A man has just turned away from Jesus, saddened by the fact that the call to follow Jesus is a call of radical commitment and determination. Unwilling to part with his money, he goes away sad. Jesus is sad, too, sad for him. Jesus declares the human impossibility of the rich turning to Christ with the image of a camel passing through a needle’s eye. And Peter speaks up for the rest when he declares that they have left their very homes to follow Jesus. Peter is wondering if his sacrifice is enough … It was very costly, and if it’s not going to be enough, then is it worth it at all?
Jesus assures him that kingdom sacrifice is a great investment, as we will receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come, eternal life. No stock market portfolio tries to offer both radical short-term gains and long-term security. But that’s precisely what Jesus offers.
In the passage before us, however, he cautions them that it will not look like a good investment at all, at least not initially. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem where he will be betrayed, mistreated, spit upon, even killed. But three days later he will rise. He’s preparing his disciples to hold on by faith when their eyes deceive them. And the events that follow bring the same themes together.
As they enter Jericho, the crowd makes quite a commotion as it passes the corner where a blind man sits and begs. Asking the crowd, “what’s up?,” he’s told that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. But he does not jump up calling for mercy from Jesus of Nazareth. He jumps up calling for mercy from Jesus the Son of David. The crowd, whose eyes worked fine, as far as physical sight is concerned, saw only a prominent rabbi, a celebrity preacher. But the blind man had the eyes of faith (Heb 12:1). He saw the king, the messiah, the hope of Israel. He saw the Second Adam come to bring order to a realm corrupted by sin. He had the power to kick Satan to the curb and to command the wind and the waves, and to turn back the devastation of sin. He could heal his blindness. He knew that by faith.
But the crowd wanted him hushed. He was an embarrassment to them. How many of us have not walked by a homeless man smelling of cheap liquor, without shoes, his clothes riddled with stains and holes, an unkempt beard and few teeth,– How many of us have passed by such a man and turned away? This crowd did not want to interact with the man themselves, let alone do they think him worthy of taking this great rabbi’s time. So they shush him. Their rebuke is reminiscent of the disciples’ rebuke in v. 15. The disciples had turned the parents away who were bringing their babies to be blessed by Jesus. But Jesus reminded them that the kingdom belongs to such lowly ones. And here, the Lord demands that the blind man be brought to him.
Our savior is never too busy for the hurting, the lonely, the afflicted, the poor, the pitiful. Rather, if any one would come to him, he must see himself as just such a person. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled. But whoever humbles himself will be exalted. It’s a basic principle of the kingdom. The lowly are lifted up. The high and mighty are cast down.
This man knows his need. That is what makes him humble. And this man knows his hope, a hope that lies outside himself, that hope that is even now passing by in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. His humility and his faith issue in a radical, desperate determination that refuses to be turned away. Shushed, he shouted “all the more”, until he got the king’s attention. This, too, is a basic principle of discipleship: determination. “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. (Luke 16:16 ESV)
Again and again in Luke’s gospel, we’ve been pressed to develop this desperate determination in our lives. We’re commanded strive earnestly, determinedly, to enter through the narrow door (Luke 13:24). Jesus told parables (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8) encouraging us to press on, not give up, to force our way into the kingdom. And that is what this man does when re ignores the crowd and shouts out ‘all the more’.
Another fundamental characteristic of disciples is on display here, too. Like the Samaritan leper who was cleansed (Luke 17:15-16), this man follows Jesus glorifying God. Obviously, God’s infinite glory cannot be added to. When we glorify God, we sing his praises. We thank him. We speak of his holiness and goodness and mercy to Him and to any who will listen. This is the goal of our creation, after all. God made us to enjoy Him, to Know his Power and Goodness. Restoring us to true worship, that we might glorify and enjoy Him forever, is the ‘joy set before him’ (Heb 12:2).
Jesus’ Faith, Humility and Determination
But as we strive … as our humility meets our faith and issues in determined effort and gratitude, we are to look to Jesus. “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Heb 12:3 ESV)
After all, Jesus believed. As our passage began, we saw him explaining what would happen to him in Jerusalem. He would be betrayed, beaten and killed. But notice how he explained that. “Everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. Jesus knew that God had given him direction. Jesus knew that that direction was humiliating, costly and painful. Yet he’s been doggedly determined to get to Jerusalem since Luke 9:51. He left his glorious throne and took the form of a servant, living under the law and dying on a cross. A greater humility, a greater faith and a greater determination cannot be conceived. And he did it for us, his little ones, that we might know God as He is, that we might erupt in praise.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb 12:1–3 ESV)
Discipleship is cross-bearing. We enter through a narrow door, and we walk a narrow path. Don’t grow weary. Look to Jesus. He did it all for you. Won’t you strive to live a life worthy of the calling you’ve received? Won’t you forget what is behind and press on to make the kingdom your own, since he has made you his own? Won’t you push on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus? Won’t you do so in His power and for His glory?