Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday March 26th 2017 - / John 9:1-41 / There's Blindness and Then There's Blindness
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday March 26th 2017: Lent / John 9:1-41 " There's Blindness and Then There's Blindness”
As [Jesus] passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, He spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then He anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” …
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So 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.” Some 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. So 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.”
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether He is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He comes from.” … And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is He who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near Him heard these things, and said to Him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. There are an incredible amount of things worth talking about related to this Gospel reading but let’s focus on just two of the things that are going on in John chapter nine: 1) Jesus heals a man born blind from birth on the Sabbath which causes a division between the Pharisees and 2) Jesus uses this as a way to teach something about spiritual blindness.
Jesus heals people on the Sabbath, the day of rest, a number of times. He repeatedly does this to illustrate an important point to the people He had direct contact with during His public ministry and to people like you and I who hear about these events later. Here’s another of these incidents, this one is from the Gospel of Luke. In it we are told how on “One Sabbath, when [Jesus] went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching Him carefully. And behold, there was a man before [Jesus] who had Dropsy [a doctor today would call that edema due to congestive heart failure]. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then [Jesus] took [the man] and healed him and sent him away. And [Jesus] said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.” They could not reply to these things because of course they would save their son, they’d likely even say an ox … Jesus is pointing out that God too has mercy and does saving work on the Sabbath for His children and His creation. Jesus being the second person of the Holy Trinity likewise desires to be merciful on the day of rest.
There was another time recorded in the Gospel of Mark that didn’t involve healing but revolved around the question of what the day of rest was for, what the Sabbath day was for, in Mark we hear how on, “One Sabbath [Jesus] was going through the grainfields, and as [He and His disciples] made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to [Jesus], “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And [Jesus] said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And [Jesus] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
At the end of our lengthy Gospel reading today Jesus having, “heard that [the Pharisees] had cast [the man He’d healed] out, [finds the man and asks him], “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” [The man] answered, “And who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is He who is speaking to you.” Jesus is the Son of Man; He, as the Gospel of Mark says, is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is the Lord of your God given day of rest. The Pharisees had made the day of rest to be about what you do for God not about what God does for you.
In our Gospel reading we hear about how the parents of the man who’d received his sight were afraid of even verifying that Jesus had made their son’s eyes able to see. The Pharisees who believed Jesus to be a sinner, a third commandment breaker, because He did things like heal the sick, and cast out demons on the Sabbath, had forbid anyone from attending the synagogue if they confessed Jesus to be the Christ - not so indecently this is what we do week in and week out when we confess the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds we confessed Jesus to be the Christ - The Pharisees in their blindness had the Sabbath, the day of rest, wrong and as such they couldn’t even recognize the Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of their God given day of rest, when He stood right before them. They also couldn’t recognize Jesus’ work as work from God.
To be fair John said “there was a division among them” a division among the Pharisees over all of this and we know from earlier in the Gospel of John, which we heard a couple weeks ago, that there were men like the Pharisee Nicodemus whose eyes were being opened as to who Jesus truly was. Yet this was not the case overall for the Pharisees during the public ministry of Jesus. You can see this clear as day as the Gospel reading for today comes to a close. The man born blind who received his sight from Jesus, who stands face to face with Jesus, the Christ, the Son of Man, sees and acknowledges Jesus for who Jesus is when he confesses, “Lord, I believe,” and [then Saint John tells us that this man then] worshiped [Jesus]. Jesus [then says], “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near Him heard these things, and said to Him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” So essentially Jesus says ‘Yes you are blind – you could not see Me and do not see Me even as I stand before you now.’
This kind of blindness shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to you. Perhaps you’ve were blind to the fact that an employee was stealing from you, or maybe you were blind to the fact that your wife of husband was cheating on you, maybe you were blind to the fact that your friend was gossiping about you behind your back ruining your reputation and then one day you were no longer blind to it. It became a revelation that, that which you could not see, that which was shroud in darkness, became suddenly clear as day. Like someone flipping the light switch on in the middle of the night. Here I’ve given you an earthly example – Jesus today is giving you a spiritual example. By what means does Jesus lift spiritual blindness from men, women and children today?
Consider what the third commandment says: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
Let’s not make this too complicated: Part of despising the gift God gives in the Sabbath, in the day of rest, is simply avoiding going to where God promises to dispense His gifts, it also does you no good to sit in the pew and hate preaching and the hearing of God word. And by such grumbling to miss what is truly going on. Yes some stay away and some remain but are miserable, both cases are the result of loosing track of what the Sabbath is, what the day of rest is, and what it is for.
