1. Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The message from God’s Word this 4th Sunday in Lent is taken from the 9th chapter of the Gospel of John. It’s entitled, “Spiritual Blindness,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.
2. There’s a story about Sherlock Holmes, the great detective of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, and his sidekick Dr. John Watson about a camping trip that they went on. After sharing a good meal and a bottle of wine, they retired to their tent for the night. At about 3 AM, Holmes nudges Watson and asks, "Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see?" Watson said, "I see millions of stars." Holmes then asks, "And, what does that tell you?" Watson then replied, "Astronomically, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and we are small and insignificant. Horologically, it tells me that it's about 3 AM. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Holmes?" Holmes retorts, "Someone stole our tent."
3. Have you ever had something like this happen to you? The problem that you were facing was staring you right in the face and you didn’t even notice it. It’s like when you lost your keys and you search everywhere in your house for them only to find that they were lying on your desk or on your nightstand right where you last left them. Sometimes people have spiritual blind spots when it comes to seeing plainly what God wants to reveal to us in His Word. We see that in our Gospel reading for today from John chapter 9.
4. A few excerpts from John chapter 9 say, “1As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” 34They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. 35Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
5. For every effect, there has to be a cause. Things just don’t happen by blind chance. There has to be an explanation. That’s what makes sense to us. This is the disciples’ way of thinking when they encounter this man born blind. He’s blind; that’s the effect. So what’s the cause? Somebody must have sinned. So they conclude either this man sinned in the womb before he was born or his parents sinned. Something was the cause of this man’s blindness.
6. So they ask Jesus, “Who sinned.” Their thinking though is misguided. John 9:3 says, “It was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This man’s blindness isn’t the punishment for his sin or the sin of his parents. Instead, his blindness is the means by which the works of God are revealed.
7. With these words, Jesus nullifies this type of cause and effect thinking when it comes to sickness and suffering. Still, many people today succumb to this line of reasoning. The televangelist announces to his worldwide audience that a recent natural disaster is a result of the nation’s sin. We saw some Christian leaders do this in 2010 with the devastating earthquake in Haiti, or in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina that terrorized the Gulf Coast of the US. The Christian wife and mother who’s diagnosed with breast cancer assumes it was because of some past sin that she is now plagued with this terrible disease. The father whose teenage son dies in a car accident concludes that if he’d been a better father, God wouldn’t have taken his son from him.
8. But, Jesus tells us here in John 9 that it’s not someone’s sin that resulted in the suffering and sorrow described above. We live in a world that is sinful where natural disasters, sickness, and death occur. God not only displays His works in miraculous events but also in the midst of suffering and sorrow. The man who was born blind had his sight restored. Without a doubt, God’s work was displayed in him. However, God’s works are also displayed when following natural disasters, God’s people respond to serve those affected, providing for both physical and spiritual needs. God’s work is displayed when those who are sick, instead of turning away from Him are drawn closer to Christ and strengthened in their Christian faith. God’s work is displayed when those who are grieving are filled with the hope of Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life.
9. God’s works were displayed in the man born blind, and God’s works are constantly displayed in your life. Whether in prosperity or adversity, abundance or need, God is working to save, help, deliver and strengthen you. That’s why there’s more to the story of this man who was blind from birth receiving his sight from Jesus. Jesus not only intended to remove his physical blindness but also his spiritual blindness. He not only desired for this man to see the beauty of the world that surrounded him, but also to see Jesus and believe in Him to receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
10. After the man’s sight is restored, his neighbors take him to the Pharisees. Before the Pharisees he confesses that Jesus is a prophet. He acknowledges that Jesus is from God, for only one sent from God could make the blind see. But this confession is too much for the religious authorities. And the man is thrown out and excommunicated for speaking the truth. Although he no longer suffers from physical blindness, his suffering isn’t over. He now suffers for confessing Jesus.
11. However, Jesus wants this man to believe that He is more than just a prophet, and so He searches for the man. After conversing with Jesus, the man confesses Jesus to the Son of Man and worships Him. Now the man who was once blind truly sees. God’s works have been displayed in him. His eyes see, and he also sees with the eyes of faith.
12. God’s works have also been displayed in your life. You were born spiritually blind, unable to see, groping around in the darkness of sin and death. But now you do see. God was working for you at the cross of Calvary when Jesus closed His eyes in death to atone for your own sinful blindness. God was displaying His works in you when at your Baptism He gave you spiritual sight by giving you the gift of faith. God continues to open your eyes through His Word to His life, truth and forgiveness. When Christ comes again on the Last Day, your eyes will be opened once again and your lifeless body will be raised from the dead. You will see God face to face.
13. It’s an amazing paradox: the blind see and the seeing become blind. The blind man receives both spiritually and physical sight while the Pharisees refuse to see what is clearly revealed. By their rejection the Pharisees become spiritually blind. Ultimately, this spiritual sight was the greatest work that Christ worked in the blind man, and there is no greater work that God has accomplished in our lives than when by His grace He made us, who were spiritually blind to see. Amen.