As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
34 …they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Darkness is dangerous. Just the other night, the kids were asleep and everything was dark in the house when I was heading to bed. You can probably guess what happened. I walked down the hallway and crashed into a toy that was left out. Luckily, the kids didn’t wake up. But darkness can be dangerous.
And that is true psychologically or emotionally. When there is no light, your mind can play tricks on you and give you that uneasy feeling. When it’s dark, you don’t have certainty about your surroundings and it can cause your blood pressure to rise. What’s that sound when you are camping? I know a couple weeks ago when it was really windy, Issy was a little tense a bedtime when she asked, “What’s going on outside; what’s that noise?” Darkness can be dangerous.
That is also the case spiritually. When there is no light shining for your soul, what do you do? Where do you find comfort and hope when the dark cloud of guilt is engulfing you? What happens when the fog of sickness or loss rolls in and cuts out the bright rays of Jesus? Darkness can be dangerous.
That’s why Jesus went to battle against darkness in this next field of battle. It takes place on the Sabbath day in Jerusalem. Jesus is with his disciples and they come across a man who was born blind. This wasn’t someone begging because they were foolish and loss everything because of poor investments or a gambling problem. This isn’t a beggar because he is too lazy to work or because times are tough and he just can’t seem to get his feet firmly under him. This is a man who was born to be a beggar. There were no social services back then for the blind, no community homes. If your family was gone, your best-case scenario was to find a friend who would lead you out to the roadside where you beg and hopefully you get enough money for food.
Nobody walked by that man without thinking, “He got a raw deal.” And the popular idea of the day, even what rabbis were teaching, was that sin caused that kind of suffering. The very logical question that the disciples had for Jesus is, “Who sinned? Was it something that this man did, even before he was born? (That was one of the real arguments that people made.) Or was it something really bad that his parents did?” The common misconception was all part of the self-righteous attitude of most religious teachers. “I am not blind, so that means there must be something better about me or something worse about that blind man that made God want to get even.” It’s a misconception that naturally still comes up today. When tragedy or heartaches comes into your life or someone close to you, we’re tempted to think God is getting even.
So it’s really important what Jesus says next. “This isn’t about sin. This man didn’t sin in the womb and it wasn’t his parents either. This happened so the God can work in his life.” Jesus says God doesn’t get even with people. Bad things don’t happen to people because they have been bad. Sometimes “bad” things happen so that the Lord can show his mercy. Sometimes people have difficulties, really bad ones, so that God has a chance to show his gracious heart. Jesus explains it kind of like this: sometimes there is darkness in this world that was ruined and covered with sin so that the Light of the world can shine with the only brightness there is. Then Jesus shows them what kind of Light he is.
The next part sounds a little weird, where Jesus spits on the ground to make mud with his saliva and then puts it on the blind man’s eyelids telling him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. And when the man listens to Jesus and does what he tells him, his eyes are opened. Blindness doesn’t have a chance against Jesus. How amazing for a man who had never seen anything to open his eyes and see that water, the sky, people – to see everything like nothing had been wrong. For decades he couldn’t see; he didn’t have a life. Jesus changed all that, displaying the work of God in his life.
As amazing as this miracle is, it’s the rather simple miracle in this section. How about the way this man reacts when he is brought to the Pharisees later to tell his side of the story? He tells the truth, when it’s pretty clear the Pharisees were not big on Jesus. Two different times he tells this hostile room that Jesus opened his eyes, that Jesus was a prophet, and that he wanted to learn more about Jesus. God’s work was on display in his life.
When Jesus hears what had happened, he goes to find the man. It probably wasn’t hard to find the guy who was wide-eyed and so excited about seeing such normal things. Jesus gets right to the point and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (the Messiah, God’s chosen one to bring the light of life to a world that is lost in darkness)?” The man responds, “Who is he, sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
The Light of the world then shines for the man who was born in the dark. Before this, the blind man didn’t see Jesus, but now that his eyes are working, Jesus says, “You have now seen him; in fact, the one speaking to you is he.”
