Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder
March 30, 2014, Lent IV
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
From the First Book of Samuel:
And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, an anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.
From the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians:
For once you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light, and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
And from the Gospel of St. John:
Jesus heard that they had cast him out and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
Our Lord performed miracles in order to meet human needs. But He also used those miracles as a “launching pad” for a message conveying spiritual truth. Finally, His miracles were His “credentials” to prove that He was indeed the Messiah. “The blind receive their sight” was one such messianic miracle (Matt. 11:5), and we see it demonstrated in our Gospel reading this morning. Jesus used this miracle as the basis for a short sermon on spiritual blindness (John 9:39-41).
I have read that somewhere in the world, someone goes blind every 5 seconds. A child goes blind every minute. The man in our Gospel reading was born blind; he had never seen the beauty of God’s creation or the faces of his loved ones. When Jesus arrived on the scene, everything changed, and the man was made to see. However, the greatest miracle was not the opening of his eyes but the opening of his heart to the Saviour. It cost him everything to confess Jesus as the Son of God, but he was willing to do it.
The easiest way to understand the message of our Gospel reading is to note the stages in this man’s growing understanding of who Jesus is.
About the only thing a blind man could do in that day was beg, and this is what this man was doing when Jesus passed by (John 9:8). No doubt there were many blind people who would have rejoiced to be healed, but Jesus selected this man. Apparently the man and his parents were well known in the community. It was on the Sabbath when Jesus healed the man (John 9:14), so that once again He was upsetting and deliberately challenging the religious leaders (John 5:9ff).
The disciples did not look at the man as an object of mercy but rather as a subject for a theological discussion. It is much easier to discuss an abstract like “sin” than it is to minister to a concrete need in the life of a person. The disciples were sure that the man’s congenital blindness was caused by sin, either his sin or his parents’, but Jesus disagreed with them.
In the final analysis, all physical problems are the result of our fall in Adam, for his disobedience brought sin and death into the world (Rom. 5:12ff). But afterward, to blame a specific disability on a specific sin committed by specific persons is certainly beyond any man’s ability or authority. Only God knows why babies are born with handicaps, and only God can turn those handicaps into something that will bring to the people and glory to His name.
Certainly both the man and his parents had at some time committed sin, but Jesus did not see their sin as the cause of the man’s blindness. Nor did He suggest that God deliberately made the man blind so that, years later, Jesus could perform a miracle.
The Scripture states: “Neither has this man sinned nor his parents. But that the works of God should be made manifest in him, I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day.” (John 9:4)
Our Lord’s method of healing was unique: He put clay on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash. Once Jesus healed two blind men by merely touching their eyes (Matt. 9:27-31), and He healed another blind man by putting spittle on his eyes (Mark 8:22-26). Though the healing power was the same, our Lord varied His methods ’lest people focus on the manner of healing and miss the message in the healing.
There are a least two reasons for our Lord’s use of the clay. For one thing, it was a picture of the Incarnation. God made the first man out of dust, and God sent His Son as a real Man. The second reason for the clay was irritation; it encouraged the man to believe and obey! If you have ever had an irritation in your eyes, you know how quickly you seek irrigation to cleanse it out! You might compare this “irritation” to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as He uses God’s Law to bring the lost sinner under judgment.
But this illumination now led to a problem in identification: was this really the blind beggar, and who caused him to see? Four times in this chapter people asked the blind man, “How were you healed?” First the neighbors asked the man, and then the Pharisees asked him. Not satisfied with his reply, the Pharisees then asked the man’s parents and then gave the son one final interrogation. All of this looked very official and efficient, but it was really a most evasive maneuver on the part of both the people and the leaders. The Pharisees wanted to get rid of the evidence, and the people were afraid to speak the truth!
They were all asking the wrong question! They should not have asked “How?” but “Who?” We want to understand the mechanics of a miracle instead of simply trusting the Saviour, who alone can perform the miracle.
When asked to describe his experience, the man simply told what had happened. All he knew about the person who had done the miracle was that He was “a man called Jesus.” He had not seen our Lord, of course; but he had heard His voice. Not only was the beggar ignorant of Jesus’ identity, but he did not know where Jesus had gone. At this point, the man has been healed, but he has not been saved. The light had dawned, but it would grow brighter until he saw the face of the Lord and worshiped Him.
Since the Pharisees were the custodians of the faith, it was right that the healed man be brought to them for investigation. The fact that they studied this miracle in such detail is only further proof that Jesus did indeed heal the man. Since the man was born blind, the miracle was even greater, for blindness caused by sickness or injury might suddenly go away. Our Lord’s miracles can bear careful scrutiny by His enemies.