A dear friend, and brother pastor, Rev. Michael Keith puts it like this when he describes how keeping the Sabbath Day Holy, “is about receiving the gifts Jesus has to give.” He said “When I learned that [When I learned that attending church was about that - about receiving the gifts Jesus has to give - and not about what I did in praise of God] it turned everything that I thought I knew upside down. At the same time it made everything make sense. Jesus said "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." Jesus instituted His Church so that we might abide in Him and Him in us. He does this through His Word and Sacraments.” This is your Jesus: The Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of your God given day of rest, the one who opened the eyes of the man born blind, the one who opens your eyes when you are blind to how God is at work in your life. “Your pastor is the delivery man.” Pastor Keith Says, “So you go to church not to do something for God [As had been the focus and teaching of the Pharisees in our Gospel Reading] or even to learn some data or facts - you go to church to be with Jesus and to receive His gifts.” Here you receive the gifts of Jesus through preaching, absolving, baptizing, and through the feeding you receive in Holy Communion. Essentially Jesus promises to be present with you here in a way that is different from other places. The question is: Can people see this … or are they blind? I speak of the able bodied mobile person – have they over time allowed the cataracts of the world’s riches, pleasures, ideas and philosophies to cloud their vision when it come to Jesus and His work. Can they not see Him here? Some might say, ‘if I could have been there and saw and heard Jesus for myself – then I’d believe.’ But from today’s Gospel we see that some were there and did see Jesus in person and heard Him speak and witnessed miracles and they still remained blind.
On Jesus’ Good Friday Cross many people were gathered around Him at Mount Golgotha: Some like Mary, and John the disciple, looked up at Jesus nailed there and what do they see? They see Jesus lifted up, the Son of Man, the Christ, The Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of their God given day of rest, the Lord of Life. They see Jesus for who He truly was, is and ever shall be. While others there; men like the Roman soldiers following their orders from Pontius Pilate mock Jesus as a dismal failure and a pretend king, they do not at first see Him for who He truly was, is and every shall be the King of kings and Lord of lords. Though at the end, having witnessed the whole thing, there was a soldier who with our healed man from today’s Gospel reading could join in saying, “I was blind, now I see” this “centurion, who stood facing [Jesus upon the cross], saw [just how Jesus] breathed His last, [and] he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Yet Jewish men from the highest to the lowest as Jesus hung dying mockingly made reference back to days like the day we heard about in our Gospel as they said things to Jesus in His dying woe like this, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if [God so] desires Him. For [this man] said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
Dear Christian friend mark and rejoice in the fact that you have been given in your faith the gift of sight, that you are not blind to Jesus and His life, death and resurrection from the dead for you and the forgiveness of your sins. Look with new eyes and see His forgiveness even for the times you fail to count Him as your Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of your God given gift of a day of rest. For every time you despised the hearing of the Word of the Lord, for every time you begged off on coming to church for worldly things when all the while Jesus stands with the mud of healing wet on His Holy hands ready to wash away your sin and strengthen you in your faith in Him by His precious gifts of Word and Sacrament. You have forgiveness for every time you’ve made today about you and your desires and not about Him, for you, delivered to you.
Looking forward to the coming of Christ Isaiah prophesied, “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” During the public ministry of Jesus we see this unfold in readings like today’s Gospel reading and from the Cross of His passion. In our lives we see this too. We see that there were people then and there are people now who hear God’s Word and reject it, who have the light of Christ shone upon them and yet remain blind. Likewise we see that there are also those who hear God’s Word and learn, mark and inwardly digest it, ones who have their spiritual blindness taken away, yes ones who see Jesus for who He truly is, was and ever shall be.
What then are we to do? Take the hand of those who are spiritually blind, take the hand of those whose eyes have grown spiritually dim and lead them to Jesus. The Christian life is not the blind leading the blind. In your baptism you are not blind, Saint Paul says “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit [baptism], whom He [the Holy Spirit] poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” God graciously makes us heirs with Jesus of eternal life and in this regeneration and renewal we are mercifully saved and justified, no longer blind as the World is blind but able to see Jesus for who He truly is. The ones who you reach out to may seem to have the world on a string, they may seem like people who do not need Jesus, but rest assured all people need Jesus. If they are spiritually blind to Christ Jesus what will it gain them to have all their hearts desire in this world which is passing away? What will it benefit them to be right in their own eyes, as the spiritually blind Pharisees had been, while they miss Jesus who stands before them with the precious gift of life? Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Mark 1:21-28, Mark 1:29-31, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 4:31-37, Luke 4:38-39, Luke 6:6-11, Luke 13:10-17, Luke 14:1-6, Matthew 8:14-15, Matthew 12:9-13, John 5:1-18 and John 9:1-7,14
 Luke 14:1-6
 Mark 2:23-28
 Mark 15:39
 Matthew 27:42-44
 Titus 3:5-6