4th Sunday in Lent
March 26, 2017
“What Do You Say About Him?”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us today are portions of John chapter 9, the assigned Gospel lesson as was read earlier.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
As many of you know, I haven’t always been a pastor. I will turn 50 years old this summer and have my 14th ordination anniversary, so do the math. For 10 years I worked in the pharmaceutical industry. For 2 of those 10 years I worked in the tablet coating department. We applied sugar and film coatings to tablets to mask the taste and aid in digestion. One of the main chemicals used in the film coating process is Methylene Chloride. If you look at a safety sheet for Methylene Chloride, it says in big letters: WARNING! HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED, INHALED OR ABSORBED THROUGH SKIN. CAUSES IRRITATION TO SKIN, EYES AND RESPIRATORY TRACT. MAY CAUSE CANCER. Direct contact with the skin and eyes is very bad; it causes irritation, redness, pain and prolonged contact causes burns. It’s good stuff; so glad I work with it…for 2 years!
I told you that to tell you this. One night I was making a tank of coating solution (no safety goggles on, of course) and some Methylene Chloride splashed out of the tank and right into my eye. After being treated on the job and in the local ER, I went home with a chemically-burned eye under an eye patch wondering if I had lost my sight in that eye. After 2-3 days I healed just fine and my sight was restored; thanks be to God!
Along those same lines, John chapter 9 is a lengthy account of another of Jesus’ healing narratives in which He heals someone’s sight; He restores sight to a man blind from birth. In the Holy Scripture, Jesus performs more miracles of this kind than any other. Giving sight to the blind was one of the activities foretold of the Messiah (Isaiah 29:18, 35:5), thus these healing accounts are proof of Jesus’ messiahship. But that’s not what this text is about. It’s about being blind versus having sight and what that means for the Kingdom of God.
In today’s lesson, this is no chemical burn. We see a man blind from birth, and this was a real problem…for others. There was a felt belief at that time, and maybe some of it has carried over still today, that terrible punishments come upon people as a result of their own sin or the sin of the parents. The popular belief was that since this baby was blind, the parents must have sinned greatly against God for God to punish them with a blind child. Maybe that is what people still think today – that God punishes people because of their wickedness. I guess I have heard comments to this effect. The events of 9/11 and the attack on the Orlando nightclub and the flooding of New Orleans were the result of God’s wrath against idolatry and sinful behavior in general. If you think that…don’t…because that’s not true. God’s wrath against sin, which is great, has already been poured out, but we’ll talk about that more in a minute or two.
Don’t get caught up in the spit or the mud or the pool or any of the minutia of the healing. Jesus is trying to teach His people on a much deeper level about sight versus blindness, that is, spiritual sight versus spiritual blindness, which is why the Pharisees are involved. The Pharisees had a strong adherence to religious tradition – much of it man-made – which they tried to obey rigorously and expected everyone else to do the same. The Pharisees could see physically, but spiritually they were blind as bats! They longed for the coming Messiah, yet could not see Him as He stood in front of them. Rather than accept this miracle in their midst, they quarreled with the man and even with his parents and, ultimately, with Jesus Himself.
The healed man confessed what he knew to the Pharisees, “Whether (Jesus) is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (v. 25). We too confess what we know; that Jesus Christ was conceived, born, suffered, was crucified, dead, was buried, and on the third day rose again and one day will return. This is the core of our redeeming faith; it is the eternal truth that allows us to have spiritual sight in a spiritually blind world. The Pharisees asked the healed man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” (v. 17). Good question, folks. What do YOU say about him?
Jesus asked the man born blind, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (v. 35). Good question. Do YOU believe in Jesus Christ, Son of Man and Son of God? Yet, even if you said “yes,” you should realize that bad things still happen to us in life and they happen to others, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist and it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love you or care about you. Know also that God is not punishing us. Romans 8:28 teaches: “And we know that, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). God’s wrath against sin was drained out upon Jesus at the cross; God doesn’t punish us, rather, these things happen so that, as Jesus said, the works of God might be displayed in our lives (v. 3). What does that mean?
Well, today’s Second Lesson teaches, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). When we walk as children of light we endure the sufferings and hardships that come our way because we walk by the light of Jesus Christ. When we walk as children of light we do the work of Him who sent us (v. 4), because we have a mission to tell the world of the light for this spiritually blind and dead world, who is Jesus Christ. When we walk as children of the light, we live by our faith, and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), because physical sight leads us the wrong direction. Our spiritual sight – faith – helps us to see the love of God in Christ Jesus, who is the light of the world. When we walk as children of light we fear, love, and trust in God alone and we love our neighbor as ourselves, doing what we can to show them the love of God in Christ Jesus who is the light of the world.
Whatever hardships and trials and tests and failures may come our way in life, even if it’s physical blindness, we can still walk as children of light. Even through something as traumatic as pain or loneliness or addiction or debt or uncertainty or grief or doubts about ourselves or even blindness, God still uses you to bring forth light. He gives spiritual sight that we may not partake of the works of darkness in this world, but rather our days would bring light and glory to His name forever and ever. And oh yeah, put your safety glasses on for crying out loud, people. It’s dangerous out there.