When Jesus opens your eyes, life is different. That’s the thought the Scriptures have for us today, and we pray the Holy Spirit will open our eyes as he speaks to us.
In our text, Jesus meets Bartimaeus, who was blind. This is the only reference to him found in the scriptures. However, through his story, we learn how necessary it is for the spiritually blind to see Jesus and how life will be entirely different.
Bartimaeus didn’t have any money, so he would sit on the roadside with his little pot and plead with those who came along to give him some coins so that he might keep his life and soul together for another day. As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus shouted, “Jesus, son of David! Have mercy on me.” Being blind, he was probably of little consequence to most of the town’s people, and so they told him to keep still. However, when Jesus heard him, he told them to bring the blind man near. Now picture the scene: Jesus is standing there, and Bartimaeus is kneeling before him. When Jesus asks him what he wants, Bartimaeus says, “I want to see.”
Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” The blind man was able to see again, and life was different for him. He could now see his mother and father, his siblings and all those around him. He could look into the faces of the people. I can’t help but think that Bartimaeus embraced Jesus and said, “Thank you, Lord! Thank you!” And when Jesus continued on the road, Bartimaeus followed after and became one of Jesus’ followers. His life had changed, and as a result, it was a new day for him in God’s kingdom!
Today we celebrate Reformation Sunday, the day when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. Luther had lived in darkness for a long time. Intellectually he was very bright; he earned his doctors degree in a few years, and his folks, I am sure, were very proud of him. Luther’s plans were to study law, but he had a real spiritual problem. He was living in darkness, and he questioned what life is all about. He had the message of the church, but it was quite cloudy. Luther wondered how to get to his heavenly home that had been prepared for him.
With his mind still cloudy, Luther decided to leave law school and enter an Augustinian monastery to become a monk where he earnestly studied the scriptures, confessed his sins and fasted. He continually cried out to the scholars and professors, “How does one receive peace with God?” He kept asking the same questions, and they finally became so disgusted with him that they said to him, “Martin, just trust.” Still, that wasn’t enough to quiet his soul.
One of Luther’s superiors had great faith in him and concluded he needed more work to distract him from his excessive introspection. So Luther was ordered to pursue an academic career. He began teaching theology at the University of Wittenberg where he beame a professor of biblical studies. He studied many of the books of the New Testament and the book of Psalms in the Old Testament, then was assigned to lecture to the students on the book of Romans. At the time, the church was teaching that a person is saved by faith in Christ, to be sure, but faith alone cannot justify man. Instead, it taught that faith + works = salvation. And as a result, Luther felt he could never do enough works, he could never go to confession often enough, and he did not study the scriptures as much as he should.
One day, as he was preparing lessons in the book of Romans, Luther came to chapter 1 verse 17: “The just shall live by faith.” This caused him to dig deeper into Paul’s letter to the Romans, and the inspired Word of God began speaking to him saying, You are saved by grace alone. You make no contribution to your salvation. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for the sins of the world so that you and I might be his forever.”
This message, so plainly spoken in the Scriptures, set Luther’s soul free! And although he was now free, the church was not speaking the same message. So Luther became very disturbed, for he loved his church. He worked diligently to correct that error by sharing the message of the gospel. Luther’s ninety-five theses were published and circulated throughout Germany. He wrote works on other parts of the Bible, and students thronged to hear his lectures on the book of Psalms, Romans, Hebrews, and Galatians.
Luther was eventually brought to trial, declared an outlaw and an enemy of the Pope. His literature was banned, and anyone who offered him safe harbor could also be arrested. However, a friend took Luther to Wartburg Castle where he lived until he was able to freely leave and go to work.
Here was this man who had preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew the message of the Church is this: CHRIST alone is our salvation; CHRIST alone is our Savior; CHRIST alone can open our eyes and make life new. And Jesus Christ assures us that, when we close our eyes in death and go to the Kingdom of God, life will be new. Some mysteries still remain, but the truth that heaven is our home through faith in Christ alone still stands!
That is the message of the evangelical Church. No denomination can claim to teach it as clearly as it should be taught, for we are still inclined to say more is needed for salvation than simply grace through faith in Christ Jesus. But when our eyes are opened and we see Jesus, life will be different. It is a different place to live.
Living in a corrupt world that is filled with sin can be difficult, for sin is within our own very being. However, we have hope as we trust in the Savior. We can trust him for ourselves and for the world if it will turn to him. Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them. Then, as their eyelids are opened, they will also inherit the kingdom of God, and life will be new for them.
How is life made new? As a child of God trusting Jesus Christ with eyes open, you come to the marriage altar, knowing this is a very holy time. From that day on, your life is going to be different. You know the importance of talking to your fianc about their relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, because Scripture tells us to be not equally yoked with unbelievers. As you recite your vows to love one another for as long as you both shall live Ð not just until love runs out Ð you take them seriously, for Jesus has taken the scales off your eyes. You are making a promise before Him.
The years go by and soon you find the doctor placing a new little body in your hands as children are born. Then you realize you have a new responsibility. A few weeks later you take that child to the baptismal font and present him for holy baptism. And you hear the pastor say, “Now take this child home and introduce him to Jesus Christ.” In the early years of that young child’s life, his faith is in your hands. Unless Jesus has opened your eyes, you don’t necessarily see that opportunity.
When Jesus opens our eyes, life is different.
♬Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth you have for me.
Place in my hand the wonderful key that shall unlock and set me free.
Silently now I wait for you, ready my God, your will to do.
Open mine eyes illumine me, Spirit divine.♬