4th Sunday in Lent, Proper A4
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 9:1-41 Sermon
April 3, 2011
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
652 "I Lay My Sins On Jesus"
533 "Nearer My God To Thee"
436 "The Lord's My Shepherd, I'll Not Want"
400 "Take My Life And Let It Be"
MY MIND'S MADE UP; DON'T CONFUSE ME WITH FACTS
TEXT: (vs. 30-33) "30The man (born blind) answered, 'Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.'"
Do you know, or have you ever met a person that knows everything? Well, maybe I should rephrase that a bit; do you know, or have you ever met a person that THINKS they know everything? Now I think you might be able to better identify the kind of an individual of which I'm speaking.
Such a person talks and acts like they're an expert on everything. In their mind's eye, they're never wrong. They never make a mistake. It's always somebody else's fault.
I have known such people in my life. An acquaintance of mine that I've known since high school is a good example. I don't care what the topic of conversation is about; he will always speak out about it. And if someone dares to contradict him or, heaven forbid, correct him on any point, he will go to great lengths to defend himself.
Words and phrases like, "I made a mistake," or "I was wrong about this," or "you're right" just aren't part of his vocabulary. In fact, about the closest thing I've ever heard him say in the way of a retraction, is "well, that may be true, up to a point." He would have to be painted into the proverbial corner to even say that much. And then he'd go off on some sort of a tangent to try to cloud over the issue. Considering everything I heard him say, I cannot think of one time I ever heard him apologize for making a mistake.
For some people, being wrong about anything is seen as a personal weakness; and whoever points it out is perceived to be making a personal attack on them. The need to be right is more important to them than being correct. It is more of a self-esteem issue than anything.
I'm fairly sure you know people like that, or you have at least encountered them. My friend isn't the only one I've known like this either. I've known too many who are like him, at least to a certain degree. Having a discussion with somebody like that is almost like walking barefoot through a field full of cockle burrs. It's irritating and even painful to communicate with them, and you just can't wait to get away.
Our rather lengthy Gospel lesson this morning gives us a good example of people who have their minds made up, and who don't want to be confused with the facts. On the occasion of Jesus healing the man who was born blind, he came under sharp scrutiny of the Pharisees. These men didn't care so much about being correct; they were more concerned about saving face and being right according to their way of thinking. And so, our story begins.
The day was the Sabbath, the day of rest. Jesus and his disciples were just walking along, when they happened upon this blind man. He had been blind from birth, and he was earning a living the only way handicapped people could in that day and age. He begged for money, or food, or whatever he could get from sympathetic people. Without any sort of rehabilitation programs or occupations that would employ such a person, he really had no choice in the matter.
When they meet up with this man, the question the disciples asked reflected the way people thought. Verse 2 says, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
They knew that he wasn't blind because of some sort of accident or injury. He had been born that way. So the disciples figured that somebody had to bear the blame for this. Did he somehow bring this upon himself? Probably not. So let's blame the parents for something instead. Maybe his mother smoked, or drank alcohol, or used narcotics while she was pregnant--that's what we would guess in today's society, anyway. Or maybe she didn't eat right, or she got sick. Maybe her husband was physically abusive. The disciples felt they had to blame somebody.
But Jesus replies in verse 3: "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." This man had a specific purpose in the grand scheme of things; and that purpose will become evident as this account progresses. The point is, that this man was blind through no fault of his own or his parents.
So Jesus heals the man. He mixes some of his saliva with some of the dust and makes a sort of mud plaster. Then he tells him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. And with that, the man has his sight restored.
The method of healing is crude, to say the least. If any ophthalmologist in today's society were to even suggest this, he would have a malpractice suit slapped on him so fast, that he wouldn't know what hit him. But that's not the way Jesus operated.
There have been speculations as to why Jesus used mud in this fashion. Some have suggested that it is because man was created from the dust of the earth, and then received life from the Creator. God the Son used the same dust of the earth, given power through what he did to the dust to effect the healing of this man's eyesight. It may be a nice thought, but probably over-allegorized.
The point we need to remember is that God can work on whomever he chooses, any way he chooses. The fact that this man received his sight with Jesus using the rather crude and unorthodox method he did, was proof of his authenticity. And in this account, Jesus not only proved his divine nature through this miracle, he also tells the man that he is true God, the Messiah promised from the beginning.
In verse 35, Jesus asks the man the question: "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" The dialogue continues in verses 36-38: "36He answered, 'And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?' 37Jesus said to him, 'You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.' 38He said, 'Lord, I believe,' and he worshiped him."
