Mar 26, 2017- A Sabbath Healing
We’ve talked in recent weeks about the when and where of Jesus activities in the gospel lessons. We’ve seen Him on the mountains – like the surprise of Lake Tahoe, Jesus’ surprise on the Mount of Transfiguration. We saw Jesus in the dark with Nicodemus and discovered darkness is daylight when Jesus is there. Then last week we saw Him in the bright light of midday with the woman at the well in Samaria where we heard about the Living Water of life that Jesus gives us.
And today we are again in the light but now we are in new location – we’re back in Jerusalem, somewhere near the temple and it’s the Sabbath day.
OK, so what’s so wrong about the Pharisees ‘scolding’ Jesus to the man who was healed for healing on the Sabbath? After all we used to have, and still have in some places, blue laws in this country. Who knows what blue laws are about? Right, on the Sabbath there are certain things we don’t do. So why isn’t Jesus towing the line on this? He’s acting outside the custom of His society, isn’t He?
And also, look at where He did this. If you look at the previous verses you see He is, as we said, leaving the temple when He encounters this… man born blind. Interesting that a blind man is near the temple, near the leaders that we learn later in this lesson have decided that anyone who says that they follow Jesus will be put out of the fellowship, out of the temple, right where this man now sits.
This man’s state of darkness not only points out the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees, but it also reminds us of the state of darkness of one particular, Pharisee, Nicodemus. His darkness that we talked about a few weeks ago, was something that he chose, coming at night as he did. But for the man born blind in today’s gospel lesson, his state of darkness is absolute and was not of his doing or choice. He has never seen… daylight, sunshine or a blue sky.
Can you imagine that? Close your eyes and imagine… no light at all, anywhere… from any source, total absence of shadow even. Nothing – even the blackness has no color.
As far as the Pharisees and Jesus own disciples were concerned, this man’s blindness was punishment for some specific sin that someone did. But Jesus said no. The reason for this man’s blindness, according to Jesus, was simply so that on this day, this Sabbath day, the glory of God in the person of Jesus would be revealed.
Is there a better day than the Sabbath to reveal God’s glory? Jesus didn’t think so. The Sabbath is not about the laws of man, but of the grace of God. It has always been so, even through the distortions heaped on it by the religious leaders.
And this man’s blindness like any congenital or other birth defect is not a punishment for a specific sin. If it were there’d be no reason for the cross of Christ. We wouldn’t need the cross because all we’d have to do would be to avoid sin – which we can’t do. Rather, this man’s blindness was to give that man, his family, the disciples, the Pharisees and you and I a greater understanding… of God’s compassion for His creation.
This Sabbath day was unlike any other Sabbath day. Jesus changed the meaning of that Sabbath day for that man and his family, for Jesus’ own disciples and for the Pharisees as well. Part of the season of Lent is to remind us that we are like this man. We too need healing from the condition of sin, from the blindness of sin, that we are all born with. We talked of that a week or so back in our look at Jesus saying ‘ego emi, I am the light of the world.’ For us, we are in darkness apart from Him That is simply the state that we are in.
Another thing about his man is that… he did nothing. He didn’t even ask to be healed; Jesus did it purely on His own initiative. The same thing is true also with our own salvation, with our healing from the blindness of sin. Jesus came of His own love, to lead us who are blind along unfamiliar paths. These are the paths of righteousness; the righteousness of Jesus given to us freely by His compassion alone. That is what He chose to give us, on His own. It is His compassion that heals us.
And notice what Jesus used to heal this man, clay, soil, dirt! This was the stuff that Jesus used to create man in the first place and it’s what He used to heal this man. It was also what Jesus used to heal us of our sin. Think about it, it was flesh and bone that Jesus took on Himself as an infant. It was clay, dirt, and soil that He put on in coming to earth to work out salvation for us. Jesus came in the flesh, in dirt, clay, and soil, to redeem those whom He’d created in flesh from the dust of the earth.
Only the great physician, Jesus can heal like that. And yet people remain blind to what He offers, blind to the riches that He longs for us to have in the healing light that He’s revealed through His word.
Kenneth Klaus of Lutheran Hour Ministries tells of Rose Crawford who also had been blind since birth. At the age of 30 she discovered that there was a type of delicate eye surgery that could help her see. When the bandages were removed, Rose wept at the beautiful colors that greeted her. What’s unusual about Rose’s story is that 20 years of blindness were unnecessary. She was simply unaware. She was unknowing of the advancements of medical science that had taken place when she was a small girl and just figured that there was nothing that could be done.
