The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
Why? That’s a very simple, yet very profound question, isn’t it? This question is so simple that you don’t ever have to teach kids to ask it. By nature, it’s just a part of who they are. “Why is the grass green? Why is the sky blue? Why can’t we do this? Why do we have to do that?” I’d like to say that we eventually grow out of this inquisitive stage, but we don’t. “Why” is just a part of who we are too. What’s interesting to me is the fact that we don’t really understand just how much of a role this simple question plays in our lives. We can get by without ever really having to know “who, what, when, and where.” We have to know “why” though. “Why did this happen?” We need to know. Of course, there are always those times in life when we feel like we don’t need to know why. As far as we’re concerned, we already have all the necessary facts. We know why, at least, we think we do.
As we look to the Gospel lesson for this morning, we hear the disciples expressing this same sort of brash confidence. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Notice: They don’t ask why the man was born blind. As far as they’re concerned, they already know why—sin. What they want to know is where to place the blame—on the man himself or on mom and dad. Those are the only two logical reasons, right? Either the man is being punished with blindness because he’s a sinful degenerate or he’s being punished for the sins of the parents. Either/or, but those are the only two options.
What’s ironic here is the fact that the disciples are the ones who are blind to the reality of the situation. They’re the ones who are blind to the ways and will of their heavenly Father. As far as they’re concerned, this man’s blindness is an either/or result of someone’s sin. What they don’t understand, and what Jesus makes clear, is the fact that this isn’t an either/or, both/and sort of situation. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Now, if you’ve been worshiping with us on Wednesday evenings, you’ll immediately recognize this as the definition of a miracle. Jesus makes clear that there is clearly a third option when it comes to this man’s condition. He’s not blind because he committed some terrible sin. He’s not blind because mom and dad were terrible, degenerate sinners. He’s blind because God is going to use his blindness to make His glory known and visible to everyone.
Before we go any further, it is important to take a moment to clarify what this means, and more importantly, to clarify what this doesn’t mean. This doesn’t mean that God caused this man to be born blind all so that He could capitalize on the suffering. “I need to drum up business. I’ll make this man suffer in blindness so I can come along later as the knight in shining armor and save the day. That should be good for a nice attendance boost.” That would make God out to be a vengeful, almost sick and twisted kind of god; a god who makes people suffer so He can puff Himself up and make everyone afraid of Him. That’s a bully. That’s a charlatan; a con artist. That’s not God—not the God of Scripture at least.
Now, it is important to point out that the disciples were correct in their diagnosis…sort of. The man was blind because of sin. That doesn’t mean that he’s being punished for any particular sin. It only means that blindness is one of the many different symptoms of the deadly condition of sin—a condition that affects and infects every man, woman, and child. Blindness is just one symptom, but there are many—anger, malice, discontent, sickness, calamity…all symptoms of the deadly disease that is sin. Remember: Sin is not just what you do. Sin is who you are, by nature. By virtue of your conception by a sinful mom and a sinful dad, you too are sinful. Two wrongs don’t make a right! What symptoms plague you?
This is one of those cases where God is making the most of a bad, sinful situation. God didn’t cause the blindness, but He does use this man’s blindness as a way of demonstrating His almighty glory and power to all those around. God is stronger than blindness. He’s stronger than death. He’s stronger than sin, and He was going to give people a glimpse of this power and glory. Everyone knew this blind guy. Everyone knew he truly was born blind. This wasn’t an act or a fraud. God uses this man’s cross of blindness to demonstrate to everyone around that this man—this Jesus of Nazareth—was truly almighty God in the flesh. Just as Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah 700 years earlier, the blind were receiving the gift of sight from the Messiah. Too bad many of the people who witnessed this very profound miracle were themselves blind (and deaf) to the Messianic, almighty reality standing right before them.
“Okay, but what does this have to do with me today pastor? That’s all good and fine and wonderful that this man received his sight through the working of Christ’s miracle. It’s wonderful that this same man was brought to faith through this miracle. It’s a terrible shame that others rejected this miracle and rejected Christ. But what does all this have to do with me? I believe. I know who Christ is. I know what He can do.” Well I have no doubt that you do, indeed, believe like you say you do, I want to remind you that we still carry the same cross of sinful, selective blindness that those first disciples did.
