3rd Sunday in Lent
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
John 9:1-41 Sermon
February 24, 2008
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal)::
486 "Alas And Did My Saviour Bleed"
379 "Rock Of Ages"499 "I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say"
69 "Jesus Refuge Of The Weary"
BLESSED ARE THE BLIND, FOR THEY SHALL SEE
TEXT: (vs. 39) Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see, and those who see will become blind."
Do you know, or have you ever known anybody who is blind? I have known a number of visually handicapped people—those who have been blind from birth, and those who have lost their sight later in life.
For example, I know an attractive lady by the name of Nancy, who when she was a teenager, was riding in a car with her boyfriend, and they were drinking. They had a car accident. He came out of it alright, but Nancy’s head went through the windshield, and she lost her sight, totally and permanently.
The two of them did get married. He had a good job, and they lived in a rather modest but nice home in a nice section of town. The reason I know them is because I did some work in their house some years back. I found it rather interesting being in that house and observing what went on.
Every morning her husband would go off to work, and Nancy would be in the house on her own. She moved about the house and yard with the greatest of ease, always knowing where everything was, and never bumping into anything. She was an amazing person to watch.
And as time wore on, I frequently forgot the fact that she was blind. I’d want to show her something, and then stop myself because I’d suddenly remember that she couldn’t see it. And more than once I forgot and left something out of place or something lying where it shouldn’t have been. Fortunately, she was able to adjust to me being in the house, and she handled these unexpected surprises quite well. This woman was able to deal with her visual impairment quite successfully, to the point that I would sometimes forget she even had it, and I would be careless about where I left things.
How important do we regard this gift of sight? I think of all the things I’ve had done to my eyes. I’ve had to have retinal surgery in both eyes. And of course I have to endure the curse of eyeglasses and trifocals and having the things slide off my face. But having these glasses means that I can see normally; and considering the number of people who can’t see at all, eyesight is indeed something for which we can be thankful, even if we have to wear eyeglasses.
So how would we ever get along without that gift of sight? Have you ever had to play a game where you are blindfolded, like blind man’s bluff or pin the tail on the donkey? It’s hard, isn’t it? And have you ever had trouble walking through a dark room, and you run into something? So can you imagine being permanently plunged into this world of total darkness?
Hold on to these thoughts, as this morning we consider, on the basis of our text, “Blessed are the blind, for they shall see.”
Blessed are the blind? Oh now really. Trying to conceptualize what it would be like for us to be blind, and what kind of problems we would have, how could it be blessed for us to be blind?
There are two key verses in our text today that might give us a clue as to the meaning of this. Verse 39 reads, “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’” And verse 41 reads: “Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’” Do you think there might be some advantages to being blind?
Of course Jesus is referring here to a type of spiritual blindness. And I think it would do us well to look at this whole story in detail to see exactly what Jesus is doing.
The whole thing starts out with Jesus, walking along on the Sabbath, and coming across a man who had been blind from birth. And Jesus, by using mud formed from spit and dirt, and placing it on the man’s eyes, and telling him to go and wash himself in the pool of Siloam, restores this man’s sight. This of course is one of Jesus’ healing miracles. The miracle in and of itself served a purpose; however as we read on, there is a much deeper meaning attached to it.
The people who knew this blind man brought him to the Pharisees, and they had a go at him. They tried to trick him, they argued amongst themselves, and they tried in every way to discredit Jesus. And finally the Pharisees got so discouraged, that they threw this man out.
One fact that couldn’t be escaped here, and that is that the man had been born blind; that point couldn’t be contested. And he was now seeing; and that point couldn’t be contested either.
And Jesus? Well, he really had the Pharisees going. They were probably real curious about what was going to happen next. So they either kept an eye on the man or Jesus himself; and when Jesus meets up with this man again, the Pharisees are there as well.
After Jesus identifies himself as the true Son of God, the promised Messiah, the man born blind falls down and worships him. Once again quoting verse 39 of our text: “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’”
The Pharisees knew that Jesus was having a go at them, so they indignantly ask in verse 40: “…What? Are we blind too?” And Jesus’ response in verse 41 is: “…If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’”
I’ve spent a good deal of time laying the groundwork here, but see what’s happened! This group of Pharisees thought they could see. They thought they had perfect vision into theological matters. But yet, they at first refused to believe that this man had been given his sight. And when they investigated and found that they could no longer deny that fact, then they treated the whole matter with contempt. And of course, this all boils down to Jesus himself.
Here was the Son of Man, this promised Messiah. These Pharisees, who were so good with the Scriptures, and knew all the prophesies backward and forward, could not see the fulfillment of those prophesies in Jesus Christ. Here was something so clear that even a child could see it, and the Pharisees not only didn’t see it, but they refused to see it. Oh yes, they THOUGHT they could see all right, but in fact they were completely and totally spiritually blind; and they refused to admit it.
This isn’t just a problem with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, but it is just as big of a problem today. There are those who say that they can see everything perfectly; but how true is that?
There are those who try to claim that Scripture has discrepancies. There are those who call themselves agnostics and atheists, who simply lack the moral courage to face up to the facts. They’ll say things like, “A God? How silly. A six-day creation? Be reasonable. A world-wide flood? How can any sensible person believe that?”
But the facts are there, Biblically, scientifically, and actually; and those facts trouble even the most confident skeptic. The result is frequently to treat such matters with contempt. You’ll hear them say, “Get it away from me, I don’t want to know. Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up.” Does this sound something like the logic that the Pharisees were using?
