In Nomine Jesu
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning’s message is based on the Gospel reading from John 9. It’s the account of Jesus’ healing of a man who was born blind and the Pharisees rejection of Jesus because He healed the man on the Sabbath.
Facebook, for good or ill, provides the opportunity to learn the views of a lot of different people, whether you agree them or not, or, for that matter, whether you even know them, or, not. In this case, I don’t know the man. The odds are pretty good you don’t know him either. I do, however, know what he thinks of the Bible and of God. He rejects the Bible, calling it nothing more than a compilation of fairytales and prehistoric nonsense. Worse yet, he destains God, who, by the way, he believes doesn’t exist.
He's an atheist. But he’s not your garden variety atheist. He's an evangelical atheist. He doesn’t believe in God, but that’s enough for him. No, he doesn’t want you to believe in God either. Writing about the creation account in the Book of Genesis, he said, “seriously snakes do not talk. The whole book (meaning Genesis) is a joke. Sin is based on a talking snake and that simply is not true. Read the story of the human body (he says), sapiens, how the mind works, awakenings, anything with facts really and quit reading prehistoric nonsense. There is nothing not explainable by reason. We don't need fairy tales to explain things.” He goes on to reflect on God’s choosing of Israel over other nations. “Why the Jews (he says) and not the Cree? It makes no sense at all except that God is the original racist.”
Blindness, which is the central focus of this morning’s Gospel reading, comes in many forms. Some people are unable to see what’s around them, thus, they are blind in the conventional, or, the physical sense. Such was the case with the man Jesus healed in this morning’s text.
Other people think they can see and they believe they have superior insight and wisdom, but when it comes to the things of God, they can’t see beyond their own pride, beyond their own inflated view of themselves. They too are blind, although not in a conventional sense. The Scriptures often speak of blindness in this metaphorical sense. Thus, at the end of this morning’s reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
As it turns out, the first sign of blindness in this passage, occurs, not in the blind man, but in the disciples. When they saw the blind man, they asked Jesus an interesting question. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Their question was similar to one that Job’s friends kept asking him when they saw how terribly he was suffering. Job, they asked, what did you do!? What sin did you commit to bring this kind of suffering upon yourself? Their council to Job was for him to figure out what sin he committed so he could confess it and be healed. No one, they believed, would suffer what Job suffered unless they had done something terribly wrong. Job, what did you do!?
The point is, both Job’s friends and the disciples saw a direct correlation between suffering and sin. Certainly suffering is the result of sin, but Job’s councilors, as well as, the disciples, saw a direct relationship between suffering and specific sin. In other words, for them, if a person was suffering, he, or, she had done something that displeased God, something that caused God to allow them to be afflicted, either in body, or, in soul, or, perhaps both.
In the end, their concept of suffering and sin went to the very heart of their understanding of God! Certainly suffering and sin are real! But, does God afflict us for each sin we commit? Does He keep a record of our sins and bring His wrath down upon us based on that record? Does He ordain certain punishments for certain sins!
In his letter to the Church at Corinth, St. Paul would later write, “we see now only dimly as in a mirror.” He was writing about love, the perfect love of God. “We see now only dimly as in a mirror.” Since we are born into this world in the image and likeness of Adam, our view, our vision, our understanding of God is clouded. Whatever we’re able to see regarding the things of God, comes, not from human wisdom, but from God’s Word. As the psalmist says, “the Word (of God) is a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path.” Therefore, if we are to know God, if we are to see Him as He is, if we are to see how He responds to all of our sin, not with wrath and suffering, but with grace and mercy, it will be through the light of His Word and not through the darkness of our souls.
When the disciples asked Jesus why the blind man was born blind, they demonstrated their own blindness. They didn’t really see God as He is. The man that Jesus healed wasn’t blind because he sinned, or, because his parents sinned. “The works of God would be displayed in him.” Not only would he see with his eyes, he would also see Jesus with eyes of faith. Jesus asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered,“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.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.”
All the while, the Pharisees, thinking the blind man was a liar and the disciples were deluded, proved themselves the most blind of all. Their rigid laws, in this case, the prohibition against working on the Sabbath, left no room for compassion. The blind man should not have been healed on the Sabbath. Therefore, in their view, Jesus was guilty of breaking the Sabbath and of offending God.
In the end, it was the Pharisees, who had a view of the Scriptures and of God most like our evangelical atheist mentioned earlier. They rejected the Scriptures and they despised the true God. They used the Scriptures to support their legalism and to bind people to their warped view of righteousness and godliness. Thus, when the man who had been healed of his blindness sought to defend Jesus, they said to him, “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. “You (they said, meaning the blind man) were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.”
Nestled in those words of condemnation and disdain for the blind man is an indication of just how blind the Pharisees were toward God. “We know that God does not listen to sinners (they said).” You see, they never really knew God, did they? They feigned a close relationship with Him and they posed as interpreters and arbiters of His Word, but they didn’t know Him. They were those who thought they could see, but they were blind.
God, of course, is most clearly revealed in Christ Jesus. He is, as the Scriptures say, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
God does listen to sinners. Not only does He listen, but out of His great mercy and compassion, He became a sinner to reconcile all sinners to Himself. Indeed, “God made Him who knew no sin (that is, Jesus) to be sin that you might be the righteousness of God in Him.” To know Christ and Him crucified for the sins of the world is to know God. “Now we see (Him) only dimly as in mirror,” in simple things like bread and wine and in water and the word. But, by the miracle of God’s grace, we will, in time, “see Him face to face. Now (we) know in part; then (we) shall know fully, even as (we) have been fully known.” In the meantime, by another miracle of God’s grace, we honor His Word and we confess His most name, for, we were blind, but now we see. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria
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