3rd Sunday in Lent
John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. In the name of Jesus, who has brought you from spiritual blindness to sight, dear friends in Christ,
We humans tend to appreciate something more after we’ve had to live without it, don’t we? The human eye is an amazing creation of God. It’s fascinating how it works. It filters light as objects reflect light and color and detail. The light enters into the eye and contacts with 2 different kinds of cells totaling some 107 million different cells. When the light interacts with these cells it produces a chemical reaction that creates an electrical impulse transferred through the optical nerve to the brain that processes the information. That’s not mentioning the many different muscles in the eye that contract and expand, the eyelids that protect the eye, and the pupils that dilate or contract automatically based on the amount of light available. The human eye is really an amazing creation of God.
Now try to imagine living without it. What would life be like? I know what it’s like to have poor eyesight. I’ve had glasses or contacts since the end of grade school. I can relate to straining to see something, if I take my contacts out everything 3 feet from my face is a blurr. And perhaps you know the struggle, as I’m told, as you get older its almost inevitable that at some point your eye sight gets worse. But our text deals with a man with whom none of us can really fully relate because none of us were, as he was, born blind. Imagine life without sight. No colors, no beauty, no reading. But imagine further what life was like in the 1st Century at the time of Jesus. There were no ADA laws, there were no social security benefits for the disabled, there were no schools for the blind, there was no such thing as Braille available. Rather, you had to look forward to a life of begging for your survival. And you know what it’s like for beggars. “Do they really need it? Is this a scam? Are they just going waste my handout on alcohol, drugs? What did they do that brought them to this point?” On top of that, imagine the loneliness. Never getting to see the face of your mom or dad, never getting to look a friend in the eyes. And then on top of that there’s always that temptation: what did I do to deserve this? Is God punishing me for something that I did? Even Jesus’ disciples had this idea that this particular suffering could be traced to a particular sin: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.”
There’s this idea in the human mind that the reason why some people suffer more than others is because they must have sinned in some special way so that God is punishing them. So, no doubt, many would have looked at this blind man and instead of having hearts of pity and mercy viewed him as a specially guilty person before God. Is he worse than others? Perhaps its easy for us to slip into that same kind of thinking. Do we who live in America and enjoy many, many conveniences consider ourselves more favored by God than the person in the 3rd world country who owns just one set of clothes? Are we quick to assume that a person’s suffering is judgment from God for a specific sin? But what does God tell us? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is no difference. We’re all sinful. But then why this suffering?
Jesus said, “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” God was going to go on display in this blind man’s life. Then Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. Now the man could feel this man applying something to his eyes as if to indicate to him that He was about to do something to his eyes. Then Jesus told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Now imagine what must have been going through this man’s head: Jesus had said that God was going to go on display in his life, Jesus said He is the light of the world, Jesus touched him, Jesus spoke with him, how could he not go and do what Jesus told him? He went, he washed, and he came home seeing! Can you imagine his excitement? To see for the first time! All of a sudden for the very first time he could see water, he could see the road, he could see the sun, he could see people. No more begging, he could learn to read, he could learn to work. His whole world must have had new meaning and new life! This is amazing! This is awesome! This can’t be anything other than God’s power!
But then notice what happens. First, his neighbors and friends can’t believe him, can’t understand, they question him, this can’t really be the same guy, can it? I can almost picture this man wanting to scream, “I was blind but now I see!! Jesus healed me! Can’t you see that!” Then they bring him to the religious elite of the day, the Pharisees. Again, you’d think there would be amazement, rejoicing, awe? But what happens? The Pharisees get all uptight about this, this can’t possibly be true, they put the man in the hot seat, interrogate him, harass his parents, and even resort to insulting him. They accuse Jesus of “doing work” on the Sabbath and therefore He can’t be from God for He breaks their Sabbath laws. Through it all I can just imagine this man looking at them, “Can’t you see!! This is amazing!” But through it all something else is going on as well with this blind man, not in the eyes, but in his heart. First he says Jesus is a prophet. That got them even more uptight. Then he simply put the simple logic before them: I was blind, now I see. No one ever hears of this sort of thing happening. It must be a miracle. Miracles come from God. This Jesus guy is from God! Furious, they threw him out. They refused to see it.
We shake our heads at their foolishness. But we must remember that we were no different. We, too, were all born into this world maybe not physically blind, but certainly spiritually blind. If left to our own, we could never have made sense of this life. On our own we would be blind to what true love means, blind to any answer to guilt, blind to a life after death, blind to meaning and purpose in this life, blind to a God of love who saves. And yet in many ways we continue to close our eyes and blind ourselves. Have we at times been blinded by our rage or anger? Have we been blinded by the sparkles of this world’s greedy temptations? Have we been blinded by the foolishness that wealth can buy happiness and peace? Have we been blinded by our own pride and arrogance and selfishness? Has our own self-righteousness blinded us from seeing the love and care of our spouse? Blinded us from being loving and caring to our spouse? In many ways you and I shut the eyes of our faith and act as if we are blinded in unbelief. That’s sin and for that sin we ought spend an eternity of blindness in the darkness of hell.
But Jesus didn’t want that for this man born blind, nor does he want that for you and me. After this man was thrown out and picked himself up and dusted himself off. Did he recall the promises of God in the OT? The promises that spoke of a Savior who would come and give sight to the blind and cause the lame to leap? Then Jesus found him. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asked. Where is he? Where is Jesus? Where is the one who healed me? I want to see the Messiah, my Savior! And Jesus said, “You have seen him!” With his own eyes he saw his Savior and worshipped him.
You’ve seen your Savior too. Jesus has opened your eyes to see him. Jesus has washed you too, not in the waters of Siloam, but in the waters of your baptism where Jesus forgave all your sins. Jesus has touched you too, not with mud on your eyes, but with His blood that He shed on a cross paying for all of your sins. Jesus has opened your eyes and changed how you see yourself. No longer are you a blind beggar facing eternal darkness, but Jesus has made you his own child and an heir of eternal life. He has made you the light of the world. Through the eyes of faith you see what the self-righteous skeptics and scoffers of this world have blinded themselves from seeing. You see heaven secure, you see future glory with your Savior, you see death having been defeated, you see God as your dear Father! You see life with a purpose and meaning, you see a God who remains in control, who can even use suffering and pain to put on display the work of God in the lives of people!
You were blind, now you see. You are a miracle of God! What joy! What gladness! What peace! What confidence! What excitement! What a reason to give thanks to God! What a reason to tell others of this God who turns blindness into sight! Amen.