“The Man Reborn Seeing–and Speaking” (John 9:1-41)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 30, 2014

“The Man Reborn Seeing–and Speaking” (John 9:1-41)

Today’s Gospel, John chapter 9, is usually referred to as the story of Jesus healing “The Man Born Blind.” But since the actual healing takes up only two of the 41 verses, and that, right near the start, and the rest of the chapter has to do with the aftermath of the healing, the reaction to it, and how the man who was healed not only sees but also speaks, speaks up in the face of the threat of persecution, and comes to faith in Christ–for those reasons, I think today I’ll call this story “The Man Reborn Seeing–and Speaking.”

Today Jesus does several wonderful things for this man who was born blind: He opens his eyes to see physically. He opens his eyes to see spiritually. And he opens the man’s mouth, to speak up boldly of what Christ has done for him. And the good news is, Jesus will do these same wonderful things for you, as well.

First, Jesus opens the man’s eyes physically. That is really something! We tend to gloss right over that, because we’ve heard so many stories of Jesus’ miracles. But really it is something quite remarkable. Jesus gives sight to a blind man! This just doesn’t happen! And not only was the guy blind, he was born blind! It wasn’t like he happened to recover from a temporary trauma and it was falsely attributed to be a miracle. There wasn’t the possibility that the guy was pulling a scam, in cahoots with a phony “miracle-worker” to make some bucks. No, this man had been born blind; he had never had any sight at all his whole life long. There could be no question it was a miracle, as the investigation showed, much to the consternation of Jesus’ opponents.

Jesus gave sight to a man born blind. This was a restoration of creation, really, back to the way it was in the beginning and the way it will be again at the end. This healing is a sign of the ultimate healing to come: A new creation, a physically restored humanity. Here the restoration comes ahead of time, a sneak preview of what’s in store. For Jesus came to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. He came to bring life and wholeness to fallen man and the fallen creation. He would do this through his saving mission, which would take him to the cross, for the sin of the world. And he would show forth the results that are coming because of his mission, even now in a few select cases–like this giving of sight to the blind man–to give us encouragement and hope while we wait for what is not yet here on a general basis. It’s like saying: “Here’s what’s coming. This is a small taste of what will come in full at the last day.” Thus these miracles are “signs,” signs pointing to who Jesus is and what he came to do, and signs pointing ahead to what’s in store for us all.

Do you grasp this? This is what’s in store for all of us! Someday we won’t need glasses anymore. Someday you are not going to need a cane or walker anymore. Someday our bodies and our minds and our senses will be made whole. Someday, on the day when Christ returns. On that day the dead in Christ will rise and receive glorified bodies, perfectly restored, better than ever. Our Lord will give us eternal life. We already have it, even now, eternal life. It’s just that we don’t see it yet with these eyes.

So Jesus opens the eyes of the man born blind, opens his eyes physically. Jesus puts mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to wash. He directs him to a certain place, to the Pool of Siloam. Jesus attaches his mighty word to ordinary means, and great things happen. The man goes and washes, and comes home seeing.

But there’s more sight still to come. Besides opening the man’s eyes physically, Jesus will open his eyes spiritually. And he will do that as he opens the man’s mouth. As the man is placed in situations where he has to talk about what happened to him, he begins to reflect on his experience and who the man might be who gave him sight. This will lead to a second encounter with Christ, when Jesus gives him the gift of faith, spiritual sight.

So the man is healed, and naturally people are curious. How can this be? Is this even the same guy we knew before? This isn’t a scam, is it? No, it’s the same guy. We know him. OK, so what happened? Who healed you? The man tells them. He simply relates the experience in a straightforward manner: “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” Straightforward. No need to embellish it. The magnitude of the miracle speaks for itself. The man simply gave witness to what Jesus did for him.

