Quinquagesima (Lk 18:31–43; 1 Cor 13:1–13)

Photo by Yannik Mika on Unsplash

Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

Jesus said to him, “See again! Your faith has saved you.”

INI AMEN.

Look at how good that blind man was at believing! He made a choice. He stuck to it. No matter what anyone else said, he trusted what he believed. His faith didn’t waver. Strong faith. Strong action. Loud voice. Big request. He was made well, he was saved from his blindness, because of his faith. Sure Jesus came to his neighborhood, but he had to make that last little step. He at least had to cry out, didn’t he?

That’s the point of our Gospel reading, right? Be believing like the blind man. Your belief saves you, so look at your faith, then. Diagnose it. Make a better choice. Do better actions like the blind man. Right?

Except none of that’s right. Though sadly we all think that way, act that way, believe that way from time to time. That’s how the majority of Christians talk about faith, or pretty close. In fact, if I had just continued on down that path, maybe you wouldn’t have caught it, but if I’m really honest, it’s tempting to go that way even for me. It’s logical. It makes sense. It’s all at right angles, plum, flush. As sinners, our human nature is hardwired to think about faith that way, but that’s not faith alone. It’s really just another way of bringing your works into the salvation story.

((3. Faith alone saves because Christ alone saves.))

Sola fide: “by faith alone.” That’s how you’re saved. But faith alone doesn’t save you because faith is some amazing thing you do. It’s not even a small thing you do. It’s not the tiniest of works you must do. No, faith alone saves because Jesus alone saves.

That’s how it was for the blind man. “Your faith has saved you,” Jesus says. But Jesus is the one who gave him his sight back! “Your Jesus has saved you!” Jesus of Nazareth is the Savior, the true Son of David, the true King of the Jews. He’s the one who goes to Jerusalem for sinners: to be “mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon,” to be flogged, killed, and rise on the Third Day.

By doing that He shows us who He is. He’s God, your Savior, your King. “God is love.” On His cross He is “patient and kind,” He “doesn’t envy or boast.” He “doesn’t insist on His own way:” “Not my will,” He says. His own people want Him crucified, and so He suffers Himself to be crucified. He bears your record of wrongs, your impatience, your pride, your putting yourself before others, He bears all things, He endures all things—your sins! Now, because of His cross, the only record He has for you is “forgiven.”

Faith trusts that. Faith clings to Jesus. He saves. Faith looks not to itself, but to Him. Faith always has an object, something it believes. You can have fake faith and true faith, and true faith never trusts in itself. True faith’s hope isn’t in faith or even someone else’s faith. True faith places all trust, confidence, and hope in one place: Jesus Christ. This is why you can swap Jesus in for faith: “Your faith has saved you” means “your Jesus has saved you.”

((2. Faith isn’t about what you do.))

When the Bible talks about faith, trust, or hope—they all sort of mean the same thing in the Bible—it focuses heavily on what Jesus Himself has done, is doing, or will do. Because faith isn’t about what you do at all! True faith is a gift. Faith isn’t a choice. Faith isn’t an action. Faith isn’t anything that has to do with you at all!

Faith’s isn’t focused on believing. Faith isn’t the part of salvation that’s up to you. But that’s often how lots of Christians express it. What they end up saying is, “Sure, we’re not saved by our good works, but it does come down to our personal choice or decision to believe, our action or response to what Jesus has done, or our own personal believing.” But that’s just turning faith, trust in Jesus, into a work we must accomplish in order to be saved. Better not have doubts!

Faith is all a gift from the Spirit. He creates faith within you through the Word, only ever through the Word. How did the blind man know who Jesus of Nazareth was? How did He know that He was the Son of David? Well, the Gospels are very clear. The reports of what Jesus was saying and doing were spreading all over. The only way the blind man in Jericho knew who Jesus was before Jesus got there was because he’d heard about him!

That blind man saw more clearly than anyone else, even the disciples. He not only knew who Jesus was, but He trusted in Jesus, a trust that the Spirit created through the preaching of what Jesus said and did. The organ of faith isn’t your eyes, but your ears. Seeing isn’t believing. Because even when unseeing, the blind man had Spirit-created faith in Jesus.

((1. Faith only receives gifts from Jesus.))

Faith alone saves because Jesus alone saves, and from this we understand that faith isn’t about us but about Jesus. True faith looks to Him alone. True faith, when it comes to salvation, only looks to Jesus because Jesus Himself saves and delivers salvation.

That’s how it was for that blind man. He didn’t just believe that Jesus had come to be the Messiah, but He believed that Jesus the Savior came to deliver salvation, to give “sight to the blind,” as we heard in our Old Testament lesson. Faith only ever receives from Jesus.

What Jesus gives faith receives. Jesus saves, faith believes and receives salvation. Jesus delivers His salvation through the ways He chooses, and true faith receives not just the thing but the benefit. In fact, true faith can never receive harm from a gift Jesus gives. Jesus gives, faith receives.

So it was with the blind man. “Jesus said, ‘Receive your sight! Your faith has saved you.’ And immediately He received His sight and followed Him.” Jesus is the Sight-Giver, the true “Healer of Israel” (Ex 15:26), and He delivered sight by speaking. Faith is being on the receiving end of Jesus gifts.

Faith doesn’t put itself in the way of receiving. Doesn’t say, I’ve got to get my act together enough. It doesn’t say, I’ve received enough from Jesus to act and live and get my act together before God. Faith is nothing but being give-able to from the Lord. Thus even infants can have faith. What Jesus gives, they receive. “Water and Word,” which are “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Whether its His baptism, His Absolution, His preaching, His Word, His body and blood for forgiveness, faith doesn’t trumpet itself. Faith is only ever give-able to.

Faith even receives the people in your life as gift from the Lord. As faith has received mercy, love, and kindness from the Lord, so also it delivers those same things to those around you. Faith receives forgiveness and salvation from Jesus, and faith delivers self-less Jesus love to those around you. That’s you with faith, loving those around you. To not live that way is the life of unfaith—blindness! The life of faith is you go to Jesus’ gifts because there He gives to you, and you go out to others because they are gifted to you as you then become the delivery person of more of the Lord’s gifts, faith always and only gives what has been given to it from the Lord.

((Conclusion.))

Sola fide: “by faith alone.” Faith is actually more about what Jesus has done for you. Jesus gives, faith receives. Jesus dies and rises for you, faith believes He did this for you and you are saved. Faith is trusting Jesus. Faith is receiving from Him. No trust in Jesus, no faith. No receiving from Jesus, no faith.

True faith doesn’t look to itself. True faith doesn’t trust in itself, or even in other people’s faith. No,

YOUR FAITH RECEIVES FROM JESUS AND YOU ARE SAVED.

That’s how it was with the blind man. He received from Jesus, and he was saved. That’s you. YOUR FAITH RECEIVES FROM JESUS, AND YOU ARE SAVED. He died and rose for you, in your place. Love died at Calvary for our lovelessness. Still more from Him for you: Baptism, Absolution, Preaching, Word, Jesus’ Body and Blood for your forgiveness. YOUR FAITH RECEIVES FROM JESUS AND YOU ARE SAVED.

Jesus gives. You receive. He saves you. You are saved. Sola fide.

INI AMEN.

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