John 9:1-7 (Fourth Sunday in Lent—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
April 3, 2011
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in John 9:
As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 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.” Having said these things, he spat 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.
Darkness is a negative theme in the Bible. Darkness is the absence of light, the absence of light’s life-giving qualities. Darkness is being deprived of what is necessary for survival. Just think of what happens to plants when then do not get enough light. They suffer and probably die. What happens when people are deprived of light? They also can suffer physical and psychological damage.
Another facet of darkness is that it is seen as evil. Few things bring out greater fear in people than darkness. Although most of us have probably grown out of our childish fear of monsters under the bed and in the closet, which came along with our fear of the darkness, we retain our fear of the dark itself. Would you go into a dark alley at night? How many people are afraid of caves and other dark places? Darkness instills fear in us because darkness is the abode of evil. Evil flourishes in dark places—in back streets and alleys, behind closed doors, in hidden places. It is under the cover of darkness that people do evil deeds. St. Paul writes in Ephesians 5, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” (Ephesians 5:11-12) More frightening still is the evil that lurks in the darkness of our own hearts. Do we not fear that the truth will be brought to light? Do we really want our secret sins exposed for the world to see?
And then there is the theme of darkness expressed by blindness. For the blind, life is lived “in the dark.” They do not know which way to go as they stumble and grope in the darkness. The right path is hidden from their sight. For the spiritually blind, this is even more so. Spiritual blindness is a darkness or an ignorance of the things of God. We all are born spiritually blind and so we are unable to see our sin. We are unwilling to do things God’s way because we can’t see or know God’s way. It is hidden in the darkness and blindness of our sin.
So Jesus and His disciples passed by a man blind from birth. He was suffering physical blindness because of some sin of his in the womb or some sin of his parents, or so thought the disciples. But Jesus says, “No.” The purpose of his blindness was that a divine work should be produced in him and the divine glory revealed. This does not mean that God deliberately caused the child to be born blind in order that, after many years, His glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness. It does mean that God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ, and others, seeing this work of God, might turn to the true Light of the World, Jesus Christ. “As long as I am in the world,” Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” And then He proved it with this miraculous healing.
Jesus gave the light of sight to a man living in the darkness of being blind. But even more than that, Jesus gave this man the true light of salvation, delivering him also from spiritual darkness to the light of faith in Jesus. At the end of our Gospel text, Jesus asked the man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped [Jesus].
Physical darkness to physical light—spiritual darkness to spiritual light. That’s what Jesus does for people. Jesus rescues us from the evil darkness of sin. He heals our spiritual blindness so that we can see our God and Lord with the sight of saving faith. He transforms us from darkness to light so that we might reflect His light to others who still live in the darkness of sin.
As we look at the healing of the man born blind, we take note of Jesus’ method. Jesus spat on the ground and made mud. He put the mud on the man’s eyes and told him, “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam.” “He went and washed and came back seeing!” St. John tells us non-Aramaic speaking people that Siloam means “sent.” Check this out: what did Jesus say to His disciples just before He healed the blind man? “We must work the works of His who sent Me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” Jesus, the Sent One, sent the blind man to wash in the “Sent Pool” to receive light from the darkness of his blindness. The name of the pool, Siloam, also reminds us of the wonderful truth that God the Father sent Jesus to our world to save and heal us from the darkness and blindness of sin through His life, death, and resurrection. The early Church Father St. Ambrose, who flourished between A.D. 374 and 397 wrote these wonderful words, “You, too, should come to Siloam, that is, to Him who was sent by the Father. . . . Let Christ wash you, and you will then see. Come and be baptized, it is time; come quickly, and you too will be able to say, ‘I went and I washed’; you will be able to say, ‘I was blind, and now I can see.’”
Just a few Sundays ago we heard Jesus share this Good News message with Nicodemus (who came to Jesus in the dark at night). “Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. . . . And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. . . . And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:5,14-21)
God gave His light to us not by taking us out of the darkness, but by entering into our darkness, by being enveloped in the darkness of our death, be being oppressed by the darkness of our evil, by experiencing the darkness of our blindness. On the cross, Jesus went into the darkness. He died our death and suffered our punishment. In doing so Jesus won our forgiveness, our rescue from the darkness of sin, death, and the devil.
Through Holy Baptism and the Word of the Gospel, our Lord has delivered us personally from the domain of darkness through His beloved Son and has enlightened our hearts in faith to know and follow Christ, the true Light. Colossians 1 reminds us, “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” This means that you and I no longer live in spiritual blindness and darkness. We bask in the light, in the life, in the goodness and wisdom of Christ’s light. We now live, we now “walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Eph. 5: 8-10)
Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to send the blindness and darkness of sin away from us through the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross. In Baptism, Christ has truly washed you. Your sins are completely forgiven. Your eyes of faith are open to see Jesus who is the Light of the world, your Lord and your Savior. Confess your faith with boldness and worship Him with joy this day! Amen.