Sermon preached on Sunday March 26th, the Fourth Sunday in Lent
The Lessons: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Text: John 9:1-41
Topic: Jesus the Light of the world
GOD’S GUIDANCE SYSTEM
On autumn nights as we sleep peacefully in our beds, millions of songbirds are traveling under cover of darkness, heading south for warmer climates. Take Baltimore orioles, for example. Every fall…they head south. It’s the weather patterns that tell the birds that it is time to move. “As cold fronts move across eastern North America,” wrote one expert, “they’re sending waves of orioles, along with warblers and other songbirds, on their way to wintering grounds in Mexico and Latin America.” As cold fronts pass, clear skies and north winds usually follow. These conditions are ideal for migration, allowing the birds to travel with no risk of storms, the wind at their backs and a clear view of the stars to help them find their way.
They fly over thousands of houses and highways, shopping centers and parking lots, passing state after state. If a particular oriole opts for a direct flight home, it will fly over the Gulf of Mexico in a single night, crossing six hundred miles of open water.
The entire trip from Baltimore (for example) to Mexico, Panama, or Costa Rica takes about two weeks. But the oriole knows exactly where it is going. God planted within its little brain a perfect guidance system that tells it exactly where to go, and when, and how.
The Bible says that we are more valuable to the Lord than all the birds in the sky. We are worth more than many sparrows. If the Lord is pleased to guide the birds in their migrations, how much more will he guide us in our lives!
– p. 372, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2007.
A SIGN OF THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
In the Gospel according to St. John, a miracle tends to be a “sign,” pointing to the identity, grace, truth, and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Chapter 9 of this Gospel is one of the best instances of how a miracle is a sign that shows to the world the identity, grace, truth, and power of Christ. In this Lesson, the narrative does not rest at the simple telling of the truthful story of how Jesus Christ healed a man blind from birth. There is much more to it than that. The miracle becomes a witness to the divine grace, truth, and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as an illustration of the truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. Furthermore, not only is the miracle a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, but also the man who recovers his sight becomes a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ even before he has expressed faith in Him. The healed man’s determined witness to the truths of both the fact that he was blind and to the wonderful fact that he can now see, draws opposition from the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his time, so that they cast him out of the synagogue. When Jesus hears of this and finds him, he asks him if he believes in the Son of God. When the man who was once blind knows that Jesus is the Son of God, he expresses faith in Him and worships Him.
St. John also, through this account, is reflecting the late first century truth that “Nazarenes,” or Christians, could no longer worship in the synagogues, since the Sanhedrin, as reformed after A.D. 70 by permission of the Roman Empire, had approved a daily synagogue prayer denouncing Christians. If Christian Jews kept silent during the saying of this prayer, they would imply that they were Christians. The expulsion of the blind man from the synagogue predated this re-worded synagogue prayer, but the inclusion of this detail reinforced the increasing parting of ways between Jews and Christians. The ending of this miracle emphasizes the same point concerning the Pharisees, as leaders of the Jews, who claim to see, but because of that proud claim, remain blind and continue in sin, since they have not come to the Light of the world.
THE HEALING OF A MAN BLIND FROM BIRTH
The account of this great miracle of healing begins with an ordinary event: Jesus Christ and his disciples were passing by a man blind from birth. Many times they had passed by other blind men, or crippled men, who were begging for money from passers-by, since they had no other means of income. The disciples asked Jesus a question which reveals their thinking about human sickness and disability: “Did this man or his parents sin, that resulted in his being born blind? Today, too, some people, especially religious people, are quick to jump to similar conclusions, or ask similar questions in their minds. If Jesus had answered, “Yes, he sinned,” or “Yes, his parents sinned,” it might have confirmed their suspicion and belief that such a disability from birth was the result of sin. The disciples asked this probably from a genuine desire to find out the truth of the matter. Jesus’ answer is probably not the one they expected, but one which is full of hope, since the Lord is concerned with the man’s purpose at this point, “that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (v. 3). How wonderful it would be if each of us could hold fast to that purpose that we exist for the works of God to be revealed in our lives!
Jesus’ statement that he must do the works of the Father who sent him, while it is day, aligns with the truth that he is the Light of the world, as he had previously stated, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). The healing of the blind man is a practical illustration of the Lord Jesus Christ giving light to the world.
The method Jesus uses to heal the blind man is unusual, and maybe Jesus chose this unusual method so that it would be remembered easily, but maybe also, so that the blind man might do something for himself in obedience to God that cooperated with the divine healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus spat on the ground and made mud with the spittle and sand, and anointed the man’s eyes with it. Today people in the West might object to the hygiene of that procedure. The Lord then tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. St. John adds the detail of the name of the pool, Siloam, as meaning “Sent”. In this way, the account would be remembered more easily perhaps, that Jesus sent the blind man to the pool called “Sent”. He obeys his command and came back seeing, cured completely of his blindness.
Now, not only is he cured of blindness, but also, now that he can see, his whole way of life must change. He can no longer sit by the road and beg for money. He must work for it. Now the neighbors who recognize him are divided: some say this is the man who was a blind beggar; others say he merely looks like him. He owns up to the fact that he is the man who was the blind beggar. The neighbors ask him how he received his sight. So he begins his testimony by telling the neighbors called Jesus who anointed his eyes with mud and told him to go to the Pool of Siloam and wash. Thereafter he recovered his sight. When the neighbors ask him where Jesus is, he replies that he does not know. How important is this detail? It is very important when one considers that this narrative might have been recorded in this Gospel several decades later than when it occurred. Christians in the seventies and eighties A.D. could also testify to their neighbors of Jesus healing work in their lives, but when asked where he was, could answer “in heaven,” but not be able to give a location on earth. This mystery, and yet the fact that a miracle had definitely taken place, would have motivated the neighbors to take the previously blind man to the Pharisees, to report this miracle. Wave after wave of skepticism greets the man’s testimony. Some of the neighbors had at first not believed he was the blind beggar. Now the Pharisees are divided, some accepting that Jesus did the miracle, and others not. The recipient of new sight acknowledges Jesus to be a prophet, the only type of leader in Jewish history who performed miracles. The continued skepticism of the Jews leads them to interview the man’s parents, who admit that he was born blind, but venture no explanation of how he recovered his sight, since they don’t want to be cast out of the synagogue by professing faith in Jesus.
The parents refer the Jewish leaders back to their son to give them an explanation of how he came to see. They try to convince the man that Jesus is a sinner (on the grounds that He had performed this miracle on the Sabbath), but he presents an effective argument that since God does not listen to sinners, and since Jesus performed this miracle, He cannot be a sinner, but must be of God, or He could do nothing. Refusing to be convinced by this excellent argument, they cast him out of the synagogue. After this, Jesus finds him, and he expresses faith in Jesus.
For the purpose of judgment, Jesus says, he came into the world, so that those who do not see, might see; and those who see might be made blind (John 9:39). This paradox highlights a spiritual meaning of the whole account. The purpose of Jesus’ coming was to bring a clear separation (judgement) between those who come to sight, that is, come to salvation by coming to Christ and believing in him, and those who refuse to believe, who claim to see and know the truth, but continue to lead their lives in spiritual blindness.
The Lord Jesus not only gave a blind man recovery of sight, but wonderfully changed his whole life, turning him from the miserable life of a beggar to becoming a steadfast witness to the grace and power of the Lord in his life. Has your coming to Christ given you the light of life, or are you still walking in darkness, not knowing God’s will for you?