And what about us? How do we perceive ourselves? Are we blind, or are we seeing? Are we “know-it-alls” or “know nothings?” I think that far too often, we like to see ourselves as individuals with tremendous perception in all things. We know what’s best for us, don’t we? We see ourselves with this ability to judge what’s best in every circumstance. We like to march to our own tune. We like to play this game of life by our own rules. We know where we’re going, and we don’t need any help. We don’t need any unseen God or any Bible in our lives. Common sense and fortitude will get us through. God will let us into heaven if we do the best we can. Yes, we can see clearly, can’t we? We’re not blind, are we?
Listen to the words recorded by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 2, 14: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” And of course we have the words of Jesus recorded in verse 39 of our text for today: "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see, and those who see will become blind."
So are we blind? I think we are. The more we have those attitudes of marching to our own tune, or the more we claim that we can see very well by ourselves thank you very much, then we show how stone-dead blind we actually are. By nature we are blind. By nature, we are completely shut off and opposed to God.
But then that leads us to the other point that Jesus is making in our text today. Remember at the outset of this sermon I put forth the idea of “Blessed are the blind, for they shall see?” And this is where it all comes together. The people that think they can see are actually the ones that are the most blind. But the person who knows their blindness and recognizes it, the person that is blind that comes to Jesus with that blindness is the person that shall be granted sight. Sound confusing? It shouldn’t be.
I think we all know ourselves. I believe that we can all place ourselves as one of those Pharisees. It shouldn’t be too hard to see the times that we have perpetuated that attitude the Pharisees were putting forth: “We know everything, and don’t confuse us with the facts!” Or, “I’m maser of my own fate, and lord of my own soul.” We’ve all been deluded with these ideas. We’re blind, and this proves it. And no amount of arguing to the contrary is going to change that fact.
Have you ever known anybody who has been blind that has made themselves see? That’s absolutely impossible. And so it is with us and our spiritual blindness. We don’t come to God claiming that we can see, but confessing that we are blind. And just as we could never cure blindness of our own eyes, we can’t cure the blindness of our own soul. Only God can do that. Jesus Christ alone is the only one that can open our eyes of faith.
You see, everybody on the earth is blind, whether they want to realize it or not. We are just as blind as the Pharisees; and without Jesus Christ, we would continue to be blind. Without him we have no spiritual sight whatsoever. But Jesus Christ restores that spiritual sight and vision to 20/20. And with that sight restored, we shall see God when we die. We know that with a Christ-restored spiritual sight, that heaven is ours.
So what do we need to do? Believe it, that’s what. We know our many sins. And when we realize our sins that have blinded us, then we come to Jesus Christ, asking for forgiveness. And suddenly those sins fall away from us like cataracts falling away from our eyes. That Gospel, that word of forgiveness is what restores our spiritual sight, and puts us right with God. Believe that our sins are forgiven, and our spiritual blindness shall be cured. We shall see!
But even though our spiritual blindness is cured, yet on this earth the devil will attempt to continue to blur our vision. He will place things like pride, arrogance, and selfishness in front of our eyes. Satan will always be trying to use ways and means to trick us into thinking we can go it on our own, that we don’t need Jesus. The devil may use arguments and persecution to try to get us to look away from Jesus, and plunge once again into a world of spiritual darkness. Like someone who has had their eyesight and lost it, is the person that rejects Jesus who gives true spiritual sight, and follows Satan into a life of darkness.
But we can thank God that he has enabled us to confess Christ simply and boldly amidst it all; and by keeping in his Word, and being continually fed and nurtured by it, we continue to see Jesus more and more clearly, and we never need fear a life of spiritual blindness.
I spoke at the beginning about Nancy, and how well she was able to get around; even to the point of my forgetting that she was blind. But no matter how well she did on her own, she was still blind. That fact never changed.
This of course is fine for people who don’t have their physical eyesight. But for the spiritually blind, this way of doing things is no good. There are those amongst the spiritually blind that may demonstrate how well they can get around on their own. There are people that will go to great lengths to demonstrate what they can do, and that they don’t need Jesus. They can overcome some simple obstacles placed in their way. Other people may forget or not even notice that they’re spiritually blind. But it doesn’t change the fact that they’re spiritually stone-dead blind, just the same. And such people with such a blindness will never see God.
So it’s not a matter of how well we can cope with spiritual blindness, it’s a matter of getting the cure for it. The only one that can cure that blindness is Jesus Christ. So blessed are blind; that is the ones who know they’re blind, and come to Jesus for the cure, for they shall see.
I’d like to close this morning with a true story. This happened to somebody I know while they were on a bus in New York City. He had just moved to the city, and had taken the bus for his first day at work. He had no sooner gotten on the bus, when a man came and sat down beside him.
“You’re new here, aren’t you?” he asked. “I’ve never seen you ride this bus before.” He said that he was new, and he had just moved to New York. Then the man asked, “Is anybody in your family blind, or do you know anybody that’s blind?” He said that he couldn’t think of anybody offhand, but why did he ask?
And the man said, “I contracted a disease when I was a little child; and for over forty years, I was totally blind. But then I went to this doctor, and he did an operation which gave me back my eyesight. I want to tell as many people about it as I can, so that as many as possible might have the same chance I did, and not be cursed to a life of blindness and darkness.”
This man took to the New York bus system to spread his story, about the man who had given him sight, and he wanted to save as many as possible from that curse of darkness. We, who have contracted that disease of sin from conception that has blinded us, how do we tell others about our Saviour who has restored our sight? How do we go about trying to save as many as possible from that curse of darkness? How many people do we want to have that gift of everlasting life and happiness?
The methods of spreading the word are many, but the message is simple: “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but thank God through Jesus Christ, now I see.”