Faithlife Sermons

What do you see?

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What we focus on determines what we miss...

A video.

3 stories, 2 questions & a conclusion

What we focus on will impact what we can see in this text.
Do we focus on what Jesus says and does?
(Announces his death, asks a blind man what he wants, invites himself over for dinner)
Do we focus on what the people do and say?
(Disciple can’t understand, Man who is blind names Jesus as Messiah, the Son of David, religious folks grumble because Jesus is eating with the wrong people again, Zaccheus announces his financial & justice practices - new or existing)
Or, do we focus on sight? On who is able to notice and perceive what is going on.
That’s the lens I’d like us to use this morning. Who sees (and cannot see)? And then we’ll look at who and what we see or cannot see.
Let’s listen now as Emily reads for us…
3 stories or events:
Prediction of Jesus’ death
The healing of a blind beggar - a remarkable story in which a man is able to ask for what he really needs
The inclusion of Zaccheus - a remarkable story in which a man shares what he has (and makes restitution where he’s cheated)
Who can and cannot see in the text?
Prediction of Jesus’ death
Here, Jesus also uses the term “the Human One” or what other translations render the “Son of Man.” This is not what other people usually call Jesus, but it is His favourite title for Himself, used more than 80 times. (And used twice in our text today!)
Jesus spells it out for his disciples for the THIRD time in the gospel of Luke. “Hey guys. I’m going to die. I’m heading towards Jerusalem, and when I get there, things are not going to go well for me. But it’s okay. I’m going to demonstrate the things I’ve been talking about with you all. I’m going to lay my life down…for you and for the whole world.”
“Uh. Jesus? What are you talking about?”
They DO NOT SEE. They cannot understand.
We know that they will come to see. They will one day, on the other side of resurrection, look back on all the things Jesus did and said while they were together for those years… and they’ll have one giant AHA moment after another.
The healing of a blind beggar
Ok. So that’s pretty clear. What about in the story of Jesus restoring the sight to the blind man? That will be more straightforward, right?
Well…sort of.
Who can and cannot see?
Well, okay, literally, there is a poor man who is blind and who has had to rely on begging in order to provide for himself. And, quite clearly, he cannot see.
However, he does notice things that the disciples have been unable to see yet… the blind man sees.
Notice what he says to Jesus as Jesus walks by: “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!”
This is the first time in the gospel of Luke that someone uses this explicitly Messianic title for Jesus. The people of Israel have been waiting for the Anointed One to come. The One who would sit on the throne of David. The long-awaited Messiah would be both a son of Abraham and a son of David.
In November, we looked at 2 Samuel 7, where David wanted to build a house for God and God said, “No thanks”… but then promised that God was building something else. A house of hesed…of love that sticks it out for the long haul.
And this man who has nothing. And who lacks the ability to see with his eyes. He can see, he notices that this Jesus the Nazarene is One who can show mercy. This Jesus is One who is the Son of David. This is the One they have waited for.
So, the beggar cannot see with his eyes. And yet he notices what the sighted have missed.
And then Jesus asks that astonishing question… “What do you want me to do for you?” And the man receives his sight.
So, the disciples couldn’t see. The blind man is given his sight. And the third story?
Tax collectors are the people that have been taken with the message of Jesus - remember the Matthew the disciple? But their presence in and around Jesus has been a problem for the religious folks. “Tax collectors and sinners” have come up a few times. I always find it interesting that tax collectors get their own category. Sinners, too, for sure. But worth singling out a particularly despised.
And today, we don’t meet just another tax collector, but a chief tax collector named Zaccheus. And he can’t see. Because he is “vertically challenged” … he is so short that when the crowd gathers, he cannot find a gap low enough for him to peer through and catch a glimpse of Jesus the Nazarene.
But what is this “chief tax collector” thing about?
Tax farming - the Romans would sell the rights to the taxes for certain areas. And then those overseeing whole areas, could hire collectors to
Reviled for collaborating with the Romans, and viewed with suspicion by his own people. He is a son of Abraham, after all. Zaccheus is a rich man.
Jesus calls out to this wealthy man - who is up in a tree. (Seriously, I think we miss out on how funny this story is!)
Invites himself over for dinner. (I love that!) Zaccheus welcomes him gladly.
Once again, the religious folks are unhappy with Jesus’ choices.
And then Zaccheus & Jesus have a conversation. Zaccheus expresses a new paradigm for how he will handle his wealth and his business. And Jesus announces that salvation has arrived… restoring this “son of Abraham” to his community. Though we are left with a cliffhanger once again as to what the religious folks will do. How will they respond?
Hopefully, they are the ones whose sight has been restored. Perhaps they can now see this man they had excluded. Perhaps now they can see how their assumptions about his righteousness (or lack of it) are problematic?
But whatever their response, Zaccheus has been able to spend time with Jesus up close. Not just catching a glimpse of him from up in a tree. And Jesus has most definitely SEEN Zaccheus. And that changes everything.
So, three stories. And in each one someone sees or cannot see.
Which then begs the question… What/who is it that we can/cannot see?
How are we like the disciples before the resurrection?
How do we miss what Jesus is doing in our midst?
How are we like the man who is blind?
And how do we respond when Jesus asks us what we would have him do for us?
Or, how are we like Zaccheus? How do we handle that which we have control of? Whether financial resources (however they’ve been obtained), business practices, or our standing in the community?
Conclusion: What we focus on determines what we miss. (Brian McLaren)
If we are looking for reasons that someone isn’t even a candidate for repentance, we’ll likely miss their repentance and life re-ordering decisions.
If we are so focused on what we should do for Jesus, we might find ourselves completely taken aback if Jesus ever asks us the question he asked the man who was blind.
If we are taken with building even a religious empire of some sort, we may find Jesus to be very strange and even counter-productive. Get. With. The. Program. Jesus. (Stop talking about giving it all away, would you?)
Where is the invitation for you this morning? For us collectively?
Who do we not even see? Where are we blind?
Where do others see things that we don’t listen for because we skip over them entirely?
Let’s pray.
Spirit of the Living God, open our eyes. To see, to notice, to perceive.
Grant us a humble curiosity that would be quick to learn, to recognize new and unexpected information, …
Help us to be slow to judge. Slow to make determinations.
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