Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Fourth Sunday in Lent (A)

March 30, 2014
Text: John 9:1-41

            The very same miracle that took place in our Holy Gospel we witnessed with our own eyes this morning at the baptismal font.  For as hard as it may be to believe, precious little Astrid, a true daughter of Adam and Eve, was born into this world spiritually blind, and worse, spiritually dead, and an enemy of God.  But the Lord Jesus sought her out, and mixing the Word of His mouth with common, earthly water, He washed her in the cleansing baptismal pool, washed all her sin away and gave her His Holy Spirit, so that her eyes are now open.  Now she can see.  He drowned her spiritually dead sinful nature, her Old Adam, and raised her up a new creation.  He turned her heart from enmity against God, to love for God and faith in Him as her Redeemer.  Notice who did all the work here.  It was Jesus.  Astrid did nothing but receive the water and hear the Word.  It is Jesus who works while it is day, before night comes and no man can work (John 9:4).  He does the work of the Father who sent Him, and the work of His Father is this, that Astrid and the man born blind and you believe in Him whom the Father has sent (John 6:29).
            The word “Siloam” means “sent”.  Jesus is the One sent by the Father to cleanse us from our sins.  Jesus is the true Pool of Siloam in which Astrid and the man in our text and you wash that we may receive spiritual sight which looks to Jesus, the author and perfecter or our faith, who for the joy set before Him in redeeming Astrid and the blind man and you, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God.  That is to say, the washing our Lord performs on us, washing in Christ, Baptism, gives us eyes to behold Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification, to believe and trust that all that He has done He has done for us and for our salvation.  In Baptism, Jesus gives us faith in Himself. 
            Now, to be sure, there was a physical healing that took place in our Holy Gospel.  The man literally was blind, from birth.  And Jesus literally spat on the ground and took mud and put it on the man’s eyes.  And the man went to the actual Pool of Siloam and literally washed in it and he who was once physically blind could now see.  But if that is the only miracle you see in our text, you are as blind as the Pharisees.  For the physical healing, as spectacular as it is, points to something even more significant.  Jesus cured the man of spiritual blindness.  Jesus gave the man faith in his Savior.  He gave the man a faith that could confess Christ even when it brought persecution, expulsion from the Synagogue, the shunning of the community, even abandonment by his own parents.  That’s a miracle.  Who of you would suffer abandonment by your own parents for the sake of Christ?  Most likely you haven’t had to.  But many people have in the history of the Church.  Many still do today.  I’ve met some of them.  God grant us the same faith if we are called upon to suffer such a cross.
            And He will.  Such faith has to come from Him.  He’s the only One who can open our eyes, our eyes that have been spiritually blind from birth.  He’s the only One who can open them so that we see Him as God in the flesh come to save us from our sins, from death, and from eternal damnation.  He does it by pouring out His Spirit upon us, again, in Baptism.  That is what St. Paul writes in his letter to Titus: “he saved us… by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6; ESV).  This is what we confess with Dr. Luther in the Small Catechism, that “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts,” the gifts He pours out on us in the washing of regeneration in Baptism, as well as the precious Word of God and the Supper of Jesus’ Body and Blood.  What does it mean to enlighten but to bring us to see what we once could not see?  When you are surrounded by darkness, you cannot see the perils that surround you.  You cannot know whether you are safe or in danger.  You cannot know if you are on the right path, or if you have strayed.  And you do not know what predators may be stalking you.  The same is true of the spiritual darkness, the blindness in which you were born.  When you are in the dark spiritually, you think you see perfectly, as was the case with the Pharisees in our text.  But you are blissfully unaware of the perils with which you are surrounded.  You cannot see the danger.  You do not understand that the path you are on, paved with good intentions as it may be, is a path to hell.  And you do not see that the devil himself is stalking you, prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour you (1 Peter 5:8).  But when you are washed in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit comes and turns on the Light of His Word, all is exposed.  Now you know the danger.  And the thing about the Lord is, He doesn’t just leave you there to fight your way back to the right path, escape the danger, slay the lion, or any of that.  That would be salvation by works.  No, even as He exposes the danger to you, He swoops you up in His pierced hands and rescues you and sets you on the path of eternal life: Himself.  What does He say in our Old Testament?  “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” (Is. 42:16).  St. Paul points out in our Epistle that you were once utterly lost in the dark.  But no more, now that Christ has rescued you.  “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8).
            There is a warning to be heeded here, though.  “Walk as children of the light,” Paul says (v. 8).  “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (v. 11).  The warning is this.  While it is true that God does everything in terms of brining you to faith and enlightening you, that you could not by your own strength fight your way out of the darkness, it is also true that you can go back to the darkness any time you want.  But you do so to your own mortal peril.  There are many ways that we flirt with the darkness.  Even we Christians who have been regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit.  The old sinful nature in us still stares longingly into the dark.  We stare at the things of this world as if they can make us happy.  We stare at the false god mammon, as if it can fulfill us.  We stare at illicit images on television and computer screens, coveting flesh for selfish satisfaction, exploiting precious human beings for whom Christ died.  We stare into our own heart and bow down before the chief god in our pantheon of idols, the self.  We stare at all of these things, and take our eyes off of Christ crucified.  Beloved, those things are darkness!  It’s all an illusion.  Satan is behind those things ready to pounce.  Repent.  That’s not who you are anymore.  Jesus has saved you from those things, delivering you from the overpowering darkness of evil.  The light only comes from one place.  Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, and He sheds His light abroad in His precious means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments.  Don’t take your eyes off of Christ.  For He has opened your eyes to see only Him.  He has given you sight.  He has raised you up from the dead and given you life, as we heard in our Epistle: Christ says to you, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (v. 14). 

            As with the man born blind, the Lord Jesus comes to you right where you are in your blindness, bringing with Him His healing, salvation, and life.  As with little Astrid this morning, the Lord Jesus comes to you right where you are in your helplessness, as an infant, anointing you with His saliva (His Word) and the stuff of this earth (water from the tap, thin and sticky wafers of bread, and wine from regular earthly grapes).  And all at once what was common is now holy and full of Christ.  It brings you healing and forgiveness.  He washes you and you are clean from the guilt of your transgressions.  He washes you and you can see.  And what you see is this: He has rescued you from sin.  He has rescued you from death.  He has rescued you from that roaring old serpent, the devil.  And He has made you His own, covered you in His blood, anointed you with His Spirit, made you God’s own child.  If you don’t think that’s a miracle, that you have come to see all this, just take a look around you in the world.  Most people, even religious people, think such grace on the part of God laughable, a scandal, a great big joke.  But you see what they cannot.  Not because you are any better than they are.  You, too, were once darkness.  No, it is simply because of this: Jesus Christ has opened your eyes.  Now you are light in the Lord.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.            


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