Grace to you and grace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our physical eyesight is one of the greatest gifts God has given to us. Those of us who have always had good eyesight can take for granted this wonderful gift from God. Now, if you had a problem with your eyesight, where would you go? Of course you would book an appointment with an optometrist. Once, there was a devoted Christian woman who suffered from dimming sight. One day, her optometrist was examining her eyes. He did not find much encouragement in his examination, and expressed his sympathy that there was nothing he could do to help her. She was not disturbed, but told him, how good the Lord had been to her and her husband. The optometrist replied, “You have no eyesight,” he said, “but you can truly see.” And he spoke the truth. Spiritual sight is something better than physical eyesight.
Our Spiritual Blindness
Jesus Christ our Lord, in our Gospel reading, comes across a man with congenital blindness. The disciples assume that something as bad as being born blind must be a punishment of some sort, either it was punishment for the man’s own sins or for the sins of his parents. The blindness of this man, Jesus says, is not a punishment for a specific sin but the occasion for God’s work in his life to be displayed. Jesus is not saying that this man and his parents were sinless. Jesus was going to make an example out of him. An object lesson. So, while sin in general was the cause of this man’s blindness, Jesus says God can bring good out of evil, by finally sending Jesus around to heal him.
The religious leaders agree with the disciples’ initial assessment. They state that this man’s blindness proved he was guilty of specific wickedness, both then and now. They call it an outrage that such a man should pretend to teach them. In their blindness the Pharisees still refused to recognise the miracle. The Pharisees want to drive a solid wedge between Jesus and God. If anything good has happened, they say, it’s God’s work alone, and Jesus can have had nothing to do with it. In the end, Jesus declares that these Pharisees are actually the ones who are blind.
Just like something can be wrong with our physical eyesight, the same is true with our spiritual sight. In fact, every single person is born spiritually blind. What’s remarkable about that is how virtually no one seems to notice. Most are in fact quite content to live in their blindness. Some would fiercely deny that they are in fact spiritually blind.
But what does it mean to be spiritually blind? Blindness is one way to describe the effects of sin upon us. Just like a blind person cannot see the light of day, likewise because of sin, we cannot see the light of God in Christ. Our blindness is not the lack of eyesight but the lack of faith. And it isn’t simply impaired vision, we are born without spiritual vision. We are completely unreceptive to God and completely self-centred. We may have 20/20 eyesight, and see the world around us in Technicolor, but we have no sight for the things that involve God. We are blind to God. We live as if He didn’t exist or matter. We are blind to ourselves and our own condition. We don’t think we’re that bad. We actually think that people are basically good. We assert, “I am a good person.” We don’t recognise the extent to which Sin has corrupted us. We have constructed a world where we will never are admit that we wrong about spiritual matters. It is one thing to be genuinely mistaken, and to be open to new evidence, new arguments, new insights. It is another to create a closed world, like a sealed room, into which no light, no fresh air, can come from outside. We don’t see the light of Christ shining down upon us. We can’t. We won’t. We don’t have the eyes to see. We are naturally unable to see the things of God. And just like a blind man cannot will his eyes to work, so we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ as Lord or come to Him.
Jesus came to give sight to the Spiritually Blind
However, notice how our text focuses around the miracle. Jesus actually healed the man with congenital blindness. How did he do it? That’s the question which the Pharisees are dying to find out. Jesus put mud on the man’s eyes. In the beginning, “the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground” (Gen. 2:7). Here we see an act of new creation. With the mud on his eyes, Jesus sent him away to wash, with the promise that he would see again. The man goes, washes off the mud, and comes back seeing. When Jesus heard that he’d been kicked out of the synagogue, He went to find the man, and now for the first time, he sees Jesus. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks. “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” the man says. You see, seeing is not the same as believing. He can see Jesus, but He doesn’t yet believe. And Jesus says to him what He said to the Samaritan woman last week: “You’ve seen him, and He is the one speaking to you.”
