4th Sunday in Lent

Originally published at: https://confident.faith/2020/03/26/4th-sunday-in-lent/

  • Isaiah 42:14–21
  • Psalm 142
  • Ephesians 5:8–14
  • John 9:1–41

We are all born deaf and blind. Hearing, we do not hear; and seeing, we do not see. We know God’s Law, for it is written on our hearts — our consciences accuse us when we stray. We are all without excuse. We have become futile in our thinking, for we sin in thought; we have become futile in our speaking, for we sin in word; and we have become futile in our doing, for we sin in deed.

All our suffering, every affliction, and all the evil and imperfection in this world are due to sin. No, you did not break your leg because you failed to tithe — probably. That is not how sin and consequences work. Many, however, operate under that false assumption — that individual afflictions can be traced to individual sins — but hear the words of Christ when He rejects His disciples’ presumption that the man born blind (or his parents) sinned and thereby brought about his condition. Every evil and every imperfection are traceable to sin because we live in a fallen world.

When our first parents — Adam and Eve — sinned in the Garden, they ushered death into the world, and with death came decay and degeneration. The very good creation was subjected to futility, and so some men are born blind, some are born missing limbs, and some are stillborn. Great and terrible is the suffering in this world, because great is the power of sin. And lest we think too highly of ourselves, we sin each and every day. Not only original sin condemns us, but each and every one of our innumerable actual sins. We are true children of Father Adam.

Naturally, we are sons and daughters of perdition, every bit as separated from God as the dragon in Revelation or as the snake in the Garden. Spiritually, we are conceived, born, and live in darkness, and we spread it everywhere we go. We do not love our neighbors as ourselves, and we certainly do not love God with our whole heart, mind, body, and strength. We justly deserve this present and then eternal punishment.

One must wonder what Paul who spoke of certain sins done in secret as being too shameful even to mention would think of all that is not only done in the open but celebrated in our culture. The night is wretched, dark and deep, and evil seems to never sleep. And yet we know that a still more glorious dawn awaits.

‘For at one time we were darkness, but now we are light in the Lord.’ As Christ is the light of the world, so we have become light through our union with Him. But let us return to the man born blind, whose world was one of darkness. With very few exceptions, blind men in the ancient world had to support themselves via begging. It was an uncertain and unpleasant existence.

Now see Christ stooping down to create mud with His saliva and His hands. Our text comes from John, who also wrote Revelation, but let us go to the other end of the Bible for a moment — to Genesis. Unlike all else in Creation, which God merely spoke into existence, God formed man from the dust; He, like a potter, took earth and formed it into a man — Adam, father of our race. Then God breathed the breath of life into that lump of clay and it became a living being. The mouth that breathed that breath of life in Genesis is the very mouth that spits in the dust to make mud here; and the very hands that formed Adam from the dust in Genesis here form mud to restore sight to a son of Adam.

The true Good News is Christ’s victory over sin and death and our adoption as sons and daughters of the Kingdom, but He also gave us glimpses of the physical restoration that will attend the life to come. Never before had a man born blind had his sight restored, and yet Jesus does so. The man’s blindness was a consequence of sin’s corruption of Creation. The wages of sin is death, and physical imperfection and corruption attend death. Christ’s healing of the man born blind was a little of the Kingdom breaking into the present world — a hint of what is to come.

It is easy to miss the true nature of this miracle (although its uniqueness indicates the true wonder of it). The human brain is plastic, which is to say some regions can be retasked under certain circumstances — say, if you were born blind. Not only did Christ heal whatever physical malformation made the man blind (whether of the eye, the optic nerve, or something else), but He also created the wiring in the man’s brain that is necessary for sight. This is an even greater miracle than the healing of the paralyzed.

Now, we still live in a sinful and fallen world, and so we will not always receive the healing we desire. Injury, sickness, and death are still very much part of this world we inhabit. It is a matter of ‘already’ and ‘not yet’. On the one hand, the Kingdom is already here — you were raised in Baptism to new spiritual life, the first resurrection — but, on the other hand, we are waiting for the fullness of the Kingdom that is not yet here — sin and death are conquered, but will not fully pass away until the Second Coming. As an heir to the Kingdom, you will never truly die — never see the second death, but, as a fallen human being, you will still taste death, but only of your now-imperfect body that will be raised perfect and imperishable.

Just as Christ healed the blind man and then sought Him, so will He one day call you forth from your grave. Death could not hold Him Who had no sin, and death will not hold you, as you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and made whiter than snow. At the right time, God sent Christ into the world to die for sinners, and nothing could delay or thwart His rescue.

You and I were captives, sold under sin. There was nothing we could have done to free ourselves; we could never have paid the price. But Christ paid our debt on the cross. No work of our own would have ever been sufficient, but that is the Good News: We are freely justified for His sake, due His merit. His righteousness is imputed to us. Not only have our sins been washed away, but our Father in Heaven has promised not even to remember them. Many of the pages in Heaven’s record of your life are blank, because your sins were washed away by the blood of the Lamb. You are Christ’s and He is yours, and nothing will snatch you from His hand. Your name is written in the Book of Life.

So, rejoice with David, for the Lord is your refuge, your mighty fortress, and the righteous will surround you. Yes, there will be trials, pain, and suffering in this life, but the victory has already been won. Death cannot hold you, for death has been robbed of its sting. Christ has bound death and the devil, and now we plunder his kingdom. In Word and Sacrament, Christ comes to us, and we, as children of the light, walk in the light and share with others what was freely and abundantly given us. And just as with our salvation, we need not fear when we share the Good News, for it is God Who will do the work. So let us work while it is still day, buy joyously in the security of a victory already won and a Savior Who never fails, a Lord Who guides, and a God Who loves us.

Amen.