O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Sight of Blindness
"The Sight of Blindness"
April 3, 2011
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Fellow baptized saints, have you heard the joke about the rabbit and the snake?
Well, a snake and a rabbit were racing along a pair of intersecting forest pathways one day, when they collided at the intersection. They immediately began to argue with one another as to who was at fault for the mishap.
When the snake remarked that he had been blind since birth, and thus should be given additional leeway, the rabbit said that he, too, had been blind since birth. The two animals then forgot about the collision and began commiserating about the problem of being blind.
The snake said that his biggest regret was that he did not know his own identity. He had never been able to see his reflection in the water, and for that reason he did not know exactly what he looked like, or even what he was. The rabbit declared that he had the same problem. Seeing a way that they could help each other, the rabbit proposed that one feel the other from head to toe, and then try to describe what the other animal was.
The snake agreed, and started by winding himself around the rabbit. After a few moments, he announced, "You've got very soft, fuzzy fur, long ears, big rear feet, and a little fuzzy ball for a tail. I think that you must be a bunny rabbit!"
The rabbit was much relieved to find his identity, and proceeded to return the favor to the snake. After feeling about the snake's body for a few minutes, he asserted, "Well, you're scaly, you're slimy, you've got beady little eyes, you squirm and slither all the time, and you've got a forked tongue. I think that you must be a lawyer!"
Now, my apologies to all the lawyers out there. Not all lawyers are snakes. And not all bunny rabbits are cute and cuddly either. But the reason I used this joke this morning is because both the snake and the rabbit can relate to the man from our Gospel reading that was born blind.
It is very hard for us to relate to a man who was born blind, because all of us can see. Now perhaps, if you are like me, you may be going blind, but that is very different from being born that way. Imagine for a moment that you had never seen anything in your whole life. Things were dark, always dark. No colours. No lights. Imagine if your whole existence had been smells and sounds. The thought is terrible, and yet for the man in our reading, it was reality.
And while we can feel sorry for him, because we were born with physical sight, there is a greater blindness that each of us was born with. Each of us was born spiritually blind. Spiritually dark. No colours. No lights. Spiritually speaking, we were born into the same terrible reality of the blind man.
For some this is difficult to hear. We may be tempted to deny this and claim, "I can see. Even spiritual things." Jesus responded to such denial in this way, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains." He adds, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." Christ comes to bring sight to the blind. Physically and spiritually.
The blind man from our text received his sight in a most peculiar way. Jesus made mud out of His spit, anointed the man's eyes with it, and told him to "go and wash in the pool of Siloam." When he washed in the waters of the pool, he could see.
Jesus gave you and me spiritual sight in the same way. We were brought before Jesus, the sign of the cross was made upon our forehead and upon our heart, and we were washed in the waters of Holy Baptism. The gift of faith was poured into our hearts and we could see. Much like the rabbit and the snake, before baptism we could not see who we are, but now our reflection is bright and clear in the waters of Baptism. And we would do well to gaze into those waters often – to remind ourselves of who Christ has made us – the very children of God – and to live the identity we have been given everyday.
The blind man, or should we say, the formerly blind man, must have been more than excited. Picture all of the new things he would have seen. Things he had only smelled or heard, now had shape and colour and shadow. The faces of his loved ones, his mother and father, captured in his eyes for the very first time. He could see. He could see.
But the Pharisees, the religious rulers of the day, would not let his excitement last. He was called in for questioning. They did not believe that he had been born blind. Instead, they criticized and belittled him for his newfound sight and faith. They mocked him for being a follower of Jesus and made him feel like a loser. This man had just received sight for the first time. He had been personally healed by Jesus, the Savior of the world, and yet the Pharisees were trying to tear him down.
Do you ever feel the same way as the blind man? In your Baptism, Jesus personally healed your spiritual blindness and opened your eyes to the spiritual life He intended for you. There are new shapes and colours to enjoy, layers of peace and security to rest in, and yet sometimes the people around you do their best to criticize and belittle your newfound sight and faith. They make you feel like a loser for trusting Jesus, just like the Pharisees had done. These 'modern' leaders of the religion of reason who attack your faith are convinced that all of their senses are working properly. They are convinced that they can see everything. That their five simple senses are enough. The words of Jesus ring out in truth yet again, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind."
The man who used to be blind was thrown out by the Pharisees. Jesus, knowing how the Pharisees would make him feel, caught up with him. He wanted the man to have the strength and certainty that although he had been criticized and bullied, He was still with him. Regardless of what may happen in this world, and the way people may make him feel for having his sight restored, Jesus, the giver of sight, was still with him.
Jesus does the same thing for you and me. After we have been ridiculed and brought low out in the world, He comes to us in His Holy Supper to strengthen us and give us certainty that He has not left us, and that we are not crazy. He wants us to be confident that we have everything we need in our struggle with the world, so He gives all He has, even His own body and blood.
The conversation that followed between the man who used to be blind and Jesus is one that applies directly to us. Jesus asks, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" "And who is he sir, that I may believe in Him?" "You have seen Him, and it is He who is speaking to you." - "You have seen Him." What an extraordinary thing to say to man whom you have given the gift of sight. "You have seen Him."
Christ says the same thing to you and me. In faith, you have seen me, and it truly is I who is speaking to you. Jesus is preaching to you right now. His Words are being used. His message is being proclaimed. He is the one baptizing, the one serving the Supper and the one forgiving. He is the Word that brings sight where there is none.
The man who used to be blind responded, "Lord, I believe," and he worshipped Him.
This should be our response also. In the Divine Service after the sermon we stand up and proclaim what we believe – we say the same thing as the man who used to be blind, "Lord, I believe in one God." We confess the Nicene Creed. We say out loud, from our own lips that Jesus is our Lord. We tell of the things that Christ has done. As Isaiah writes, "who is blind but my servant?" We confess that Christ shut His eyes to our sins and injustices. He looked not on our impure thoughts and deeds, so that He could bring us mercy. He became blind in order to give us sight. He became sin that we could be pure. He died so that we could live. And there is no better response to His great mercy than this, "Lord, I believe." In Jesus name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr