March 2, 2008 - Fourth Sunday in Lent
Max’s camper limped into our driveway. My good friend was a pastor from California on vacation with his three children. They were on a month-long camping trip through the Northwest. As we settled everyone into the house, I asked Max how the driving had gone. “Not so well,” he said, “but there’s a story behind that.”
They were traveling in an old camper mounted on a twenty-year old Ford pick-up. He told us the truck had needed a new engine. A mechanic in his church wanted to do the job for him. The catch was this mechanic had not worked in twelve years. That’s how long he had been blind. He was sure, though, that he could handle this engine replacement. He had worked so often on that model, that he felt he could do the work even with his handicap. Max decided to let him do it.
It took all winter. When done, the engine ran fine, except for one little problem. The mounting was wrong. At low speeds everything was good, but above fifty miles per hour the truck shook terribly. The man could not fix it and Max could not afford to have it redone. So for a month he drove up and down I-5, around the Olympic Peninsula, up to Crater Lake, over to the Oregon Coast, and finally back home, never going faster than fifty.
If you got stuck behind Max’s rig on the highway, you would only see another obstacle in your way to wherever you were going. But if you read our Gospel text and knew Max’s story you might have your eyes open to see something different. Max did what Jesus did in verse 1—he noticed a blind man and gave up his time for him.
“I am the light of the world,” Jesus said in verse 5. It’s the same thing He said in chapter 8 verse 12. Jesus Christ, the shining and glorious Son of God, came into our dark sphere to be its Light. So this chapter tells us that Jesus noticed a blind man along the way, stopped, and opened his eyes, not only to the light of day, but to the Light of the world. The healing of physical blindness was a great miracle, but the greatest miracle here is how the man’s eyes were opened to see the Lord so clearly.
The irony that unfolds in this passage is deep and rich. The man blind from birth comes to see not only with the eyes in his head. The eyes of his understanding are opened. In that way he sees more clearly than some who professed to have good sight. The Pharisees insisted the One who healed the man was not from God, was a sinner, was a nobody from nowhere. But the man who had never seen Jesus, because he was still blind when Jesus sent him way to wash, saw Him more clearly than they could. The formerly blind man told them in verse 33, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” He saw where Jesus came from, even if they didn’t.
John wrote this miracle down so that you and I may see Jesus as well as the blind man did. John 20:31 says, “these [signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” That’s why verse 35 in our text, in chapter 9, tells us that Jesus later went and found the man who could now see and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” That’s the point. Not the physical healing so much. The man was blind all his life and God left him blind until that moment. Millions of others have spent their whole lives until the end not seeing the daylight. Because the main thing is something else. The main thing is to see and believe in Jesus.
That’s why we come here together. That’s why we are a church. So that we can join with the blind man as we’re told in verse 38, “Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” To see, believe in, and worship Jesus—there is nothing greater, nothing more urgent, nothing more worth our time. Jesus is the light of the world. If we want to see, if we want to have open eyes, then we will look for Jesus.
As we eat and drink at this Table this morning, we open our eyes to see Jesus. The Light entered our world in body and in blood, and we see Him just exactly where He said His body and blood would be, in this bread and in this cup. Just like the blind man, we stand and say we believe. We believe in the Servant who “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.” We believe in the Savior who “the third day… rose again from the dead; …ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.” We believe, because with open eyes, we see Jesus Christ our Lord here in the broken bread and poured cup.
And as we see Jesus in this way, in the sacrament of broken body and poured out blood, it reminds us that we see Jesus throughout His world. He is the light of the world. We may see him, if our eyes our opened, almost anywhere we look. We see Him especially where there is darkness yet to lightened and eyes yet to be opened.
My friend Max did what Jesus did, stopped and slowed down for a little while in his life’s course so he could help a blind man. Jesus was there, there in that poor fellow’s twelve years of darkness, there in Max’s attempt to restore his confidence and give him work.
We believe in Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God, who came down into the very dark of our dying to raise us into the light of His living. We ask Him to open our eyes to see Him, even where it’s dark. If we want truly open eyes to Jesus, we will look for Him in the dark spots and blind alleys of this world, because that’s where He is at work. That’s where He expects those who believe in Him to be at work.
It’s so easy to close our eyes to Jesus in the dark places. We pass by the blind and poor and hurting people of the world so easily, turning our eyes away from the panhandler on the corner, or from shabby houses and apartments as we drive through the wrong neighborhood. Yet that’s where Jesus is too. There in the places it’s hard to look.
I watched an episode of “Monk” last week. It’s a series about a detective who has obsessive-compulsive disorder—Beth says I like it because I’m a bit OCD myself. I don’t see it that way, but there’s blindness for you.
At any rate, in the show I watched, Monk is blinded by a chemical thrown in his eyes. At first he is distraught, but then he finds himself in a filthy alleyway, with rats and garbage all around. He sees none of it, and is glad. So he begins to embrace his blindness. Without sight, dirt and disorder, which ordinarily drive him crazy, don’t bother him at all. He is suddenly happy to be blind, to be insulated from the world even further than his OCD had made him. Like Monk, we are often content to turn blind eyes to the ugliness of our world.
Yet turning our eyes from the hurt and pain of our world, we will be turning our eyes from our Savior who hung on the Cross. We will be turning our eyes away from this Table where His body is still broken, His blood still pouring out. By trying to turn our eyes from the darkness, we will turn away from the light.
Jesus did say in verse 5, “I am the light of the world,” but He qualified it. He said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” That doesn’t mean His light was limited to His thirty years on earth, long, long ago. It doesn’t mean He is no longer the light of the world now that His light is shining at the right hand of the Father. But it does mean the light of the world shines in a new way since Jesus ascended to heaven.
Jesus did say, “I am the light the world,” and so He is. But He also said, in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.” To see and believe in Jesus, which is always the main thing, is to become like Jesus, to follow Him. Looking for Jesus, we follow Him to where the blind eyes are, to where the windows are dark, to where prospects for the future are dim. We discover Jesus in those places, in part, because when we go and help, we find His light shining not just on us, but through us.
We’re packing gift bags for the homeless in a couple weeks. That’s a great thing. It means our eyes are opening to Jesus in dark places. But the clearest sight, the brightest light will be found in the actual, in-person, face-to-face giving of those bags. When we believe in Jesus enough that in mangy hair, rough features, broken teeth and drug-widened pupils we see Him as we give a gift in His name, then we will no longer be blind, and He will truly be the Light of the World. May the Lord Jesus Christ open our eyes.
Valley Covenant Church
Copyright © 2008 by Stephen S. Bilynskyj