Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Opened eyes of faith. . .

Sermon for Lent 4A preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Sunday, March 26, 2017.

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” (Jn 9:39).

News today is driven by headlines. It’s all about catching the reader’s attention. The miracle in today’s Gospel reading is an attention grabbing headline: MAN BORN BLIND SEES FOR FIRST TIME! We’d read that story; it’s a heartfelt, feel good story. But the greater miracle in this story isn’t the once blind eyes of a man opened to see the world around him, it’s the once blind eyes of faith opened to see the light of the Savior.

The man in our Gospel reading was born blind, he never had the ability to see. He didn’t know what the world around him looked like. He had no clue what his parents and friends looked like. He’d never seen the light of the sun or the beauty of the moon and the stars.

When Jesus’ disciples saw this man they asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Jn 9:2). The disciples expressed the popular idea that suffering is a result of God punishing a specific sin. Many of us still think this way. We talk about Karma assuming that bad things happen to those who are bad and good to the good. Whenever there’s a natural disaster someone always says it’s God punishing the people for their sin. The disciples thought this man was being punished, and they wanted to know who sinned, him or mom and dad.

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (Jn 9:3). The reason this man was born blind wasn’t because he or his parents sinned, although they were sinners, but so God could display His work in him. This man was born blind so that he could be healed at that very moment, so that God’s saving grace could be seen. This is why all suffering is allowed, so that in times of trouble and need, we’d turn to God.

God doesn’t delight in suffering, but He allows it to happen so that we’d come back to Him, repenting of our sin and relying on His grace and mercy, relying on His care and love. Of course, all suffering is a result of sin; and yes, there are painful consequences to specific sins, but God doesn’t punish His faithful children. The blind man wasn’t being punished. God allowed him to be born blind so that through the healing of his physical eyes Jesus could open his spiritual eyes, giving him eyes of faith to see his Savior.

Even though we were born with the physical ability to see, all of us are born spiritually blind. Every single one of us was born with original sin, and this sin blinds us. It keeps us from seeing God our Father and it prevents us from seeing our Savior. Because of our original sin we don’t fear, love, or trust in God above all things; rather we fear, love, and trust in ourselves. We make ourselves our own gods, doing whatever we want whenever we want, fulfilling our sinful desires. And because of this, we live in the darkness of our sin.

This darkness isn’t like the darkness of early evening as the sun begins to set. It’s not even the darkness of midnight. We can still see at these times. With the help of the moon and stars, we can make out shapes and shadows. With the help of lights we can illuminate enough of the world to function just as if the sun was up. But there’s no light in the darkness of our sin. We can’t shine a light through it.

This darkness chokes out any light. It’s heavy and paralyzing. It leaves us totally blind, unable to see shapes or shadows. There’s nothing we can do to navigate this darkness. Only the light of Christ can overcome it, and we can only see this light with the eyes of faith, eyes of faith opened by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word.

Our eyes of faith have been opened by God’s Word, just like the man in the Gospel reading. It was truly an amazing thing what Jesus did, giving sight to a man born blind. No one else could do this. Only the Son of God could perform this miracle.

When the Pharisees questioned the man about Jesus, he called Him a prophet. He knew that Jesus was from God because only God could’ve healed him, but the Pharisees disagreed. They said Jesus was a sinner because He healed this man on the Sabbath, and it’s a sin to do any work on the Sabbath, even if that work benefited others. The Pharisees pressured this man to deny Jesus and His miracle; but he couldn’t. He stayed true to his confession. He knew Jesus was from God.

Jesus asked this man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (Jn 9:35). The formerly blind man didn’t know who the Son of Man was, so he asked Jesus to identify Him, not simply for identification purposes, but so that he could believe in Him. Jesus answered, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you” (Jn 9:37). The man, who had been blind from birth, with eyes opened by Christ was now physically looking at the Messiah. And after hearing Jesus’ words, with eyes of faith he saw the Savior.

And this man did the only thing he could do...he confessed his faith. “Lord, I believe” (Jn 9:38). He fell down at Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him. With eyes of faith opened by God’s Word Incarnate, he saw his Savior and trusted in Him for salvation. This faith was a miraculous gift from God...and so is yours.

God didn’t leave this man in the darkness of blindness, and He doesn’t leave you in the darkness of your sin either. Our Father in heaven sent His only begotten Son into our dark sin-filled world to open your eyes. The Word of God Incarnate, overcame the darkness of your sin, so “that those who do not see may see” (Jn 9:39). Jesus came into this world for sinners, to heal sinners, to heal you and me. He’s the Light that overcomes the sin that blinds you. He’s the Light of the world (Jn 9:5) that has overcome sin and death with His death on the cross. With His shed blood He paid for your sin, for that original sin that’s blinded you from birth. He’s opened your eyes so that you can see your Savior and trust in Him for salvation; so that you can walk as a child of light.

With eyes of faith we focus on our Savior, we see the light of everlasting life, and seeing this light, we don’t worry about the future. We don’t fear the punishment of God on our sins because we see the Son of Man who’s received that punishment for us. We don’t aren’t scared or troubled by the sufferings of this life, sufferings that are a result of sin because we know what our Lord has done for us. With eyes of faith, we know our sins our forgiven. With eyes of faith we see the Son of Man and His salvation. With eyes of faith, we speak the same words of the once blind man…”Lord, I believe.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.


John Joseph Flanagan said...
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John Joseph Flanagan said...

Wonderful message, Pastor. God's word indeed frees us from spiritual blindness, and we must have grateful hearts, lest we forget that "salvation is of the Lord."