Quinquagesima 2023 (Lk 18, 31–43; Is 35, 3–7)

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᛭ INI ᛭

(5. There is wrath of God for sin.)

There is wrath of God over sin. “Wrath” is His furious, burning anger over sin. The Old Testament describes it as His nose burning or smoking. That’s the Lord’s attitude toward sin. He’s an all-holy God; He is thrice holy!—All-holy Father, All-holy Son, All-holy Holy Spirit. The “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord” doesn’t do unholy, doesn’t abide sin.

The true and living God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) isn’t some eternal grandfatherly figure, impotent toward sin so that He just winks at it and moves on. No, He’s the omnipotent, almighty Maker of all things in heaven and on earth. In His ears “the outcry of our sins” (Gen 18) rings loud. They are an “unpleasing aroma”—a stench—in His nostrils. “Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before Him is a devouring fire, around Him a mighty tempest.” (Ps 50)

(4. “The wages of sin is death.”)

“The wages of sin is death.” That’s all fine as an idea, but in practice that’s a hard word, hard wages, hard bondage! We’re “held in slavery to the fear of death our entire life.” (Heb 2:15) “The wages of sin is death.” We confess agreement with the idea, but when we’re confronted with the reality, we really don’t like it all that much.

It all leaves a bitter taste in our mouth. Besides the fact that we don’t like God being God. He’s uncontrollable, unruly. He’s God; we’re not. “Where were you when He created? When He said to waters, ‘This far and no further.’” (Job 30) “Who are you to talk back to God?” (Rom 10) He didn’t ask us how He should’ve created, and He’s been running the universe ever since, long before you or I showed up.

Creation itself groans under the wrath of God because of our sin. “Creation itself subjected to futility.” (Rom 8) So, you end up with a blind beggar. You end up with an earthquake in Turkey. You end up with every single grave out there. “The wages of sin is death”—doesn’t matter how that death comes. Not abstract death, death off somewhere. Death in such a way that it can wind up on a headline and death certificate.

It’s not for any active sin in particular. That’s our sinful way of thinking, to only think in terms of actions. (Not to say actions don’t have consequences. They do.) Sinful thinking also glosses over the inherited sinful condition we all got from Adam.

So, Bartimaeus who sat on the way to Jericho didn’t commit any specific sin to be struck blind, neither did his parents. (cp. Jn 9) The people who were murdered at the temple by Pontius Pilate, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, as Jesus tells us in Luke 14, I believe, weren’t worse sinners than you or me. Neither were those in Turkey or Syria.

No specific sins, but they were sinners, just like you and me. We are likewise worthy of God’s “wrath and displeasure, physical death, and eternal damnation.” That’s what all human beings “deserve from God because of our sins” that sprout and grow from our sinful hearts. And so, “He banishes all to disobedience.” (Rom 10)

(3. Outside of faith vs inside of faith.)

Outside of Christ, there is only despair, only death. But in Christ Jesus, “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” (Rom 8) Outside of Christ, Outside of faith in Jesus, physical blindness is just the precursor to “the outer darkness,” physical pain and sorrow the pregame for eternal “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” There is “hope for this life only” (1 Cor 15) outside of faith in Jesus.

But with Christ Jesus something else is revealed and seen. In Christ Jesus we see that “He banishes all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all,” (Rom 10) …so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal 3) Faith sees that “nothing can separate us” from the “God who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all.” What was He given up to? Jesus lists that off for us today: “delivered over to the Gentiles, mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon, and after being flogged, killed.” All suffering of humanity (Mt 8), all sins (Jn 1:29), all sinfulness claimed as His own (2 Cor 5)—all of it “borne in His own body on the tree.” (1 Pet 2)

Faith says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21) Unfaith says that God must do things in a way that line up with its own way of thinking. Unfaith lives the life of “Curse God, and die.” (Job 1) After which there is nothing. In fact, the worldly thinking says there’s no point to anything, so might as well, just “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor 15)

(2. “Faith” is good news for you.)

You see, then, how important faith is. But “faith” is actually good news. We all know that we are saved by faith alone, and not by works. “People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.” (AC IV) But this is not like faith is the only thing you must do. That would just turn into you drumming up faith within you—an endless, unattainable thing.

Faith is good news for you. But what is “Faith”? “Faith in Jesus” is a gift, of course. “It is the Gift of God.” (Eph 2) But what is it? We Lutherans often define “Faith” as “trust,” that is, trust in Christ Jesus. This involves your whole being. So you can have certainty, that involves more your mind. You can have confidence, that involves more your emotions. Then you have trust, which involves something else… (Like getting out of bed and standing on the floor. You’re trusting the floor’s there and won’t give out.)

There you see that faith isn’t action on your part. The moment it does, it slides into the category of your works. (We believe in Jesus in spite of ourselves.) Faith/trust is a state of being. (Thus even baptized infants have faith.) It is not some self-worked hope or reality.

Trust isn't a choice. The moment it becomes a choice it's no longer trust. It's something else...

Faith is not knowledge, experience, emotion, morality, desiring, or deciding. (It affects these things, of course.) Faith has nothing to do with our will, our action. Faith is the absence of anything us. Faith is the presence of everything Jesus for us. Faith is life; unfaith, belief is death. Faith is “pools” and “springs” (Is 35); unfaith is “burning sand” and “thirsty ground.” Faith is “reeds and rushes,” unfaith “grass.”


Faith is being on the receiving end of Jesus and His blessing. (Thus even baptized infants have faith.) And this is where we get to true good news of faith:


So, then, there is wrath of God. “We should fear His wrath.” (SC) But “do you also hope to be saved? Yes, that is my hope. In whom then do you trust? In my dear Lord Jesus Christ. What has Christ done for you that you trust in Him? He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.” (Christians Questions)

Ah, the forgiveness of sins. Faith receives that and is saved, saved by Jesus. Jesus saves and so faith saves. “Your faith has saved you.” Yes, Bartimaeus. You, too. Faith in Christ means we are rescued from our sins, from the wrath of God, from the wages due our sins, from death itself! Why does faith do that? Faith unites us to Christ who did all the saving, and who continues to do all the saving. Every last bit of saving was done by Jesus, so faith in Him saves.

He suffered our suffering, was punished with our punishment, received our wrath and dereliction from the Father. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27) And now by His resurrection you are innocent, and shall live forever with Jesus.


So also Baptism saves because Jesus saves—died and risen. Same with Absolution, the preaching of the Gospel, and the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood. All of these save, because all of them work forgiveness of sins in Jesus name, because Jesus saves.

When you don’t believe in Jesus, His death and resurrection for you, there is only wrath—“present and eternal punishment.” But to those who “believe on His name,” He makes the promise to save you, to resurrect you on the Last Day. Your body will rise from the dead as “waters break forth in the desert!” Blind Bartimaeus seeing is the promise that you’ll rise to life, to see Jesus face to face.


“So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the [Gospel.]” (AC V)

᛭ INI ᛭

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