I once was blind but now I see

This is my 24 minute sermon from yesterday. If you prefer to listen to it, click here.

Close your eyes, and picture this scene:
You are blind, been that way since birth. Today you are in your usual spot, sitting on the steps of the synangogue begging. You hear a crowd approaching. It isn’t the Passover, nor the Feast of the Tabernacle. It’s not Yom Kippur. It is the sabbath, but this group isn’t the usual Saturday crowd, and their timing isn’t right. As you ponder why a crowd is approaching, you begin to hear the tone of their conversation. One you’ve heard over and over again in your years.
“Who sinned, his parents or him, that he is blind?”
Oh boy, here we go again. Another group of well-meaning religious types who have come to look at your plight in order to feel better about themselves. “Just keep the cup out and smile,” you think to yourself, “this too shall pass.”
Somebody pipes up from the crowd, “nobody sinned, this man is blind so that the glory of God’s amazing works can be revealed.”
“Nut job!” you mutter under your breath, “Thanks, but I’ll take my parents sin as reason for my blindness over God’s direct hand. How is God glorified in my being ignored at the very steps people use to enter his worship? Bologna!”
The man’s voice continues, “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.”
“We? The one who sent him? The light of the world? Who is this guy and what on earth is he talking about? How is me and my blindness some sort of work for him to accomplish? Who is doing this work? Who is shining this light?”
The sound of a man spitting on the ground startles you.
“Really, now you are going to spit at me too? Isn’t it enough that you look at me with a blend of pity and contempt? Isn’t is enough that you think God is somehow glorified in all of this? Haven’t you done enough damage already?
All of a sudden you feel something cold, slimy, and sticky upon your eyelids.
“What the…”
Your blood pressure spikes, fight or flight takes over, you clinch your fist to swing at the unseen bully when you hear, calmly and with care, “Go, wash yourself in the pool of Siloam.”
Emotions are spinning around your brain like flies at a Fourth of July Picnic. Anger, fear, frustration and yet there is hope and peace mixed in there as well. None of this makes any sense. What is happening? Who are these people. And then, without a clue as to why, you find yourself, with the help of some others on your way to the pool. They help you kneel at the edge of the pool, you lean over, splash water in your eyes, and…
“What the…”
You can see. And not just that, you can process the new found sight. Your reflection in the pool startles you for a moment. I really look like that? Not bad. I guess. Well, this is the first face I’ve ever seen. You look around, first to your guides to the pool. They look like people, well meaning people. You look further and see trees and they look like trees. As you make your way back to the front steps of the Synagogue, you wonder, “now what? I can’t beg anymore. I can’t go back home. What should I do now?”
Lost in your thoughts, you begin to notice faces again. These faces look less well meaning, more confused, some disgruntled. The closer you get the the Synagogue, the larger the crowd, the more the whispers grow into audible sounds.
“Isn’t this the man who sits at the Synagogue and begs?” “Yeah, I think its him. It looks just like him.” “No way, it has to be someone who looks like him, blind people don’t just start to see. Especially those who have been blind since birth. Can’t be him.”
“It is me. I was blind but now I see. I am the man. I was blind but now I see. The syngagogue steps beggar, me, seeing clearly. I was blind but now I see. I was blind but now I see.”
“No way. How’d you go from blind to seeing? It just isn’t possible,” the people respond.
“This guy, I guess his name is Jesus, a real strange guy, talking about works and sin and light. He made mud, spread it on my eyes,and sent me to Siloam to wash. For no apparent reason, I went and washed and received my sight. I was blind but now I see. I am the man born blind.”
“Where is this miracle man?” they ask, condescendingly.
“I don’t know,” you respond, and with that they grab you by the arms and begin to carry you up the stairs into the synagogue. As fear begins to invade your brain you have a brief moment of clarity, “I’ve never been in here before,” you think to yourself.
“This man was healed on the sabbath,” the crowd shouts in protest, “what does this mean? What shall we do?”
You look up to see men in long robes with funny tassels tied to all the fringes sitting before the crowd. These guys must be in charge, the crowd is aiming their frustration and confusion at them. Their faces betray the thoughts racing through their heads. Some frustrated, some angry, some confused, some with a glint of hope. “How did this happen?” one of the bearded men asks you.
“This guy, I guess his name is Jesus, a real strange guy, talking about works and sin and light. He made mud, spread it on my eyes,and sent me to Siloam to wash. For no apparent reason, I went and washed and received my sight. I was blind but now I see.”
Some of the elders look discouraged, “This man, Jesus, is not from God, for he does not observe the commandments around the sabbath.”
As you think about it, there probably was a lot wrong with your miraculous healing. Jesus broke the sabbath in at least five different ways. First, He and his disciples surely walked more than the allowable sabbath day travel distance which equals WORK. Second, he made mud which you supposed equals WORK. Third, he sent me to the Pool of Siloam which is certainly more than the allowable sabbath day travel distance and thereby caused you to do WORK. Fourth, he healed you, you were blind but now you see and that has to be WORK. Finally, he disappeared into thin air when everybody started debating the issue of the sabbath. Disappearing equals magic and certainly magic equals WORK.
Others in the group, aren’t as sure, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs? It just isn’t possible.” The group is obviously divided, and clearly not used to being that way. There is discomfort, palpable unease, oozing from the men in charge.
“You are the one whose eyes have been opened, what do you say about this Jesus?”
“What do I say,” you think to yourself, “I don’t know. I didn’t even get a look at the guy. I thought he was a bully, a jerk of the highest degree, but that tone in his voice, soothing calm. And for crying out loud he healed me.” Finally, after a long silence to collect your thoughts, you speak up, “He is a prophet.” But you still aren’t really sure what that means.
Things seem to settle down. The crowd disperses some, but the Pharisees hang around, still talking amongst themselves with the occasional sideways glance in your direction. Not really sure what to do, you slowly walk home, dazed, confused, joyful, and scared.
By the time your reach your house, you see your mother and father headed back the way you came. They don’t look too happy, and neither do the two guys who are leading them that way. They don’t see you coming down the road, there is too much going on. You decide to follow them and find yourself back on those steps: cold, hard, and yet the most comfortable place you could be right now. As you sit, you listen, and you can overhear what is happening inside. The leaders, after interviewing you, aren’t sure the story is legit. Leaving the relative comfort of the syngagogue steps you head inside. The man who asked questions of you asks them of your parents now, “This man,” he points to you, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? How then does he now see?”
Your dad, fear in his eyes, responds, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; be we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”
“Thanks Mom and Dad,” is your first thought, but then as you give the whole thing more thought, you realize just how hard all of this must be on them as well. They’ve carried the burden of your blindness for these many years. They’ve wondered what they did to deserve a son blind from birth. The only hope they’ve had has been coming to the synagogue to offer prayers, praying that maybe God’s favor would rest upon them one day. To throw that away would be really, really hard on them. The leaders have made it clear that anyone who confesses Jesus as the Messiah will be banished. Not their best parenting moment, to be sure, but you understand why they said what they did, when, the sound of your name shocks you again out of your thoughts.
“Give glory to God! Tell us the truth! We know that this man is a sinner.” They want you to throw this Jesus character under the bus. A miracle like this is too hard to make sense of in their system. The devil pops up on your shoulder and whispers in your ear, “Just say that Jesus is a sinner and that this is a fluke and be done with it.” But you can’t. You were blind but now you see. It is amazing. You open your mouth and out comes these words, words that you barely know you are speaking.
“I do not know whether he is a sinner. The only thing I know is that I once was blind, but now I see.”
“Then tell us again, what did he do, how did he open your eyes.”
“I already told you, but you would not listen to me. Why should I go through it all again? Do you want to become his disciples?” Woah! Where’d that come from?
The insults start immediately, the snears, the spitting, you remember what this sounds like, what this feels like. “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we don’t even know where he comes from. Heck, you don’t even know where he is.”
Your mouth opens again, before you can even think to keep it shut, “Well, I’ll be. Isn’t this an interesting turn of events. You don’t know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. Everyone knows that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to those who worship him and obey his will. Never since the world began has anyone heard of someone opening the eyes of person born blind. If this Jesus fellow is not from God , he couldn’t do anything, let alone this amazing thing he has done for me. I was blind, but now I see!”
The leader of the group leans in to speak, “You were steeped in sin at birth! And you would try to tell us how God works? No, we know how God works and it isn’t like this, not with mud and spit and sabbath breaking. You, the man born blind, are banished from this place!”
As you walk down those old familiar stairs you think to yourself, “Isn’t that something. I was never allowed in the synagogue when I was blind. They didn’t like the unclean to set foot in their place of worship, and now that I am healed and whole, I’m not allowed in their either. I wonder what it takes to be allowed access? Nah, I don’t really care, if they don’t want me, I don’t need them. I was blind but now I see!”
Just then, the sound of the crowd returns. A voice that is familiar to you, calm, soothing, peaceful, comes from the midst of the noise, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
Even a blind man knows that Caesar is the Son of Man, but this guy seems to be talking about someone, something else entirely, “Who is this Son of Man? Tell me, so that I may put my trust in him.”
The man, now standing right in front of you, looks deep within your eyes and says, “You have seen him., and the one speaking to you is him.”
In awe and reverence and fear you fall to your hands and knees, bowing prostrate before the Son of Man you give him honor and glory the only way you know how, “Lord, I believe.”
The familiar grumbling of the Pharisees starts again, but you pay it no mind as Jesus continues, “I came into the world for judgment so that those who were blind might be able to see. Because of that, those who see so quickly become blind.”
The Pharisees ask him, “Surely we are not blind… Are we?”
Jesus responds to them, “If you were blind, what you did to this man would be excusable, you simply did not understand, but you claim to be able to see and in so doing sign your own confession of guilt. You knew what you were doing, and did it anyway.”
You can tell that he’s riled up now, the words begin to flow like a great sermon, he’s pointing and flecks of spit fly from his lips. The Pharisees have made this Jesus fellow angry.
“Here’s the truth, only thieves and robbers climb over the fence instead of going in through the gate to the sheep pen. The gatekeeper opens the gate for the shepherd, and he goes in through it. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice. He calls each of them by name and leads them out. When he has led out all of his sheep, he walks in front of them, and they follow because they know his voice. The sheep will not follow strangers. They don’t recognize a stranger’s voice, and they run away.”
The crowd looks confused. “Sheep, gatekeepers, strangers? What is this man talking about? He’s lost his mind.” They murmur and mumble.
But you know, you get it. That voice. You know the power of that voice. You were blind but now you see. From swinging a fist to washing in Siloam, that voice has changed your life forever. You followed that voice when so many other voices had sent you running, fearing for your life in the midst of the unseen and unknown. This man, this Son of Man, this Messiah, this Jesus, you know his voice.
Jesus continued, “I tell you again, I am the gate for the sheep. Everyone who came before me was a thief and a robber, and the sheep did not listen to any of them. I am the gate. All who come in through me will be saved, Through me they will come and go and find good pasture. A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I cam so that everyone would have life, and have it abundantly.”
Abundant life is something you’ve never known. Your life was closed off, scary, small. Confined to your house and the steps of the synagogue, you could sum up your existence as sleep, beg, eat, repeat. Abundant life. Full life. That’s what made you listen to his voice in the first place. What will that abundant life look like for you? How has your sight changed anything? You still aren’t allowed in the synagogue, you still have no discernible skills, and now you can’t even beg because thought you were blind, now you can see and everybody knows it. Your sight may have made your life even smaller, but your relationship with this Son of Man, it has implications beyond your wildest imagination. Not only has he healed you, but when he heard you had been banished, he came back to find you. This is a love you’ve never experienced, a love that you now have to share with everyone you meet. A love that brings abundant life.
He’s still talking, as you come out of your thoughts yet again, “I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. Hired workers are not like the shepherd. They don’t own the sheep, and when they see a wolf coming, they run off and leave the sheep. Then the wolf attacks and scatters the flock. Hired workers run away because they don’t care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep.”
He points to the synagogue steps as he continues, “I have other sheep hat aren’t in this sheep pen, aren’t tied up by your rules and regulations, and I must bring them together too, when they hear my voice, they too will follow my direction like Slomo here, the man born blind. There will one day be one flock of sheep and one shepherd.”
“Ah. He used my name. He knows my name. He calls us each by name.” The Pharisees are arguing again amongst themselves. Some shouted, “He has a demon in him. He is crazy. Don’t listen to him!” But others, looking straight at you, ponder aloud, “How could anyone with a demon in him say these things. No one like that could give sight to a man born blind!”
“All I know,” you think again to yourself, “is that I once was blind but now I see. I don’t know why I followed voice. I had never heard it before, but thanks be to God I did. There was hope and joy and freedom in his commandment to go to the pool and wash. What a ridiculous thing to do, to allow a man to cover my eyes with spity, slimy, goo and then listen when he told me what to do. And yet, here I am, free to live a new life, one of abundance and grace. I once was blind but now I see. I once was blind but now I see. I once was blind, but now I see.”
Open your eyes to Jesus, calling you forward into his amazing grace. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s