December 1, 2019

Sermon on the Healing of the Blind Beggar of Jericho (St. Cyril of Alexandria)

By St. Cyril of Alexandria

Commentary on the Gospel of Luke

Sermon 126

Luke 18:35-43

And it came to pass, that as He drew near to Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing a multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. And they told him that Jesus of Nazareth passes by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me. And they who went before rebuked him that he should hold his peace. But he cried out so much the more, Son of David, have mercy upon me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded that they should bring him to Him. And when he drew near, He asked him. What do you want me to do for you? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said to him, Receive your sight: your faith has made you live. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people when they saw it gave glory to God.

Whosoever are yet without understanding, and accept not the faith in Christ, may justly have that said to them which was spoken by the voice of David, "Come and see the works of God, the miracles that He has put upon earth." For He wrought miracles after no human fashion, though He was in appearance a man such as we are; but with godlike dignity rather, for He was God in form like to us, since He changed not from being what He was, as the purport of the passage now read from the Gospels proves to us. "For the Savior, it says, was passing by. And a blind man cried out, saying, Son of David have mercy on me." Let us then examine the expression of the man who had lost his sight; for it is not a thing to pass by without enquiry, since possibly the examination of what was said will beget something highly advantageous for our benefit.

In what character then does he address to Him his prayer? Is it as to a mere man, according to the babbling of the Jews, who stoned Him with stones, saying in their utter folly, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; because that You being a man make Thyself God?" But must not that blind man have understood that the sight of the blind cannot be restored by human means, but requires, on the contrary, a divine power, and an authority such as God only possesses? for with God nothing whatsoever is impossible. He drew near to Him therefore as to the Omnipotent God; but how then does he call Him the Son of David? What therefore can one answer to this? The following is perhaps, as I think, the explanation. As he had been brought up in Judaism, and was by birth of that race, the predictions contained in the law and the holy prophets concerning Christ of course had not escaped his knowledge. He had heard them chant that passage in the book of the Psalms: "The Lord has sworn the truth to David, and will not reject it, that of the fruit of your loins will I set upon your throne." He knew also that the blessed prophet Isaiah had said, "And there shall spring forth a shoot from the root of Jesse, and from his root shall a flower grow up." And again this as well; "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son, and they shall call His Name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." As one therefore who already believed that the Word, being God, had of His own will submitted to be born in the flesh of the holy virgin, he draws near to Him as to God, and says, "Have mercy upon me, Son of David." For Christ bears witness that this was his state of mind in offering his supplication, by saying to him, "Your faith has saved you."

Let those then be ashamed who imagine themselves not to be blind, but who, as the wise Peter says, are "sightless, and have darkness in their mind." For they divide into two the one Lord Jesus Christ: even Him Who is the Word of the Father, [but Who became a man, and was made flesh. For they deny that He Who was born of the seed of David was really the Son of God the Father: for so, they say, to be born is proper to man only, rejecting in their great ignorance His flesh,] and treating with contempt that precious and ineffable dispensation by which we have been redeemed: and even perhaps foolishly speaking against the Only-begotten, because He emptied Himself, and descended to the measure of human nature, and was obedient to the Father even to death, that by His death in the flesh He might abolish death, might wipe out corruption, and put away the sin of the world. Let such imitate this blind man: for he drew near to Christ the Savior of all as to God, and called Him Lord and Son of the blessed David. He testifies also to His glory by asking of Him an act such as God only can accomplish. Let them wonder also at the constancy wherewith he confessed Him. For there were some who rebuked him when confessing his faith; but he did not give way, nor cease his crying, but bade the ignorance of those who were rebuking him be still. He was justly therefore honored by Christ: for he was called by Him, and commanded to draw near. Understand from this, my beloved, that faith sets us also in Christ's presence, and so brings us to God, as for us to be even counted worthy of His words. For when the blind man was brought to Him, He asked him, saying, "What do you want me to do for you? Was his request then unknown to Him? For was it not plain that he sought deliverance from the malady that afflicted him? How can there be any doubt of this? He asked him therefore purposely, that those who were standing by, and accompanying Him, might learn, that it was not money he sought, but rather that regarding Him as God, he asked of Him a divine act, and one appropriate solely to the nature that transcends all.

When then he had declared the nature of his request, saying, "Lord, that I may receive my sight:" then, yes! then the words that Christ spoke were a rebuke of the unbelief of the Jews: for with supreme authority He said, "Receive your sight." Wonderful is the expression! right worthy of God, and transcending the bounds of human nature! Which of the holy prophets ever spoke ought such as this? or used words of so great authority? For observe that He did not ask of another the power to restore vision to him who was deprived of sight, nor did He perform the divine miracle as the effect of prayer to God, but attributed it rather to His own power, and by His almighty will wrought whatever He would. "Receive, said He, your sight;" and the word was light to him that was blind: for it was the word of Him Who is the true light.

And now that he was delivered from his blindness, did he neglect the duty of loving Christ? Certainly not: "For he followed Him, it says, offering Him glory as to God." He was set free therefore from double blindness: for not only did he escape from the blindness of the body, but also as well from that of the mind and heart: for he would not have glorified Him as God, had he not possessed spiritual vision. And further, he became the means of others also giving Him glory, for all the people, it says, gave glory [to God. It is plain therefore from this, that great is the guilt of the scribes and Pharisees; for He rebukes them for refusing to accept Him though working miracles, while the multitude glorified Him as God because of the deeds which He wrought. No such praise is offered on their part: yes, rather] the miracle is made an occasion of insult and accusation; for they said that the Lord wrought it by Beelzebub: and by thus acting they became the cause of the destruction of the people under their rule. Therefore the Lord protested against their wickedness by the voice of the prophet, saying; "Alas for the shepherds, who destroy and scatter the sheep of My inheritance." And again; "The shepherds have become foolish, and have not sought the Lord: therefore did none of the flock understand, and were scattered.'''

Such then was their state: but we are under the rule of the chief Shepherd of all, even Christ: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and over, Amen.