But Jesus’ act of deliberately healing the man on the Sabbath Day caused the Pharisees great concern. It was illegal to work on the Sabbath; and by making the clay, applying the clay, and healing the man, Jesus had performed three unlawful “works.” The Pharisees should have been praising God for a miracle; instead, they sought evidence to prosecute Jesus.
The beggar was not intimidated by the threats of the Pharisees. When asked who he thought Jesus was, the man boldly said “He is a prophet!” The Jewish people would look on their prophets as men of God who could do wonderful things by the power of God.
The Pharisees then thought to interrogate the parents, so they asked them two questions: (1) “Is this your son?” and (2) “If he is, how does he now see?”
They answered the first question honestly: he was their son and he had been born blind. They answered the second question evasively: they did not know how he was healed or who healed him. They in essence, “passed the buck” by suggesting that the Pharisees ask the man himself. After all, he was of age!
Anxious to settle this matter, the Pharisees did call the man in; and this time, they put him under oath. “Give God the praise” is a form of Jewish “swearing in” at court (see Josh. 7:19). The Pharisees said, “We know that this Man is a sinner!” They were warning the witness that he had better cooperate with the court, or he might be excommunicated.
But the beggar was made of sturdier stuff than to be intimidated. He had experienced a miracle, and he was not afraid to tell them what had happened.
For the fourth time, the question is asked, “How did He open your eyes?” I can imagine this man was becoming quite impatient with the Pharisees, after all, he had been blind all his life, and there was so much he wanted to see. He didn’t want to be spending all this time in the synagogue court, looking at angry faces and answering the same questions!
We admire the boldness of the man in asking the Pharisees if they wanted to follow Jesus! The leaders were sure about Moses, but they were not sure about Jesus.
Again the religious leaders reviled the man and told him that he was born in sin. And then they officially excommunicated this man from the local synagogue. This meant this man was cut off from friends and family and looked on by the Jews as a “publican and sinner.” But Jesus came for the “outcasts” and never let them down.
The Good Shepherd always cares for His sheep. The Good Shepherd who came from the lineage of King David, himself a shepherd. Jesus knew that the man had been excommunicated, so He found him and revealed Himself to him. Remember, the man knew our Lord’s voice, but he had never seen His face.
The man now reached the climax of his knowledge of Jesus Christ and his faith in Him. It is not enough to believe that He is “a man called Jesus,” or even “a prophet” or “a man of God.” Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God” (1 John 5:1). The Apostle John wrote his Gospel to prove that Jesus is the Son of God, and to present to his readers the testimonies of people who met Jesus and affirmed that He is God’s Son. This blind beggar is one such witness.
Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God and the beggar believed and was saved (John 9:38). The blind man did not “see and believe”’ he heard and believed. Not only did he trust the Saviour, but he worshiped Him.
The reason for our Lord’s coming was salvation, but the result of His coming was condemnation of those who would not believe. The same sun that brings beauty out of the seeds also exposes the vermin hiding under the rocks. The religious leaders were blind and would not admit it; therefore, the light of truth only made them blinder. The beggar admitted his need, and he received both physical and spiritual sight. No one is so blind as he who will not see, the one who thinks he has “all truth” and there is nothing more for him to learn (John 9:28, 34).
Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). The only people who cannot see the light are blind people and those who refuse to look; those who make themselves blind. The beggar was physically and spiritual blind, yet both his eyes and his heart were opened. Why? Because he listened to the Word, believed it, obeyed, and experienced the grace of God.
In our Epistle reading, Paul was admonishing his readers to “walk as children of light.” To “walk as children of light” means to live before the eyes of God, not hiding anything. It also means revealing God’s light in our daily lives. By our character and conduct, we bring God’s light into a dark world. As God’s lights, we help others find their way to Christ.
Light reveals God; light produces fruit; and sight for the blind man revealed the power and glory of God and was a witness for Christ.
When you think of light, you think of waking up to a new day. That Easter morning, when Christ arose from the dead, was the dawning of a new day for the world. Christians are not sleeping in sin and death. We have been raised from the dead through faith in Him. The darkness of the graveyard is past, and we are now walking in the light of salvation. Salvation is the beginning of a new day, and we ought to live as those who belong to the light, not to the darkness.
The beggar was cast out of the synagogue but taken by the Good Shepherd and added to His flock! We never meet this healed beggar again, but surely the man followed Jesus closely and was among those who witnessed for Him.
He had the courage to stand up to the Pharisees, even though it cost him dearly. While being excommunicated from the synagogue was certainly a painful experience for him, he certainly found in his fellowship with Jesus Christ much more spiritual help and encouragement than he had before.
“The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18).
Let us pray:
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in Him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.