“A Necessary Journey… to Open Eyes” (March 15, 2020)

Sermon Text: John 9:1-7;13-17;34-39

Pastor Steven Hillmer

March 15, 2020 Worship Service on Youtube

Grace and peace are yours from Jesus who is the Light of the World, Amen.

From the time he left the Mt. of Transfiguration, it was clear that Jesus was on a mission. His preaching and teaching became more direct. His message of suffering and taking up one’s cross didn’t appeal to the large crowds; so too his disciples struggled to understand. As the plotting against him and his life intensified, it was clear that the blindness of sin was increasing. 

To be sure, people could still see Jesus with their eyes, but they were becoming more and more blind, more and more deaf, more and more hardened against Jesus. They were struggling to see Jesus for who he truly was and what he came to do. Sadly, they were stuck by their preconceived notions and ideals of what they thought the Messiah would come to do. That’s what makes the Gospel lesson for this Sunday both ironic and important.

Centuries have come and gone, and yet people are still struggling with the same blindness of the people in Jesus’ day. Our eyes too get crusted with the cataracts of sin. Our minds become clouded by the self-centered thoughts of crafting the kind of Savior we think we need in the moment. That’s why we need John chapter 9. We need to see Jesus upon this Journey – a necessary journey – to open our eyes to the truth and save us from the blindness that besets us. Our prayer this morning is just that: that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes to see the perfect Savior we have, to rejoice in the perfect healing he has given to us, and finally to set about using the eyes of faith our Savior has given us.

  1. See what Jesus sees

As Jesus made his journey to Jerusalem, it was no accident or coincidence that he crossed paths with this man born blind. See it through Jesus’ eyes – because he sees more than just a lifetime of physical challenges, he sees a hopeless, helpless, lost sinner. Some saw his blindness and tried to link it to a particular sin. Jesus clarified that misconception. Neither he nor his parents had committed a terrible sin that brought about a physical judgment of God. Quite the opposite! This physical blindness happened so that the grace of God might be revealed, so that blind unbelievers might, with open eyes of faith, see their Savior. This is what Jesus saw. 

This text has quite a few striking parallels. This man, blind from birth, had never seen a thing. Doctors couldn’t help him; there was no therapy, no surgery, no pills. What a parallel! The Scriptures make it plain that by nature, we are all born spiritually blind towards God, meaning we weren’t born with faith; instead we were born in unbelief. We could do nothing to open our own eyes. Instead, because of sin, our hearts rejected the Almighty God, refused to admit his claim on our lives, ignored God’s condemnation of our sin and scoffed at the consequences. Above, a blind, unbelieving heart laughs at the idea of the Son of God, born of a virgin, living a sinless life, dying on a cross and rising from the dead. To put it another way, an unbeliever wouldn’t know Jesus – if he walked up to him, spit in the dirt and put mud in his eyes. 

These are the effects of sin. Jesus knows it and he sees it, still today. He knows that the blindness of sin has infected this world far worse than a pandemic virus… for sin infects all people, not just a few cases here and there. We can’t be quarantined from sin; we can’t avoid it by staying home. No amount of handwashing can lower its infection rate. Sin brings death to all because all have sinned. 

The remedy: is Jesus! He is the great restorer of sight and healer of souls. Our Savior comes with complete cure. With a heart bleeding with compassion and love for our lost-ness and blindness, He didn’t spit and make mud this time, he took our burden of sin upon himself and nailed it to the cross. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, as God’s Word is proclaimed, as the waters of baptism flow, God opens our eyes to see that what Jesus accomplished on that cross, he did for me and for all. That’s no small miracle! And while it doesn’t make sense to our human logic, this was God’s plan of perfect healing all along.

  1. Rejoice in the gift of sight / faith

Speaking of doing things that don’t mesh with human logic, Jesus’ medical methodology is unique. The man, questioned by neighbors and interrogated twice by the Pharisees, replied, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and I see.” There was certainly no magic in the mud – it was all the might of the Messiah. 

