to them.

But there was one person who saw Jesus as the Messiah. He was a blind beggar in Jericho. Look at verse 35-39. As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going, he asked them what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” As soon as the blind man heard that Jesus was passing by, he called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet. I guess his voice was very loud. Those who rebuked the man could have been the disciples. They obviously rebuked the blind beggar because they thought that he was not important enough to disturb their master Jesus. How often have we been discouraged by people’s thoughtless remarks? It’s easy to live with a victim’s mentality, always blaming others. This man could have succumbed to the pressure of powerful people. Yet, he didn’t. Look at verse 39b. The man shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

It’s important to note that this man didn’t call out “Jesus of Nazareth” but “Jesus, Son of David!” The ten lepers who had been healed while Jesus was traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee called him, “Jesus, Master!” (17:13) But this blind man called Jesus “Son of David!” Not just once but twice. In those days, it was very unusual to call anyone “Son of David.” Why? It’s because the title “Son of David” is a messianic title. When you call someone “Son of David”, it was equivalent to calling someone “Messiah!” During Jesus’ ministry, Jesus didn’t allow his disciples and others to call him any title that refers to him as the Messiah because of the political implications. But Jesus didn’t correct this man because his time had now come.

Look at verse 40. “Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied.” We wonder why Jesus asked the man “What do you want me to do for you?” Wasn’t it obvious? This is similar to the question Jesus asked the man who had been invalid for 38 years in John’s gospel, “Do you want to get well?” (Jn 5:6) When Jesus saw John and Andrew following him, he turned around and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus replied, “come and you will see!” (Jn 1:37-39)

If you could ask only one thing from God, what would you ask from him? It will be very hard to choose only one. But we need to answer to this question for ourselves. In other words, we need to know what we really want to do with our own lives. The Chinese wise man, Confucius, said, “If a man knows what to do with his life at the age of 40, he is a successful man.” The thing is, most people don’t even know what they really want even when they are really old. In college, many majors are offered. But many students don’t know what they really want to study. So when they are asked, “What is your major?”, many of them say, “Undecided.” Some switch from one major to another as they decide what they really want to do with their lives. Even as Christians, we need to think and rethink about why we are following Jesus.

When Jesus was in Martha’s house, she was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made while Mary, her sister, was sitting at his feet listening to what he said. Martha became upset and asked Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Jesus said to Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” (10:41-42) One thing Mary desired was Jesus himself. Our life in the world is getting more complicated and demanding. We are often forced to become too busy in doing minor things in life and neglecting what is most important, like Martha. Unless we struggle intentionally, it’s easy for us to be carried away and our soul becomes deeply troubled. We need to answer Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man didn’t hesitate, but said, “Lord, I want to see.” As a blind man, he might have wanted to see many things, his own face, his parents, his siblings, the Jerusalem Temple, the beautiful sky, and green grass. Because this blind man believed that Jesus is the Messiah, I assume that this man really wanted to see Jesus with his own eyes. “Lord, I want to see your beauty.”

The blind man’s answer reminds us of what King David confessed in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” David actually asked the Lord many things, not just one thing. But all of them can be summed up in one phrase, that is, “Lord, I want to know you.” Saint Paul had the same desire as David did. He said in Philippians 3:8-11, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” It is the beauty of the Lord our Lord Jesus that made John the Apostle to confess in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” According to Paul, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He said in Colossians 2:2-3 that there is a wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Jesus is joy of all men’s desire.

Look at verse 42. “Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.” Although this blind man was not one of the twelve disciples, he became a true follower of Christ. His testimony of faith must have been very convincing. “You know, I was blind but now I see.” According to Mark’s Gospel, this blind man’s name was Bartimaeus. Luke intentionally didn’t mention his name maybe because he had in mind many unknown but genuine disciples of Jesus whose motto of life is “Lord, I want to see.” They are God’s remnants, true worshipers, lovers and friends of God in the world.

Before we chose God, God chose us first in his mercy and providence. We are sinners who are highly favored. And Jesus invited us to come to him and experience the beauty of heaven. Jesus asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” we must also ask ourselves “What is the one thing I desire?” Am I convinced to seek and search for the beauty of the Lord day by day? If we are not convinced to follow Jesus with the desire to know him, it can be a warning sign that we are losing our spiritual sight. There are many good things the world seems to offer. But they don’t truly satisfy us and are only temporary things. But there is everlasting joy in Jesus. He is the joy of living. He is the source of all blessings of God. Jesus is truly noble, pure, lovely, admirable, righteous, excellent and worthy of our praise and investment. He is desire of all men’s heart. We are to see Jesus more and mover, discover and rediscover the beauty of the Lord. When we do so, our journey as Christians in this world would be a walk of great wonder and excitement. Do you have the joy of knowing and discovering Jesus in your life? “What do you want me to do for you?” I hope we may be able to answer, “Lord, I want to see your beauty.”

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