Sermon for October 24, 2021, Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 10:46-52 (Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 25—Series B)

“We are All Beggars”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

October 24, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Mark 10:

46And they came into Jericho. And when He was leaving from Jericho, with His disciples and a considerable crowd, the son of Timaeus—Bartimaeus—a blind beggar, was sitting beside the road. 47And when he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was [there], he began to cry out and to say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48And many began rebuking him in order that he should be silent. But rather he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” 49And when Jesus stopped, He said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Have courage. Get up. He is calling you.” 50And casting off his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51And Jesus asked him and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabboni, in order that I may gain my sight.” 52And Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” And immediately he gained his sight and followed Him on the road.

             “Let nobody suppose that he has tasted the Holy Scriptures sufficiently unless he has ruled over the churches with the prophets for a hundred years. Therefore there is something wonderful, first, about John the Baptist; second, about Christ; third, about the apostles. ‘Lay not your hand on this divine Aeneid, but bow before it, adore its every trace.’ We are beggars. That is true.” These were the last thoughts of Dr. Martin Luther on February 16, 1546, the day before he died.[1]

          We are beggars. That is true. What do we have of our own? From the mouth of Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return” (Job 1:21 ESV). The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Tim. 6:7 ESV). Like life itself, the necessities of life come from God. “[God] has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”[2] Luther again: “Whatever [we] have [we] acknowledge to be a gift of God’s grace; [we] have nothing to offer God, but [we] only receive from Him.”[3] The blind man, Bartimaeus, as a beggar, truly had nothing to offer Jesus. We are beggars. That is true.

But just maybe we can come up with something to give to God, beggars though we be? Perhaps our attempts at being good? No, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Is. 64:6 NAS95). “For there is not one truly righteous person on the earth who continually does good and never sins” (Eccl. 7:20 NET). Shall we offer God our self-righteousness? Our selfishness and greed? The filthy rags of our so-called good works? No. The only thing that we beggars would be able to offer God are our sins and our sinfulness. That is an unholy offering to be sure. In the end, we have nothing to give to God. We are beggars. That is true.

The year is 1763. Anglican pastor Augustus Toplady pens a hymn. His gift to God? Nothing, for he too is a beggar. His words, “Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to Thy cross I cling. Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace.” It’s the beloved hymn, Rock of Ages. Toplady knew that in and of himself, just like you and me, he had nothing. We are beggars. Like Bartimaeus, we have nothing to offer God. We can only receive from Him what He wants to give us according to His grace and mercy. “Not the labors of my hands Can fulfill Thy Law’s demands; Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone. . . . Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.”

The Savior, Jesus, must wash us in His grace. We cry out in our helplessness as beggars, “Have mercy on me!” Satan retorts and rebukes us similar to the crowd shushing Bartimaeus, “Why should He? You have nothing. You are nothing. You are full of sin and wicked thoughts and desires. You deserve nothing, you pathetic beggar.” But Jesus stopped. “He said, ‘Call him.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Have courage. Get up. He is calling you.’”

Jesus is calling you. He wants to talk to you, O beggar. Jesus says to you, “What do you want me to do for you?” You have nothing but your sins and unrighteousness. Dare you say what you want? Bartimaeus did. “I want to gain my sight!” He acknowledged Jesus as the One who can make the blind see. Isaiah 35, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped” (Is. 35:4–5 ESV). O beggar, Jesus asks each of you, “What do you want me to do for you?” Tell Him what you want—“Have mercy on me, a sinner. Wash me so that I might live and not die. Remove the blindness of my sin so that I might see you by faith as Lord and God and follow you according to Your grace.”

You had nothing but your sins and sinfulness. And Jesus took that from you. He took the filthy rags of all your sins and clothed Himself with them. He carried your hateful words and perverted thoughts. He wrapped Himself up in your greed and selfishness. Jesus assumed your punishment of hell and death as they pierced His hands and feet on the cross. He shed His holy, precious blood to atone for your sins and for the sins of the whole world. And He gives you the gift of His righteousness in the forgiveness of all your sins. Luther called it a great exchange. He wrote, “Is not this a beautiful, glorious exchange, by which Christ, who is [completely] innocent and holy, not only takes upon himself another’s sin, that is, my sin and guilt, but also clothes and adorns me, who am nothing but sin, with his own innocence and purity? And then besides dies the shameful death of the Cross for the sake of my sins, through which I have deserved death and condemnation, and grants to me his righteousness, in order that I may live with him eternally in glorious and unspeakable joy. Through this blessed exchange, in which Christ changes places with us (something the heart can grasp only in faith), and through nothing else, are we freed from sin and death and given his righteousness and life as our own.”[4] Again he says, “That is the mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied Himself of His righteousness that He might clothe us with it, and fill us with it. And He has taken our evils upon Himself that He might deliver us from them. . . .”[5]

We are beggars. That is true. Through His grace, God has heard our cries for mercy. We who have nothing, to us God has given everything. Our Father gives us all that we need to support this body and life. He has given us His One-of-a-Kind Son who took our sins upon Himself, died on the cross, rose again from the dead, and so freely gives to all who trust in Him His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Your sins are forgiven. You have eternal life. Hearing His Gospel Word and in the eating and drinking of the holy Sacrament of Jesus’ Body and Blood, the Lord Himself sends you into the week ahead, saying to you just as His did to Bartimaeus, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Amen.

     [1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 476.

     [2] Martin Luther, Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 2017), 16.

     [3] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 16: Lectures on Isaiah: Chapters 1-39, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 16 (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1999), 121.

     [4] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 51: Sermons I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 51 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 316.

     [5] Martin Luther, Werke (Weimar, 1883), 5: 608.

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