I took it for granted. I didn’t realize what a unique stretch of time I was experiencing. You see, I was introduced to Indiana basketball in the winter of 1979. That summer, we had moved from Pensacola, Florida as my dad took a job teaching at Indiana University. During the 1979-1980 season I received a full immersion into the culture of Indiana basketball, and learned that as a Hoosier fan, I was now part of something special.
Indiana had played in the Final Four in 1973. They had won 31 straight games in 1975, blowing opponents away, before they lost in the regional final by two points to a Kentucky team they had beaten soundly earlier in the year. They lost because their best player - Scott May - had broken his arm. In 1976 Indiana had come back to go 32 and 0 as they became what is to this day the last undefeated national champion. They had won the Big Ten championship four years in a row between 1973 and 1976.
In my first year I saw Indiana win the Big Ten title. Then in 1981 I saw them win the national championship – winning by what was then a record average margin of victory. They won the Big Ten in 1983, and then in 1987 Keith Smart’s game winning shot gave them another national championship.
I had come to expect that every five for six years, Indiana won the national championship. Every other year they won the Big Ten – except for that terrible stretch when we had to wait three whole years between 1983 and 1987. This was simply how things were. And so with Big Ten titles in 1989, 1991 and 1993 Indiana was obviously moving toward another national championship that year. Everything was going to happen right on schedule. It had been six years since the last national championship, and so it was time. Indiana had a loaded team filled players who came from the state of Indiana, and they finished the regular season ranked number one in the country
But at the end of the 1993 regular season, Alan Henderson, a key inside player injured his knee. They weren’t the same team without him and they lost in the regional finals. And then, unfortunately, I learned the hard way what a remarkable period the twenty years between 1973 and 1993 had been. For in the next twenty years Indiana didn’t win any national championships. They only won one Big Ten title. Their coach, Bob Knight was fired because of misconduct. Another coach, Kelvin Sampson, broke NCAA rules. Indiana was put on probation and was heavily penalized by the NCAA. As a result, Indiana fans endured a 8 and 46 record between 2008 and 2011. During the last twenty years I have come to appreciate what a truly unique stretch of time I had enjoyed – something I took for granted when it was happening.
In the first verses of our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus announces to the disciples that they are living in a unique and remarkable moment in history. And his words don’t only apply to the disciples. They call us to recognize that we are too, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When you heard the Gospel lesson being read this morning, you probably thought that you were going to hear a sermon about the parable of the Good Samaritan. When you heard the text for the sermon announced as the Gospel lesson just a few moments ago, you probably thought your expectation had been confirmed. So I have a surprise for you – this morning you are not going to hear about the Good Samaritan.
Instead we are going to focus on the first two verses of our text which say: “Then turning to the disciples he said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.’”
Jesus’ words pick up on what has just happened in chapter ten of Luke’s Gospel. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus sends out seventy or seventy two disciples (there’s a textual question here) – to go before him to the cities and towns where Jesus is about to go. It is important to understand Jesus’ ministry has taken a crucial turn. At the end of chapter nine we read: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Our Lord has begun his final journey to Jerusalem. He is going there to suffer and die on the cross.
Because of the timing, there is a sense of urgency in Jesus’ ministry. He sends out this group of disciples – one that is larger than the twelve apostles – as a kind of “advance team.” They are to prepare the way by going to the towns and proclaiming, “The kingdom of God has arrived.” They are to declare that in the saving ministry of Jesus Christ, the reign of God had entered into the world in order to turn back and eject the forces of Satan, sin and death.
Jesus warns them that in some places they will meet with rejection. There will be people who don’t want to hear the message. Our Lord says, “But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has arrived.’”
Just before our text, the disciples had returned from their work of proclaiming the kingdom of God. They returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Jesus said that in the proclamation of his saving work, people were being saved and Satan was being cast out. But he told the disciples not of focus on the mighty works they had been able to do. Instead they were to rejoice that their names were written in heaven – that God had called them to faith through the Gospel.
And then right before our text, we read, “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’”
Our Lord expresses the unique relationship that exists between the Father and the Son within the Holy Trinity. And then he tells us that only the Son can reveal the Father to us. Sent by the Father into the world, it is the Son who makes know the Father.
If you look around at the world – you can see the beauty and the order and the wonder of it all. All through history this has led people to recognize that there is someone or something behind it. But that recognition doesn’t tell you anything about where you stand. It doesn’t tell you anything about how this someone or something is disposed towards you.
But in the first century in Palestine, God the Father sent God the Son into the world through the work of God the Holy Spirit in order to reveal his loving heart to us. He did it in the fullness of time – when things were just right. He did it as the fulfillment of all that he had done with his people Israel and all that he had spoken through his prophets.
In our text, Jesus says to the returning disciples: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” The disciples were seeing the fulfillment of God’s saving plan. They were living in the moment when the Messiah descended from the kings of Israel since days of David had come into the world. They were living in the moment when the Messiah promised by the prophets was present and at work to bring salvation.
In fact at that very moment they were making their way to Jerusalem where Jesus would fulfill God’s saving plan by his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. As Jesus would say to the disciples on the evening of the first Easter: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Jesus told the disciples to recognize the moment in which they lived. He told them to understand that the reign of God had arrived in their midst. He told them that they were blessed – that they were experiencing God’s end time salvation because this was true.
As we gather here this morning, it is critical that we realize that Jesus’ words are just as true for us. Through the Sprit given witness of the Scripture, blessed are our eyes that see. We know what God has done. We know about the fulfillment of the things that God’s people in the Old Testament, including their prophets and kings wished to know about. Because we live in the time when Christ’s saving death and resurrection has occurred, we are those upon whom the end of the ages has come. We know that we are living in the last days.
The question then, is whether we see things in this way. Do we understand and believe that we live at a time when the reign of God has arrived in Jesus Christ? Do we understand that the things Christ reveals to us in his word and gives to us through the sacraments are the very things prophets and kings longed to see and hear?
Our actions will go a long way towards revealing where we really stand. If we understand the time in which we live and what Christ is doing, then coming each Sunday to the Divine Service will be only natural. Reading and studying God’s word both at home and at church will be our ongoing activity so that we can continue to see and hear about the things prophets and kings longed to know. If we understand the time in which we live and what Christ is doing, then forgiving others and seeking to help others will characterize our lives, because that is what Jesus Christ has done for us in this time.
In out text this morning Jesus says, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” He says this, not just at the time when he, the incarnate Son of God, had come into the world. He says it at the very time when he is making his way to Jerusalem to die on the cross for our sins and rise from the dead.
This is the saving action that prophets and kings in Israel longed to see and hear. Blessed are you, because you live at the time these things have been accomplished. Blessed are you, because in the work of Jesus you have the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life. Blessed are you, “for I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”