Then he’s hauled before the Pharisees, who are investigating the case. He repeats the same testimony: “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” This infuriates the Pharisees. They hate Jesus, because Jesus had gone around exposing their hypocrisy. But there’s no denying the power of this miracle. They can’t deal with this. So to channel their rage, they turn on a nearby target, the blind man–the formerly blind man, that is. “What do you have to say about him?” they ask. The Pharisees can’t even bring themselves to say Jesus’ name. The man replies, “He is a prophet.” Well, at least the man’s on the right track. He knows that Jesus must have power from God. Soon, though, the man will discover that Jesus is even more than a prophet.

The Pharisees cannot get around the fact that Jesus really did this miraculous deed. They can’t stand it that people will conclude that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. That’s too much for them. So they bring the fellow back in a second time. They’re grasping at straws now, trying to find something, anything, to use against Jesus. But the man whom Jesus healed stands his ground. He’s not intimidated. He knows what happened to him, and he’s sticking to it: “I don’t know that much about this Jesus. What I do know is that he healed me, there’s no question about that. Now you guys, the religious experts, you ought to be figuring out something here. Only God can heal blind people. Jesus healed me. Therefore God wouldn’t be doing this through Jesus unless God was with him.” As the man is testifying to the Pharisees, the light is beginning to dawn for him. Jesus opened his eyes physically, and now he is beginning to open the man’s eyes spiritually.

The Pharisees throw the guy out, back on the street. Jesus hears about this and goes looking for him. He’s got something more to give him. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks him, using his customary self-designation. The man replies, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” You see, the field of the man’s heart had been plowed, the seed had been planted, and now that seed is ready to sprout. Jesus answers, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” And the man declares, “Lord, I believe.” Jesus speaks, and great things happen. Faith has been created in the man’s heart. His eyes have been opened now in an even greater way: To see who Jesus is. To begin to see what Jesus has come to do, which is to bring new life, to restore creation, to make right what is wrong with humanity and with this created order. Jesus came to fix all that. This healing is a sign of it. Jesus came so that the blind would see, really see.

You and I, we have come to see Jesus for who he is: One greater than a prophet–indeed, the Christ, the Savior, come from God. Come with healing in his wings. Come to restore humanity, restore creation, restore us poor sinners back to God. Jesus speaks, and great things happen. He has the words of eternal life. He speaks his creative, powerful word to you today: “I give you life,” he says, “new life, eternal life. I will give life to your mortal body. I will raise you up on the last day.” Jesus has attached his mighty word to water and applied it to your body. In Holy Baptism he washed you and made you whole, saving both your soul and your body. Likewise, Jesus attaches his mighty word to bread and wine and gives you his body and blood, blessing you with forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Jesus does all this by dealing with the root cause of all the disability and death in this world, which is our sin. Oh, not that you can draw a one-to-one correspondence between this particular sin and that particular disability. The disciples tried to make that move at the beginning of the story, but Jesus said you can’t jump to such a conclusion. Indeed, Jesus turns it around: He says this is an opportunity for him to work, to do his good work of renewing creation. No direct correlation between sin X and disability Y. Rather, it is the general, widespread condition of sin that afflicts us all and infects us all–that’s the reason there is all this sickness and death and misery in our world. But Jesus says he has comes to fix that, to bring light into this sin-darkened world. “I am the light of the world,” he says.

Jesus will do this by taking our sin upon himself. All the hatred and hostility of men who shake their fist at God–who think they can see but really are blind–Jesus takes all this rage against God and lets it hit him. At the same time, Jesus becomes the lightning rod for God’s justifiable wrath against rebellious mankind. Jesus lets that hit him in our place, on the cross.

Jesus takes our clouded sight, our spiritual blindness–the blindness of men groping around in the dark–and he opens our eyes to see the truth. The result is life. And light. And sight. Spiritual sight now–we see Jesus for who he is, we see ourselves back right with God. And physical sight, physical healing, is on the way. Everything that’s wrong with this fallen world will be set right on the day when Christ returns.

So take hope, my friends, take heart today. Jesus opens your eyes, physically and spiritually. And he opens your mouth, too, to sing his praises and to confess your faith boldly, telling the world what he has done for you. Now you can say, with the man reborn seeing and speaking: “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

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Published in: on March 30, 2014 at 9:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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