Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell
The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland
+ + +
"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19b).
"If there’s anything in life that turns us all into instant philosophers, it is the age-old problem of evil. If God is good, why is there so much evil? What can a good and gracious God intend by allowing calamities to fall upon his children? We can understand why the bad guys of this world get theirs, but when tragedy strikes the good and upright, we get a bit uptight. "Why can’t God be fair?" is the question we might be thinking to ourselves. "Where is the justice in this?"" You know these questions; they pop up in our minds when 'bad things' happen. Why did I lose my job? Why did my father have to get so sick and die? Why this, why that? By nature, we want to make sense out of things, especially when bad things happen. We want to know where is the justice in things that are happening to us or around us. In a way, the Disciples were struggling with the same sort questions when they and Jesus passed by at the Temple and they saw a beggar who was blind from birth. Oh what a pathetic situation, seeing man with no sight, trying to survive in life by begging. He had no real life as we know it. He never saw a beautiful sunset, he never saw the faces of his family—all he ever knew was darkness. He had no job, no retirement plan, no Social Welfare Agency to fall back on when times were rough. Indeed, he was a pitiful person to behold.
I am sure the Disciples wanted to know the justice in all this, so they began asking Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" (verse 2) The disciples were assuming that a specific sin had been committed, which was the cause of the man's blindness, but they were at a loss as to who had sinned. Was it the man to blame, or was it the fault of his parents? Jesus corrects this general idea and thinking of the disciples. They should not consider every serious affliction as the penalty for sin. Yes, there are occasions where sin is the cause of sickness or catastrophe, such as diseases that people contract through illicit sex, drink-driving, etc. And, to be sure, all suffering in this sinful and fallen world is the outcome of sin in some way or other. Sin works out its painful and distressing results in many ways that are beyond our ability to trace.
Jesus did not attempt to enlighten His disciples on this wide and intricate subject as to who sinned. Instead, He gave them a completely different answer: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him." Not everything 'bad thing' such as suffering and disease is because of a particular sin. What Jesus taught His Disciples, and what He also teaches us, is that we are not in every case of suffering to look back to find a possible cause of sin but to look forward to the divine purpose which God may have in providentially permitting such suffering to come upon a person, or to you or to me!
Oh listen carefully, dear friends, our text teaches us that God governs all things that happen in lives so that we might see His purpose and know His grace and mercy. The reason God allows certain things to happen to us during our lives (such as happened to the man born blind), is to show us His great works. God wants the power of His grace and mercy to be seen and known in all that happens in life, good or bad. Our questions of "Why Lord, why?" begins to subside and disappear when faith looks to God and humbly expects and believes that God is at work in all things. It is this simple, this very, very simple truth that we need to remind each other of when see one another suffering. We can remind each other with such words of the psalmist, "The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth" (Psalm 145:18); "Fear not," says the Lord through His prophet Isaiah, "for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10). And, as a called and ordained servant of the Lord, and indeed, all of you, His "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), we can reach out in love to one another and remind each other that, yes, bad things happen, there is no denying that, but in this situation, God is working for good (Romans 8:28), whatever you are going through, it has been permitted to happen so that "the works of God should be revealed". This is truly faith in action.
Indeed, the beggar blind from birth was placed on the journey of faith. Our text tells us that Jesus "spat on the ground and made mud of the spittle and put the mud of it on the eyes and said to him, Go wash in the pool of Siloam (which [name] is interpreted, Sent)" (verse 6). "By placing the mud from his own spittle on the beggar’s eyelids He lets him know that the healing power comes from Jesus. The beggar is not merely to wash off this mud, for which any place that had water would suffice, but to wash it off in the pool of Siloam, which … name signifies, "the One Sent."" For the beggar is to act on this strange command with nothing less than taking Jesus at His Word. But with the Lord’s word is also an implied promise. The Lord doesn’t tell the beggar that he will be healed, he simply tells him to go and wash. But this requires some degree of faith, which certainly also is intended to be aroused by Jesus just as He did with the ten lepers, in Luke, chapter 17. The beggar acted on the Word of the Lord. He washed at the pool of Siloam. He saw for the first time!
