Third Sunday in Lent (John 9:1-7)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Third Sunday in Lent + March 26, 2017
Text: John 9:1-7

Jesus and His disciples are walking to church one Sabbath, and on the way they find a pathetic sight: A blind man lying there begging.  So, they ask Jesus what’s probably been on the mind of every passerby: What did this guy or his parents do to end up in this situation?
But Jesus did not come to unlock the mysteries of God’s hidden wisdom by rooting out the causes from the consequences of sin.  “God sent His son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”[1]  He came to be our Savior.
So, He says, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  Of course, he and his parents sinned—“no one living is righteous before you”[2]—but that’s not the point.  Jesus isn’t concerned with retribution for sin, but saving sinners out of pure grace.
He does what He came to do—“he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”  Jesus makes it look so easy, and suddenly this man’s affliction is taken away.  If only we had Jesus around today like this, think of how much cancer could be healed, deformed children made whole, or disabled people made to get up out of their wheelchairs.
But the greater miracle than healing a man born blind is the faith which is the result of this encounter.  That work of God is even greater than the miraculous healing, and that’s at the center of what Jesus says: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
There were many people who were healed during Jesus’ ministry, but there are also times where He wasn’t able to heal.  Did that mean His almighty power was limited?  No, the limitation was on the part of the people: “And he did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”[3]  It’s true that Jesus is the source of healing.  He is the one who opens the eyes of the blind, makes the paralytic take up his mat and go home, and forgives sin.[4]  Yet in every case, healing comes through believing the Word of Jesus.
Work while it is day means that Jesus and His disciples worked while there was opportunity.  That is, where there is faith.  In the night of unbelief, the works of God cannot be done.
Where there is unbelief, we will be stuck on the questions, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?”  It’s true that it’s happening because we are sinners living in a fallen world.  But there’s no comfort in that.  There’s also no healing unless we’re brought out of the darkness of our earthly, sinful hearts which blame God for treating us unfairly and holding out on us when He could make things so much better.
Jesus is the one who is the one Sent into the world to save the lost and open your blind eyes, that you might glorify the work of God.  The greater miracle for you is the Holy Spirit’s work of faith.
Harold Buls once wrote, “Don’t ask backward, but forward”[5]  Our sinful, unbelieving heart looks backward to how things might have been or should have been different.  Where there is faith, however, God turns our eyes forward to hope for an expect what He will do to deliver us.
What we see as fundamentally wrong and broken beyond repair, God sees as an opportunity to save—to display His work.  False accusations, sudden death, mistreatment, or abuse—when we experience things like these, we despair because our help on earth has failed.  The courts have ruled against us, people have taken what rightly belongs to us, and the doctors can offer no cure.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”[6]  He who created heaven and earth knows very well how to deliver you from whatever evil.  He knows the way to comfort you in sadness, restore what is lost, and strengthen you to endure the temporary pain and withstand the spiritual assaults of the devil.  Where there is faith in the God who saves sinners, there the works of God are displayed.
In our darkness, the weakness of our faith, cry out, “I believe, help my unbelief!”  The same Savior who brought faith to the blind man will also answer you.  Never think that God is powerless to save or that He somehow overlooked you.  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  Commit yourself into His care, and He will deliver you in His wisdom and out of His love.  Through this faith, may the works of God always be displayed until that last Great Day.  Amen!
[1] John 3:17
[2] Psalm 143:2
[3] Matthew 13:58
[4] John 9, 5:1-17, 8:3-11
[6] Psalm 121:1-2

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