Sunday, March 06, 2016

Sermon: Luke 18: 31-43 Seeing the Son

I wonder if you’ve heard of the six degrees of separation? It’s the idea that you are connected to any person in the whole wide world by six steps. By moving along from a friend to their friend, to their friend, to their friend, to their friend, you are connected with everyone else in the world. Facebook recently worked out that for their members, it takes on average 3.57 steps to connect everyone. But in Northern Ireland, we like to go even further. We reckon that we’ll know someone in common, and try to find the common connection.

I know, because that’s exactly what happened last week at our youth event. I hadn’t met the speaker before, so we started the connections conversation. What church you go to; what school you went to; who lives near you... until we found a couple of common connections! So why do we do it? Perhaps its nosiness, but I think it’s more likely that we are trying to find a link; a way of making sense of the person, a way of getting to know them better.

Just think of the ways you might be referred to - this is so-and-so’s mum; this is Mrs so-and-so’s son. Or just think of the number of surnames which highlight family connections - in our family, both W...son and McMurray. Or the McDonalds and the Donaldsons. And this is what is going on in today’s reading. In both bits, Jesus is described in relation to others, as the Son of ... - the connections show us just who Jesus is and what he is like. The challenge is this: Am I seeing the son? Am I recognising him for who he is?

So first up, Jesus is the Son of Man, suffering as the scriptures say. Almost every year in school, I had a few hospital appointments in Belfast. We always got the bus, and one of my strong memories was sitting in the Europa Bus Centre listening to the announcements. The one that always stood out was the 261 to Enniskillen, calling at Augher, Clogher, Fivemiletown, Maguiresbridge, Lisbellaw. The announcement was simply saying where the bus would stop; the route the bus would take; where the passengers could expect, but for me, I had never heard of these exotic places. They meant nothing to me. In fact, with the Augher Clogher Fivemiletown bit, it sounded like a wee poem, made up places, like Ballamory...

That’s something like how the disciples were reacting to verse 31-33. Jesus takes them aside, away from the crowd, and tells them what’s coming next. ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.’ Ever since chapter 9, Jesus has been on his way to Jerusalem, and now he’s almost there. But he’s saying what will happen when he gets there.

He talks about ‘the Son of Man’ - that’s himself. It’s a title from the Old Testament (Daniel), used for the promised coming king, a human being. So what’s on the timetable? What’s on the schedule? What will the Son of Man do? Well, everything written about him by the prophets will be accomplished. And verse 32-33 fills in the details. Delivered over to the Gentiles; mocked, shamefully treated, spit upon, flogged, killed (and raised on the third day).

And the disciples? They can’t see it. They don’t recognise what is being said. Like me and the 261 bus stops, they just can’t take them in. They don’t understand. ‘But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.’ (34). Even as Jesus spells out who he is and what he has come to do, they still don’t get it. They can’t see Jesus for who he is. Perhaps that’s you, this morning. You prefer Christmas to Easter, and don’t get why we make a big deal about Holy Week and Easter. You like Jesus, but don’t really see what Communion is all about.

Keep looking at Jesus. Watch what he does. And see how the connection makes sense - the Son of Man suffering and dying to save man - men and women, all humanity. Can you see Jesus for who he is? The disciples couldn’t grasp it at that point.

But there was someone that day who could see exactly who Jesus was, and what that meant for him. On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus comes into Jericho. There’s a blind man sitting at the side of the road, begging. He can’t see, but there’s nothing wrong with his hearing. He hears a crowd going by, and asks what’s going on. Look at verse 37. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’

But what does he shout out? ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And when they tell him to be silent, he cries out all the more ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ The blind man can’t see, and yet he can see exactly who Jesus is, and what that means for him. Who is Jesus? The Son of David. He recognises Jesus as the Son of David, the true King. He sees Jesus as the one who can grant royal mercy.

So Jesus has him brought to him, and Jesus asks, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Now think of what he could have asked for. He was begging, perhaps he wanted some money. Maybe he was hungry, and just wanted some food. What do you want me to do for you? How do you answer that question as Jesus asks you? What would your request be?

The blind man sees Jesus for who he is - the Son of David, the true king, God’s chosen king - he has made the connection, and so he asks for something incredible. He knows who he is dealing with: ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’ Lord, king, God on earth, let me see. Let me recover my sight.

No other king could do it. Imagine turning up at Buckingham Palace, asking the Queen to give someone sight. It wouldn’t happen. But because Jesus is the Son of David, he is able to do it. ‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.’

The blind man saw who Jesus was - the Son of David - and now he can see. Now imagine that you were him. What would you use your sight for? You could look at anyone or any thing. Would you settle down to watch your first sunset? Watch children playing? Sit down in front of the TV? He recovers his sight, ‘and followed him, glorifying God.’ He uses his sight to follow Jesus. One of the first things he’ll see is Jesus accomplish everything written about him - as he goes to the cross.

Can you see Jesus for who he is, and for what that means for you? In a few moments we’ll take a piece of bread and break it; we’ll take a cup of wine and sip it - pictures of what Jesus did for us. His body broken, his blood poured out. The Son of David, the king who died to save and forgive those who had rebelled against his rightful reign. The Son of Man, who endured the shameful suffering and the cruel cross, for sinful men and women.

We remember his cross, but we also remember that he was raised on the third day. The Son of David, the Son of Man, Jesus died and rose to bring us to himself. No more degrees of separation. No more friends of friends. He brings us to himself. So come, today, by faith. See Jesus for who he is, and what he has done for us. Receive him as your king. Follow him, and glorify God.

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 6th March 2016.

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