“Jesus Opens Your Eyes–and Your Tongue” (John 9:1-41)

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 19, 2023

“Jesus Opens Your Eyes–and Your Tongue” (John 9:1-41)

The Holy Gospel for today is John chapter 9, the story of the man born blind. But he doesn’t stay blind, once Jesus comes along. Jesus does several things for this man: He opens his eyes physically. He opens his eyes spiritually. And he opens the man’s tongue, as well. And the good news is, he does these things for you also. And so our theme this morning: “Jesus Opens Your Eyes–and Your Tongue.”

First, Jesus opens the man’s eyes physically. Now that is really something, isn’t it? Maybe we gloss right over it, because we’ve heard so many stories of Jesus’ miracles. But it really is quite remarkable. Jesus gives sight to a blind man! And not only was the guy blind, he was born blind, blind from birth! He had never had any sight at all his whole life long. There is no question that this is a mighty miracle.

Jesus gives sight to a man born blind. This is a remarkable, miraculous healing. A restoration of creation, back to the way it was in the beginning, before the fall into sin, and ahead to the way it will be when Christ comes again. This healing is a sign of the ultimate healing Jesus will bring: A new creation, restored humanity. The restoration in this case comes ahead of time, as a foretaste, a preview, of what’s in store in the age to come.

Our Lord Jesus Christ came to bring the kingdom of heaven here on earth. He came to bring life and wholeness to fallen man and sin-damaged creation. He did this by going to the cross for the sin of the world. And in his ministry, Jesus showed forth, ahead of time, what the results of his saving work would be–as in this giving of sight to a man born blind. These restorative works of our Lord give us encouragement and hope while we wait for what is not yet here. It’s like saying: “Here’s what’s coming. In fact, I’ll give you a sneak preview.” These miracles thus are signs, signs pointing to who Jesus is and what he came to do and what’s in store for all of us.

Do you realize this? This is the sort of thing that is in store for all of us! Most of you know that last year I had cataract surgery on my eyes. It made my eyesight a lot better. I don’t need glasses anymore to drive. But I still need reading glasses and a lot of light for small print. Plus, I’m 70 years old with creaky knees and various aches and pains. This old body has had its share of wear and tear, and if you are not there yet, you will be. The point is, these bodies of ours only last so long before they stop working entirely.

But Jesus gives us hope for the future–our eternal future! There will come a day when we won’t need glasses of any type anymore. There will come a day when our knees won’t ache and our bones won’t break. There will come a day when the weakness and weariness we experience now will be gone for good. That day is coming, the day when Christ comes again. On that day, our bodies will be raised imperishable, full of vigor and life for eternity.

Jesus gives a sign of that coming wholeness by giving sight to the man born blind. He opens his eyes physically. Jesus puts some mud on his eyes and tells him to wash. He specifies a certain place to wash, the Pool of Siloam. When Jesus attaches his mighty word to ordinary means, great things happen. The man goes and washes and comes back seeing.

You know, we think of John chapter 9 as the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. But the healing itself is taken care of in the first 7 verses. The rest of the chapter, the next 34 verses, is about the investigation into the healing. It’s about coming to faith, in the face of unbelief. It’s about confessing Christ in the face of intimidation.

So 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 tongue. The man is placed in situations where he has to speak 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 people are curious. How can this be? Is this even the same fella we knew before? This isn’t a scam, is it? No, it’s the same guy. OK, then, what happened? Who healed you? The man tells them. He restates his 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.” Yeah, straightforward. The magnitude of the miracle speaks for itself. No need to spice it up. The man simply gives witness to what Jesus did for him.

Then he’s hauled before the Pharisees, who are investigating the case. He repeats the same story: “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” This infuriates the Pharisees. They hate Jesus, because he had been going around exposing their hypocrisy. But there’s no denying the power of this miracle. They can’t deal with this. So they channel their rage to the nearest target, namely, the man whom Jesus healed. “What do you have to say about him?” they ask. The man replies, “He is a prophet.” Well, at least he’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.

After hauling in the man’s parents, too, the Pharisees are stuck. They 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 Christ. So they bring the fellow back in a second time. They’re grasping at straws now, trying to find something to use against Jesus. But the man stands his ground. He’s not intimidated. He knows what happened to him, and he’s sticking to it: “I don’t know much about this Jesus. What I do know is that he healed me. Now you guys, the religious experts, you ought to be figuring something out here. Only God can heal blind people. Jesus healed me. Therefore God must be with him.”

As the man is testifying to the Pharisees, at the same time the light must be beginning to dawn for him. Jesus opened his eyes physically. He has opened his tongue to speak boldly. And now Jesus is beginning to open the man’s eyes spiritually.

The Pharisees throw the guy out. Jesus hears about this and finds him. He’s got something more to give him. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks. The man replies, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus answers, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” And the man declares, “Lord, I believe.” This is the even greater miracle. Jesus speaks, and great things happen. Faith is created in the man’s heart. His eyes are opened to see who Jesus is. To see what Jesus has come to do: to restore creation and make right what has gone wrong with humanity and the 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 have been given this spiritual eyesight. We see Jesus for who he is: one greater than a prophet; the Christ, 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 new life. I give you eternal life. I will give life to your mortal body. I will raise you up at 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. 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, namely, 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 that this is an opportunity for him to work, to do his good work of renewing creation. Jesus says he has come to bring light into this sin-darkened world.

But he will do it in a way that seems strange: by taking the sin upon himself. All the hatred and hostility of men who shake their fist at God–those who think they can see but are really blind–Jesus takes all that rage against God and lets it hit him. Those who hate Jesus get him nailed to a cross. And on top of that, at the same time, Jesus takes all of God’s wrath against sinners and lets that hit him too, in our place, on the cross, with the sky turned dark.

But Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. To a man born blind, and to all of us men born blind in sin, Jesus opens our eyes. Now we see the light. And Jesus opens our tongues, too, to confess our faith, even in the face of opposition and intimidation. Now we are bold to tell the world what Christ has done for us: “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Published in: on March 18, 2023 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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