This man born blind was obviously a Jew; but most importantly, he was a man of faith. He didn't know who Jesus was at the beginning, and yet he allowed him to put this mud on his eyes. And then he goes to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes. He couldn't use just any water either; he had to do as Jesus directed him. And so, without question, he goes and does as Jesus says. This is a response of this man's faith. And even though he wasn't sure about Jesus' identity at the time, he realized that he was a man of God and not just somebody pulling a prank. And when all was said and done, he had his sight restored, just as Jesus had promised.
The first people in the community to witness this miracle were this man's friends and neighbors. They could hardly believe what they were witnessing! Here was this man they had known for years, and he could now see. He had been healed. So they proceed according to Jewish law. They take this man to see the religious authorities. The clergy had to certify the results of any healing, so the correct ceremonial laws could be carried out, and he could be properly cleansed. So it's off to the temple they go.
And here's where the real trouble starts. It's those Pharisees again, trying to make themselves look good, and dismissing the truth, regardless of how thoroughly it had been proven to them. This man was now face-to-face with a room full of people like my one friend. They were right, and they had their minds made up. As long as they could protect themselves and follow their own agenda, that's all that mattered to them. And they saw Jesus as being a huge threat to their cushy surroundings and their extravagant lifestyle. They weren't about to put any of that in jeopardy, even if it meant denying a miracle of such a grand nature.
It all starts with the Pharisees asking the man what had happened. He explained that he had been born blind. And then, he told them what Jesus had done: that he had made mud from dust and spit, put it on his eyes, and he washed in the pool of Siloam.
In effect, they tell him: "You're lying to us!! We don't think that you were ever blind in the first place! You're just trying to stir up trouble with all this 'Jesus-talk!'"
Well. Now these Pharisees needed proof. Even though they had already made up their minds, the man had witnessed a miracle. Besides that, I'm sure that he didn't appreciate being called a liar either. So he fetches his parents. They would testify on his behalf.
After his parents came, they indeed gave testimony that this was, in fact their son. They affirmed that he had been born blind, and miraculously had his sight restored. His parents were as surprised as anybody. Even though the Pharisees tried to drag his parents into the middle of this, the man was of legal age, so he was there on his own. His parents sure didn't want to incur the wrath of the Pharisees! They would be excommunicated from the church if they did, so they bow out of the picture.
The Pharisees go back to the man, and began to question him further. They repeat the same questions over again. By now, the man was getting rather perturbed with them, so he says in verse 27: "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" And he continues on in verses 33-34: "32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."
If there were anything that would anger the Pharisees, having someone openly contradict them would definitely do it. He had them painted into the proverbial corner, and there was no way out. So they responded in the only way their prideful and sinful hearts would dictate: they cast the man away from them. They excommunicated him from the congregation. This "Jesus talk" had to be stopped, even if it meant ignoring the facts and denying the truth.
The overall point of this situation is to show the absolute power and divinity of God, and that Jesus Christ is indeed true God, just as he has said. It also shows purpose, in that Jesus came to rescue, restore, and heal those who would come to him in faith.
The one point that we need to remember here however is that we need to be honest with ourselves. We are not infallible. We make mistakes. We draw wrong conclusions. We make up our minds before we know the facts. And we try to make ourselves look good above everything else.
My friend that I talked about in the beginning had a problem with being wrong. He just couldn't deal with it. Maybe he saw it as a sign of weakness. Maybe he thought his pride couldn't take a blow. Maybe he was consumed with a combination of pessimism and paranoia. I have no idea as to the "whys" behind his actions, other than sin.
I don't know if such people realize what this does to them and to those around them. When my friend started acting like he was this know-it-all who was always right, I tried to stand my ground; however I also realize that a lot of what I said fell on deaf ears. Trying to communicate with people like this is, like I said earlier, something akin to walking barefoot through a field of cockle burrs. You just can't wait to get away.
Our relationship with Jesus begins with us having an honest look at ourselves. We know we're not perfect. We've been wrong, we've had wrong ideas and opinions, and we've turned a deaf ear to the truth. We're like that man born blind, in that we were born with the blindness of sin infecting our entire being.
But Jesus comes to the rescue. He heals that blindness that sin has caused. He forgives our wrongs and mistakes. He leads us in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. And where sin and self-righteous attitudes followed in the footsteps of sin, Jesus promises us that through faith in him, goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we will indeed dwell in God's house for all eternity.
Proverbs chapter 16 verse 18 provides good words for us to remember: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Our faith-walk with Jesus is one of forgiveness and restoration, and not one where we boast of ourselves and our perceived ability to always be right, irrespective of the facts. Jesus came to take all of our wrongs and sins upon himself, and take them all the way to the cross. God's divine justice was satisfied, so that through nothing more than faith alone in Jesus our Saviour, we would see heaven for all eternity. The voice of Jesus is the only one we can trust that will always be right, guaranteed.