I remember reading Holy Scripture as a boy and not understanding much of what I was reading. After I came to faith in Christ as an adult, I began to read Holy Scripture again. Only this time I had an objective, a mission. I was (and still am) on a mission to learn more and more about who Jesus the Christ was and is so that, learning, I might know Him more, love Him more and be like Him.
I mean, that’s kind of the point of knowing more about Jesus is so that we may love Him more and be more like Him. At least I’m pretty sure that’s the point.
Anyways, even during seminary I remember not really feeling like the exegetical training I was getting was quite doing it. I still felt like something was missing, that there were things that Holy Scripture was trying to say and point to that I just wasn’t quite grasping. It wasn’t until I found the Church Fathers that I began to see some things I had been missing. I found that the Fathers’ idea of exegesis was vastly different than what my Protestant upbringing and training had taught me. I discovered layers to the biblical text that I had never seen before.
When I used to read some of the stories of Jesus healing people, I would think, ‘That’s Jesus illustrating His divinity.’ And that is one of the things Jesus was doing in those miracles. He was doing things that only God can do for the exact purpose of showing those who saw the miracles that He was indeed the God-man, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us.
But He was doing and saying other things by those miracles also. Take our readings this week:
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13
Gospel: Luke 18:31-43
Look at our gospel reading for today. If we just read through it quickly at one go, it seems a little disjointed, doesn’t it? Like Jesus talks about His upcoming death and resurrection then, out of nowhere, we get this story of the healing of a blind man. What do those two things have to do with one another?
I’m glad you asked.
Aside from the disciples not seeming to understand either what Jesus was saying or what His point was, what do we learn? What is the point of the story of the blind man? Jesus starts out by foretelling His upcoming Passion. He starts it with “all things shall be accomplished which were written by the prophets concerning the Son of man.” Then He goes on to tell/remind them what will happen. He will be handed over to the pagan Gentiles, mocked, scourged, spit upon, scourged and put to death. Then, Jesus says, I will rise again on the third day.
Other than Jesus pointing them to prophecy and seeming like He’s kind of bummed about this, what’s His point?
He is pointing to His Passion in order to point them and us to salvation. Because of the Passion of Christ, salvation will be accomplished. He’s not just going to be beaten and killed and rise again in order to show everyone that He is God. He’s doing all this to accomplish something and that is salvation. Without all of this, there is no salvation.
And what does that have to do with the blind man? Just as the disciples were “blind” to see and hear what Jesus was saying to them, so this man is blind. But, unlike the disciples, he recognizes his need and calls out for mercy. Notice that he calls Jesus “son of David.” This is a Messianic title. This blind man, for all his lack of sight, still has the “vision” to acknowledge the divinity and rightful authority of Jesus. And Jesus, acknowledging the man’s faith, heals his blindness. It is God’s mercy on full display.
And it is also a sign to point us to something. Jesus healed this blind man so that the people (and us) would see. They, and we, now see the healing of this blind man is a sign of salvation to the world that His Passion will accomplish. This man, the people of Jesus’ day, and us, live in the darkness of our sin. It is only the Passion of Jesus that gives sight to the blind and brings Light where there was darkness. Jesus gives forth a sign of His salvation. And the result was praise. The healed man and the people gave praise to God, not just for the blind seeing, but for the salvation that was in their midst.
As wonderful as that is, how does St. Paul’s chapter on love inform our understanding of the gospel? Read the Epistle text and consider Christ.
The transformation of our souls which is only accomplished by the mercy of God and found only in the salvation granted to us in the Passion of our Lord, produces in us the life of Christ and the light of love. This is what St. Paul is saying to us.
Jesus is the personification of Divine Love. In Him, we see Paul’s exhortation to love lived out. In Him, love never falls away, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. And if we are in Him, our lives (like the blind man) can now be lived as a sign pointing the world to Christ.
Now we, with the Psalmist, can cry,
“Thou art the God that dost wonders. Thou hast made thy power known among the nations: With thy arm thou hast redeemed thy people the children of Jacob and Joseph.” (Psalm 76:15-16. DR)
The wonder of our darkness, our blindness being turned to true sight is a miraculous sign that can only point to the One True Redeemer, who is Christ the Lord.
Now we, like the blind man who was healed and the people of Jericho, cry out in praise to the God who gives His Love so freely!