How many of our friends and family are spiritually blind because they are simply not aware of the Great Physician, who can remove the darkness and bring the marvelous light of salvation?
After being healed, and given his sight for the first time, the man in the gospel lesson then lived with the consequences of what Jesus had done for him. And for simply being healed by Jesus of his blindness he was persecuted. He was attacked, his family was questioned and he was hounded – all because He simply told the truth of the man, Jesus, who had healed him. He lived the rest of his life as “that man, you know, the one born blind whom Jesus healed”. That was his reputation.
He was a child of God, healed by the Son of God, on the day set aside to worship God. And from then on he testified, just by living his life, about who Jesus was and what he had done for him. I like to imagine that perhaps he became an artist or a painter of some sort. But however he lived; he now lived by the light of the Lord. Jesus revealed Himself as the Lord of life to this man when he spoke with Jesus after being thrown out of the temple of the Jews.
We sang in the hymn a few minutes ago, “While lightened eyes could see and know the healing Christ of long ago.” Jesus restored to this man more than physical wholeness and healing of sight, He opened this man’s eyes and soul to the truth of who Jesus is – the Messiah!
Again, Jesus says, Yahweh, I am the light of the world. This is echoed in the Old Testament lesson today in vs 16 it says, I will lead the blind by ways they have not known… I will turn the darkness into light before them… these are the things I will do
And this is exactly what Jesus has done – taken away the darkness and granted the light of life.
You know if you fly over northern Arizona at night, the darkness hides from us the massive beauty of the Grand Canyon. Similarly, the darkness of sin blinds us to God’s unfathomable love and compassion for all people. Sin’s darkness separates us from God. But the light of Christ from the cross and the empty tomb, grants us sight to see the vast beauty of the love of God.
In Eph today we’re told, For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. We’re now light in the Lord. The light of Christ from the cross is the renewed condition we now live in, like this man who was born blind.
We are no longer blind. The Great Physician, the creator-Jesus, grants us Sabbath healing every Sunday for our blindness by the proclamation of His cross, death, and resurrection. And He gives us a new eye condition: we now go through life ‘cross’-eyed! Being now ‘cross-eyed’ opens our eyes to see all things in the light of Jesus.
The light of the cross points out not only what Christ has done for us, by His own action and grace and mercy, but we now have a new vision; we now have a real hope for the future.
Phillip Yancey, an author I met, wrote in his book, “The Jesus I Never Knew” “The miracles Jesus performed, breaking as they did the chains of sickness and death, give me a glimpse of what the world was meant to be and instill hope that one day God will right its wrongs. To put it mildly, God is no more satisfied with this world than we are; Jesus’ miracles offer a hint of what God intends to do about it.”
And in the miracle of giving sight to this man born blind we are given a real-world demonstration of the real world in Christ that is to come – a world where there will be no more tears, or sorrow. There will be no more darkness or loneliness or night. In Jesus Christ, we are given a Sabbath healing of all our sin both now and for all time and eternity. In being given our sight, in being given our salvation, we’ve been given the riches of the certain hope of heaven.
That Jesus healed on the Sabbath is also a reminder of why we come to church on our Sabbath, on our Sunday of rest. When we come here we too are healed – by light from the gospel and the sacraments.
Like the man whom Jesus healed, we too now live with the consequences of His work for our redemption. And like that blind man we have the good news of Jesus to share. After all, our mission here is Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. Through Jesus Christ we’ve been given sight and light to work in while we wait for the sure promise of His return. In Jesus name. Amen.
Sermon #879 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 42:14-21
14 “For a long time I have kept silent,
I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
I cry out, I gasp and pant.
15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn rivers into islands
and dry up the pools.
16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.
17 But those who trust in idols,
who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’
will be turned back in utter shame.
18 “Hear, you deaf;
look, you blind, and see!
19 Who is blind but my servant,
and deaf like the messenger I send?
Who is blind like the one in covenant with me,
blind like the servant of the Lord?
20 You have seen many things, but you pay no attention;
your ears are open, but you do not listen.”
21 It pleased the Lord
for the sake of his righteousness
to make his law great and glorious.
Epistle Reading Ephesians 5:8-14
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Holy Gospel John 9:1-41
9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.