Monday, April 05, 2021

Luke 18:31-43

Luke 18:31–43: Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time, Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar


This post includes a couple of short passages from Luke 18.

First, Jesus explains to the twelve Apostles once again that he’s going to die, and he gets very explicit about it:

And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” (verses 31–33)

However, as clear as these words might seem in retrospect, the meaning was “hidden” (verse 34) from the Apostles, so they didn’t understand what Jesus was saying.

Jesus then passes by a blind man, who hears the crowd going by and wonders aloud what’s going on. When someone tells him that it’s Jesus he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (verse 38). The crowd tries to hush him, but he cries all the louder. When Jesus hears him he commands that the man be brought to him, and asks the man what he wants. “Lord, let me recover my sight,” the man replies (verse 41), so Jesus grants his request: “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well” (verse 42). Then the crowd (which had been trying to hush the man a few moment earlier) gives praise to God.


Jesus’ Death Predicted (Again)

Once again, we come across a very plain teaching from Jesus to the Apostles that his death is impending, and they simply don’t get it. I’ve probably talked about this at length in other passages where Jesus predicted his impending death to deaf ears, but I think there are two things getting in the way of the Apostles’ understanding:

  1. It really, really doesn’t fit in with their world view. Their idea of a Messiah didn’t include death or “failure” or rejection by his people; their view of a Messiah involved only victory and success, resulting in the overthrow of the Roman Empire and a new Jewish nation that would last forever. If blame is to be assigned for their lack of understanding—and I’m not saying it should be—it would be on this point, because the Apostles were letting their own ideas of what a Messiah should be get in the way of Jesus’ increasingly clear teachings about what he really came for, and what was going to happen.
  2. Verse 34 is clear that “this saying was hidden from them,” (emphasis added), which reminds me very strongly of the language used in Exodus when the LORD “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” over and over again. If blame is to be assigned for their lack of understanding—and I’m not saying it should be—should it be laid at God’s feet? I don’t think so. If we read those same passages from Exodus when the LORD “hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” the Bible never says “and therefore Pharaoh was off the hook, and it was all God’s fault.” This is one of those areas where things are more complicated than we’d like them to be, to the point of feeling contradictory. Faith is required. But I do think, in this case, part of the reason the Apostles didn’t understand was that, according to God’s plan, it wasn’t time for them to understand yet.

The Healing of the Blind Man

For the blind man who’s healed by Jesus, it’s not clear to me why the crowd was initially trying to rebuke him and make him silent, unless he was just annoying them. Or maybe they didn’t have faith that Jesus would be able to heal him, and didn’t want to be distracted by the diversion?

Regardless, he’s persistent with his faith in Jesus, so he keeps crying out until he’s heard, which is the right thing to do. (See, for example, the recent post on Luke 18:1–8 and The Parable of the Persistent Widow.) And of course, when he does heal the man, it’s all the more reason for the crowd to praise God, which is the right reaction.

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