How many of you, when things go south in the life, whether its with you or with someone close to you, wonder what was done to make God angry? How many of you, when things go south in life, turn your eyes to heaven and ask God, “Why? Why are you doing this to me? Why am I being punished? What have I done to earn such a raw deal? What can I do to make things right? Why me?”
Why not you! Remember: Sin isn’t just what you do; it’s who you are, by nature. As we confessed at the very beginning of this service, we are by nature, sinful and unclean. Because of our sin, we deserve nothing but present and eternal punishment. You weren’t just going through the motions and giving God lip service, were you? You did mean what you said, right? It’s easy to say, isn’t it? It’s incredibly hard to believe and live though.
We do deserve nothing but death and damnation, not just because of the sins we do, but because of the fallen deaf, dumb, and blind sinners that we are, by nature, from cradle to grave. Folks: This is why God gave His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world. The wage of sin is death, and ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That ALL is pretty all-inclusive, isn’t it? That’s everyone—every man, woman, and child. And before anyone points the finger at anyone else, accusing them of being “worse sinners,” remember that God does not work on such a sinful, pride-stained scale. “I’m a sinner, but not as bad as that guy.” God says, “You’re all sinners. You’re all equally damned and worthy of nothing. Sin is sin is sin, and the wage of sin is death.”
And that should bring about repentant terror in your soul. There’s nothing—not one thing—that any of us can do, apart from Christ, that will merit forgiveness of one single sin—actual or original. That’s why God so loved and had compassion on the world—the whole world, not just those who’ve reached the age of pubescent accountability and have made the decision to be a Christian. He gave His one and only Son as an all-redeeming sacrifice for us. Again, that “all” is pretty all-inclusive, isn’t it? Christ Jesus paid the wage that we never could—paid in full with His life-blood.
My friends: That’s why we’re here today. That’s what “church” is all about. We’re here—we exist as a church—not because we want to be some tax-exempt, good-deed-doing, support group that offers free therapy and snacks, coffee, and babysitting, and a nice little tax deduction. That’s what a majority of our culture wants out of church. Christ-centered, grace alone-centered Christianity is being attacked and replaced nowadays with moralistic, therapeutic deism. I didn’t make that term up. Faithful theologians in all Christian denominations have been using this term for the past five to ten years. Many people don’t want the truth of sin and salvation anymore. The truth hurts. It offends. It makes us feel bad. Rather, people want to hear that they’re good moral people who get to go to heaven because they’re so good, and when things are tough, they can get a little free therapy in the name of Jesus, all so that the warm and fuzzy feeling they crave can be restored, and they can continue on their blind, ignorant way towards a cross-less, pain-free, warm and fuzzy Christianity.
That’s not us! We’re different. We exist here as this little congregation because we know and recognize the truth of our sin and the truth of Christ Jesus, who made complete atonement for each and every one of these deadly sins of ours. We know and trust Him when He says that these are the means He uses to make disciples of all nations. Not therapy. Not warm and fuzzy. Word and Sacrament. Doctrine and practice. This is the place where His divine means of grace are freely administered. By faith, this is where we see and hear Christ at work in our midst—Emmanuel. In the same way, we exist, not just to selfishly tend to ourselves, but to make Christ known to a world that doesn’t know Him or recognize Him. Everyone is sick. Everyone needs the cure that’s found only in the blood-stained cross of Christ. That’s what Christ is talking about when He says, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day.” Once the darkness of death sets in, your time is up. The daytime of life is over. The sun has set and there are no second chances. Kind of gives a certain sense of urgency when it comes to evangelism, doesn’t it? There are only so many hours in the day. This leads to a good question: What are you working in your daily life? What are you making known to the people around you—your selfish symptoms of sin or undeserved gift of life and salvation? God knows the truth.
And in this way, I want to be clear before we close that nobody ever said that being a faithful child of God in this life is going to be easy. Your “why God’s” betray you! As you already confessed, you don’t deserve anything but death and damnation. Do you believe it? Do you live it? Whether or not you’re just giving lip service, I am here to tell you that because of God’s grace—because of Christ alone—you are completely and fully redeemed. My prayer for you is that you no longer look at the many and various crosses we bear in this life as divine punishments for sin, but see them for what they really are: Divine opportunities that God uses to make His glory, His love, His compassion, and His unconditional mercy known to all He brings us into contact with. Why me? Why not me!
May God be able to work through you and reveal His glory through you, and not in spite of you. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
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