4th Sunday in Lent, Proper A4
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 9:1-41 Sermon
March 30, 2014

Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.

Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & With One Voice):
NOTE:  This is hymn sing Sunday, where the hymn selections were submitted by the congregation.  Hymns are used in this service in the place of various sung portions of the liturgy.

TLH 473 "The Church's One Foundation"
WOV 653 "Jesus On The Mountain Top"
WOV 801 "Thine The Amen"
TLH 15 "From All That Dwell Below The Skies"
TLH 252 "We All Believe In One True God"
TLH 402 "O God Forsake Me Not"
TLH 657 "Beautiful Saviour"
TLH 457 "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"
TLH 200 "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"  


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."

            If you've been watching the news this past week, you have probably heard the name April Nesslein.  Some of you might be scratching your head right now trying to remember who she is; but I'm sure when you hear what she did, you will most likely remember her.

            April was one big con artist.  She had convinced her friends, and even many people in her church that she had suffered from various health related issues.  She claimed to have brain tumors and stage four lymphoma, and that she only had three months to live.  She even posted a photograph on Facebook of her lying in a hospital bed looking rather disheveled and worse for wear.

            Many people took pity on her, especially her friends and members of her church; so they gave her money, and lots of it to help her in her hour of need.

            But it was all a sham or a con.  When the Department of Health and Human Services stepped in and took her children away from her because of her debilitating illness, they soon found out that her medical records proved that she was in perfect health.  DHHS turned their findings over to Lincoln Police detectives; and following a careful investigation, she was lodged in County Corrections.

            This hurt a lot of people who believed her.  The Christians helped her out because it was the loving thing to do.  And boy did she ever take advantage of that!    

            Today in our Gospel reading, Jesus meets up with a man who had been blind from birth.  He had never even seen so much as daylight.  This man wasn't faking it at all.  He was no April Nesslein.  His blindness was real.

            So when Jesus meets up with him, he is a prime candidate for a healing miracle.  Our text leads us to believe that he had heard about Jesus--news of him had spread rather quickly.  And so here was the opportunity for this man to meet his Saviour; and as a result of this meeting, his life would be changed forever.

            As they approach him, his disciples asked the question in verse 2, "...Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?" 

            Evidently, there was some knowledge of pre-natal care even in those days.  It was nothing this man did that caused his blindness; and it was nothing his parents did either.  They couldn't pin this one on something like drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, or on a particular illness.  It was just one of those things that happen sometimes.

            And so in verse 3, Jesus responds to their question:  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned...but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

            Now this is not to say that this man or his parents weren't sinful human beings.  They were sinners just the same as everyone else.  In fact, the very fact that this man had a birth defect is evidence that they were sinful human beings living in a fallen world.  But his ailment couldn't be traced back to some specific sin related either to him or to his parents.  That's why Jesus says that neither he nor his parents sinned.

            Then Jesus goes on.  He says that "...this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

            The healing miracle would indeed show the work of God.  Many would see it and know that only God could have performed this miracle.  But just as important, is the man's faith.  This man's faith, created in his heart by God, is something that others could readily see.

            If you think about it, this whole scenario took a lot of faith on the part of the blind man.  Jesus could have worked his healing miracle any way he wanted to.  He could have just touched him.  He could have simply spoken.  But he didn’t.  Instead, Jesus spits on the ground and mixes up some mud.  He smears it on the man’s eyes, and then tells him to go and wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam.

            Think about it for a minute.  If you or I were walking down the street and came across a blind man, and then spit on the ground and put the mud on his eyes, that would be cruel.  He’d probably say, “Hey, what’s the big idea?”  And if you then told him that when he washed his eyes he would see again, he’d think you were absolutely nuts.  They would probably haul you off and lock you up.

            This whole miracle has a strong faith element to it.  The blind man demonstrates a lot of faith by allowing Jesus to put this mud on his eyes, and then going and washing as he was directed.  This faith would not have been demonstrated if Jesus would have simply touched him or spoken a few words to work the miracle.  It took faith for this man to accept Jesus’ rather crude way of working this miracle.

            So now the man is back in public, and the people are absolutely amazed at what they see.  They knew the man, and at first many didn’t think it was him.  But he verifies that he indeed is the man.  The people weren’t sure what to do, so they figured that the Pharisees in the church needed to see this healing miracle.

            We have to remember that back then, people with handicaps (or to be politically correct, maybe I should say “challenged”) weren’t attended to like they are today.  Most people in that position would sort of congregate around the outside of the temple, and beg.  They couldn’t really work, so they had to rely on the goodness of other people in order to survive.  That was about the only option they had.

            Amongst these handicapped people would have been a number of people who were “faking it,” like April Nesslein, those who pretended to be disabled in order to prey upon the goodness of unsuspecting people.

            In verse 18 of our text, we read:  “The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight,”

            The easiest way for the Pharisees to explain this miracle, or rather to attempt to explain it away, was to suspect that he was “faking it;” that he really wasn’t blind at all.  It was only when his story was verified by his parents, that they were forced to accept the fact that he had been blind from birth, and that he had now been miraculously healed by Jesus.

            The Pharisees as we know were extremely critical of Jesus.  They criticize the fact that he healed this man on the Sabbath.  They make the now formerly blind man repeat his story twice.  And when they didn’t know what else to do, they cast him out of the temple.  In effect, the Pharisees excommunicated him.

            The Pharisees saw this man as a real threat to them.  They considered him a dangerous witness.  And so they do everything in their power to discredit him, and to get him to deny Jesus, his healer and Saviour. 

            “We know that this man is a sinner” the Pharisees say.  The Pharisees attitude in saying this would be something to the effect of, “What we know, you are expected to accept, and you are to abide by it without criticism or contradiction.”  And there are certainly many people just like that in our world today.

