4 Lent 2017 – John 9:1-41

In Nomine Iesu

A man born blind. Who sinned? This man or his parents? But he was blind from birth. So obviously his parents, right? Sin has consequences; therefore consequences must have sins. Right? Wrong. He was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. Go figure. His blindness becomes a canvas to display Jesus’ glory as the light of the world.

If Niccodemus, the rabbi who came to Jesus at night, represented religious Judaism, and if the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well represented syncretistic Samaria, the man born blind represents us. Every disciple of Jesus. Born blind but given sight. Not seeing, yet believing.

Jesus spits on the ground, bend down, kneads some clay with His spit. Kneading clay was forbidden on the Sabbath lest you do some pottery. But here, the Divine Potter was applying a little fix to Adam’s clay. Here’s mud in your eye. It’s a strange way to cure blindness, don’t you think? Jesus makes him even more blind in a way. Then comes water and the Word. Did you expect any less? “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” Echoes of Elisha and Naaman the Syrian whom Elisha sent to the Jordan to cleanse him of his leprosy. Water and promise. Water and Word.

The man goes, washes, and comes back seeing. Eyes that hadn’t worked since birth now suddenly can see with 20/20 clarity. Can you imagine that? What is must have been like to see for the first time? There was a touching YouTube a couple of weeks ago of a young boys reaction to being able to see in color for the first time. He was overwhelmed and overcome. And he could see. He was just color blind. This man was totally blind, living in the dark until Jesus came to him, put mud in his eyes and sent him to wash in the Sent pool.

The neighbors took note. “Isn’t this the man who used to sit begging? Wasn’t he blind from birth? Or was he pulling a fast one on us?” “How are your eyes open now?” “The man called Jesus anointed my eyes with mud (interested way of putting it – He Christed my eyes) and told me to wash at Siloam. So I went, I washed, and now I see. “Where is this Jesus,” they asked. “I don’t know,” the man says.

And even if Jesus were standing there right next to him, the man would not have known. He’d never laid eyes on Jesus, at least eyes that worked. Jesus put mud in his eyes and sent him away to wash, and when he returned, Jesus was gone. He’s never seen Jesus. But he believes. Just like us.

Well, this causes a stir. Naturally, the Pharisees want to investigate. This happened on a Sabbath day, and the Pharisees were big about the Sabbath day. They figured out 32 kinds of work you couldn’t do on the Sabbath, including kneading clay. Now healing was not on of those kinds of work, because, well, who can heal except God? So that’s a problem. And it is a problem. A divisive problem. “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs.” They argued. The question the man. “What do you say?” “He’s a prophet,” is his answer. Just like the Samaritan woman. “I perceive that you are a prophet.” That and more.

Easy explanation. The guy had never been blind in the first place. He just faked it to get on the welfare roles. They call in his parents. They don’t have much to say because this is a kangaroo court that’s rigged. Anyone who confesses Jesus to be the Christ is out of the synagogue. Excommunicated. So they just dodge the question. “He’s our son. He was born blind. How he now sees, we don’t know. Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.”

So they ask him. They put him under oath “Give glory to God.” He says the one thing he knows: I once was blind but now I see. Amazing grace. But grace is no explanation for a legalist. Commandments must be kept. God doesn’t listen to sinners. The Pharisees have all the answers. They’re disciples of Moses, or so they thought. Who could be greater than Moses? “We don’t even know where this Jesus guy comes from,” they say.

The man confesses his faith, as much as he could possibly have. “We know that God does not listen to sinner, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 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.”

Well, that didn’t sit too well. “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” Remember, these are Bible experts. They must have forgotten David’s prayer in Psalm 51 – “In sin was a born and in iniquity did my mother conceive me.” Sinful from birth, even from the womb. They were correct. The man was born in utter sin. That’s not why he was blind, as we know, but he was born in utter sin. So were they. So are we. But the thing about religious legalism is that you can only see the sin in others; you’re blind to the sin in you.

The man is kicked out of the synagogue. Things aren’t going to well here. Now that he can see, no one believes him. His parents have distanced themselves from him, he’s been investigated twice by the religious authorities, kicked out of the synagogue, and the townspeople are wondering whether he was a welfare cheat.

Along comes Jesus. He’d heard about all this. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man’s not sure. Who is He that I may believe in Him? And then the revelation: “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” A lot like what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman. “I am, the one who is speaking to you.”

The man believes. “Lord, I believe,” and in faith, he worships. He is a true worshiper, who worships in spirit and truth, one to whom God listens.

This is the judgment. The crisis. The is the light of the world. The light the darkness cannot overcome. He is the light of all, shining upon all. But to unbelief, that light becomes a blinding light, so that those who see will become blind, and those who are blind will see. The Pharisees, with the 20/20 law-keeping are blind, though they think they see quite clearly. And this man, blind from birth, sees Jesus for who He is and worships Him.

That man born blind is all of us. You and me. Everyone. We are born blind, steeped in sin, beggars. Just as a blind man cannot will his eyes to work, so we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ as Lord or come to Him. He comes to us in our sin, our blindness, our darkness. He “Christs” us in Baptism. Anoints. Christens with water, Word, and Spirit. Baptism is our Siloam, our sent water, where He sends us to wash and see.

The “seeing” is by faith and not with the eyes. Like the blind man who believed before he saw Jesus, so we too believe prior to seeing. We will see one day, when Jesus raises our clay and fixes our eyes in the resurrection so that we can look on Him who is our Light, our life, and our salvation. But for now, the seeing is believing.

Once you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light and of the day. The darkness belongs to Sin and Death. Christ has done that all to death in His death. In Christ we see. We see ourselves as the sinners that we are, but more importantly, we see Jesus for who He is, the Savior of sinners.

Like the man born blind, we confess Him. It’s hard to keep such things to yourself. That confession may cost you. Parents may disown you. Friends may be deeply suspicious of you. And the commandment keepers certainly won’t applaud anyone who believes that Christ is the end of the law. But all you can say is what the blind man said, “I once was blind but now I see.”

Those words of the man born blind have been immortalized by John Newton, a priest in the Church of England who had often renounced the faith as a youth, served in the navy but was known for desertion while on shore leave, worked on a slave ship where he was considered profane by sailor’s standards, who wrote obscene verses about the ship’s captain. Several times, the captain admonished Newton not only for using the foulest words he had ever heard but for “creating new ones to exceed the limits of verbal debauchery.”

This vile, unreliable, obscene slave trader eventually came to faith in Christ. He got married, taught himself Latin, Greek, and theology and was ordained at the age of 39. As a preacher, he was known not for his eloquence but for his blunt honesty. While other preachers seemed to be above the sins of the common man, Newton admitted to them all. He said, “How industrious is Satan served. I was formerly one of his active undertemptors and had my influence been equal to my wishes I would have carried all the human race with me. A common drunkard or profligate is a petty sinner to what I was.”

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was blind but now I see.

Luther had said much the same. We are beggars all. Maggot sacks full of sin and death. But God, in the richness of His grace and mercy, His undeserved kindness to sinners, washed us in this Siloam pool of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, uniting us with Jesus in His death and life.

Amazing grace to a man born blind that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Grace to sinners steeped in sin from birth.
Grace to you, that the glory of God might be displayed in you.

In the name of Jesus,