Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Text: John 9:24-25
A second time Jewish authorities called back the man who had been born blind, and said to him, "Promise before God that you will tell the truth! We know that this man who cured you is a sinner."
"I do not know if he is a sinner or not," the man replied. "One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see."

Missing the point

Itís both annoying and funny when we miss the obvious. How many times do you look for something and you search high and low and the longer you search the more annoyed you get? You know itís here somewhere but be blowed if you can find it. Then suddenly you see it Ė right in front of you. You have looked everywhere else and missed the most obvious place. We may not see the funny side straight away, but certainly other people do.

Some authors and movie makes produce stories that deliberately lead us to miss the point. The movie The Sixth Sense is a case in point. A boy keeps saying through the film that he can see dead people and we are led to a surprising ending. The author has deliberately led us down a path that we hadnít expected to go. The story is cleverly done so that we deliberately miss the point.

How many men here have missed the point? Your wife or girlfriend asks the question, "How do you like it?" This is a trick question of course. You havenít noticed anything different and so in a panic you say, "That dress is beautiful; suits you so well", and immediately you realise that was not the right answer.
"Iíve had this dress for years. Shows how much you noticed my new hair style." Oh yes, it is red, short and straight whereas not long ago it was blond, curly and long. Of course, it would be foolish to now say that you donít like it.

Todayís Gospel reading is about a whole lot of people who miss the point. Jesus mixed some dirt with spit, smeared it on to the eyes of a blind man and told him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man went off and he came back seeing. Others canít believe that this was the same man. The man they knew was blind. In fact, he had been born blind and had never seen the light and colour. There was no doubt that this man was as blind as anyone could be but now this man can see! The once-blind-man explains what happened in the simplest way, "I was blind. Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. When I washed it off I could see. Thatís the plain and simple truth. Whatís so difficult about that Ė Jesus has made me see?"

Even when the blind man, now healed, says, "Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing", the authorities are not convinced. They are blind to the man's clear witness to Jesus. The Pharisees only see the blind man as a sinner, that's why he was blind in the first place they said. They through him out of the temple and see Jesus as an even bigger sinner.

As always in the Gospel of John there is something deeper in the miracle stories for us to delve into. The healed man is not only given physical eyesight but also spiritual eyesight.
Not only had his eyes seen light for the first time, but he could also see the Light of the Word.
Not only had his eyed been opened so that he could see colour, and people, and trees and flowers, but his eyes had been opened to see Jesus as his Lord. For the once blind man everything was crystal clear. There was no missing the point. Jesus had truly opened his eyes.
When Jesus asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man", he fell at Jesusí feet and confessed, "I believe, Lord!"

But the Jewish authorities just didnít get it. They missed the point completely. They didnít believe that this man had been given sight. This was impossible. It was some kind of a trick. And besides, how can someone like Jesus, who had such little regard for the Sabbath, perform a miracle such as this. These learned and pious people claimed to know all there is about God; they believed that they were enlightened but in actual fact they were blind. They did not see the light Ė the Light of the world, Jesus God's own Son.

I wonder how often we miss the point and in some sense share the same kind of blindness that the Jewish authorities did. Let me suggest some ways we can miss the point. All of us have our individual blind spots so this is just a beginning.

Paintings on the walls of the catacombs of Rome portray Jesus healing the man born blind as a symbol of Holy Baptism. One of the writings from that time says: "Happy is the sacrament of our water, in that, by washing away the sins of our earthly blindness, we are set free unto eternal life."

The early Christians looked at their baptism as leaving behind blindness and darkness and stepping into the glorious light of God. In other words, they realised that their becoming Christians and then continuing as followers of Christ, was indeed a miracle - as great, if not greater than the healing of the physical blindness of the man in the Gospel today.

So the miracle of the man born blind presents us with a very real dilemma.
In what ways and how often have we missed the point of what Christ means to us?
How far are we prepared to let our faith take us?
How blinded have we been to the grace God has shown us and failed to be gracious to those around?

Lent is a good time to take stock of how we are affected by this blindness, to see just how blind we have been to Jesus and his call to discipleship, and to realise how often we have preferred to stay blind.
Lent is a good time to renew our vision and fix our eyes again on the Saviour who came so that we can be assured of forgiveness for such blindness, for the times when Jesus has come to us through his Word and we have been too blind to see him calling us to action.
May we who have been healed of our blindness join with the man who was healed, and confess:
"I was blind but now I see!"

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
2nd March 2008

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