What the Blind Man Saw
Lenten Season: Fourth Sunday in Lent, Sunday, 30 March 2014.
Bob Hope was once called upon to present a special award to a gentleman by the name of Charlie Boswell. Charlie Boswell is a blind golfer, and he was receiving the award for his excellent playing ability. He has an assistant who lines up the ball for him. But he does all the shooting himself. At any rate, when Bob Hope presented the award, he couldn’t resist kidding him a little bit. “Outstanding blind golfer, huh? I’d like to see you play sometime!” Charlie Boswell quickly replied: “I’d love to play a round of golf with you, Mr. Hope.” “I don’t think you understand,” said Bob. “I only play for money.” “That’s no problem,” said Charlie. “I like to play for money, too. It makes the game more interesting.” “Yeah, but what kind of handicap would I have to give you, Charlie?” “I tell you what, Mr. Hope. I’ll play you even up.” “Well,” said Bob, “if you’re dumb enough to make that offer, I’m smart enough to take you up on it. When do you want to play?” To which Charlie Boswell replied: “How about tonight at midnight.”
In way that story wonderfully illustrates the paradoxical statement Jesus makes in verse 39 of our text when he declares: For judgment I came into the world, so that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.
This morning I would like to examine the two sides of this paradox so let us take a look at the last one first: “He came that those who see may become blind.”
It is clear from the final verse of our text that Jesus is speaking of the Pharisees, but if you were to go up to any Jew in Jesus time and ask them who were the most enlightened people around, or who had the best spiritual insight and the greatest knowledge and understanding of God, they would have pointed you to the Pharisees. They were seen as the smartest teachers and best preachers and finest holy men of the Jewish religion. It was thought that no one knew or could keep the law better than they. In fact the laws handed down through Moses were not enough for them, they added to it to make it even more difficult. In no area was this more evident that in the keeping of the Sabbath.
They wrote literally hundreds of extra regulations for the Sabbath, the slightest deviation from which brought stiff penalties. So rather than the Sabbath being a day of rest, and a time to reflect upon God's Word as it was originally intended, it became a time of great anxiety because people were worried about doing the least little thing wrong, thus bringing the wrath of the Pharisees down upon themselves.
It would come as no surprise then, that the Pharisees' chief complaint against Jesus was that he was a Sabbath breaker. In fact, it is kind of humorous to note that it wasn't the fact that Jesus had done a miracle on the Sabbath that got him into trouble, but that he actually picked up some dirt and spit into it and mixed it together to make mud. That was work according to the Pharisees and that made Jesus a Sabbath breaker. And since he had broken their regulations they were certain that there was no way that he could be the Messiah, because the Messiah, the true Christ would certainly agree with them in all matters and keep all the laws they made up.
But rather than put Jesus on trial, which they didn't have the courage to do because he had on previous occasions made them look foolish, they put the blind man on trial to force him or his parents to confess that he had never really been blind at all in order to show that Jesus was a fraud.
This account of the trial would be laughable if it were not so sad. Here are these supposed brilliant and enlightened men, these Pharisees grilling this poor uneducated blind beggar, trying to make him deny that he had ever been blind and that Jesus had actually healed him. What they were trying to do was to get him to deny what was clearly seen by everyone, which was that Jesus was at the very least a great prophet of God if not the Christ himself.
But the Pharisees just could not accept such a possibility, so they continue to hurl questions at the poor ex-blind guy until he becomes impatient and says to them: I have told you the truth already, but you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples? When their foolishness was exposed publically then those great, enlightened men did the only thing they could. They shouted insults at him and threw him out of the synagogue.
They were blinded by their own spiritual pride. They would not see what was obvious to anyone, that Jesus was the Christ, the Holy One of God, the Savior of the world. And because they did not believe their guilt and their spiritual blindness remained and most of them are now as C.S. Lewis puts it in his book, The Screwtape Letters, "Safely residing in their Father's house below."
I am sad to report that although things have changed somewhat since Jesus day, they really haven't changed all that much. The religious formulae of the Pharisees have been replaced with the atheistic skepticism and political correctness of our time. Jesus Christ is still held in contempt by most of those who run the mass media, staff most of our universities today and run many of our governmental institutions. All religious and political points of view are to be tolerated except one, Christianity. Christians are routinely portrayed as narrow-minded bigots who seek to stifle the freedom of others, because we have the audacity to state publicly that there is in fact right and wrong, or moral and immoral behavior. How dare we! How dare we object to a woman’s right to kill her unborn child? How dare we object to the violence and pornography they pump out into our society? How do we think we are anyway?
Now one might expect this type of thinking on the outside of the church, but on the inside things aren't much better. Many Biblical scholars in most of our nation’s leading seminaries simply don't regard the Holy Scriptures as being true anymore. They operate by the simple axiom that the supernatural does not exist and that miracles cannot occur. So, of course the blind man was never healed, of course the virgin birth of our Lord never happened, of course Christ was not physically raised from the dead. Those were all mythical events invented by the early church to validate their religion. Bible-believing Christians like us are dupes or at best as just a bunch of well-meaning idiots.
Still worse, Jesus is seen by them as just another great man or wise sage like Confucious or Mohammed, instead of who the Bible says he is, the Lord of heaven and earth. That is the world view held by many of those considered to be our best and most enlightened Biblical scholars in our nation’s fine institutions of higher learning. The blinding truth, however, is that they have not spiritual sight at all St. Paul says in the first chapter of Romans, “ Thinking themselves wise they became fools, their foolish hearts became darkened and they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the creator.”
But, thanks be to God that Jesus came not only to blind those who think they can see, but also “to give sight to those who where blind, which is the more joyous half of our paradox. For we know from the Word of God that all people are born spiritually blind and dead in their trespasses and sin. And so we would all be doomed to forever dwell in darkness unless a miracle occurred or an act of God took place so that we could see. So now let me ask a question. When did the blind man see the light? Was it when he first received his physical sight?
No, because if we look back to the beginning of the chapter after Jesus placed the mud on His eyes to heal him, he told the man to go wash it off in the pool of Siloam and when the man did what he was told we are told in verse 6 of this chapter that he went home seeing. He never saw Jesus, the one who healed him until after he had been cast out and then, reading from vs. 35-38:
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “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 him.
It was then that the man saw the light and it was the same way with us. We were in sin and darkness, until by the miraculous grace of God, exercised through Word and Sacrament, we saw the light of the world, Jesus Christ. And we have been taught all that he has done for us. Primarily that he died on the cross to take all our sins away and to open the way to heaven for us and all who would believe. And that he rose again to show us that one day we too will rise. Death is not the end but merely a sleep, until we awake on resurrection morning to our loving Savior.
And so our response is the same as the ex-blind man's. Seeing our Lord we too worship him. We too give thanks and praise and glory and honor to our Lord and God, who gave and who still gives us sight so that we will no longer stumble and fall and grope around in the darkness of sin, but bask in the light of his grace and love. And also do what he asks us to do, which is to share this miraculous good news of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet so that they too can sing with us: I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.
Yes, beloved it is true the blind are still gaining their sight, and one day they and we will see our Lord face to face, as the blind man did in our text, only it will be in His glorious kingdom of light. May God grant it in Jesus name. Amen.