Light in Dark Times

A sermon preached on John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD on March 15, 2020.

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 work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work 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 Having said 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.

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 do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided. 17 Finally 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.”

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.” – John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39

 Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night when the power goes out? At first you feel powerless and confused – almost blind as you wait for your eyes to adjust or the power to come back on. There’s nothing more frightening to our children than the darkness. I can only imagine what it would be like to spend an entire lifetime in darkness and blindness.

In our reading, there’s a profound difference between those who are blind in darkness and those who can see. Yet, it wasn’t just physical blindness separating people in our reading. Obviously, there’s the blind man himself. Since birth he could feel his parents’ faces, but he couldn’t actually see them. So much of what we take for granted with sight he had never experienced.

But he’s not the only blind one in our reading. The disciples were blind or at least in the darkness . That’s why they asked such a foolish question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The disciples were groping around in the darkness of ignorance. It was a common idea back then that an ailment like this was punishment from God for some specific sin. They saw this blind man and thought, this man must be getting what he deserved. He or his parents had done something bad enough that he had been made blind.

This might seem like quite a silly idea. And yet, even though we don’t think of it as a religious belief, this is maybe one of the most common false religious beliefs today with karma. What goes around comes around – do good and good things will come to you. If you do bad, it will come back to bite you. I’m not saying that sin doesn’t have consequences. Spend all your time swimming in alcohol, your liver will become as hard as a rock. Sleep around and you might get an STD or deal with a life of regret and guilt. And I could go on. There certainly are consequences to sin.

But that’s not what the disciples were thinking about when they asked their question. In their ignorance, they thought this man or his parents must be worse sinners than them. After all, he was blind and they weren’t. As obviously wrong as this is, how often are we tempted to look at someone as a worse sinner than we are? We like to downplay our sin just as much as the disciples. I don’t know all of your sins, you don’t know all of someone else’s. As far as I am concerned, I know all of my sins. I am the worst of sinners then.

Then Jesus has a solution to the blindness of the man and the disciples. He explains to the disciples that this man isn’t blind because he’s a worse sinner, rather God was going to use this as an opportunity to display his power. Then he shows God’s power in an unassuming way. Jesus spits in the dust, he stirs up some mud, puts it on the blind man’s eyes, and tells him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. When the man washes, he instantly can see for the first time.

At first, Jesus’ actions didn’t seem all that miraculous – but that’s how Jesus so often works – through simple, down-to-earth way. The cross seemed like such a humble and shameful way to die – and yet through his death on the cross, Jesus washed away your sins forever. In the same way, a little water is washed over someone in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and their spiritual blindness gives way to sight. We come to the Lord’s Supper burdened with guilt and sin and Jesus comes to us in, with, and under the bread and wine – he gives us his very body and blood and offers us free forgiveness and replaces our burdens with peace.

Unfortunately, there was one group of people who refused to see. The Pharisees hated Jesus. They hated that he confronted their self-righteous arrogance. Their hatred blinded them. Here was a man who had been well known for being blind his whole life and now he stands before them seeing perfectly. But they’re upset because Jesus dared to make some mud on the Sabbath day. The Savior couldn’t possibly care more about people than their interpretation of his rules. They remained spiritually blind in unbelief.

Yet, as much as we might gape at their unbelief and blindness, how often do we like to dawdle and linger not in darkness but in twilight? God might say here is the line – don’t cross it, and we don’t cross it, but we enjoy getting as close to the line as possible. Maybe I wouldn’t dream of cheating on my spouse, but I might linger in the twilight of porn in private. I may revel in the twilight of gossip. We need to be careful in our lives, because if we sit in the twilight, it is so easy to find myself suddenly in the dark. Just like a frog is supposed to sit in a pot and cook itself if you slowly turn the temperature up, I can become too comfortable in the twilight damning myself.

That’s why we glory in Jesus’ ability to heal our blindness. Not only did he heal this man’s physical blindness, the eyes of the man’s heart were opened as well. When Jesus reveals to him that he is the Son of man, the man responds: “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.” Faith was the greatest gift this man could receive that day. Better than being able to see his family’s face, better than being able to see the sun rise, was seeing the face of his Savior. God had shined his light in this man’s heart.

Jesus has healed your sight as well. Sure, you weren’t physically blind, but Jesus shined his light in your heart as well. He opened the eyes of your heart to see him as your Savior as well. For many of you, you were just a little baby and you were baptized. Maybe you don’t feel this amazing change in your life because you can’t remember ever not being a believer. But remember the amazing change that took place in your status before God. Even if you can’t remember your baptism, you went from being ignorant and in the dark, to being brought into the light.

This is a very important truth for us today. We sometimes act like faith and the Bible aren’t practical as Christians. We have light in dark times. There are many uncertainties in life right now. National and state emergencies. Schools closing. For the world, this is a dark and fearful time. You can have hope…not just for eternal life, but hope in this life. Your God is the God who gives sight to the blind. He’s the one who cured leprosy, drove out demons, rose people from the dead. He will be with you even through a pandemic.

The Light of the World lives in you. Instead of darkness, there’s light. Instead of fear, there’s hope. Instead of guilt, there’s peace. Instead of death, there’s life. Live your life in the light. Thank the Lord for it. Share it with those around you. Amen