Restoring Vision

Our Scripture texts for today are about the opening of eyes. In Samuel, we hear about the anointing of a new king, and it is Samuel who must anoint this person from among the sons of Jesse, as God commanded. Samuel asks, "Who is to be the one anointed?" And Samuel...with all his human characteristics, but with faith that God would provide him with the answer...goes. And the sons come forward one by one. Who would be the one the elders are preparing to make the sacrifice? Who would be the one Samuel should anoint? Samuel thinks it's going to be this first son who was great in stature, probably handsome as well. And, from a human standpoint, you could hear Samuel probably say, "Surely this must be the one." But God speaks to Samuel, "No, this is not the one, go to the next one." And again and again the process is repeated until there are no sons left. And Samuel asks, "Have you no other sons?" And Jesse says, "There is one more in the field." So Samuel said, "We will not offer the sacrifice until he comes." So they send for the boy David. And God speaks to Samuel, "He is the one, anoint him." And Samuel can hear the words from when he thinks the first one is the one to be anointed, when God says, "I do not look upon the outward appearance, but upon the heart." And so the boy David is anointed. Lesson one about opening our eyes to God's way.

In our second lesson, Paul speaks in his epistle about light and darkness and how, in Christ, we have been given this great light that opens our eyes to God's ways and opens ourselves, if we let it, to a new way of living in the ways of God, living in this light that Jesus brought into the world and, in doing that, God's light shines in us every day. And we are warned not to live in darkness, not to live in ways that are unspeakable and often hidden away that no one wants to talk about, but to live in Jesus' ways, the ways of light, opening the eyes of our heart. By living in the ways of Christ, we are living in the light.

And finally, our Gospel lesson today speaks about the eyes of the blind man being opened. But truthfully and honestly, it's not really about this man who was blind from birth and having his eyes opened, although in some way Jesus speaks to that. The scribes and the Pharisees, and even the people, asked him, "How is it that this man was born blind? Who sinned, he or his parents?" The understanding in those times was that if you lived a life that was cursed, it was because you were a sinner or your parents were sinners. And if you lived a life where everything seemed good on the outside, then you were blessed by God and you were not someone who sinned. But Jesus says, "This man wasn't born blind for anybody's sin, but so that God's glory today, right now, may be shown."

Opening the eyes of those in the crowd who were listening, to start undoing their interpretations of looking upon someone who is suffering and saying their suffering is because he as a sinner, Jesus wipes that away. So Jesus is addressing that, and that's part of the story there. And another part of the story is what I told the children, that God wants us to be well. But the real context of this story and the blindness comes from the scribes and the Pharisees. As the man who was born blind goes to the temple and explains this to the religious leaders, they reject what he has to say. They don't believe that he was born blind. Certainly that's just not possible for him to be able now to see. And a worse atrocity was that someone broke the Hebrew law and did work on the Sabbath. Jesus healed on the Sabbath. But the parents come and they say, "Yes, this is our son. We don't know how this came to be," although they probably did but were afraid that, in saying he was healed by Jesus they'd acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, which would be dangerous for them and they would be put out of the temple. So they just put it back on their son, "Ask him." And the son says, "Why are you asking me this over again? I already testified to you." They questioned him, and he says, "Do you want to become one of his disciples?" It probably couldn't be any more infuriating for the scribes and Pharisees who now looked upon Jesus as a sinner because he healed this man, who they also considered a sinner, on the Sabbath. So it's a double violation. And surely if Jesus were from God, he wouldn't work on the Sabbath. But, in fact, Jesus had. So they are infuriated once again by Jesus who shows himself to be much more faithful in God's ways than they are.

And it speaks to the fact that authority sometimes leads to abuse of power. And in the church in that day, those who were the most educated had to go by the letter of the law and they could not see past these things. They were what Matthew would call 'blind fools.' But in John's Gospel, he says they are living in darkness and will continue to be blind. And when they confront Jesus, at the end of this passage, he says he came to make those who were blind able to see, and that those who were able to see to be made blind. I'm not sure Jesus had to make them blind because certainly in their rejection of what Jesus did and who Jesus was, they were, in fact, choosing to be blind to God doing something new.

How different are we today? Sometimes we are so set in our own understanding that even if God were doing something new through us, we too may reject that. Could we be considered those of the religious elite who are blind and remain blind if we do not open our eyes or our hearts to the way the Spirit may be moving us, or how Christ's teachings may be warming our hearts to new ways of God's understanding for the future? I wonder about that often because this passage very much convicts religious authorities. And I guess I would be one of them. But then again, we are also an educated society. Each of you has probably read and studied Scripture, and we consider ourselves to be people well educated in the faith. I hope that our understanding doesn't preclude us from opening our hearts and that when we look upon others we do not let the outward appearance cause us to make judgments, but that we are able to know them and look upon their hearts as God does. Let us pay attention to these teachings from Jesus and the warnings that he gives...that we can be so religiously educated that we become so set in our ways that we remain blind. And in this passage, it says, 'You will remain in your sin because you have chosen to remain blind.' My hope is that we will never choose to remain blind, but always try to open our eyes and our hearts to others, always try to seek God's understanding not only through Scripture, but through the Spirit as well, and that we may look upon each other for who we are in our hearts instead of what we look like on the outside.

Christ is still, through the Spirit and through the Word, giving us new vision, to open our eyes again and to have us open ourselves to God. Let it be that we are not people who are considered blind, but those who see and understand who Jesus is, the one who has come from God to give us new light for this life, the one who proves to us over and over again in the Scriptures that he must be the Son of God. These texts are a Christian apology. They are proofs of who Jesus is. Jesus has come with authority to make a complete change, giving new life and eternal life to everyone who will listen and have a change of heart and come to God. So let us reflect in this coming week, as our Lenten challenge, on the blindness that afflict us as Christians today.

Let us pray.

Almighty and merciful God, in some ways we are blind to your ways. And in other ways we are blind to others around us, looking not upon their hearts but judging them by outward characteristics. Forgive us for that, O God. And we thank you that as you look upon us, that you look on our hearts. Help us to do the same as we look around us and to invite people, O God, into your realm and into your family and into this congregation of faith. Help us to love those who come to us and help us to understand them. And help us to have our eyes opened from our blindness. And help us, O God, through the Spirit to find ways to open others' eyes from the blindness they face as well. Grant to us your grace this day, we pray.


Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve