Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 22, 2020 - John 9:1-41
The blind man comes back from the pool seeing – to the total shock of those who know him. So they bring him to the Pharisees. Maybe they have an answer. You can tell something is amiss immediately. A significant number of them invest no interest in the significance that the man now actually sees. They only care about the circumstances of how the healing occurred. After all, it’s the Sabbath. Jesus heals the man, making mud with His spit on the Sabbath Day. This is considered the equivalent of making a brick or kneading dough – what a Pharisee sees as an obvious violation of the Sabbath Law… Of course, this is if one who sees this as a sin is blind to sin. For God’s Word says no such thing concerning the Sabbath Law.
This leads to a debate about Jesus. Is He a sinner or not? According to Pharisaical legalism, Jesus is to be seen as a sinner. But according to the sign He worked – healing a blind man – He is seen as sent from God. Problematically, the Pharisees are spiritually blind to the true worship of God. They see the true worship of God as keeping their man-made laws and that earthly blessings are a sign of heavenly blessings. When the blind man lectures the Pharisees, they snap back, “You were born in utter sin.” Just because he was born blind, they really believe this. To receive blindness means he or his parents angered God. The influential Pharisees see sin and blessing this way, and most of the people buy it – including Jesus’ own disciples. Remember their question? “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
A completely warped “worship” of God sees one’s self and work as the focus, even in regard to things beyond human control – like blindness from birth. It wasn’t just the Pharisees who had a warped worship of God. All people do from birth. Just as the man was born blind, so all people are born, blinded by sin to a warped worship of God. By nature, people put their trust not in God, but in themselves or in the gods they invent.
Pagan cultures saw salvation in man-made objects, looked to the sun and moon for blessing, and sacrificed children to these things. Pharisaical legalism saw made up laws as a fence around God’s actual Law and taught that if people kept these, God would shower them with favor in this life. Not keeping them meant curses. Likewise, not being blest, meant you haven’t kept them. Imagine the horrendous burden this placed on people.
Has anything changed today? Not really. The worship of a natural born sinner is still warped. Pagan worship is alive and well. Maybe not Thor or Zeus, but lots of people look to the sky for their daily guidance. Lots of people worship the earth and other created objects. Lots of people worship themselves. Even at this moment – there’s not a whole lot of talk about repentance. In the face of this virus, the conversation from media and government leaders often includes encouragements that we humans have it in us by our own strength to stop this virus.
Even that old belief taught by the Pharisees – believed by the disciples – holds sway in our day. If you have cancer – and you pray and pray and pray – and your cancer doesn’t go away, some “preachers” on t.v., YouTube, or perhaps a church down the road may tell you that your cancer doesn’t go away because YOU don’t have enough faith. Some preachers on t.v., the internet, or perhaps down the road will tell you that if YOU think positive thoughts and avoid anything negative, then God is going to bless your life in incredible ways. If it doesn’t happen, YOU need to try harder. They put a fence of man-made laws around God’s Holy Word. Some preachers on t.v., online, or just maybe down the road will tell you that you sinned yesterday because YOU weren’t committed enough to the Lord and YOU need to recommit yourself to Him. They may even play all kinds of manipulative music to play on your emotions. Then when you sin again two hours later, you feel miserable, because YOU failed. These are all forms of blind warped worship in the name of God.
We can’t even say we’re personally immune. The same sin nature lies in us. We bring our own baggage into our thinking about God, into our worship practice, and into our reading and studying of God’s Word. Ever read something in the Bible that God did or says and you’re not so sure you like it? Have you ever come to church for reasons other than hearing and receiving from God while calling upon Him in prayer and praise? It’s blind warped worship of God.
Like a light in a pitch-black room, Jesus dispels the darkness. He makes mud, anoints, a man’s eyes, and tells him to wash.” On the Sabbath, He has a man stretch out his hand and restores him to health. On the Sabbath, He tells a man to pick up his bed and walk. He calls Himself “Lord of the Sabbath.” His disciples eat with ceremonially unclean hands. It seems Jesus took every opportunity to break the fence of manmade laws, to expose dark sinners to more and more of His light. As He did, those who didn’t like His light lashed out, covered their eyes, and turned away. The same happens today. Nevertheless, His light must shine on the darkness.
Many were brought to a recognition of their spiritual blindness and received sight.
THOUGH YOU ONCE WERE BLINDED IN DARKNESS, YOUR SAVIOR LIGHTS UPON YOU!
We see this in the man born blind. Jesus healed his physical blindness as a sign that He is the one who gives light to the whole world. Through His Word attached to a visible element, He released the blind man from sin’s general hold on creation so that he may finally see everything for the very first time in his whole life. Yet, Jesus did so much more for him. The Lord shined the light of salvation on the blind man.
As the blind man encounters Jesus, he moves from seeing Jesus as a prophet to seeing himself as a disciple of Jesus. He sees that Jesus is from God and then he sees that Jesus is God – testified by his worship of Jesus. You see, the Lord heals his spiritual blindness too. In a world where he’s heard his whole life that he’s blind because he’s a sinner, Jesus releases him from the horribleness of that spiritual judgment. The man now sees that he wasn’t cursed with blindness. He now sees His God who has released him from his blindness. His worship is not warped, but true. He truly worships Jesus as his Savior, and not just from physical blindness. Jesus gives him spiritual sight – faith that clings to God’s promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
The blind man now looks at you to trust Jesus. Not because he sees, but for the sign Jesus did. He gave sight to a man born blind. He truly is the Light of the world – He’s your light. You see Jesus for who He is – Your Savior – and it’s not because of anything you’ve done. You had no reference point, no idea where anything was. You couldn’t step without falling. You couldn’t see danger ahead or coming at you as you walked in the darkness of this world blinded by sin.
Then Christ set you free when He saw you blind in the darkness. He shined His light upon you. He came into your darkness – becoming man – and gave you sight through the cross and resurrection. You now see yourself as the sinner that you are and rejoice knowing that your sins are forgiven. You see the world for the darkness that it is and rejoice that the Spirit leads and guides you through it. You see that your sorrow, shame, and suffering is overcome by Christ and this gives you a peace that passes all understanding. You see salvation and this gives you hope – an expectation that God will fulfill His promises. You see this, being no longer spiritually blind.
The Light of the world finds you in Baptism, in the Lord’s Supper, in the Absolution because these are the things of God’s Word, these are the promised gifts whereby Jesus is seen, not with physical eyes, but with spiritual eyes – faith. Faith – spiritual sight – comes by hearing the Word of Christ. So, you actually see Jesus through your ears. The baptismal formula – in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The words of institution – This is my body; this is my blood. The word of Absolution – As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by His authority – I forgive you all your sins. You see Jesus in these gifts. This is true worship.
Therefore, you have new life in Christ. Life filled with forgiveness and salvation, faith, hope, and love, joy, and peace. Your life is in Christ and Christ is your life, which also means that His light has not only shined upon you, but it shines in you as you live your life. Throughout your various callings in life, your vocations – not a job or career but what you are everyday be it citizen, neighbor, parent, spouse, child, worker, etc. In these vocations, the light of Christ shines through you as you love your neighbors and share Jesus, often in unexpected ways or places.
During these days of uncertainty, we go to God in prayer, trusting His mercy, knowing that no matter what happens we are His children. One may look upon these circumstances – churches are cancelled all over the place – and feel like Satan has had an easy time silencing God’s Word. Even so, the Word goes into the world. Services are popping up all over the internet, just like this one. People who wouldn’t darken the door of a church may be watching and listening for the very first time. Together, we now hear the Word of Christ – the same Word that makes the blind see both physically and most importantly spiritually. Amen.