As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
“Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 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.”
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.
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.”
They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
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.”
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!”
Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." - John 9:1-41
Jesus works miracles not to impress you. He works miracles not to cause you to think or to become more aware of sin in the world. He works miracles to capture for himself a people. He works miracles to do the work of God to transform the course of human hearts, to open them up to the light that he is, shining this light on the darkest reaches of your spirit to bring you some healing, some freedom, some relief in a world that has no problem depriving you of each. These miracles become that guiding light as a dawning of a new relationship of reconciliation between us and God.
I recall one cold fall evening in San Luis Obispo. I was sitting in the stands with a bunch of people from church cheering on the Varsity football team. It was my freshman year and I remember the cold because I had not brought a sweatshirt or jacket. Bear in mind, when I say cold it was 60 degrees. But that’s not important.
What is important is that there was a pass interference call assessed on the tigers. I don’t recollect if it was actually a bad call or not, but at the time I was a homer so – “Get some glasses ref! Can you even see the stripes on your shirt!” You know, being a normal stupid fourteen-year-old fan.
I can also clearly see the father of a friend of mine from church grabbing me by the arm and saying – “Remember who you represent.” That memory has stuck with me because I know I had the feeling of being ashamed. In part the shame was for my behavior and being called out on it, but also the shame was that I look back and wonder – Would Christ be concerned about me insulting a ref at a high school football game? Is that a sin Christ died for? Did I really hurt a gospel witness by complaining about a penalty call?
That was the world of my childhood. Each action, each idle word spoken in jest, each thought was policed by a notion that we had to purge sin from our souls. Each Sunday evening was geared towards regularly calling for a rededication of one’s life to Christ. And this is not anachronistic poppycock. This is the assumption of the church to this day, especially in America. Which is why the Lutheran understanding of the truth of the Gospel is essential to the work of the church. A Gospel that changes the focus of the eyes and turns the gaze towards something more than life change or attempts of the sinner to conquer sin.
John takes this occasion of Christ happening upon a blind beggar to make this point. A man born blind. One who has never known anything but darkness. Never known anything but the seeing of nothing. Wouldn’t begin to be able to tell you what a tree looks like, or sunset, sunrise, the colors of a rainbow. Not to have been one who has seen the outward appearance of a man and assumed the worst or the best of them by the look of his flesh.
Take this description and superimpose it on the disciples’ question. Do you remember it? - Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?
Looking at the man and seeing him for what he is, the assumption is that his illness, or his disability, was someone’s fault. Whose fault is it? First thing those of us who think we see do. We want to know why and how come. We want answers to questions we think need asking instead of realizing that there is more to someone than just the outer appearance.
So many men and women who on the outside look like they have it all together turn out to be captured by some sin that takes them down, because you can hide anything in the dark. There are politicians and celebrities galore. King Saul the best example and God chooses a little shepherd boy named David, sends his spirit upon him and calls him one after his own heart to take Saul’s place as king.
Maybe our failure is to see sin as some moral choice instead of an interference with our relationship with God. Something that gets in the way of the work of God in us. Living in darkness as it were, rather than light, pulled away from God. We let our relationship be changed from losing trust in Christ and the God who gives us all things, sin becoming a replacement for him.
The whole point of Christ is the opening of eyes. The eye of the soul to see the things we hide in the dark, but also to see the light of Christ shining like the Son. And this light becomes so magnificent that it becomes inconceivable. Choosing the most unlikely of old creatures to make new, he finds the one born blind and gives light. Then others take note, asking - How do you now see?
I don’t know. All I know is that this one called Jesus made some mud, put it on my eyes and told me to go wash and I did. So, now, I see.
Not able to say much. Nothing of some great story. A little spit, some dirt, some fingers touching some eyes, and then a bath. Go wash and you will see. No dancing around and a lightning bolt from the heavens. The bringing of a gift in ordinary ways to make faith take anchor in a soul stuck in darkness.
But this is never, ever good enough. At least not for those of us who see. We look and we see and we know what we think we understand. Men born blind don’t receive sight. It’s not possible, right? Or, how can a man who is a sinner perform such signs? – they ask of this man called Jesus. Because we know him, they say. We have these standards of sin and righteousness and we make our decisions based on everything we see, not thinking that sin is a bigger deal where it interferes between us and God, than between us and moral self-righteous shame.
It’s scary to go there, to leave behind the sight-seeing sin we like to identify and let sin be sin as what it is. Because it is a lot easier than thinking that sin is something more. An existence. A place. A thing we can’t get rid of. When we can go there to where sin becomes more than immorality, then we allow Jesus to be Jesus. The one who dispels darkness. The one who, according to 2nd Corinthians 5:21, knew no sin, but became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Became sin. Became the thing that we can’t get rid of in order to get rid of it. Dr. Steven Paulson, my mentor, says it like this – Jesus became the biggest sinner for your sake.
Then comes the answer to the seers who look at Christ and think him a sinner so he cannot do these things, can he? As those who see looking at the outward signs to think they are images of the inward heart, when God takes the worst of the worst and calls them son and daughter. Taking one like David, as a little child to be king, but one who was a murderer and adulterer, a thief, a pirate, a warrior whose hands were dirtied with blood, yet called one after God’s own heart. One who was a sinner, but captured by the spirit that came upon him.
There lies this work of God. Working in the darkness of your soul, the blindness you may think is unnoticed God lives there to bring you out. To shine a light. To turn you around and have repentance lead to trusting in a God who uses his election of the sinner as slap to the face of the world that sees without knowing the heart.
In John 6, some of those fed of the 5000 come and find Christ hanging out on the other side of the lake and he tells them of the food of God and not to work for that which spoils but that which works for eternal life.
They ask him – what must we do to do the works God requires?
Christ says to them – This is the work of God, to trust in the One whom he has sent. The work of God becoming the making of faith in your heart to have you look to the Creator, the light of the world, and dispel the darkness that your eyes hold, especially when we look at one another.
Each Sunday, each day – the work of God becomes this miracle to create faith in you. To open eyes. To give unto you the life you need, found in him. A miracle that comes from this pulpit using words to bring about faith. From the table and font in which God gives you promises to trust that can conquer all darkness, all strife, all sin. Giving to you the gifts of the kingdom as one who opens blind eyes and loves sinners more than you can ever know. Except you do know, because he has given that love to you. Amen