Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Fourth Sunday in Lent


Fourth Sunday in Lent (A)
April 3, 2011
Text: John 9:1-41

The sinful flesh of man, including your own sinful flesh, believes it has 20/20 vision when it comes to spiritual matters. This is why it is impolite for a dinner guest to bring up the topic of religion. Because some at the table might disagree. And the sinful flesh of each individual believes it possesses a corner on religious truth, all protests to the contrary aside. “At least for me, I believe, according to my sinful flesh, that I know what is spiritually true for me, and no one had better say otherwise.” Not even God. Not even the Scriptures. With regard to spiritual matters, you and I and all other sinners declare, “We see” (John 9:41; ESV). And when we say this, our guilt remains. For we are utterly blind. We are born spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. There is no way to make ourselves see. We cannot improve our spiritual eyesight. We cannot bring ourselves to see the truth of God. We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in our Lord Jesus Christ or come to Him. The Holy Spirit must call us by the Gospel and enlighten us with His gifts. Jesus Himself must restore our sight, that in Him we may behold the love of the Father who gave His only Son into death for us. On our own, we are in bondage to our blind self-deception, to sin and to death. But when the Holy Spirit leads us by the preaching of the Law to recognize our blindness, then a miracle happens. By the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our eyes are opened. We were blind from birth, but now we see.

There is a double-miracle in this morning’s Gospel lesson. For when Jesus encounters the man born blind, He would give so much more to this man than simply physical sight, as great a blessing as that is. Jesus would give this man the eyes of faith, eyes that see Jesus for who He is, the Son of God and our only Savior from spiritual blindness, sin, and death. The first miracle is the physical sight that Jesus bestows, and this shows us that our Lord cares for our bodies as well as our souls. We dare never think that God is unconcerned with our physical well-being. He comes to us in the flesh, after all, in the incarnation of Jesus, and through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, He has redeemed us, body and soul. When Jesus encounters the man born blind, He recognizes this as an occasion wherein the works of God might be displayed (v. 3). Therefore spitting on the ground and making mud with His saliva, He rubs it in the man’s eyes. Gross? Disgusting? Maybe, but this is always how our Lord works, through common and unexpected means, means that give offense to our blind sinful flesh that would prefer to see Jesus work in a more “spiritual” way. Jesus “anoints” the man’s eyes with mud and spit, and we wonder why He does this instead of just waving His hands around and saying some magic words. Jesus works through means. He works on the man with mud and spit. He works on us with words and water and bread and wine. Our objections to the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, are the same as our objections to the mud and spit. It’s too ordinary. It’s not “spiritual” enough. It’s an offense. It doesn’t make sense to our all-seeing sinful flesh. We can’t see why our Lord, in His wisdom, would work through such foolish means. But here He does, and the man sees. The Creator of heaven and earth and all that is in them fashions new eyes for the man born blind.

And what Jesus does for the man physically, He later does for him spiritually. For this man, along with all other men, was also born spiritually blind. Jesus is not content simply to restore his physical sight. Jesus wills to give this man the eyes of faith. After the man has miraculously received his eyesight, the Pharisees, in their blindness, throw him out of the synagogue. They excommunicate him. After all, nothing good can come from this Jesus who breaks the Sabbath and the other traditions of the fathers and claims to be God in the flesh! Cast out of the congregation, this man is lost. Jesus finds him. The man does not find Jesus, Jesus finds the man. And here He performs the second miracle. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks him. “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. 35-37; emphasis added). And with that, the man is given spiritual sight. Jesus opens his eyes of faith. Once again Jesus works through means, namely, the means of His Word. “You have seen Him,” says Jesus, and immediately the man sees Jesus for who He is, for the Word of the Lord is always performative, it always does what it says. The Word gives birth to spiritual sight (faith), which leads to confession and worship. “He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him” (v. 38). The man born blind did not come to this faith on his own. He could not by his own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, his Lord, or come to Him. He was blind. But the Lord opened his eyes by the Gospel. Now the man sees and believes.

Beloved in the Lord, the same miracle has been done to you. You were born blind, but Jesus has opened your eyes of faith by sending His Holy Spirit. The Lord opens your eyes through means as common, and perhaps as disturbing, as mud and spit. He pours water on your head, the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word, and you believe. He speaks through an ordinary, sinful, weak man and your sins are forgiven. You read words on a page from an ordinary book and suddenly there is light in the darkness. You eat a thin, tasteless wafer of bread and take a little sip of wine, and you’ve received the true body and blood of Christ into your mouth for your forgiveness and life. It’s an offense to the unbelieving world and even to your own sinful flesh, that this is how Jesus works, that God has bound Himself to these ordinary things. But the Holy Spirit has opened your eyes through these means so that you believe in Jesus Christ and see that Christ is truly present for you in these means, really speaking to you, really washing you, really forgiving you, really feeding you with His very real body and blood. You could not have come to this conclusion by your own reason or strength. But the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel and enlightened you with His gifts.

This is of vital importance for you. This is a matter of your eternal life and death. “For at one time you were darkness,” unbelieving, in bondage to the devil, spiritually dead, a lover of sin, “but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). The Lord has enlightened you. You became a child of the light in Baptism. The Lord has rescued you from darkness. You have received the gift of faith from the Lord. You are no longer in bondage, but have been freed to love God and to do good works in love toward your neighbor. You have been brought to new life, reborn in the baptismal water. Now you love the good, for you love the God who alone is good, and who has redeemed you by the blood of His Son. Therefore you now walk as children of the light, bearing fruit in all that is good and right and true (v. 9). You no longer walk in the works of darkness, the passions of the flesh, in idolatrous unbelief, blindness. You were lost, but Jesus found you and opened your eyes. You once were blind, but now you see.

And your eyes of faith being open, you sing with King David, “My eyes are ever toward the LORD” (Ps. 25:15). He alone is your help in every time of need. He alone is your salvation. Again, you sing with King David, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Ps. 27:4). For you know that here, in the house of the LORD, is where He distributes His sight-bestowing and sight-sustaining gifts. Faith gazes upon the beauty of the LORD where He is present, bodily, for you.

And this faith, this spiritual sight, leads to confession and worship. You confess Christ as He dwells in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16). You confess the Creed. You sing the liturgy and hymns. You worship. You give thanks and praise to the God of all grace. And you go out and live your daily life, in your daily vocations, in praise of the God who opened your eyes and made you His own. There is a reason that John does not name the man born blind in our text. Because you are the man. Whoever this man historically was, John would have you read yourself into this text. This morning Jesus extends His healing hand to you to anoint you with His scandalous means of grace. This morning He opens your eyes, that you may behold Him, the Son of Man, your Savior and your Lord. And in beholding Him by faith, you have eternal life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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