The man has stuck to his story, that it was Jesus who opened his eyes. Now he is invited to make the further step: Jesus is not just a prophet, not just a unique healer, but is the one through whom God’s light, searing with truth and holiness, is coming into the world. Jesus, the spiritual optometrist has restored his spiritual sight and he believes. So what if they’ve thrown him out of the synagogue? So what if the authorities, real and self-appointed, have declared him to be ‘born in utter sin’ (9:34)? He must follow where the truth leads, even if those who were supposed to know the truth are suppressing it. Now his spiritual eyes were opened, he believed that the one who addressed him was the one who had healed him, namely Jesus, the Savior. In response the man worshiped Jesus. Now, at last, the “work of God” (v. 3) was displayed in this man. His physical blindness resulted in spiritual sight. And God was glorified.
Jesus comes to us in our sin, our blindness, our darkness. He comes to us when we are blind and helpless. And he comes to give us sight and to bring light into the darkness of our hearts. He comes with compassion. He desires to show us mercy. Spiritual sight sees what Jesus is doing and draws the correct conclusion about who Jesus is and what he came to do. It may be surprising; it may upset some cherished assumptions; it may even be shocking. But when blind eyes are being opened there is only one conclusion to be drawn. Jesus is doing things for which the only explanation is that God is powerfully at work.
Jesus is our great physician. He is the specialist for spiritual sight. He gives sight to the blind, and what makes the difference is his Word. The same Word which was uttered in the beginning and created all things, that is the same Word which comes and recreates you. What was so special about the pool of Siloam? It wasn’t simply water, but water combined with the Word of Jesus. The same as in Baptism. It’s not simple water only, but water that is joined to God’s Word and combined with His command. By the Word the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the poor hear good news, the dead are raised, sinners are justified for Jesus’ sake. Through God’s Word you continue to be called out of darkness into Christ’s marvellous light. It is his Word that tells you of Jesus, that though he was despised and rejected, yet he is Savior and Redeemer and Messiah. It is Jesus’ Word that promises you eternal life, because through his death and resurrection the reign of darkness is ended and new creation established. The Holy Spirit brings you to faith in Jesus as your Savior. He leads you to a recognition of your sins, your depravity, your need for forgiveness. As a “lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Pe 1:19) the Spirit uses the Word of God as a bright torch to direct sinners in the way of truth.
This is why we need to continue to hear God’s Word during this present crisis. In this time when we cannot gather together around God’s Word, continuing to hear God’s Word is vitally important. Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). Jesus’ continues to be present wherever his Word is heard and proclaimed. During this time apart presence can be brought to our community and our families through the Word. Think of the hope and joy brought to the blind man when he was given spiritual sight. This same joy, hope, and faith comes through the work of the Christ’s Word. In the darkness of this world, in the darkness of our hearts the only thing which will bring the light of God’s grace and give sight to the blind is the Word. In this time apart let the light of God’s Word shine in your life and into the lives of your families and friends. Read your Bible, pray. Share the word in anyway you can. Take the extra time with your family to share the illumination of God’s Word.
As says St. Paul, we are no longer darkness but light. The light of God’s Word should serve to direct our every word, thought and deed. God’s Word is our standard. Christians will model their lives by it. Just like the morning sun dispels the darkness of the night, so the Son of God through the light of his Word enables us to discern between that which pleases the Lord and that which is a fruit of darkness. And now we are called to walk as children of the light.
In order to see Jesus, you must become blind. Blind to any notion that you can see God by your own reason, merits, or strength. That’s the paradox of faith. Before you can know anything about God, you must recognise you know nothing about God. Before you can see, you must recognise that you are blind to the Light that shines on you. You will see by hearing. And through the water and Word of your Baptism, you will see the Light of the world that has always been shining on you. Through the continuing proclamation of God’s Word you will see that Jesus is the Light of the world, the Light no darkness including your Sin and Death can overcome. And if by God’s grace you remain in the one, true, and saving faith until your death, one day you will see with new and resurrected eyes, and the sight will be glorious. But for now you must hear his Word, and in the hearing, believe and you will see.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.