Now, here is where the real miracle happens, in verse 38: Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. It’s true that the work of God was done the day that man’s blind eyes saw their first views of this world. But the real amazing miracle happened days later when his sin-blinded soul was given faith to see and believe his Lord and Savior. That’s when those eyes didn’t just see a prophet or a traveling rabbi from Galilee but the Son of Man who was here to win the war against sin, death, and hell.
Now, it’s time to ask one of those important questions when reading the Bible: where do I see myself in this section? It’s pretty clear. I was born spiritually blind and so were you. We were born not seeing Jesus. We were born not knowing a thing about our Savior and what he has done. And when you can’t see Jesus, then you don’t know God very well. You’ll end up thinking he is the kind of God who tries to get even with people who are bad. When you don’t see Jesus you may even think that you can make up your own god, and that everyone has the right to choose what they want their god to be.
If you don’t know Jesus, then you don’t know God, and if you don’t know God, you have no idea why you exist on this planet. You have no idea how to handle guilt. You have no idea what to do about death. When you don’t know Jesus, it’s like you are walking around blind in this world.
It reminds me of a story I’ve heard before about 3 blind men. A guide took them to experience an animal they had never known before. The first blind man was brought to the animal and he felt something that seemed like a big rope. The next blind man was brought to the animal and he felt a snake like creature. The final blind man was brought to the animal and he felt a big wall. So, thee three blind men had three different views of the same animal. The one said, “It’s like a rope.” And the other two said, “You’re crazy.” The other said, “This animal is like a snake moving all around.” And the final man said, “You’re both wrong, it’s like a big wall on tree trunks.” They were all wrong. The animal was an…elephant. They couldn’t see the whole picture. Each grasped on to what they experienced, but they couldn’t see the whole elephant, and so none of what they said was true.
That’s exactly what people in this world are like whose eyes have not been opened by the Light of the world. They go around grasping for truth, grasping for knowledge, but they are like blind men touching parts of an elephant. They don’t see the whole picture. They can’t.
They try. They try to come up with explanations. They write books and blogs. They teach seminars and classes. They say life is about self-fulfillment. They’ll say things like, “The point of suffering is to make you stronger. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.” And like three blind men talking about an elephant, it’s all a bunch of nonsense because they can’t see the whole picture. The answers that people come up with don’t begin to win in the battle against sin and evil. They leave people in blind unbelief. They can’t see.
But we can! God’s work through the Word and Sacraments opens our eyes. The gospel light pierced the blindness of our hearts. God’s grace makes us see our purpose in life plainly. We get to walk the path of God. We enthusiastically praise our God and Savior, just like the man did when Jesus opened his spiritually blind eyes. We speak his name in worship, not just in this place but in our lives out there. We don’t have to walk around in blindness anymore
So the question is, my brothers and sisters, the important question to think about is why in God’s green earth do we keep acting like we are still blind? …We? Would members of Our Saviour’s do that? Would leaders and pastors do that? Yeah…we do.
We are living in the dark when we think pain and suffering in my life isn’t fair. We are living in the dark when service for Christ is a burden. We are living in the dark when worship interrupts my weekend plans. We are living in the dark when the Christian life is carried out grudgingly. We are living in the dark when we treat others as those Pharisees treated this man.
Do you know how Jesus dealt with our darkness, our blindness? He loved you so much that he refused to let you stay in the darkness of unbelief. He found you and me. He poured on us the water of life in baptism. He opened your eyes so that you could see your Light. Now he lets you see things for how they really are.
That’s why we can say things like, “I never would have seen how forgiving God is, but Jesus opened my eyes to see the love of the cross and the glory of the empty tomb. I never would have made it through this rough patch, but Jesus opened my eyes to see how God’s power is made perfect in weakness. I never would have known what a fulfilled life is, but Jesus opened my eyes to see the satisfaction of serving in ministry. I never would have seen the blessings God gives in worship, but Jesus opened my eyes to see worship as the food my faith yearns for and the place where God keeps the blindfold of sin off my eyes. I never would have seen the joy of the Christian life, but Jesus opened my eyes to see how following his ways is such a benefit to those around me.”
Jesus opened your eyes so that you see it all. You see everything he has done for you and all that he continues to do for you. You see that there is still daylight and the night hasn’t come yet, so you can shine with the light of Christ.
God grant it. Amen.