Sunday message 2 April 2017 – To see or not to see
Readings: Psalm 130; Luke 18:31 – 19:10
I love it that we are all so different. I’ve always remembered what my mum used to say – it would be terrible if everyone looked like me. She meant herself – not me of course.
The disciples are a mixed bag. So too are the different people Jesus encountered in his travels.
In the passage we heard today, he is still on his journey to Jerusalem. For the third time, he tells the disciples what would happen when they get to the city.
He speaks of himself in third person: “the Son of Man will be handed over to the Gentiles. He will be mocked, insulted, spat upon, and flogged. They will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again” (18:31-33 NRSV)
They understand none of it. Even though God the Son is speaking.
Contrast this with the openness of the two people Jesus encounters along the way. Both are outcastes in one way or another. A blind beggar and a rich tax collector.
People who teach on the church and its mission today often say this – we need to go out there and join in with what God is already doing in the community. To be honest, I used to find that a bit odd. My take on the world out there was that people are often totally disinterested in God – and more than likely will be hostile.
When Jim Wallace was here, and listening to his stories – I think I began to understand this better. Remember how he spoke about “loitering with intent” so that he could connect with people in the community?
I’ve been doing that. It’s fascinating. More about that some other time. God is at work in peoples’ lives and we need to be available to interact with those workings. Those events and stories.
What I realised when reading this passage through the week is that God was in fact working in the community there too before Jesus came along the road.
The blind man had to ask what the commotion was – after all he was dependant on the sight of others. They tell him its Jesus of Nazareth passing by – and he starts calling out to Him:
Luk 18:38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Luk 18:39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus son of David. He uses another of his titles. Why? And why would he ask Jesus to have mercy on him in such a persistent way? What did he know about this man from Nazareth. The word had got out – the news had travelled and had got his attention to the extent that he sees Jesus as a solution, someone who can change things.
And of course Zacchaeus would have heard something too about this man. Why else does he do the undignified thing and climb a tree to see him?
The scene is prepared. And then there’s Jesus. What can we learn from him today? Perhaps for men – who when they are on the road travelling tend to get irritated when the family wants to stop along the way. You know how we are – focussed on the destination. (Apparently I have improved in this department.)
Jesus doesn’t seem to mind stopping. He sees the interruptions as central ministry times.
It’s a bit like working here at the church through the week. Don’t plan too much – something will come along that takes its place. Because people matter more than programs and schedules.
So have a look at this:
Divide this passage into three sections. The disciples, the blind man, and Zaccheus:
The disciples – despite being told three times – don’t understand what Jesus is saying.
On the other hand, the blind man does understand that Jesus is more than just a rabbi – a teacher. He asks for more than others would.
He is saved – healed literally – by his faith in Jesus.
And Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus. He makes the effort because he knows that this is more than just a teacher.
And the encounter with Zacchaeus also compares peoples’ ability to see or not to see what is happening.
I love Steve Thomason’s artwork. And that he is happy for anyone to use his drawings:
The religious people are shown here as having no eyes at all. And I love Zacchaeus – we used to sing about him as a wee little man. He really is tiny in this picture.
But tax collectors – they really did not like them at all. And a chief tax collector would have made money out of the other tax collectors.
Jesus sees more in Zacchaeus than the others do. People in the crowd had tried to silence the blind man. Here they can’t stop this little guy going ahead to get a good viewing spot to see Jesus. And Jesus sees him too! And does the unthinkable.
Here the crowds would be muttering and murmuring about the scandal:
The idea that Jesus would go to his home cuts across everything that their religion stood for – it stood for separation. Purity. Holiness. And tax collectors stood for the opposite.
You heard the rest of the story. This little man becomes big hearted.
Okay it doesn’t happen in the tree – it happens over a meal.
There’s something to be said for hospitality – whether we extend it or whether we invite ourselves into peoples’ lives. When we take the risk to get to know the marginalised and rejected ones.
The disciples in their inability to see are holding on to Jesus. Their minds could not get around the idea that he may deliberately go on a journey to this holy city only to be killed.
The blind man is calling out to Jesus. For mercy. He gets to see. Literally.
The little tax collector wants to see Jesus. Probably because he knew deep down that he needed whatever this Jesus offered.
And importantly – God was at work before Jesus came down the road to Jericho.
And he is at work before we go down our roads and paths to encounter people. The Mission people teach this:
As you go out this week – remember this. That God prepares the way before you bump into people – or meet them as you loiter with intent.
I found hanging around in the carpark and on the pavement that all kinds of people pass by.
And they are surprised when I greet them and ask them how they are – or direct them to a car park if they are coming in here for mainly music for example. The next time they come they are all smiles.
I discovered some who were German speaking, one who only knows Spanish. I’ve tried both languages – maybe there’s a reason for that – at least I can greet people in their mother tongue.
If we are to build bridges into peoples’ lives – so that it becomes easy to share with them – it helps to know that we are part of a bigger plan.
In the meantime, the story carries on. Jesus is happy to interrupt the journey on the way to His ultimate mission.
We will journey with him next week as we remember Palm Sunday – the crowds welcoming Him into Jerusalem – as he moves inevitably to his death.
I wonder what we will see – perhaps something new or different this Easter.