4th Sunday in Lent – A LSB #611
Text – John 9:2
And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
This is now the 3rd Sunday we’ve focused on the Gospel of John for the sermon, so I’m wondering if you noticed this. Instead of giving an overview of Jesus’ ministry, or focusing on the big things, like His birth, death & resurrection, John takes us into the heart of Jesus’ work. He’s practical & down to earth. He gets into the details of personal encounters with Messiah.
Two weeks ago it was Jesus & Nicodemus. Last Sunday was Jesus & the Samaritan woman. In the Gospel lesson today, it is Jesus & the man born blind. In these small, intimate moments, John offers a vision of how God works in the world, personally & individually, then & now. Today’s lesson began simply: “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.”
I’d like you to stop & think how profound this is. The almighty God sees a man. We struggle to ‘see’ a person. We see things – not people. We see the Rolex watch yet fail to see the broken marriage. We see the permanent smirk, like that of the Covington High School student, at the 2019 March for Life, but how many saw him as a person?
It’s difficult. When the disciples see this blind man, what do they see? They see a problem, not a person. Listen to what they tell Jesus: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” For the disciples, he’s only a teaching moment, a topic of discussion that has reduced this human being, one of God’s creation, to a theological dilemma.
The disciples believe they’re contemplating a great theological question. Yet, their theology takes them away from the world. So, they stand at a distance from a person, observing the man, but not seeing him; talking about him but not with him. They do not see him. They do not speak to him. They don’t touch him. They don’t put shoes on his feet or a piece of bread in his hand. They do not lead him to Jesus. They stand apart from the world & attempt to talk theology with their teacher. But Christ, the very Son of God, does something different. He sees the man & He sees this man as part of a larger story.
The disciples were writing a story that was far too small. It was a only story of sin & punishment from God. This man was blind, & someone must have been at fault. Either he sinned or his parents, & God punished the sin with blindness.
I don’t know if you’ve encountered people who tell the Christian story that way. It is only a story of sin & an angry God. We become the morality police in the world. We’re here to tell people how everyone sinned, & God is punishing them. We’re here to discipline rather than to disciple. We police the world instead of participate in the good life God has given.
On the other hand, Jesus sees this man as part of a much greater story, one of creation & restoration. Jesus knows that history does not begin with sin but with creation. It does not end with punishment but with restoration in Christ. When the story begins in creation & ends in restoration, all the moments in between are filled with the working of God.
Yahweh sends His Son to take His broken creation & fashion it into a new one. Jesus looks at this man & sees him as part of that greater story. Jesus says to the disciples, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3 ESV) Then, Jesus stops talking theology & begins living it.
Jesus kneels on the ground & begins to create again. He spits & makes mud from the dust of the earth. Forming it. Fashioning it. Putting it on the man’s eyes. Then speaks to him & says, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” (John 9:7 ESV) This one who said, “Before Abraham was, I Am,” now shows just how far back He goes. He was there at the 1st creation, forming a world that was fantastic, & fashioning beautiful creatures to live in that world. The One, who was there at the original creation, has become part of creation. He’s working to restore His broken world. He will take this man & give him sight. That is His work, & He’s willing to die to accomplish it. In fact, by dying He will do even greater things than these.
Jesus did not come to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. He will capture our sin & condense it into His death. Then He will rise to create new life – life for this man who was born blind, & life for you.
What a blessing it is for Jesus to reveal Himself like this today. And how easy it is, in our sinfulness, to reduce God’s story to sin & punishment; to see problems instead of people. How effortless & 2nd nature it is to take a colorful world & reduce it to black & white until the only thing people hear from the Church is sin & punishment.
In our sinfulness, how easy it is to see the disruptions caused by the virus & do nothing but complain or point fingers. How effortless it is to question God’s love in a time when the world we have constructed is so disrupted. How quickly we forget that God uses our struggles to turn us away from what we have created, so that we finally return to Him.
Through His personal interaction with the man born blind, Jesus today comes to you through His life-creating Word & gives you a glimpse of a much greater story. By the application of God’s water to our dust, you & I have been baptized into the death & resurrection of Jesus. His Word & His water have made you & me into a new creation – children of God.
In Jesus Christ, you are dead to sin & alive to the heavenly Father. You are not slaves to sin but children of God, recipients of His righteousness. In this Gospel reading from John, Jesus opened the door of His Father’s Kingdom & gives us a glimpse of His greater work. He teaches us to live, not by the littleness of our minds (talking about people), but by the greatness of His Kingdom, talking & working with people, “…that the works of God might be displayed.” By now, all of us have been affected by the coronavirus, even if we haven’t gotten the disease. The events of the Gospel of John are recorded to reassure us that Jesus sees each one of us, not as problems. Jesus sees you & me personally, as individual children of the heavenly Father.
Yes, He might not be miraculously healing you as you wish, but God your Creator, does not simply see you as a problem. He called you His child at baptism & is still calling you His child today. He may not have erased your illnesses, or the trials you face, but He has erased the end result of them. The only death that truly matters is the eternal one, & it has been defeated.
On Easter morning, Jesus crossed over to the other side of death. The new creation has begun. Death can no longer hold you. When you are born of the Spirit, the new you has begun, even before you physically die. Once born of the Spirit you are then part of that greater story which our heavenly Father is writing. He is writing names in the Book of Life.
Since God is in control of everything, even the coronavirus must submit to the will of our Lord & Savior. The goal of His will on earth is not that we discover “who sinned,” but that the world will one day know “who is saved.” At the resurrection that will be made known to all.
The man who was born blind was given sight, but the even bigger deal, is that through Jesus he was born of the Spirit. So was the Samaritan woman, & Nicodemus as well. Jesus sees your heart & soul too, not just your problems. He longs for you to turn back from your ways & follow Him to eternal life. That is a giant & beautiful & yet very personal story. Amen.
Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed His blood for me, died that I might live on high, lives that I might never die. As the branch is to the vine, I am His, & He is mine. Oh, the height of Jesus’ love, higher than the heavens above, deeper than the depths of sea, lasting as eternity! Love that found me – wondrous thought! Found me when I sought Him not. O my Savior, help afford by Your Spirit & Your Word! When my wayward heart would stray, keep me in the narrow way; grace in time of need supply while I live & when I die. Amen. LSB 611:1-2, 5.
 John 9:3
Pastor Dean R. Poellet