If Lent is anything, it is a journey with Jesus to Jerusalem - to the cross and beyond. If Lent is anything, it is a journey of faith. Recently, I have been reading Matthew Bates probing book on New Testament theology Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King. In his work, Bates challenges readers to rethink their common understanding of faith as assent or belief. He argues that the biblical notion of faith (pistis) is more closely akin to fidelity or allegiance. I instinctively go back to the great old hymn “Trust and Obey.” The journey to Jerusalem at the heart of the Christian faith is a journey of trusting obedience in Jesus as Lord. It is ultimately about more than just intellectual or emotional assent. The journey to Jerusalem is about allegiance, the ultimate commitment of following Christ as Lord. In the 20th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, he records the story of two blind men sitting by the road who shout out to Jesus.
29 As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 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!" 31 The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, "Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!" 32 Jesus stood still and called them, saying, "What do you want me to do for you?" 33They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened." 34Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him. (Matthew 20:29-34 NRSV)The significance of this story is testified by the fact that Matthew, Mark and Luke all report the same encounter. Notice with me carefully their shout, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” (Matthew 20:30) It is a confession of faith. They proclaimed him Lord and appealed to him as the Savior King. The evidence of great faith begins with their bold confession. “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” Here for us is the first element of great faith on the journey to Jerusalem. They knew who to have faith in. They did not place their faith in things, governments or humans but in the one who alone is both God and human – Jesus the Christ. Without shame they made their public confession. Great faith is faith in Jesus Christ! Furthermore, they were neither deterred nor discouraged by others. Matthew tells us,“The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!’” (Matthew 20:31) Another element of great faith is persistence. In their need, they were willing to ignore social disapproval. In their faith, they were willing to persevere when others would have given up. Great faith is persistent. I suspect that in this age of the quick fix and the fast solution, we often by pass this truth. Do you remember the prayer “Lord grant me patience and give it to me right now.?” Be careful because it is a prayer Jesus will answer but always in his own time and in his own way. Patience, persistence, perseverance, you can label it what you will, is always an element of great faith. “Jesus stood still and called them, saying, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened.’” (Matthew 20:32-33) In their confession and persistence, Jesus heard them. He will hear you too. The psalmist tells us, “Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.” (Psalm 118:5) These two obnoxious blind guys by the side of the road teach us about great faith. They took their request to the Lord. They didn’t hem and haw or dally around. Their appeal was given directly to Jesus. “They said to him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened.’” The Bible teaches us to make our requests known to God. No request is too small or too large. In so doing, note additionally two biblical provisos. First, be careful what you pray for as you might get it. Second, remember the little girl who was asked if God answered her prayer. She said, “yes, He said no.” Great faith is unafraid to make our requests known to God. “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20:34) People of great faith follow Jesus. Every time someone runs into Jesus and is converted, he gives a command, “Follow me.” Example after example is given in the Gospels. The original call of the disciples in the first chapter of Mark is but one illustration of this profound truth. Profound but simple faith follows. Martin Luther once wrote: “Faith does not float on the heart like a goose on water, but it fashions a different mind and attitude and makes one an altogether new being.” (Martin Luther, taken from Luther the Preacher by Fred W. Meuser) This isn’t any casual easy acquiesce to a belief. The journey to Jerusalem is ultimately about allegiance to Jesus as Lord, commander of our lives. This is about words being translated into action. Where was Jesus headed? n the very next chapter of Matthew he enters Jerusalem the place of resistance, disappointment and ultimately death. These two men, out of gratitude and confession, followed! People of great faith follow Jesus in sacrificial living and serving. Once, Mark Twain was showing some friends through his library. The guests noticed that throughout the room there were piles of books. They were stacked everywhere, on chairs, tables, and even on the floor. When asked about the many piles, Twain replied, “Well, it’s easy to borrow books. It’s next to impossible to borrow shelves.” “It is true that in life there are some things that are easier to borrow than others. You can borrow ideas but not wisdom. You can borrow characteristics but not character. Most of all you can borrow religion but not faith.” (source unknown) On the journey to Jerusalem, we discover the witness of two blind men. They challenge us with a lesson of faith. To whom or to what do we owe our highest allegiance? Great faith is faith in Jesus Christ. It is persistent. It is unafraid to make our requests known to God. And finally, people of great faith follow Jesus. Who is your Lord and commander?