St Luke 18:31-43
'Grace Alone, Scripture Alone, Faith Alone'
Quinquagesima | February 3rd, 2008
When people ask me what in the world Lutheran's are, I normally answer with a short discussion of Law and Gospel. That's good because we can talk about how they are a sinner and how Jesus died for sinners. But if we want to get into what makes Lutheranism tick, there is the always handy three solas, Sola Grati, grace alone, Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone, and Sola Fide, faith alone.
You all know that we're right on the edge of Lent, and today and the previous two Sundays were these “gesima” Sundays, the Sundays of Pre-Lent. It just so happens that these Sunday line up very well with the three alone's.
Grace Alone. We heard about grace alone two weeks ago in the parable in the workers in the vineyard. Remember how they were paid not on their merits, how much and how long they worked, but rather out of the generosity and promise of the master. Such is the grace of our Lord Jesus that we have life eternal, it comes not by works but by grace alone.
Scripture Alone. We heard about Scripture alone last week and the parable of the Sower. The Sower is the Lord Jesus who sows the seed of the Word in all the world, and this word grows and bears the fruit of faith and love and eternal life. It is the Scriptures alone that creates faith and promises forgiveness and life.
Faith Alone. This week we come to the faith alone in Gospel text, the healing of the blind man of Jericho.
Jesus is heading up to Jerusalem so that the prophetic word would be fulfilled: He will be delivered to the Gentiles, mocked, spitefully abused, spit upon, whipped, and murdered, and that He would rise on the third day. That's where He's going, and that's whats going to happen. The next seven weeks will be given over to this journey of our Lord Jesus to the cross.
But as Jesus is going up to Jerusalem He comes to Jericho, and theres a crowd with His, a bit of commotion, and there is a blind man, Bartimaeus, we know from Mark, is his name, is there on the side of the road. He hears the bustle and asks someone next to him, “What's going on?” “It's Jesus of Nazereth.” So this blind man cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” “Hush!” the people around him say, “Quiet!”
But look, dear saints, this blind man has faith, he trusts the promises of the prophets that the Messiah would give sight to the blind [see Isaiah 29:18; 42:7], and that Jesus is the Messiah. Faith cannot be hushed of silenced or kept away from its Jesus. He cries out the more, “O Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Lord, have mercy!” This is the Kyrie, is the fundamental prayer of faith.
And Jesus hears him, and turns to him and asks, “What would you have Me do?” Bartimaeus answers, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” And then Jesus gives eyes to see. “Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.” Now there is something stunning in the words of Jesus, “Your faith has saved you.” We want to say, “Now wait a minute, Jesus, You saved him. You gave him eyes to see and healed his blindness. You did it.” True, and yet Jesus attributes the healing to faith. So we need to know, what is faith.
Faith and Love
What is Faith? We heard a marvelous definition yesterday at the theological conference: faith is being given to. Did you get that? Faith is being given to, it is the receiving of a gift, the clinging to a promise. Faith is passive, that's why it's the opposite of works. Works is doing, faith is receiving. And faith is the opposite of love, or the other side of the coin.
What is love? It's wonderful to see the difference between faith and love this morning. We heard in the Epistle the great love passage from 1 Corinthians 13, the great text on love. Te essence of love is this: it gives. It gives until it hurts, and then it keeps giving, even to death. I think that we have some trouble with the Biblical idea of love these days because we think of love as an emotion, a feeling, something (like a hole in the ground) that you can fall into. This might be a small, very small, part of the Biblical idea, but more, love is something that you do.
Charity. This chapter used to read, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaulteth not itself, is not puffed up...” Charity, that puts a different image in the mind than love, doesn't it? Charity is doing, serving, suffering, giving. That's what love is, what love does. So when we hear the words, “For God so loved the world...” we know what comes next, we know what love does, “that He gave His only begotten Son.”
Faith and Love. Love gives. Faith receives. Love is on the giving end of the gift, faith is on the getting side. And when it comes to our salvation, we want to know clearly who is doing the loving and who is doing the believing. It is the Lord Jesus who first loves us, and gives us everything, even His life hung from a tree, that we would be forgiven. He does is all and gives and promises it all. And we are on the getting ends of His love, of His sacrifice, of His forgiveness. The gift comes and we get it. The promise is heard, and we believe it, and this getting and believing the Lord accounts to us as righteousness and perfection.
Justified by faith. And now it is for us to say, “Wait a minute, it is You, Lord who saves us. You have won our salvation and done everything for us. You did it.” True, the Lord Jesus has done it all. And yet He attributes our salvation and justification to faith. And this is because faith is being given to, it is being loved and died for and forgiven. Faith means being on the getting end of Jesus' death. And so it is faith alone that saves, not our works or our love, but our being the objects of Jesus' works and love for us.
Faith and the Lord's Supper
Getting the gifts. And this altar, dear saints, is where we come the that end, the getting end of the cross. This is where Jesus gives out the gifts He won for us two thousand years ago.
Here He feeds us His body that was broken for us, His blood spilt for us. Look, dear saints, you will never in your life ever hold in your hands a treasure more precious or valuable than this. Here you will hold and taste and eat life, Jesus, God in the flesh. You will have eternity in your mouth, and by the word in your ears and heart. You are not worthy to take this gift, but the Lord gives it, and faith, yes, faith, puts you here on the getting end of the Lord's gifts, on the forgiveness of sins, and where the forgiveness of sins is, there also is life and salvation.
Love born of Faith. And now, the Lord's love served up for us, we are sent out to love our neighbor. The Lord's love compels and sends us that we, united to the Lord Jesus, no longer cling to our lives, but now we give them away in service to our neighbor. We love because He first loved us.
Faith and love, grace and Scriptures, all of these are about the Lord's gifts, everything in the Lord's church and in the lives of the Lord's people is about His gifts. May our heavenly Father send the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, that we would, by faith, have the gifts of life and salvation that He gives, and that we ourselves would be heavenly gifts to our neighbor. Amen.
And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO