Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lent 4 Sermon: "Three Miracles"

+ Lent 4 – March 30th 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series A: Isaiah 42:14-21; Eph. 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Seems like everyone in today’s reading has an opinion about who Jesus is.

Some of the Pharisees thought Jesus was a sinner. Other Pharisees thought Jesus was definitely not God, after all he performed signs on the Sabbath. And the blind man thought Jesus was a prophet.

The claim that Jesus is a sinner, according to the Pharisees was a fabrication. They had just tried to stone him at the end of John chapter 8 for claiming to be YHWH in human flesh. Now they tried to discredit the miracle Jesus performed on this blind man.

Certainly Jesus is a prophet. But he’s more than a prophet as the blind man finds out in John 9. Reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

I’m trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell…Either this man was, and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…He simply did not leave the option of being a great human teacher open to us. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, chapter 3, p. 52.)

The same is true for the kinds of miracles and signs Jesus performed. Jesus is more than a prophet; he is the Son of Man, Messiah, Savior, Abraham’s son yet Abraham’s Lord. His signs and miracles are like those big orange signs on the 405 that shout out to us: “Turn here. This is the right way. Look and see, this is who Jesus is. This is what he’s going to accomplish in Jerusalem!”

And in this morning’s readings there are (at least) three miracles. The first one is obvious.

There was a man born blind. We’re not told why. Jesus won’t answer that question even though it gnawed at the disciples as much as it gnaws at us too. It wasn't his parents’ sin. It wasn't his sin. But he is going to use it. All we’re told is that God is going to do something good; He’s going to make good out of bad, which happens to be His specialty.

So Jesus spits on the ground. Like a potter, Jesus kneads the mud and saliva and anoints the man’s eyes with wet clay. It’s Genesis all over again. God made man out of mud in the beginning. Jesus takes the mud and restores.

And when the Pharisees ask him how he received his sight, he simply says: He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see

Jesus’ healing of the blind man opens our eyes to the kind of Savior and Messiah he is, not a conjurer of cheap tricks, but God of God, Light of light, very God of very God, the Messiah whose coming Isaiah foretold:

And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42)

Jesus does as Isaiah foretold. The blind receive their sight. But Jesus had a greater miracle in mind for this man. After the Pharisees failed attempts at launching a successful Spanish Inquisition against Jesus, they kick the beggar out of the synagogue. But Jesus finds him.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” replied the man.
“You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”
“Lord, I believe.”

There it is. Did you hear it? That was the second and greatest miracle Jesus gave to this man. Faith. For the blind man and for you…the eyes of faith are your ears. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.

And here’s one of the great ironies in this story. The man born blind saw Jesus for who He really was while the Pharisees who watched Jesus like a hawk were completely and utterly blind to their Lord and Messiah though he stood and spoke to them face to face.

To the Pharisees, Jesus looked like a liar, a lunatic, and a lowlife sinner like his associations.
To the man at first he appeared to be nothing more than a prophet.
To the world and our sinful flesh Jesus seems weak and lowly, especially as he hung dead on the cross, the very moment John says was his greatest hour. But this is precisely how our Lord works: unexpectedly, opposite from our sinful ways.

We would expect the Pharisees to be blessed; what with their religion, piety, and all. We expect them to truly believe. But they don’t. It’s the opposite. The blind man truly believes Jesus.

This is the second miracle. And the third is like it.

Jesus saves us by these same backwards, opposite, hidden-in-the-cross-ways. He rode into Jerusalem a midst great joy, knowing the sorrow and suffering that awaited him. The most precious thing to him is to dwell with sinners and rescue us by His death on the cross. Where we flee from death, Christ embraced it; he went willingly for that blind man, for the Pharisees, for you.

Seeing is not believing. The man’s eyes worked, but he needed Jesus’ word to believe. And yet believing is seeing. The Pharisees did not believe, and even though they could see the miracles Jesus did, they would not believe.
But we’re no better; there’s a little Pharisee in each of us too. We’re not the good guys in the story. We do the same self-serving, prideful things they did: question Jesus; doubt his promises, close our eyes and ears to Jesus’ teaching. We’re liars, convinced we can see clearly while our sin has so blinded us to the point that we think darkness is light.

Left to ourselves and our sins we’d be lost forever in darkness and condemnation. But the Lord doesn't leave you to yourself. Jesus comes to you blind beggar though you were. He does not reject you, Pharisee though you were. Jesus doesn't let you sit in darkness. There’s room at his table for us Pharisees and beggars. Jesus finds you. Forgives you. Loves you unto death.

You see, more than one blind man receives his sight in today’s reading. What Jesus did for the blind man he also does for you. He opens your eyes to see his suffering and death on your behalf. He opens your eyes to his mercy for you. He opens your ears to hear his word. He opens heaven to you in Holy Baptism. And he opens your mouth to feed it with his own body and blood.

The Pharisee and the blind beggar, the sinner…that’s what you were. Past Tense. At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.

As we confessed this morning. I justly deserved your temporal and eternal punishment. Deserved…past tense.

But what you deserved is not what you receive. The death you deserved, Jesus died for you. The punishment you had coming, he bore for you. The sin that blinded you, covered Jesus in death and darkness. Jesus became the Pharisee and the sinner for you. And you receive mercy, life, salvation, and a new identity. Jesus finds you. Jesus performs the greatest miracle for you too.

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Jesus gives you this third and greatest miracle of all. New life. Redeemed. Rescued. Restored. Reconciled to God. Resurrected from the dead. Life for you…all in Jesus’ Name.

And though you can’t see him now, at least not as the blind man saw him, Jesus is your Light of the world too. The Light of the world continues to shine forth to you in His word of forgiveness, in your Baptism, in His Supper. Jesus speaks to you and in hearing Him you see Him through the eyes of faith, the Light that has been shining on you and on the whole world. Jesus is the Light of the world, the Light no darkness can overcome.

Today we hear Him, and with the man born blind we confess Him: “Lord, I believe.”

And just like the blind man, Jesus sends you to your own pool of Siloam. Go and wash. You are baptized. You are cleansed. Your eyes are opened and fixed on Jesus Crucified and then turned to your neighbor’s need. Jesus sends you from the font to your neighbor with the Word of Christ upon your lips.  

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen. 

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