Lent 4a, (March 30, 2014)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “Blind to Seeing”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter nine.
Who sinned, the man or his parents? That was the question they asked of Jesus. The man before Him had been blind from birth. This was no temporary illness, not injury or sudden onslaught from disease or malnourishment. He was broken to the core, from the time of his birth.
Whenever we see something terrible happening to someone else, there is one part of us that assumes he or she somehow deserved it. What sin had they committed in order to bear such a punishment? In Jesus’ day, this was even more so than now. A sickness was the sign of sin, and a sickness from birth was even a greater sin. This person was unclean from the very beginning. They could not enter into the presence of God, because of their imperfections
So it should come as no surprise that Jesus’ disciples wanted to know where He stood on such matters. Was it this man’s sin, or his parents?
Notice that Jesus doesn’t exactly answer the question. He doesn’t say whether it was this man or his parents. I am reminded of the words from Exodus chapter twenty, which we learn from our catechism:
“I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” [Ex. 20:5–6]
Now the answer that we would like to hear is that neither has sinned. The man isn’t blind, he is differently enabled. It is not that he is broken, it is that he has different gifts and abilities than other people.
While this is, of course, true in one sense, it is hard to get around the very simple reality that God created us to live, and to see, hear, touch, taste and smell. That is how God created us, and when things don’t work that way, well, clearly something is not right. We cannot let our love and compassion teach us to act as though nothing is wrong. And make no mistake about it, sickness is wrong. It is not how God intended us to live. Jesus Himself would say in the next chapter of John’s Gospel:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV)
God did not create in order to destroy. He does not delight in brokenness, or in seeing how we make such a huge mess of our lives. Far from it. He comes so that they may have life, real, full, abundant life in Him.
This is why Jesus comes to this man born blind, spits on the ground to make a divine mud-paste, and puts it on the man’s eyes. Man was made from the dust of the ground, and so it is that Jesus remakes creation from the mud of the earth. He anoints the man’s eyes with the mud. Then the man washes his eyes, baptizes them if you will, and he sees.
The Pharisees are not happy about this. Jesus isn’t playing by the rulebook. He doesn’t realize the man is ritually unclean, and that there must be some secret sin that someone did in order to get him in such a state.
Now it’s not that Jesus didn’t care; it’s just that, well, He didn’t care! Sabbath or no Sabbath, Jesus’ work of restoring creation will not follow anyone else’s schedule. Likewise, the once blind man doesn’t know where all this came from. He doesn’t understand all the fuss here. The Pharisees make accusations and point fingers, remember laws that they have made up to serve their own purposes. At one point they accuse Jesus of being a public sinner who should be condemned. The formerly blind man’s response is pretty good:
““Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”” (John 9:25 ESV)
There is something deliciously, beautifully simple about this man’s response. I don’t claim to have all the answers, he says. But this I know, Jesus is the one who healed me.
So what does all of this mean to you, dearly baptized? It means this. St. Paul tells us that “…at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8 ESV) Jesus Christ is God and man who came to earth to crush Satan underfoot, to rescue us from sin and death by His own death and resurrection. That’s who He is. That’s what He does.
Only the Son of God can do that. Only He can heal us of our sin, forgive us, and draw us up into God. He’s it. There is no one else that can do the things that He does.
Coming to Church is about receiving those gifts of God from the One who promises you all things. It is easy to give out advice. It is easy to give a motivational speech. Play the right music and you can get people into the mood for conversion. But only God can raise the dead. Only God can take poor, miserable sinners like you and me, lift us up and seat us at His heavenly table.
That is what God does for you here, in this place. He draws you here by His Word, and He heals you of your blindess. He heals you of your blind ignorance of His Word and Will. He heals you of your blindness to your neighbor and His need. And above all, He heals you so that you can look to Him for every need of body and soul.
That is what God does for you in this place. It is a place like no other, because He is a God like no other. Come, rest in the Word and Spirit of God Himself. Come and see the wonderful works of God, wrought for you on the cross and in the tomb, at the font and on this altar. Come and rejoice, for God Himself does all these things for you.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.