Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lent 4

God of all mercy, by Your prayer to heal and to forgive, graciously cleanse us from all sin and makes us strong.”

A man born blind receives physical and spiritual sight. It takes a whole chapter to tell the story of how Jesus brings spiritual light to a man born blind. The actual miracle is told in a few verses, but the healing gives an occasion for Jesus to bring a man from agnosticism to faith. We see the formation of faith: from “the man called Jesus,” to “prophet,” to “a man from God” to “Son of Man.” In contrast to the light of the healed man, the Pharisees are in the darkness of sin and unbelief.

Are You Blind? That may be a ridiculous question. We may not even need glasses. Are we spiritually blind? To the Pharisees that was also a ridiculous question, for they considered themselves devout people of God. Could church members be blind spiritually and not know it? Here is an opportunity to teach/learn how we can be as blind as the Pharisees in the Gospel lesson.

Outline: What makes us blind?

1. Blindness of ignorance: Disciples — v. 2. “And His disciples asked Him, saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” There is a natural tendency for us to play the blame game. We like to find the culprit. Someone has to be responsible. A child was born blind. So whose responsibility is it? Did the child sin or was it his parents? They ask in ignorance.

How could a child be responsible? He was born blind. He didn’t have the opportunity to sin. So, it must have been his condition or the circumstances into which he was born. Some are just born losers. Born into a sinful and broken world we can expect bad and tragic things to happen. Just ask the people living in Japan. How heartbreaking and how enormous is their pain. Whether it’s some tragic accident, a natural catastrophe or some debilitating illness – when these events befall us we must be reminded that we are living outside of Eden. This world is flawed and fallen. No one can escape such misery. Brokenness awaits us all. None is immune from pain. This part and parcel of our fallen condition.

Nor are his parents responsible. They cared for this child. What parent here would not want only the best for their child? A parent with a sick or special needs child would do anything to alleviate their child’s paint and suffering.

Trying to place blame on the child or to lay it at the parents’ feet is an easy excuse. Neither the child nor the parent sinned. He was born blind that the works of God should be revealed in Him. (vs.4) The child’s blind condition gives the opportunity for Jesus to manifest His glory.

That nameless, faceless couple facing the embarrassment of running out of wine are blessed with six water pots each containing twenty – thirty gallons apiece. In Canna, Jesus manifested His glory so that His disciples would place their faith in Him. (John 2:11b) At His first miracle, His immediate family and the invited wedding guests get a glimpse of Jesus’ glory. Now it’s made public. A man who had been blind since birth who had begged at the temple gate for years had been restored. Jesus comes to break the back of Satan and his minions.

Isaiah of old had predicted it, The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Transition: What makes one blind? Ignorance can make us blind. So also, fear.

2. Fear can make us blind: his parents - v. 22 “His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that Jesus was the Christ he would be put out of the synagogue.” “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind but by which means he now sees we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” (v. 21)

Their son was born blind. He was forced to beg. Now he sees. It wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. This wasn’t an imposter. It wasn’t a lookalike. He said, ‘I am he!” A miracle had taken place. Their son was given a new life!

This was a time for rejoicing. “A man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Saloam and wash’. So I went and washed and I received sight.” (v.11) Fear shut them down. His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that Jesus was the Christ he would be put out of the synagogue.” (v.22) The authorities could stifle these parents but they couldn’t quiet the crowd. The miracle cannot be denied. A blind man sees. The entire community knows this. You can’t stuff that genie back into the bottle.

After the resurrection, a similar miracle takes place. A man, lame from birth, who made his living begging at the temple, is cured by the disciples’ word. “Silver and gold I do not have but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise and walk!” (Acts 3:6-7) And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up and immediately his feet and anklebone received strength. All the people saw him walking and praising God.”

The disciples were arrested. The authorities “were greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” (Acts 4:2) The authorities threatened. The entire community had witnessed the miracle. The disciples’ only response, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Transition: What makes one blind? Ignorance can make us blind. So also, fear. Sin can cause blindness.

3. Sin can cause blindness: Pharisees Vv. 16, 29, 41. Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God because He does not keep the Sabbath. Others said, how can a man who is a sinner do such signs. We know that God spoke to Moses, as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”

The leadership refused to accept Jesus as the messiah. Despite the miracles, despite the eyewitnesses, despite the changed lives of those who were there they would not believe. They could not allow their faith to be placed into circumstances beyond what they could reason. Faith asks us to trust in God’s promises especially when we do nothing else. Faith asks that we take the Father at His word relying on what He has spoken. Faith asks that we accept the Father to keep His word when no one else does.

Sin blinds people to reject the truth even if the truth is in front of you. Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin but now you say ‘We see’. Therefore, your sin remains.” Miracles alone do not produce faith. Only Christ and His Word can do that. Miracles however do give convincing proof. Behind these miracles is always the grace of God. You know what grace is. Grace is God’s “do over” when He gives us more than a second chance. He gives us a new life.

What will you do with this man from Nazareth, this Jesus? Reject Him not. Like the disciples of the 1st Century, we too are witnesses of these things in the 21st Century. As we journey through Lent with the Savior may we be given the vision to see Jesus, as He is your Lord and your God.

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use
Artwork by Ed Rojas © Higher Things

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