As many of you know, until the apostasy of my youngest son, the Surburgs have always been Cubs fans. The origin of this is my Grandpa Surburg who grew up on the north side of Chicago within walking distance of Wrigley Field. Too poor to buy a ticket and get into the game, he used to stand outside and listen to the crowed as he watched the scoreboard to know what was happening.
Grandpa Surburg was born in 1909 and died in 2001. He lived ninety-two years as a Cubs fan and never saw them win the World Series because the last time they won it was in 1908 – the year before he was born. He waited his whole life hoping to see it … and never did.
I believe I will see the thing he desired to see, but did not. Now Cardinals fans will of course laugh at this. I said it when Theo Epstein came to the Cubs organization after leading the Boston Red Sox to a World Series win that ended the “curse of the Bambino” in which they had not won it since 1917. I said it as the Cubs under Epstein began building an organization from the ground up in the minor leagues. I said it as that approach built the Cub’s farm system into one of the top rated organizations in baseball.
Now, I am not about to claim that at that the beginning of this season I thought that the Cubs would have one of the best records in baseball and be very likely to make the playoffs. Joe Maddon is obviously an excellent manager. I am not going to claim that the Cubs will win it this year – with more on the way - I don’t think their pitching is strong enough yet. But when they can win like this with so many very young talented players, I have no trouble continuing to say that the Cubs will win the World Series before Theo Epstein is done. I will see what my Grandpa Surburg waited his whole life hoping to see and never did.
In the Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus shares a similar thought with his disciples. They have returned from preparing the way for Jesus as he is going to Jerusalem, and joyfully report what they have experienced. Our Lord tells them that they are in fact experiencing a remarkable end-time moment in God’s saving plan. He says to them, “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.”
When you heard the Gospel lesson announced as the text for this sermon, you probably thought, “Well we are going to hear another sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan.” That is a very reasonable thing to surmise. Because of course, almost all of the text this morning is about this classic parable by our Lord. However, note that I said, “almost.” Because you see, the first two verses of our text do not deal with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Instead, they are the conclusion of what Luke has been narrating since the beginning of chapter 10. And so in order to consider the first part of our text, we will need to fill in what has been happening in the Gospel of Luke.
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.” Jesus has just predicted his passion as he said, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” Now he begins his journey to Jerusalem as he heads towards suffering, death and resurrection. He begins his journey towards the culmination of his saving ministry in fulfillment of the Father’s will.
As he does so, Jesus sends out a kind of “advance team” to prepare the way. Out of the broader group of disciples he sends out seventy (or perhaps seventy two) disciples in pairs. They are to travel light and go quickly, not even stopping to greet other people on the way. The time is short and the matter is urgent. Our Lord gives them this instruction, “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Where a town does not receive the message they are to 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 come near.”
The disciples return from their mission with joy saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus said to them in reply, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” and then added later, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
These events are what prompt Jesus to say in our text, “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.” Our Lord says that what they are experiencing is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in the Old Testament. It is the arrival of the end time salvation of God that prophets like Isaiah announced. It is Satan being kicked out.
The question raised by the text is whether we believe these words are true for us as well. The question for us is whether we perceive the amazing character of God’s end-time salvation that is at work in our midst – the same thing that Jesus describes in our text.
Now I doubt that any of us would answer with a flat out “no.” But I also think we are hesitant to answer with a resounding “yes.” After all, when we look around we see a world that doesn’t give the Gospel the time of day. We see a world where the Church is facing some of the worst persecution it has ever experienced. It sure doesn’t look like the kingdom of God – the reign of God – has arrived.
We see the rejection of the Gospel by the world. We see the suffering of God’s people and it makes us wonder – even doubt. But what we have to recognize about the beginning of our text this morning is that Jesus speaks these words to people who have met with rejection.
In his instruction to the seventy, Jesus told them to proclaim “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” But then he added that where a town does not receive the message they are to 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 come near.”
Jesus prepared them for rejection because he knew that they would also meet with rejection. Their work had not been one big success story. But it had been the reign of God at work. That reign could bring salvation where there was faith, or it could bring judgment were it met rejection. But either way, God was powerfully at work.
And then, consider where Jesus is going at this very moment. He is making his journey to Jerusalem. There he will meet the ultimate rejection. There he will be sentenced to death on trumped up charges. He will be crucified and die.
That does not look like the reign of God. That does not look like God’s victory and salvation. And yet, it is. For it was God’s plan for his Son to be numbered with the transgressors. It was his will for Jesus Christ to bear our sin and die for it so that we can receive forgiveness. And then it was God’s will to raise Jesus from the dead. As Jesus said to the two disciples walking to Emmaus on the evening of Easter, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
When Jesus died on the cross and was buried, it did not look like it was victory over Satan and sin. Yet it was. We confess in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus descended into hell. Our Lord’s descent into hell was not about accomplishing something that still needed to be done. Instead, it was about Jesus declaring that he had won – that Satan had been defeated. It was about Jesus going into Satan’s own backyard and talking trash to him – talking smack – because Jesus’ had won and Satan had lost. And then in his resurrection, our Lord stuck the dagger in that last enemy – death.
This is what Jesus Christ has done for you, because he is the end-time fulfillment of all of God’s promises. And you have seen it through God’s Word. You know what has happened. You know the whole story. The apostle Peter described it in this way: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”
In our text 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.” Yes, blessed are your eyes that see and your ears that hear! Yes, blessed are your eyes that see water poured and ears that hear, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Blessed are your eyes that see Christ’s servant stand in front of you, and your ears that hear Christ say, “I forgive you all your sins.” Blessed are your eyes that see bread and wine, and your ears that hear, “This is my body. This is my blood, given and shed for your.” Blessed are you, for when you see and hear this you are experiencing the kingdom of God – the reign of God that frees you from Satan and sin. You are receiving God’s end-time salvation that all the saints in the Old Testament longed to see.
This is the good news. This is the “now” of God’s salvation. But there is also bad news - the “not yet” in which we live. You are blessed to see and hear things the prophets wanted to see and hear. But Jesus also says you are blessed in another way. Earlier in this Gospel our Lord says, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”
Believing in Jesus Christ will mean enduring hardship. It will mean not fitting into this world. It will mean receiving the world’s derision. You can’t shy away from these things. You can’t seek to avoid them. In faith, you need to step up and be willing to accept them.
But Jesus can call you blessed when you do this because it is on account of him. In fact, paradoxically he says rejoice and leap for joy because your reward is great in heaven. Jesus assures you that because of him, the victory is already yours. It is stored away in heaven, ready to be given to you. This is not something that you have to go there and get. It is something that Jesus will bring to you on the Last Day when he returns in glory and raises your body to be like his resurrection body.
Blessed are you now, because this is your future. Blessed are you now because of what you see and hear. Indeed, “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.”