Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 2, 2008)
“What Can We See With the Eyes of Jesus?” (John 9)

Our eyes need help to see things. Part of living in a fallen, sin-broken world means that these marvelous bodies that God gave us don’t quite work the way they did in the Garden of Eden. And that includes our eyes. And so, we need things like glasses or contact lenses.

But even for those of you whose eyes have not been affected like us four-eyed people ... even for those of you who have 20-20 vision, or who are brave enough to have had laser surgery to correct your vision ... your eyes still need help to see things that cannot be seen with the naked eye. And so we use magnifying glasses to look at extremely fine print. We use telescopes to peer into outer space. We use microscopes to look at tiny organisms growing in petri dishes. We use x-rays to see what’s going on inside the body.

But we need something even more powerful to see things properly. We need eyes that can see beyond this physical world and to recognize spiritual realities. We need the eyes of Jesus to have a proper view of life.

Today’s Gospel lesson from John 9 tells about a man who had been born blind. Jesus mercifully healed him by putting some mud on the man’s eyes and telling him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. We don’t know why Jesus used mud and water to heal in this instance when His creative, powerful Word is enough. Perhaps Jesus knew that this physical touch was important to the man, since he could not see. But he could certainly feel the mud being applied and he could certainly feel the water washing away the mud. And Jesus had attached His gracious promise of healing to this action of going and washing the mud away.

In a similar way, Jesus uses water and bread and wine even though His creative, powerful Word is enough to create and sustain faith and to forgive sins. But we can certainly feel the water and taste the bread and wine. And He has attached His gracious promises to this earthly stuff. He has attached His promise of forgiveness and new life in Baptism. He has attached His promise of forgiveness and the presence of His very own body and blood in Holy Communion.

Through these means, Jesus gives us spiritual sight. And Jesus did the very same thing to the man in our Gospel lesson. The Lord graciously healed him and revealed Himself as the Son of Man, which was an Old Testament title for the Savior. The man now saw with the eyes of faith. He believed, and he worshipped Jesus.

With the eyes of Jesus ... with the sight he gives us ... we can see our natural condition of blindness. The Pharisees who were out to get Jesus got one thing right ... well, sort of. To the man who now saw and who claimed that Jesus was a prophet, they said, “You were born in utter sin.”

And it’s true. This man was born in sin ... just like the rest of us. David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5) We all have that stain of sin corrupting our entire human nature, making us spiritually blind ... unable to see or understand spiritual matters. That’s what St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:14 ... “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

I said that the Pharisees got it right “sort of” because they took things one step further. They meant that this man was born blind because of a specific sin, whether it was his own or whether it was the sin of his parents. But Jesus put this idea to rest earlier in the chapter where he said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Here’s the difference. The Pharisees did not recognize that they were spiritually blind. They were self-righteous. They thought they had it all together. They thought they could truly see into spiritual matters.

On the other hand, the people to whom Jesus comes and gives sight recognize their spiritual blindness. That’s what our Lord meant where He says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” It’s only when Jesus comes to us and gives us spiritual sight through His Word that we can acknowledge our natural condition of blindness. Those who don’t have faith in Christ think they can see. They think that they are the ones that are truly enlightened. They think they can see, but their blind hearts will only become more hardened because of their refusal to acknowledge Jesus as the only source of true spiritual sight.

With the eyes of Jesus…with the sight He gives us…we can see our natural condition of blindness.

With the eyes of Jesus…with the sight He gives us…we can see Jesus’ concern for us.

The man who now could see had been thrown out of the synagogue because he confessed that Jesus had been truly sent from God. They excommunicated him. The man was now excluded from the covenant community. A curse was laid upon him. There was no salvation for him anymore in the eyes of the rest of the community.

Jesus knew this and cared about this man. He cared about him as an individual. And so, Jesus sought the man out and found him. That’s the reason that Jesus came in the first place. (Luke 19:10) Like the Good Shepherd that He is, the Lord went after the man to finish the work he had begun in him. He had given him physical sight. Now Jesus wanted to give Him spiritual sight.

Jesus comes to the man and asks the all important question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He asks Jesus who the Son of Man is. Perhaps the man recognized the voice of Jesus, but remember, he had not seen him with his newly given sight. He was ready to believe in and worship whomever Jesus pointed out to him as the Savior ... and Jesus points to Himself and says “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” And the man believed in him and worshipped Him. The all-powerful word of Jesus had given the man physical sight ... and the all-powerful word of Jesus had given him spiritual sight.

Jesus cares so much for us as individuals that He comes to us even we are not looking for Him. Paul says in Romans 3:11 that “no one seeks for God.” Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” And in Romans 10:20, Paul explains how God graciously comes to people even though they do not seek Him. He quotes the prophet Isaiah, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” (Isaiah 65:1)

This is even more obvious for those of you who were baptized as babies. You had no choice in the matter when you were baptized. Your parents or your sponsors simply brought you to the font and your Savior God graciously came to you and showed how much He cares for you. He sought you and found you even when you were not looking for Him. You may have been new-born, but you still needed to be born again—born from above—and God gave you that gift in Baptism.

Nevertheless, it’s only with the eyes of Jesus ... with the spiritual sight that He gives us ... that we can know and recognize His loving concern for us. He seeks us when we’re lost. He goes after us when we stray. He calls us back into His sheepfold. And He daily provides for all our needs, both physical and spiritual.

With the eyes of Jesus ... with the sight He gives us ... we can see our natural condition of blindness. With the eyes of Jesus ... with the sight He gives us ... we can see Jesus’ concern for us.

And with the eyes of Jesus ... with the sight He gives us ... we can see His divine nature.

The man born blind was enabled to believe in Jesus and he gave Jesus the worship that is due to God alone. When he looked at Jesus, he saw more than just a man. He was given the spiritual sight to recognize that this was God in the flesh before his very eyes. He acknowledged that Jesus was the one who healed him ... even after the business with the mud and the water. The man could have said that there was some “magic” in the mud and water, some healing properties. But no, he gave the glory where it was due. He gave it to Jesus.

You and I are born blind, too. But by God’s grace we are given new spiritual sight and are enabled to see the divine nature of Jesus.

We see His divine nature in the Word. When we hear the Gospel message, we know that we are hearing about more than just a man. We are hearing about the Lord and Giver of Life, who gives life through His Word.

We see His divine nature at the cross. When we are directed to the cross of Jesus, we know that that was more than just a man hanging there. That was God hanging there. With one word He could have easily put an end to all His pain and snuffed out all His enemies. Instead, out of love for you and me and in the place of all who are spiritually blind and dead and sinful, He willingly remained there and suffered and died.

We see His divine nature in the Sacraments. While others may only see simple water and simple bread and wine, we see the divine nature of our Risen Lord operating to give life, forgiveness, and salvation.

And we see His divine nature in our daily life. He is present with us always, giving us our daily bread, preserving us, healing us, guiding us, forgiving us, and loving us.


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