“How Are Your Eyes Opened?"

Lent 4
March 25, 2017
John 9:1-41

“Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”  That was the conclusion—the correct conclusion—that was reached by the blind man who had been cured.  Only God Himself could perform such a wondrous healing.

And our Lord uses this miracle of restoring sight to the blind to also speak of spiritual healing, of being able to see with the eyes of faith; with the result, that should you be asked the same question that was posed to the man in the text—the question, “Then how were your eyes opened?”—we too may give glory to God and tell those who will listen to our wondrous story that it is only because of God’s amazing grace.  

In the Holy Scriptures, the ability to see is often equated with saving faith.  As we heard in the Gospel reading just two weeks ago, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3).  At which point, the Lord went on to talk to Nicodemus about the washing of water with the Spirit; in other words, about Baptism, wherein God grants the spiritual sight to be able to know and trust that the Kingdom of God has been granted to us through the working of the Holy Spirit.

St. Paul writes, “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,” (1 Cor. 2:14).  You’ve probably experienced that kind of resistance from those with whom you would like to share your Christian faith.  The problem isn’t one of a lack of intellect on their parts; no, the real problem is a spiritual one.  The Scriptures say, “the sinful mind is hostile to God,” (Rom. 8:7).  In fact, the Bible even goes so far as to say that those without the Holy Spirit are “dead in their transgressions and sins,” (Eph. 2:1).  And, needless to say, dead people can’t do a thing to help themselves.

And, this was indeed your own condition until God performed that miracle of doing what only He could do—He granted to you the gift of faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit, thereby making you spiritually alive, making those who once were blind, now able to see.  So that, again, as St. Paul puts it, “no man can say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit,” (1 Cor. 12:3b).  

For you to be able to confess that Jesus is your Savior is not a natural thing or an innate ability.  Once again, those without the Holy Spirit are spiritually blind.  Therefore, that faith that you are freely able to confess took nothing less that God’s miraculous work to transform your heart into one which is able to see and to trust that saving Gospel.

And now please listen carefully—this spiritual sight that you have been given is not a one-time cure.  Without God’s constant healing, we immediately would all fall back into blindness.  And the problem is, we probably wouldn’t even know it.

Listen again to the closing words of our text.  “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”  Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and 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.”

Now, that might sound a bit confusing.  But, the bottom line is that, in order to desire that gift of sight, spiritual sight, we must first recognize just how blind we naturally are.  And that’s where those verses that were just mentioned a moment ago come into the picture.  Once again, God Word—which never lies—tells us how horrible our sinful condition truly is.  Blind, dead, enemies of God.  It’s a condition from which we cannot deliver ourselves.

But, as we heard, those Pharisees took exception to that kind of characterization.  They saw themselves as perfectly fine.  They claimed to be able to see things quite clearly on their own.  It would have been better for them, Jesus says, if they recognized their own lost condition—for then, they could be saved by Jesus.  But they didn’t believe they needed saving.  They didn’t desire forgiveness and, therefore, their guilt remained.

That is a great temptation for all of us—to look at our lives, at any moment, for any given length of time—and to think we’re just fine.  That self-imposed blindness is evident when we are unwilling to forgive those who have sinned against us because we think that we haven’t done anything wrong ourselves.  That blindness also is revealed when we fail to go to God in heartfelt confession over our sins each and every day—with the result that we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

But, most of all, we lose our spiritual sight whenever we fail to see that Christ, our Lord, is here constantly, offering us the divine cure that is found only in His Gospel, in Holy Absolution, in the promise of Baptism, and in the meal of His body and blood which gives the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

These are the gifts that bestow sight.  These are the means of God’s grace by which He gives you faith—not once, not twice, not “I’ve paid my visit to church so I’m good for a while.”  No, that’s Pharisee talk… the assumption that we can survive a single hour, day, or minute without God’s healing hand—the self-sufficient astonishment that bristles at the suggestion, ”Am I also blind?”

Yes… yes we are blind.  As long as we walk about in this sinful flesh, we will continue to lose our way.  We need our Savior’s hand to guide us.  We need His sacrifice to save us.

Jesus said to His disciples, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  The work that the Heavenly Father sent His Son to do was to rescue this world that could do nothing to save itself.  God sent His Son to heal the world with His blood, because God couldn’t turn a blind eye toward the transgressions that were committed against Him.  The atonement had to be made.  And only Jesus could do that.  And so He endured the darkness that blanketed Mt. Calvary.  He willingly walked into the valley of the shadow of death.

God spoke of this through the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament reading.  The perfect Law which reveals God’s perfect will for your life condemned us all; because the consequences of breaking God’s Law means everlasting death.  But in His compassion for you, Christ took all the blindness of the world’s sin upon Himself.  “Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see!  Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send?  Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the Lord?  He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.  The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness' sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious,” (Is. 42:18-21).  

Jesus suffered the full consequences of God’s Law for us.  The Law was magnified upon Jesus to such an extent that He absorbed every last drop of God’s wrath toward our transgressions… until there was no more left… until it was finished.

He did that for you—to take away all of your sins, and then to send His Holy Spirit to you to open your eyes to the glory of this salvation freely bestowed upon you, to grant to you His very own righteousness.  “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”  And it isn’t all that difficult to discern just what is pleasing to Him.

Seek His pardon for your transgressions.  Consider the emptiness of those who still grope about in the darkness and implore God’s Spirit to help you walk as children of the Light.  Keep sharing that Good News, even if at first you meet resistance, for the Gospel will always be God’s only power unto salvation to bring sight to the blind.

As long as Jesus is in the world, He is the light of the world.  And as long as you have Jesus in your world, His light will see you all the way home to the next world… along with all those who rejoice in knowing just how their eyes have been opened!  Thanks be to God, it is through Jesus Christ, our Lord!  Amen.

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