Summary: A Memorial Day sermon preached 5/25/2009 at the Salem Lutheran Home Chapel, Elk Horn, Iowa.
As many of you know, today is Memorial Day. It’s a day we set aside in our country to remember those who served in our armed forces and passed away, especially those soldiers who gave their lives so that we could live in a free country. If you go to a lot of the local cemeteries, you’ll see the graves of our soldiers marked with little American flags, and larger flags that surround the cemetery.
Unfortunately, for most people, Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer vacation season, and it becomes a day for going to sporting events, having an outdoor barbecue, camping trip, or some other activity, without stopping to give thanks for those who have given their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we still have in our country.
Freedom is something we as Americans treasure. It’s a word that means so much to us. But on this Memorial Day, I want to remind you to not only remember those who have fought, and given their lives for our freedom, but also to remember what real freedom is for the Christian, namely freedom from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
In the Gospel reading I chose for today, Jesus is healing a blind man. Jesus comes to Jericho, and there’s a blind man sitting along side of the road, begging. In a way, you could say that his blindness was a prison for him. Anytime we lose the ability to do something, it robs us of some freedom, we’re not able to do some things that we enjoyed doing anymore because our bodies won’t allow us to do that. Not only that, but the fact that this blind man is begging outside of the city gates tells us he’s also trapped in poverty. Unable to support himself, he’s forced to rely on the generosity of others to meet his basic daily needs. And he probably heard a similar reaction to those who went before Jesus who told him to be silent when he cried out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Indeed, this is a man who would love to be free from his current condition, but on his own, is unable to be free. He can’t make himself see again and be free of his current life.
Jesus sees this man, He sees this blind man’s lack of freedom. Instead of passing him by as those in front of Him did, he asks for the man to be brought to Him. He asks the blind man “What do you want me to do for you?”, and the blind man responds “Lord, let me recover my sight.” This might lead us to believe that he had his sight at one point in his life, making his pain even more difficult than someone who had been born blind and never knew what it was like to see. And Jesus says “Recover your sight, your faith has made you well.” And just like that, by Jesus merely speaking His Word, this man’s sight was restored. He was free! Free from the blindness. Free from those who would pass him by along the road. His world was completely open! He could do anything it seemed, now that his sight was restored! Luke’s gospel tells us this man follows Jesus, glorying God for what He had done, and all those who saw it also gave praise to God!
It’s a great story, one of the reasons I shared it with you for our devotions this morning. But, what does that have to do with the theme of freedom? Well, by nature, you and I are a lot like that blind man when it comes to our spiritual state before God. We’re nothing but blind beggars, unable to offer anything to God, enslaved by the blindness to sin. We need someone to lift us up out of our condition, to free us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. And that’s exactly what Jesus has done for us. He has taken our spiritual blindness, and lived the perfect, sinless life you and I could not, and went to the cross, and died for us, to take all of our sins of thought, word, and deed, and die for them. And then, when He arose on Easter Sunday, those sins stayed in the tomb. Because of what Jesus has done for us through His life, death, and resurrection, we’re free! We are free from sin, death, and the power of the devil, because someone died to set us free. Just as our soldiers have died on the fields of battle to preserve the freedoms we enjoy in this country, Jesus died so that we could be free, but not just for this life, but for eternity! We know that when we sin, we can come before our God, confess our sins, and hear the sweet words that all of our sins have been forgiven for the sake of Jesus. One of the things I love about the chapel here at Salem is that you have this statue of Jesus on the altar that you see every day. Every day, you can look into Jesus’ nail pierced hands, and remember that He died to set you free from sin. You can remember that while you may suffer in this life, you will be freed from it one day, and you will be taken to paradise, where you will never know suffering, pain, or tears again! Now that’s freedom!