Emmitsburg Council of Churches


The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 20:17-34

While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, 20:18 "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; 20:19 then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised." 20:20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 20:21 And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." 20:22 But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?'' They said to him, "We are able." 20:23 He said to them, "You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." 20:24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 20:26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 20:27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 20:28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." 20:29 As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 20:30 There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" 20:31 The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, "Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!" 20:32 Jesus stood still and called them, saying, "What do you want me to do for you?" 20:33 They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened." 20:34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they REGAINED their sight and followed him. This is the Gospel of the Lord, Praise to you O Christ!

In Christ’s Community . . . Everyone Counts!

Since our Lenten Series this year has been focusing on how we journey with Jesus through our community during the Lenten season of the church year, I would like for us to consider this text that speaks of Jesus journeying with his disciples on the road up to Jerusalem.

Anyone who has ever undertaken a Journey, of any sort, knows that when you go to new places . . . interesting things always happen! In fact, it is during our "on the road experiences" that we gain some of the best natural lessons. It is when we undertake a journey to a new place that we gain the most valuable experiences. During a trip or a hike, and I should note here that you will gain most when you are actually on foot, as Jesus was with his disciples, or a bicycle might be a good compromise, there’s time for sharing and time for learning from others.

Jesus disciples knew that when they walked with the Teacher, Rabbi Jesus, they would be learning new things all along the way. We are familiar with these teaching times, as when Jesus points to a field of ripening grain and reminds the disciples that the time for harvest is near. Or when Jesus points to a fig tree along the road and teaches a lesson about the times we’re in. No matter where we’re going, traveling with Jesus is always going to be a rich experience–going on a journey usually brings out the best and the worst in us! But Jesus already knows how you and I will react, and he knows what lies ahead in this Lenten journey . . . suffering and Crucifixion!! So we have to consider that journeying with Jesus during Lent is also a Testing Time!

There will be dangers and challenges for us to face. That’s what God wants. He needs for us to prove our character along the way. The journey is like the refining fire. God knows you’re not always going to do the right thing, but along the way you will learn this for yourself, and there’s yet time for a life-course correction. Pay attention and let’s get going!

At the beginning of this text, Jesus tells his disciples exactly what’s going to happen. But they don’t really hear every word he says, "The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death" . . . [and he will] "be mocked and flogged and crucified." The disciples, much like us, were probably taking in all the scenery, perhaps distracted by any number of side discussions or course jokes along the way . . . and even if they did hear the words that Jesus spoke–they probably dismissed the meaning, "You know how the Teacher is always speaking in parables," so we generally don’t take everything Jesus says too seriously. However, beneath our tendency to dismiss Jesus words, there is the testing spirit of God: "Will my disciples remain faithful when the journey gets tough? Will they keep watch and pray when Jesus is about to be arrested? When the chips are down, will my people profess the Faith?"

Along any journey there are detours and road blocks. The request from the mother of James and John is no exception. Her request that James and John sit at Jesus left and right when he comes into his kingdom is like an unwelcome detour sign along the road. In fact, her request is a bit ridiculous in light of what Jesus just said, nevertheless, Jesus is patient and does not lose his temper at this "unexpected incident" along the way. Jesus turns the request into a teachable moment. And here’s where we can value the time it takes to go on a journey with the Master. There’s time for teaching and learning and so Jesus helps his followers understand the true nature of the Kingdom of God. It’s not about position or gaining places of power and authority, but its about serving! The greatest among you must be the servant of all, the highest position is that of a slave – waiting on others! This must have stimulated much debate and conversation along the dusty roads.

In fact, the would-be followers of Jesus probably got reduced in number as Jesus made these kind of statements. A journey with Jesus is full of surprises. Just around the bend up ahead Jesus may reveal a shocking truth about who he is and where his mission is going or what it will accomplish–are you listening? There was not glory and fame to be gained, but servanthood, suffering, persecution and public ridicule! As we know, many disciples did fall on the wayside. The more they learned about the Master’s mission, the harder the travel must have seemed. We recall the Rich Young Ruler, whose heavy possessions prevented him from going on with Jesus. There was also Judas who had his sights set on political overthrow and military victory.

