My whole family heritage is German. The only possible hint of anything else is found in my Grandma Surburg’s family which was from Alsace-Lorraine – an area that was traded back and forth between France and Germany during the course of history. After the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War, in 1871 it became German. And since the vast majority of people there already used German as their language – like my grandma’s family - it seems fair to call it German.
Amy’s heritage is not all German. On her mom’s side she has Irish and Danish. But you would never know this from her maiden name which was definitely German: “Brandenberger.” When Amy married me, she traded one German last name for another. The irony is that she also traded one common misspelling for its opposite. Brandenberger is spelled at the end as “-berger.” However people always spelled it with a “u” - “-burger.” She became “Surburg” which is spelled at the end with a “u” - “-burg.” And she has learned that people always misspell it with an “e” - “-berg.” She just can’t win.
We tend to use last names to identify people. They are used in news reports and put on the back of sports jerseys. However, last names were not an issue among first century Jews – because nobody had one. They didn’t have last names. Instead, there were two ways to identify a person. The first was their father. So I would be “Mark son of Paul.” The second was by their hometown. So I would be “Mark of Marion” or “Mark the Marionite.”
In our text this morning we hear Jesus identified as “Jesus of Nazareth,” or more literally, “Jesus the Nazarene.” This is not surprising. It is after all, typical Jewish usage. But what is surprising is the response that this draws from a blind beggar who cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Our text takes place as Jesus was making his final trip to Jerusalem. We are at the end of chapter 18 and in chapter 19 Jesus will enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem for the Passover and large number of people accompanied him.
We learn that as he approached the city of Jericho, there was a blind man sitting at the side of the rode begging. The man had no means of making a livelihood and had to beg for money. Jewish piety emphasized alms for the poor, and so people would give something to a person in his condition.
The blind man could hear that a crowd was passing by. And so he inquired of those around him what was going on. He was told, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” The man then shouted out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Now we are used to hearing Jesus described as the Son of David. But it’s not a small thing. It is language that identifies Jesus as the Messiah – the descendant of King David promised by God in the Old Testament who brings rescue and salvation for God’s people. God had promised that his Spirit would be upon this One, and the Old Testament described his work as God’s end time action.
And the thing that should really catch our attention is the fact that the blind man calls Jesus “Son of David” after being told that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by. The village of Nazareth in Galilee had nothing to do with Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Nobody from there was going to be the Messiah.
Of course we know from the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel that there is more to the story. Jesus does descend from King David, and he was even born in Bethlehem, the city of David. Yet here, for the first time in the Gospel, someone addresses Jesus as “Son of David.” A blind man speaks these words, because in faith he sees things clearly. He is not dissuaded by what some people choose to view as a reason not to believe. Instead, in faith he addresses Jesus as the Son of David. And sure enough, he is right.
We learn that those who were at the front of the crowd were rebuking the blind man, telling him to be silent. But instead he continued crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The man’s experience raises a question for us. Do we allow those around us to hinder our cry of faith? Are we open and public about our faith in Jesus Christ? Do our actions and words demonstrate to others that we believe in Jesus? Or do we allow the pressure of our culture which says that “polite people don’t talk about religion and keep it to themselves” to keep us quiet?
The blind man wasn’t going to be silenced. He cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” “Have mercy on me” has the same meaning as when we say “Lord have mercy!” It means, “Help me!” The man called out to Jesus for help.
If this phrase had been spoken by the blind man to another person, the meaning would have been clear. The blind man would have been asking for alms – for money to help him. But he was speaking these words in faith to Jesus. And he was looking for something only Jesus could give – something he believed Jesus could give.
Jesus stopped and commanded the man to be brought to him. And when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” The man believed in the One who spoke to him. He now addressed Jesus as
“Lord” and he asked for more, not less. He didn’t ask for alms. He asked the Lord Jesus to heal him.
We need to ponder whether we ask Jesus for less instead of more. I am asking you to consider the things for which you pray. Do your prayers focus on all the things summarized in the Lord’s Prayer as “daily bread”? Do your prayers center on health and material blessings? While we certainly should pray for these things, it is important to note that when Jesus teaches us to pray he begins with petitions about the hallowing of God’s name, the coming of his kingdom, and the doing of his will. Jesus teaches us to begin with those things that relate to faith and salvation. Are we more interested in being physically healthy than we are in being spiritually healthy? Are we more interested in the blessings of daily bread than we are in the blessings of the daily life of faith that receives God’s kingdom – his reign?
The blind man who had cried out in faith all the more, asked for more than alms. He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.”
And Jesus, the Son of David, had mercy on him. He said, "Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” Immediately the man recovered his sight. He joined in following Jesus as he glorified God.”
In our text Jesus says to the man, “Your faith has made you well.” This translation is certainly accurate for this context, but the word used points to something deeper than mere physical healing. Literally its says, “your faith has saved you.” Like elsewhere when this word is used to describe healing, this points us to the saving work that Jesus is carrying out.
When John the Baptist was in prison and he sent two disciples with the question, “Are you the coming one, or should be look for another?”, Jesus answered: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.
And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus responded to the cry of faith by giving sight to the blind man because it was part of the salvation – the reign of God – that he was bringing to the world. Jesus had come to provide the answer to sin and all of the ways it has impacted your life and world. In the first part of today’s Gospel lesson we learn that Jesus took the disciples aside and said, "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.”
Each miracle performed by Jesus during his ministry pointed forward to the greatest miracle – Jesus’ death on the cross for you and his resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ was numbered with the transgressors in your place. He received God’s judgment against your sin in order to give you forgiveness. And his resurrection has begun the new creation in which sin and its effects no longer exist.
This is the Jesus to whom you now cry out “Lord have mercy on us!” He is the One who has ascended into heaven and has poured forth the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Jesus – to sustain and encourage you in faith. This faith calls out to Jesus for help – help with spiritual matters; help with physical matters – because it is confident that Jesus is Lord. He is the risen Lord who has defeated sin and death.
In our text Jesus answered the cry of faith. He healed the man and restored his sight. But then notice what the man did. Our text tells us, “And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.” The man received healing. But he didn’t then go his own way. He didn’t decide that now he could get on with the life he had always wanted. Instead, just as he had called out in faith to Jesus, so now he walked in faith as he followed Jesus.
It is the same for us. We cry out to Jesus in faith. He gives us forgiveness and salvation. He says, “Your faith as saved you.” But that doesn’t mean we then go our own way. Instead we continue to follow Jesus as we seek where Jesus is present for us. We follow Jesus, not by walking behind him on road but by hearing and reading the Gospel in the Scriptures. We follow Jesus by looking in faith to what he did for us in our baptism. We follow Jesus by coming to this altar where he is bodily present for us – in his Sacrament where he gives us his true body and blood.
And because we know that our faith in the risen Lord has saved us, we glorify God. We glorify God here in church as in the liturgy and in the hymns we praise our God who has loved in this amazing way. We don’t take it for granted. We praise God for what he has done. We glorify God by telling others about what God has done for us. Again and again the psalmists praise God and announce that they are going to declare to others what God has done for them. We need to do this as well. And we glorify God by what we do for others. In love, Jesus Christ served us in order to save us. Now we share that love with those around us because Jesus has said to us, “Your faith as saved you.”