As we read the Gospels, we become more and more acquainted with the false piety of the Jews. So often they say and do things that look like they believe. They make us think that maybe we give them too much of a hard time. Today’s Gospel is a perfect example. They come to Jesus and seem to be eagerly in search of the promised Messiah, wrestling with questions if Jesus really is the promised Christ. They seem like they’re looking for a place to put their faith, one in whom they can believe. The problem is that Jesus has given them more than enough proof. He is by no means vague. He does things only God can do: He heals men and women of various diseases and maladies, He preaches with the authority and power of God, and He forgives sins. He performs other miracles. He uses God’s personal Name, I AM, for Himself. Though the Jews beg Jesus, “tell us plainly,” He has confessed quite plainly, by word and deed, who He is and from Whom He comes.
There is a common thread in today’s Readings. Each reading highlights a various change wrought in us by the Lord. Ezekiel alluded to Baptism, that by it God separates us from the world, gives us a new heart, and gives us His Holy Spirit. Isaiah called us to a Christian life, to doing good works that are pleasing in God’s eyes. However, he reminded us that when we fail, God forgives us. Finally, in the Gospel Jesus healed the man born blind and was hated for it. But for the man who was healed, the Word of Jesus created faith in him and brought him from spiritual darkness into the light.
When God gave His Law, He knew man could not keep it. The Law always condemns. In this world, after the Fall, man cannot keep the Law. It will always and only show where we have stumbled. It tells us what we ought to do, that which pleases God. But the Law is also supposed to drive us to our Savior, our only source of Help and Comfort. Condemned and killed by the Law, we flee to the Gospel, to the Christ revealed in it who "takes away the sin of the world."
In tonight’s Gospel Jesus takes His disciples aside to let them know what is going to happen to Him. This is the third time He has told them, and it is also the most detailed of the Passion predictions. For the first time Jesus mentions that He will be handed over to the Gentiles and crucified. How exactly the disciples responded we do not know. But we know from the previous two times, they were shocked and saddened, but also perplexed. How could this happen to the long-awaited Messiah? How could their own leaders do this to their Savior? They did not yet understand that Jesus would enter into His glory through rejection, suffering, and death.
We can all relate to Elijah. We know what it’s like to have had enough. Enough of the tensions that exist in this life. You know everything that’s bothering you right now, everything that’s weighing you down—anxiety over the next chapter in life, wondering how to manage everyone’s hectic schedule, how this month’s bills will be paid, when the doctor will finally call with the test results. And the list goes on. All of these stresses weigh on you. You wonder just how much more you can bear.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.