LENT 4, A – March 26, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 42:14-21; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41; Psalm 27

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

           

Rev. David Andrus, a Pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in St. Louis, is rather unique among the Pastors of our Synod: he is blind. He once wrote:

“Blindness has been a blessing to me. I can walk past the glass cookie jar full of cookies and not be tempted. I don’t have to hassle with traffic. Nor am I in fear, for I am not aware when the near misses happen. I will not even get into clothing, television, magazines, and other temptations that through sight lure and entice people to sin.”

There are bigger problems than being blind. And, there is a seeing that is beyond seeing with the eyes. We “see” this through the blind man whom Jesus healed with dirt and spit.

You might think that the man’s life improves greatly once Jesus gives him sight. Instead, serious problems arise. It begins with those pious and strict practitioners of the Jewish faith, the Pharisees, whose goodwill and approval were so important to the people. Now, the Pharisees had been very supportive of the blind man. They gave him money and encouraged others to do so, also, for they believed that such acts of charity were pleasing to God and gained His blessing. But, when they hear that Jesus healed him by making mud and putting it on his eyes – and on the Sabbath, the day when people were not to work – they conclude that Jesus is a Sabbath breaker, a sinner. The formerly blind man comes to a different conclusion: “He is a prophet.” Standing up for Jesus now puts him at odds with them.

So, they drag in his parents and question them. Maybe they had been conning people, encouraging their son to pretend to be blind to get charity. They state that, no, he had been born blind, but as to how he now sees, well, “Ask him. He’s old enough.” His parents don’t stand with him but leave him hanging. Maybe guilt over his blindness or thinking that he had been cursed by God had distanced them. Who knows. They don’t seem to have much love for him, however. His sight doesn’t seem to have filled them with joy. They are more concerned with having the favor of the Pharisees than with their son. And the distance between them and their son grows.

Notice, however, that as the distance between this man and others grows the distance between him and Jesus shrinks. Although he knew little about Him, the man now begins to see Jesus as a prophet. He is a man he wants to follow. And, finally, his interrogation leads him to believe that Jesus is from God. “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind,” he says. “If [Jesus] were not from God, he could do nothing… God listens to Him.” What a faith he now has!

He will need this. He will need to be closer to Jesus, for the Pharisees reject him and throw him out. Basically, they excommunicate him. And what does this mean? It means no more charitable donations. But, making money will be difficult, for he’s never worked and has no job skills. And, with his excellent sight he will now see people shy away from him. Although now seeing, life will be more difficult than ever!

You might think that the closer you are to Jesus the better your life will be; but, it often doesn’t work out this way. Jesus is a lightning rod, you see. “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind,” He says. People can react negatively to Jesus because they react negatively to judgment, and to those they think are judging them.

Now, there is sometimes some resistance, some “flack” from others, simply because you believe in God. You may be scoffed at as anti-intellectual or anti-science, and challenges to God’s existence or to stories in the Bible may be thrown at you. (I think here of Barbara O’Conner’s former co-worker, “George the atheist,” who often challenged her.) This can happen; but, seeing as most people claim to believe in God, it doesn’t happen very often.

Believing in Jesus, of course, is far more than just believing in some nameless and distant God. Take to heart and believe what the Bible teaches about Jesus. Don’t hide this faith but speak it and live it. I guarantee you, you will face increasing opposition. For, what does the Bible teach about Jesus? Just this story from John 9 shows how unique He is.

Ø  He gives sight to the blind, something no other prophet did. Moses; Elijah; Elisha; they each did great miracles. No one else, however, gave sight to the blind. Jesus is unique. He is not just another prophet.

Ø  And then, there’s how He gives sight to the blind man. In the beginning God opened His mouth, spoke over dirt, and formed a new man. Here Jesus opens His mouth, spits on dirt, and with it makes a man “new.” Jesus behaves as if He is the eternal Creator!

Ø  And, before He does this He says of Himself, “I am the light of the world.” How bold! He speaks like God, who had said, “Let there be light,” before He brought forth the rest of creation.

Jesus proclaims Himself to be God, now among us in the flesh as our Helper and Savior. He goes on to say that He is the Son of Man, the One the prophet Daniel saw in a vision being given by God eternal glory and eternal rule over all people (Dan. 7:13-14). He establishes His rule, however, far differently from the way we would expect. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” He says (Matt. 20:28). By His death He frees us from the blindness of ignorance and bondage to sin and death to be children of God.

Jesus is unique. So is the way He works in our lives. The strange way He reveals Himself to the blind man – ultimately, through the increasing opposition He allowed him to endure – is how He usually works in our lives. For, there’s no middle ground, no halfway when it comes to Jesus. You see Him as your God and trust Him as your Savior, even when you don’t see or feel His strength, or you are blind and don’t see Him at all. Believe this and declare this and you will face opposition. You might be thrown out of a group. You might lose friends. People may accuse you of being overly zealous in your faith. Being a follower of Jesus is not easy.

But: Jesus will seek you out and join Himself to you as your life, your defender, and your helper in every need. Through the opposition you face He will open your eyes to see Him more and more clearly: not as a judge to be feared, but as a Savior and Friend who has set aside your guilt forever. This is truly seeing.

Rev. Andrus proclaims that there are blessings to being blind. Jesus says that there is blessing in suffering for His name. No matter who turns away from you and what you lose, Jesus will never turn away from you. He will draw ever closer and will show you God and His salvation. True, it is by faith alone now. But, one day it will be by sight. One day you will open your eyes, see Him, and fall down before Him, saying, “Lord, I believe!” And He will lift up your head above your enemies, that you might gaze upon His beauty and praise Him with shouts of joy forever!

In the blessed name of Jesus. Amen.