Monday, June 10, 2013

Ordinary Time - About Salvation

As [Jesus] approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God. (Luke 18:35-43)

In some Christian circles, salvation is an act of precision. The requirements are often made clear—the prayer must be specific, the confession sufficiently sincere, the understanding adequately orthodox, the membership in the community of faith prompt and participative.

In the Bible, however, salvation is often quite a sloppy event. Jesus, in particular, who you think might know better, often brought healing to people and forgave their sins, getting in trouble with all the local religious stakeholders. Jesus didn’t seem overly concerned about religious specificity when it came to salvation.

The blind man had limited sensory resources. He must have heard about Jesus at some point, because he referred to him in a way that suggested prior knowledge. He couldn’t find his way to Jesus as he passed by, so he used his voice and called out. The only thing close to a confession of faith that the man could offer was an acknowledgement of Jesus’ kinship with the great Israelite king, David. The man’s only request was that he would regain his sight.

Luke doesn’t describe a scene that is heavy with process. There aren’t any interviews conducted, no theological exams, no huddles with Jesus and his disciples to see if the man is worthy of a healing touch. Jesus just does it. The man’s sight is restored faster than you can Tweet what you had for breakfast today.

There is, however, a qualifier. Jesus says that the man’s faith saved him, but he makes that declaration after he commands the healing to take place. The man had faith in Jesus, trusted him to be able to restore his life to him. Without sight, the man had become a helpless beggar. With his sight restored, he could re-enter the society that had marginalized him. He trusted that Jesus could do that for him. And it seems to have been enough.

It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t say, “Your faith has resulted in your eyes getting fixed.” Instead, he says that the man has been saved, he has been rescued. For the formerly blind man, salvation was not merely theological or positional or eschatological. It was existential. It had immediate effect in his life and would launch him into a whole world of restoration.

The man became a saved person because of his faith in Jesus, yet it was a faith that was not grounded in doctrines or creeds. For that matter, it wasn’t grounded in belief in Jesus’ death, resurrection, or any of the things that would happen later. It was grounded only in the person of Jesus, and in his authority to make all things right.

Our doctrines and creeds are important to us because, on this side of history, they tell us about our own story, a story that emerges from Scripture and the long-standing (and sometimes wrong-headed) traditions of the Christian Church. But untethered from the real person of Jesus—not just the memory of Jesus, but the true, living presence of Jesus—they’re just another set of religious boundaries, embraced not by faith, but by personal preference.

The formerly blind man and the people in the crowd had the right response to this act of healing. They glorified God and praised him. They seemed to understand right away that this was God at work through this wandering prophet named Jesus. If salvation came along, then God’s fingerprints had to be there.

Lord, let me see again.

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