            The formerly blind man’s response is almost priceless.  Listen to part of it recorded for us in verses 30-33:  “Why, this is a marvel!  You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshipper of God, and does his will, God listens to him.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone has opened the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

            Wow!  Now there’s some good Old Testament theology with some common sense and logic besides.  Of course this makes the Pharisees furious!  And so they reply to him in verse 34:  “…You were born in utter sin, and would you lecture us?  And they cast him out.”

            News of this reaches the ears of Jesus, and so he goes and seeks out the man born blind.  We have to remember that this man had not yet seen Jesus with his newly acquired eyesight.  So when Jesus came to him, he didn’t know who was talking to him at first.  When he does find out that this was indeed the man that healed him, his response is simple.  Verse 38 of our text says, “He said, ‘Lord I believe;’ and he worshipped him.”  This man was definitely a dedicated follower of Jesus.

            As we read this account of the man born blind, there are three very good lessons being taught here.  We see:  first, the blindness, or darkness of sin; second, the light that proceeds from the Gospel, and finally, a faith that trusts in Jesus.  These are three very key elements in Christianity.

            Have you ever thought of yourself as being blind?  Maybe you’ve tried walking around the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.  You stumble over things, you fumble around trying to find stuff, and you might even stub your toe.  It’s definitely no fun at all. 

            Sin does that to people.  Sin is a blinding thing; it makes one blind to the truth.  It makes people do foolish things that defy common sense.  And it makes people cling on to some very strange, illogical, and hollow philosophies.  When a person is blind to the truth, even for an instant, then Satan can have a real field day.  He can make people think and act in ways that are completely contrary to God, and then make them believe that their way is the right way.  This is what was happening with the Pharisees, and this is what happens so much in the world today.

            I’ve often heard people who are anti-religion, like people in the ACLU, who spout some absolutely wretched things.  I’ve heard some outspoken atheists, like Christopher Hitchins come up with some totally ridiculous and off-the-wall teachings.  And I’ve heard the average man on the street come up with a lot of flimsy excuses as to why he doesn’t need God or the church in his life.  And when this happens, I wind up shaking my head and thinking, “man, how blind can one person be?”

            But this gets personal too.  I think about the small child who gets into trouble at home—maybe he told a lie, or stole something, or did something mean.  The first words out of Mom’s mouth are, “You know better than that!” 

            But are we really any better?  Hasn’t Satan blinded us too?  Don’t we all have those instances in our life where we did something wrong, and that if we had it to do all over again, we wouldn’t?    A criminal in prison thinks this way all the time. 

            Maybe you’ve cheated someone.  Maybe you’ve taken something that is not yours.  Maybe you’ve said or done some things to offend someone or hurt someone.  We all have a list, because we’re sinners; sinners born blind.

            But here comes Jesus, that master physician who heals and restores sight to blind people.  It’s like Jesus came up and put mud on our sinful eyes so they would be opened.  Jesus came to us so that we would experience this healing, and believe in him as our Saviour.  Jesus came to cure the blindness and darkness of sin, and he comes directly to us.  He does this so that we might see the light emanating from him, and walk in the light of the Gospel.

            When we are cured from the blindness of sin, its like scales fall from our eyes.  When we put aside our earthly pride and vanity and trust only in our Saviour, then we will see clearly, and indeed be children of the light.

            Jesus doesn’t come to us to brow-beat us or to rehash our sinful past.  His interest is to completely remove that past from us, and give us a glorious future.  The Bible says in Psalm 103 verse 12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” 

            Like curing blindness, there is no more darkness.  Through Jesus, God just doesn’t simply cover over sin, but he completely and thoroughly removes it.  The darkness just doesn’t exist any more.

            In the closing verses of our text for today, Jesus makes the comparison between the blindness of sin and the light of the Gospel.  In verse 39, Jesus says:  “…For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 

            I think we can understand the first part of the sentence, but that last phrase might be puzzling at first glance.  What does he mean when he says, “that those who see may become blind?”

            This phrase is directed to those people who are like the Pharisees.  This is for people who think they know everything, thinking that they can see very clearly according to their own standards.  Self-righteous people like this need to see their sin, and in effect recognize their own blindness.

            When the Pharisees heard Jesus say what he did, they ask him a question.  Their question and Jesus’ response to it is recorded in verses 40 and 41 in our text:  “Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’  Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.’”

            They refused to believe.  Even though there couldn’t have been more proof as to whom and what Jesus is, they simply couldn’t let go of their own brand of wisdom and self-pride to come to faith in him.

            They had an excellent example of a faithful believer right before them in the formerly blind man.  There was a man who truly believed in his Saviour.  His faith was so strong that he refused to be intimidated by the Pharisees.  He refused to fall into their trap.

            So instead of believing his most incredible witness, they reacted the way that their foolish pride dictated—they sought to discredit him; and when that didn’t work, they simply got rid of him.

            When I think about that woman, April Nesslein who faked a terminal illness in order to bilk money out of loving Christian people, it makes me angry because I don't like to see people take unfair advantage of somebody else.  I just hope that the people she wronged will not harbor a continual grudge.  Vengeance can engulf you and take you over so very easily.

            The Pharisees vengeance engulfed them too—so much so that it hardened them to the truth.  Life would have been so much simpler for them had they believed the testimony and accepted what the man born blind was telling them.  They too would have experienced Jesus’ healing miracle as he cured them from the blindness of sin.  But they refused and vehemently rejected it.

            Today we have a great example of faith in the man born blind.  I’m sure that many who saw the results of that miracle followed his example of faith and believed in Jesus.

            This serves as our example of faith as well.  When we believe in Jesus our Saviour, we are cured of our sinful blindness by grace through faith alone; and now we live a life in the light of the Gospel.