Now, our text ends with verse seven, and begins again with verse thirty-nine. What happens to the beggar is that he is a changed man, even though he had a rough start. He was taken to the Pharisees who neither welcomed the beggar nor this miracle. Instead, they were quite unhappy. They judged Jesus behind his back, saying that Jesus could not be from God since He healed on the Sabbath. They spoke of him as an open sinner. The Pharisees then asked the beggar what he had to say about Jesus. He confessed that He is a prophet. The beggar didn’t know, but probably didn’t care that the Jews had agreed already, that if any man were to confess that Jesus was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Well, you guessed it. The Pharisees threw him out of the synagogue.
Jesus heard what had happened; He found the man and said, ""Do you believe in the Son of God?" He answered and said, "Who is He, Lord that I may believe in Him?" And Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you." Then he said, "Lord, I believe!" And he worshiped Him." The beggar was brought to faith. The mud in his eyes, the command to go to Siloam, getting harassed by the Pharisees and even kicked out of the synagogue, this did not dissuade him or prevent him from confessing what Jesus had done. But, oh, what a sight it must have been when Jesus, the Sent One from the heavenly Father sought this man out. His faith was brought to full flame. All he could do was worship the Lord.
Oh dear friends, such is the power and glory of faith, even if it be a small spark at first. "Faith," says Luther, "it changes people. It makes them see everything in a new light. Their ears hear, their eyes see, and their hearts feel something completely different from what everyone else perceives. Faith is living and powerful. It's not a simpleminded idea… When the Holy Spirit gives us faith, it transforms the mind and attitudes. It creates an entirely new person. Faith is active, profound, and powerful… It changes the heart and mind. Faith moves one to hear God’s Word and believe it.
With this man in our text, formerly blind, no longer a beggar, we see faith that is bold even when it is tried and tested. It does not wallow in self-pity for "the bad things in life", rather it is in the midst of bad things, our trials and testing that faith is made stronger, as with the man in our text. The fruit of faith is that of worship. One cannot help but worship God. Indeed, "faith in God is the highest worship, the greatest allegiance, the ultimate obedience, and the most pleasing sacrifice" of praise toward God [Luther]. What is more, the power of faith is immeasurable and infinite! Faith gives God the greatest honor anyone can give Him. Giving God honor is to believe in Him, consider Him to be truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and all-powerful. In short, it’s recognizing that He is our Creator and the Giver of every good thing… Faith makes God real to us and real in us. Without faith, God’s honor, glory, wisdom, righteousness, truth, and mercy cannot be in us. Where there is no faith, God has no majesty and divinity. God doesn’t require anything more from us than to acknowledge His divinity and give Him the glory and honor He deserves. We should think of him, not as an idol, but as God—the God who accepts us and hears us, who is merciful to us, and who stands by us. When we honor God, His divinity remains complete and intact—He has everything that a believing heart can give him. When we honor God in this way, we are showing the greatest wisdom, the highest justice, and the best worship…" Such was the worship of the man in our text.
Jesus is, indeed, the light of the world. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, who boldly pointed Israel to the coming Messiah. "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped" (Isaiah 35:5). And, again, speaking the word of God, Isaiah wrote of the coming of Jesus, "I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them" (Isaiah 42:16). Jesus is the light of the world. The darkness of the cross came when Jesus would hang on the cross and die for the sins the world. But in His resurrection, the light of world would display the full salvation of God, which every believing eye of faith beholds.
Now our Lord speaks to us! "Take, eat; this is My body" (Matthew 26:2). "Take and drink." "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). We find healing for our wounded souls and consciences. We find the full forgiveness of sins. We find our faith strengthened. We find ourselves before the real presence of the real Lord who cares for us and loves us. Our faith is strengthened and all we can do is worship the Lord, the "Light of the world" (John 9:5). Amen.