Sermon Text: John 9.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my family and those whom God loves.
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us pray… Lord God, bless your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as you have promised, your Word may achieve the purpose for which you sent it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
As we stand in the midst of this present darkness, I am struck by the first seven verses of this Gospel reading. It begins with…
As he (Jesus) passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. (9:1)
Seeing people with various disabilities was not uncommon in Jesus’ day. In fact, blindness, deafness, dumbness, leprosy, and paralysis were the most common diseases mentioned in the Bible. Such persons were often considered by families to be a burden because most families had very limited income and needed every able body person to be productive. As a result, these disabled individuals would be taken and positioned at key locations in the town or village so that they could beg for alms. It was the only way that such people could be supported.
The man Jesus passed by that day had been blind from birth. Notice that Jesus did not immediately stop. He did not heal every person along his way even though he could have. In this case, God had a purpose beyond merely healing the man physically. This is exactly what we may overlook when faced with such situations like our own – this Coronavirus pandemic. We need to begin to ask the question and to be to the answers concerning, “What is God doing here?” That is a question of faith government, the media, Alberta Health Services and most people are not asking. However, it is a question for eyes open to see God.
2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
It was common in that day to believe that God brought disability as a punishment for someone’s transgression or sin or as an expression of God’s wrath for people’s disobedience. Disability was considered a curse, the result of unbelief and ignorance.
Even today people have this cause and effect view of life. How many people will ask if they get the Coronavirus, “What did I do to deserve this?” Or some like President Donald Trump will blame the Chinese for it. Blaming others for our predicament is also cause and effect thinking and is as old as Adam and Eve who just had to blame someone for their sin. At the same time though, attempting to prevent bad things from happening is also one of our favorite pass-times which never seems to end since virus’ mutate and humans also find ways to mutate sin.
Jesus quickly dismisses the question as well as the cause and effect thinking behind it and he answers His disciples…
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (9:3)
In other words, God had a purpose for this man, and the disciples’ question became the springboard for the light of Christ to shine in the darkness for both this man and to all who would encounter his story.
The darkness of this virus that covers the world today is the very opportunity for the light of Christ to shine through the lives of Christians. Unfortunately, we as Christians can sometimes be like unbelievers, fearing the darkness, closing off the very gifts God desires to give us in these dark days. For example, what is the witness of churches who have closed their doors to worship and sanctuary? Are those not attending worship actually spending time in God’s Word and being able to find the comfort and hope needed at this time. There will be many opportunities for us as Christ’s body in the days, weeks and months ahead, to shine in this world for as Jesus says…
We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. (9:4).
Get this virus and you may become overwhelmed by the darkness of sickness and death and you or I will be in need of the light of God’s grace in Christ. How will that come to you if it is not shared by a brother or sister in Christ or if you do not have that light charged up within you from all those hours of worship where you have heard God’s promise and received into your mouths the true body of blood of Christ that assures you that His death is yours and His life is yours.
Jesus said…As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (9:5)
As Jesus moved among people in His day, preaching, teaching and healing, people had the light shine upon them and
…to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:4-5
We still receive that light directly from Christ as we hear His Word preached and receive His body and blood into our mouths, but in these dark days when Word and Sacrament has been taken away from us, Christ’s light must now shine through you. You must now be the means by which Christ’s Word comes to those sitting in the darkness, fear and anxiety of these times. You must listen closely to this Word, read it and study the Bible and do what you can to dispel the darkness with Christ’s marvelous light.
How does Jesus do this?
6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud…
Saliva was understood to have healing properties in those days and I don’t expect any of you to adopt this method for dealing with this virus, but Jesus uses the physical means of mud and spit to anoint – to bless this man’s eyes and then commands him to
Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent).
Christ’s commands him to go and implied in this command is the promise of healing. The question is, “Will he go?” Will he believe that healing is possible for him who has been blind from birth?
Do we believe all that God has promised us in this time of darkness? Do we believe that there will be protection from this disease? Do we believe that there can be healing for those with this disease? Do we believe that even though death should overcome us or our loved ones, that Christ is there for all who believe in that great healing of the resurrection of the body to eternal life?
So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:7)
In our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection there is a washing that opens our eyes to the work of God in Christ, and this is effective even in these most difficult of days. It will be a tragedy for the church to not be able to gather on Good Friday where darkness overwhelmed the land as Jesus proclaimed with His last breath: “It is finished! (John 19:30) It will be a tragedy to not be able to gather with the faithful on Easter morn to shout in victory, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!!!” Christ has won the victory.
The devil may do many things to us, locking us up in the prisons of this world and putting up all kinds of obstacles to hearing the Gospel, but with the Psalmist we can cry, Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! (Psalm 142:7) In life and in death, in health and in sickness, not only do the righteous surround us, but more important, it is the righteousness of Christ that covers us, for in Him God has promised to deal bountifully with us (Psalm 142:7). Amen.
Grace be with you,