Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me!” This is what the blind man, who St. Mark tells is us named Bartimaeus, cries out as Jesus comes near him. He knows his sin. He knows the effects sin has on the world, and upon his own body. So he begs for forgiveness, for healing to the only One who can give it. And He does. Jesus is merciful. He forgives Bartimaeus his sins, He heals his body. This is what Jesus always does. Throughout the Gospels, whenever a person or persons cry out “Kyrie eleison,” “Lord, have mercy,” He does. Never does Jesus ignore the plea or deny the mercy begged of Him. Whenever Jesus hears “Lord, have mercy,” He is merciful, He forgives.
Today’s collect is a perfect outline of the Gospel. “O Lord, we beseech You, mercifully hear our prayers, and having set us free from the bonds of sin, defend us from all evil.” This is precisely what Jesus does for the blind man of Jericho and what He does for you.
Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” As we stand now on the threshold of Lent, as we prepare to follow Our Lord from the cross to the grave and back to the Upper Room to comfort His terrified disciples, this is the theme. St. Paul’s great “Love Chapter” isn’t about weddings. It’s not even about the love we have for others. It’s about the love Jesus Christ has for you. For you He bears all things, even your sin. He believes all things, even that He drinks the Father’s cup of wrath to fulfill His will that all men might be redeemed. He hopes all things, even that all might repent, believe, and receive His full forgiveness. He endures all things, even the cross, to save you. So today He reminds His disciples that what He is about to endure He bears willingly. He goes to the cross in obedience to His Father and in love for His creation, the greatest love the world has ever known.
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.