On the road with Jesus, as Barbara Anderson (St. Anthony’s Director of Parish Life) reminded us last Sunday, there are signs to use caution, there are signs that say, "WARNING!" or "DANGER!" and there are words that Jesus uses to indicate that the road ahead is going to be rough going -- or even deadly!! There are also less obvious pit-falls.

Disillusionment is always a condition for travelers to contend with. When we become too immediate in our expectations of what God will do "for us." Or when we have not counted the full cost to go where Jesus is going, nor exercised sufficient faith or trust in God. Then we are doomed to fall short of the intended itinerary. We’ll not reach the place that God has for us to go.

We note that any journey taken slowly and with intentionality causes us to interact with strangers, Journeying with Jesus out of Jericho is no exception. Are you and I prepared for the encounter with folks we don’t know? Are we prepared to share Jesus with others? This is really a critical question. When we’re on the road with Jesus, as the disciples and crowds were . . . we can be so enjoying our privileged position (at Jesus side) that we don’t really want to share him with anyone else! We just love the fact that we have exclusive access to Jesus! And we don’t want anyone else to slow down our journey. Note how the crowd, now traveling with Jesus, essentially tells the blind men to "Shut Up! Don’t bother the Teacher . . . he’s teaching us and we don’t want you distracting him or wasting his time with your begging!" But Jesus only heard the two men crying, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" And he stood still . . . .

Jesus halted the journey. He comes to a full stop. Won’t you stop for a moment and notice that all of his attention is now focused on the need of these men who are blind?

It is really a striking moment. I wonder if you can feel the meaning of Jesus stopping his journey. Try to linger here with Jesus. He sees the men, he has heard their crying out, and he is moved with compassion for them–he wants to know how he can help them. Try to pry yourself away from Jesus just enough to realize that he is not your personal Lord. He is not the Savior of just you and me, he is the Savior of the World! He has come to save people everywhere! Like Asia, Central America, Africa, Russia, South America and Western Europe – he is the King of Creation and we cannot keep him just for ourselves. . . . Please take a moment and get in touch with this along your journey, because it is critical if you are truly walking as a disciple behind Jesus!! Or are you ahead of him?!

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asks the blind men. "Lord let our eyes be opened," they reply. Notice here that something is preventing them from seeing. What could it be? Perhaps we would call it Satan, or Sin or Pride or Envy or Power or whatever it is that in our own lives prevents us from fully seeing and following the lead of Jesus. And notice that Jesus is completely available now for these men. He is wanting to know how he can help. And then he goes over to them and "touches their eyes." By his compassionate touch, their eyes are opened once again.

Notice that the text says, "they regained their sight." We learn that these two men once had their sight, but they had lost it somewhere along the way! Just like any of us who in our own foolishness or impatience in this journey of faith, can lose our way. We can become blind to the things of God! But in an instant, Jesus comes and gives them renewed vision. In his compassion he heals their blindness and now they can see!

Wonder of wonders, when they have regained their sight, they follow him! Now, with fresh vision, they are joining that happy band to follow Jesus!! There will be more adventures, more lessons, more unexpected turns and twists around the bend. But when we are on the road with Jesus, nobody is left behind, no one is utterly abandoned, but in the journey itself, we gain the kingdom of God, Christ reveals himself to us and we have vision and strength to carry on. I’m glad we’re on this road together with Jesus, let us continue the journey and watch carefully to see where the Master leads us.

Let us pray,

Lord Jesus, we need you to lead us and guide us every step of the way through every moment of every day. Please deliver us from our blindness, show us that only by following humbly and listening carefully will be walk in your footsteps, may we be quick to share your life-giving words with others, and not turn a blind eye toward the poor nor the stranger. For you live and reign as Lord of all, Son of Man and Son of God. Forever and ever.


Read more writings of Pastor Jon