Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Fourth Sunday in Lent (A)
March 2, 2008
Text: John 9:1-41

Divine healing is a messy thing. Jesus Christ is the light of the world (John 9:5), but He is not ashamed to get down and dirty when it comes to those in need of His healing touch. In the case of the blind man in our text, Jesus very well could have just said, “Be healed,” or “Receive your sight,” as He did on other occasions. As true God in human flesh, Jesus has that authority. But instead He chooses to get dirty. He chooses to use lowly, earthy means. “Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud” (v. 6; ESV). It’s really kind of gross when you think about it. Jesus rubs mud made from His own spit into the eyes of the blind man. If drinking from the chalice makes you squirm, imagine how this guy felt! Divine healing is a messy thing, because sickness is messy, and the cause of sickness is messy, the messiest: Sin.

The disciples want to know if this man’s blindness was caused by his own sin or that of his parents. But they ask the wrong question. Now it is true that sometimes our sins bring on adverse consequences, diseases, injuries, blindness, and even death, but it is also true that many times these adverse consequences come upon us without any direct correlation to a specific actual sin. But in every case, they are a result of original sin, the disease with which the whole human race is infected, including you and me and the man born blind and the disciples and everybody who has ever lived or ever will live, with the one exception of Jesus Christ. In the case of the man born blind, it is not one specific actual sin that caused his blindness, either on his own part or on the part of his parents, but the disease of original sin. But here is an example of God working all things to the good of His elect. Jesus says to His disciples, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3). In other words, as is often, or in fact, always, the case, God has a higher purpose in mind for the suffering of His children, namely, their benefit and the glory of God. Even though suffering has its root cause in original sin, God uses even this suffering for His purposes. And in the case of the man born blind, God’s purpose is to heal his physical blindness so that the man may also be healed of his spiritual blindness and come to faith in Jesus Christ, and that many more who read about the healing of that man in the Holy Scriptures likewise be healed of their spiritual blindness and come to faith in Jesus Christ.

But its messy business, this healing of Jesus Christ. The blind man sees. But it gets messier, and now I’m talking about spiritual messiness, not just mud and spit in your eyes. The Pharisees are the spiritual leaders of the Jews in Jesus’ day. They are the teachers of the Law. If anyone should have spiritual sight, it should be the Pharisees. But what is their response when the neighbors of the man born blind bring him before the Pharisees? They are aghast that Jesus should perform a healing on the Sabbath. They turn over any and every stone in their search for some explanation for the man’s healing other than Jesus’ divinity, for as the Pharisees said, He can’t be from God, for He breaks the Sabbath (v. 16). They even search out the man’s parents and question them under the threat of being put out of the synagogue: “‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’” (v. 19). The parents answer from fear. They know that whoever confesses Jesus to be the Christ will be punished. But they do know this: their son was born blind, but now he sees. So the Pharisees have run into a real sticky wicket, for as others among their ranks point out, “‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ And there was division among them” (v. 16). The man born blind sees. The men who are supposed to have the most acute spiritual vision are nothing more than blind leaders of the blind, causing both to fall into the pit of hell (Matt. 15:14). They threaten to persecute those who receive sight from Jesus, but they themselves are blind. “For judgment I cam into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” (John 9:39). Not only is the healing of Jesus Christ messy, it does its work by revealing to us just how messy sin has made us.

But it gets even messier. The Pharisees confront the man born blind once again, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner” (v. 24). This, of course, is blasphemy against the Son of God. But all the man born blind knows is that he once was blind, now he sees. He has been given sight by Jesus of Nazareth. In the face of persecution, he confesses the healing he has received from Jesus. “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind” (vv. 31-32). Come on, you Pharisees, are you really that blind?! Surely you must see the handwriting on the wall. If Jesus were not from God, how could he do such miracles? The man whom Jesus had given physical sight was beginning to receive from Jesus also spiritual sight. And this got him thrown out of the Synagogue. The seeing blind ones reject the blind man who sees.

Jesus does not reject him, however. He seeks out the man born blind to finish the job of giving him spiritual sight. Remember, this has been the purpose of his physical blindness from the beginning. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (v. 35), asks Jesus. Do you believe in the Christ, the Messiah of God? The man is confused, but he knows that this One who has given him sight would not mislead him. He wants to know who this Son of Man is. He wants to receive spiritual sight in the same way he has received his physical sight. “‘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’” (vv. 36-37; emphasis added). At that moment the man born blind, the man born spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God, came to faith in Jesus Christ. His spiritual eyes were opened. He received eternal life. Being justified by faith, he received peace with God through his Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

Our lives, too, are messy with sin, and we need the messy divine healing that only Jesus can give. The problem is, we, too, are blind. We, too, are born spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. And if we fail to confess our blindness, we are like the Pharisees. If you say to yourselves and to others, “‘We see,’ your guilt remains” (v. 41). But if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. If you confess your blindness, God is faithful and just to give you sight by the power of His Holy Spirit, so that you may see Jesus, whose blood cleanses you from all sin. Don’t be like the Pharisees. Humble yourselves and be like the man born blind. Confess your blindness. Jesus will open your eyes so that you see Him, the Son of Man, the Christ, and despite the rejection of the whole world and the persecution of the devil himself, Jesus will never reject you. Those who have eyes to see, let them see. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. Jesus died for you, for your forgiveness. His blood is the medicine for your sin. It is the medicine for all that ails you. It is the medicine that restores you. Its messy. You have to know that going into it. Its messy with the blood and death of the Son of God. Its messy because it confronts messy sin head on. It doesn’t excuse sin or sweep it under the rug. It obliterates sin with the forgiveness Jesus has won for you on the cross. And its messy because this medicine doesn’t come in the way we might expect. Jesus could just tell us to be healed, but he doesn’t. He has that authority, but instead He chooses to use means. Just as He used mud and spit to heal the man born blind, He uses the means of grace to heal us: His holy Word, the cleansing water of Baptism, a sinful pastor to speak His holy Word of forgiveness over sinners, the bread and wine which are His true body and blood. Its hard to believe these things are the vehicles of God’s grace in Christ. But they convey to us the very medicine of immortality, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

What is the mess in your life? What havoc has been wrought by your spiritual blindness? Sin has caused your mess. But whatever your mess is, Jesus alone can give you sight, and Jesus alone can clean up the mess. Perhaps it is substance abuse. Perhaps it is sexual impurity. Perhaps it is a broken relationship. Perhaps it is laziness at work, greed, covetousness, lust, and any combination of these things. Whatever it is, Jesus comes before you this morning to give you the medicine of immortality, to clean you up, to heal you, to forgive you, to set you right again with His forgiveness and life. His death and resurrection are your healing and power. Jesus says to you this morning, “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them” (Is. 42:16). Jesus’ Word is a lamp for your feet and a light for your path (Ps. 119:105). Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome, the light that gives light to every man. He has made you children of the light, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). He has given you the light of faith and salvation. There is nothing left to do but confess Him before men, bear the cross of rejection, and walk as children of the light, knowing that you belong to Christ, who will never reject you, even if He has to get dirty to clean you up. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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