I think if we ask the question, "Why did Jesus die?" most of us would say, "He died for our sins and He saved us from the consequences of our sins," but in fact, there's only one very brief reference in the Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus that would indicate that He died for our sins.
The Peace Pulpit
You may remember in the Eucharistic Prayer that I usually use when I celebrate the Eucharist here, there is a part where the confirmation says, "Jesus now lives with you — that is, with God — but He is also here on Earth among us." We proclaim that during the Eucharistic Prayer. Jesus is with God, but He's also here on earth among us.
We have begun now, the most solemn week in our liturgical year. It's the week in which we bring to conclusion all that we have been doing during the season of Lent and of course, it ends later in the week with our celebration of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and then the resurrection of Jesus on Easter.
My dear candidates,
Both of your pastors have said very strongly that they are convinced that you are ready for the Sacrament of Confirmation, and I have read your letters in which you asked for the sacrament and I was very impressed with what I read there. It gave me real assurance that you have prepared and you know what's happening today. So I can accept that recommendation and from what you said in you letters.
Now, as we listen to this Gospel lesson, I think it becomes very clear to all of us that there is more going on here in this incident and the interaction between Jesus and the blind man, and the blind man and the Pharisees, and then Jesus and the blind man.
There is more going on than simply a physical healing of physical blindness. There is also a spiritual blindness present in those who refuse to see.
In the first lesson this morning, from the Book of Exodus, we're told about how the Jewish people, on their long journey through the desert, came to a place where they were without water, and they complained and accused Moses of falsely leading them out of the slavery of Egypt with false promises.
They got very angry and then, as we're told, they said, "Is Yahweh, God, with us or not? Is God with us or not?"
Moses was able to find a way, with God's help, to provide water for the people, and so he settled that quarrel but the question, "Is God with us or not?" is a question that is answered in a very powerful way in our other lessons today.
Today’s Gospel comes immediately after a very important event in the life of Jesus, where Peter had just proclaimed that he and the disciples recognized Jesus as the Son of the Living God.
Then Jesus said to Peter, “Blessed are you, Peter,” and urged Peter to follow Him as He went on to Jerusalem to His suffering and death. Then Peter rejected that demand of Jesus and said, “No, it doesn’t have to be that way.”
We've been listening to this long discourse that we call the Sermon on the Mount over the past several weeks. It's the most basic teaching of Jesus that brings together all the values that He proclaimed as the way to live according to the Reign of God. The Reign of God is at hand. Change your lives is what He said to us at the beginning of this public teaching, and now He shows us in this long sermon how we make that Reign of God begin to happen.
Over these past six or seven weeks, we have been listening to that sermon we call the Sermon on the Mount, the part of the Gospel where Jesus really sets forth his values of what he expects of his followers -- and a good part of this sermon has been a challenge for us to go beyond, to go deeper.
A few weeks ago, you remember we started this series of gospel lessons with Jesus calling together his first disciples and then, with them, beginning to proclaim his message, the good news, “The reign of God is at hand.”
Then he goes on to tell them, “You must change your lives.”
If the reign of God is to happen in my life, I have to begin to live differently. That’s what Jesus was telling his disciples and for the last few Sundays, Jesus has been giving us more specific direction on how we must change our lives.