Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on Quinquagesima Sunday 2/14/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Quinquagesima Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s gospel and epistle lessons. To read the Bible texts for Quinquagesima Sunday, click here.
See, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.
For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles
and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.
And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.
But they understood none of these things.
This saying was hidden from them,
and they did not grasp what was said. verses 31-34
Why? Why didn’t the disciples understand? Why was it hidden from them? Why did they not grasp it? And why does Luke have to tell us this three times in immediate succession?
What Jesus said is not complicated. The disciples do not understand because they do not believe. They do not trust Jesus. They do not have faith in Jesus. That’s what faith is. It is trust. And that is what they lack.
The disciples have their own ideas about what the Messiah should be like. This is the third time that Jesus has said exactly what will happen. Three times they have been told this. Three times they have rejected this.
Without faith in Christ, the Scriptures are a closed book to them. Without faith, they can understand that Jerusalem is important, but they can’t really know why. Without faith, the Son of Man can never be identified. Without faith, all the prophets said in many and various ways may as well never have been said, because the disciples are not really listening.
This is why they do not understand. This is why the simplest of things remains hidden from them. This is why they do not grasp the plainest of sentences, even when Jesus repeats Himself three times.
Where is the disciples’ trust? Where is their faith? Well, their faith is in Jesus of Nazareth. But there is a significant problem with this.
They hope that Jesus will give them reason to be proud again, to boast again; to be back in power; to take back what was stolen by the Gentiles; to restore true religion and stomp out immorality. No suffering, no death, no cross – life as it should be.
Perhaps it was they who told the crowds in Jericho: “Make way for Jesus of Nazareth.”
Ten seconds ago, I said that the disciples having faith in Jesus of Nazareth was problematic. And this is what I mean:
As he 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!” verses 35-38
Did you catch it? They said that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. But blind Bartimaeus’s ears have been tuned to the words of the prophets. By God’s grace, he has received the Holy Spirit, and he has been listening intently for the coming of the Messiah. This is why He does not address Jesus the way the crowds speak of Him. Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, Son of David.
To call Jesus the Son of David is to acknowledge Him as the Messiah. No prophet in the Old Testament ever restored the sight of the blind. Isaiah foretold this as the work of the Messiah. Isaiah 29:18, Isaiah 35:5
Blind Bartimaeus understands these things. They are not hidden from him. He grasps them firmly. That’s why he asks for something he knows only the Messiah can do.
This is a warning for us. The disciples are closer to Jesus than anyone. Back in chapter eight of this same Gospel, which was our text last Sunday, Jesus even said that it was given to them to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God! But you can be given that one moment and choose to give it away the next. Insisting on Jesus of Nazareth, or whatever version of Jesus fits your expectations, can cost you Jesus, the Son of David.
You cannot have only parts of Him. If you would have Jesus as the Son of David, as our God and Lord, you must also have what He teaches. This is remarkably simple, but not half as easy.
The nearest example may be the best. This is a fitting weekend to consider our willful ignorance of something like love – a word that God has used so frequently and described so thoroughly. It’s a tragic irony that the Feast of St. Valentine, who tradition says was martyred for performing Christian marriages, even though Emperor Claudius (II) had legally banned it, has become an occasion to confuse love with lust and sexual depravity.
If you’re not falling for that this year, then God be praised. But be on guard. To love means more than to understand love. This is what St. Paul was so careful to teach to the Corinthians and us.
If you hold fast to the Word of God, you know what love truly is. John wrote that God Himself is love (1 John 4); but even if you have that pure, undefiled, holy and perfect truth from God Himself; even if you have this knowledge and understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, even if you have unshakeable faith and can go to martyrdom with the confidence of Valentine, if you lack in giving the love you so keenly understand, you are nothing.
Possessing knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the God who is love, ought to make you patient, kind, content, and hopeful. But how easy is it for a Christian who is firm in the Word of God, to be tempted to arrogance, insisting on his or her own way?
This is not a call to quietism or compromise. You are not free to compromise on the Word of God, or make concessions in any place where the Word of God makes a claim on your life.
But you who understand love and who would live in love, should be patient and kind with one another, and with your neighbors, extending God’s grace to them in every way.
The disciples did not understand these things. But they soon would.
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is on the horizon. They will see all that the prophets wrote concerning the Son of Man fulfilled before their eyes. They will see Jesus, the Son of David, crucified for them, for Bartimaeus, and for you. They will behold the love that no man can improve upon. They will see Him dead and buried. But they will see Him risen again.
Then they will understand all these things. Then nothing will be hidden from them. Even as nothing is hidden from you.