Again, we have a parallel: our Savior’s method of healing in such a personal, hands-on fashion, using tangible, visible means. Today, Jesus comes to us in a visible tangible way, as Roger is baptized. The water isn’t holy water, dipped from the thawing O-con River; it came from sink in that room. In the same way, as we celebrate the Lord Supper – wine is purchase locally, and the wafers are shipped to us by FedEx. Tangible, real, visible, simple elements, but they are not alone. They are Connected with the WORD and used In Accordance with Christ’s command. Through the might of the Messiah, he restores our sight; he forgives our sins; he fills us with perfect peace! Through these means Jesus says to us very clearly, “You have now seen me, your Savior.”

For that man born blind, Jesus wasn’t done with him yet once he removed the physical blindness. The greater miracle was yet to happen. 35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

The doctor came looking for the patient. He made a necessary journey because there still was a need for a miracle. Jesus, using the Word of God, quoted a very familiar portion of the Old Testament book of Daniel. He asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Any self-respecting synagogue-going Jew would have instantly recognized that title as one which stands for the Prophesied Messiah. “Do I believe in him? Yes, indeed! Where is he? I want to see him!” Such are the questions of one who is no longer blind, but sees by faith and is overjoyed with any news of his coming. The only thing left for Jesus was to say so tenderly, “You have now seen Him!” 

Can you imagine that joy bursting in his heart to see – physically and spiritually – his Savior! His reaction is most fitting – worship and praise! Such is the reaction to God’s amazing grace still today! We’re here to worship. We’re here to sing God’s praises for what he has done in our lives! As we close worship today, we’ll sing these words, “I once was lost but now and found, was blind but now I see.” That’s the truth – and it’s a truth that resounds in our hearts each day. 

  1. Let us not take our sight / faith for granted

For as great a miracle as this was, it’s disheartening to see how many rejected this man, the miracle and above all, the Savior. Some were upset he was healed on the Sabbath. Others labeled Jesus a sinner because he broke the Sabbath rest. His parents feared the Pharisees when questioned about their son’s new sight; ashamed to be associated with Jesus of Nazareth. All these are clear examples of residual spiritual blindness – examples still seen today, examples which remind us that we cannot take our spiritual sight for granted, examples which remind us there’s work to be done – while it is still day.

Before he put mud on that man, Jesus said that this blindness happened so that the works of God would be revealed – and indeed they were. But there’s more. Jesus wants to engage US also in this blessed work of revealing the grace and power of God. Look carefully again at verse 4, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. Jesus says it is necessary for US to do the works of the one who sent him. God opens our eyes to save us, but then with opened eyes, God sends us out to work in his kingdom – and that work must go forward with urgency – because this world is full of spiritually blind people, helplessly heading on the path to eternal darkness – and they can’t see it. And night is coming; the Day of God’s Judgment is drawing near when we can no longer do this work.

We know that there is no self-cure for unbelief. We know that God has given us his tools and means to open eyes. Paul says so clearly in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and the message is heard through the word of Christ,” Go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching them…” Sharing God’s love with a friend, encouraging the family member who has stopped coming to worship, sharing family Bible reading time… it’s all doing the work of him who sent us while it is still day. Can you do that?  Indeed. Just look at the faith Jesus worked in that man; he had no qualms about testifying to others what Jesus did for him, even if it got him tossed out of the synagogue.

God’s Word still does that in our hearts, creating in us a “no fear” attitude to talk about what God has done in our lives. Does this mean that you now must become the greatest missionary since the Apostle Paul?  No – it just means we’re on the same team and Paul, and this healed man, and Jesus in sharing the glory of him who done amazing miracles in our life. He has given us sight to see the truth, faith to believe the truth and the zeal to share the truth of him whom we, by God’s grace, now see – our Savior Jesus. With this joy, let us continue to follow our Savior and tell others of his mighty works – for he is “The light of the world.” Amen.