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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by the Rev. Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    Jan. 5, 2020 | Epiphany Sunday

    Spiritually Blind
    John 9:13–41

    ■ First in the 2020 Vision series

     “I  SEE.” Obvious those two words mean to have vision with your eyes. “I see the sun shining through the window.”

    “I see” can also mean “I understand.” “I get it.” “Oh, I see what you’re talking about.”

    John’s word play about the Pharisees “not seeing” works well in English. We are in on the joke that the Pharisees cannot see (understand) what happened to the blind man who was physically blind but now can see.

    The story of the man born blind might be a familiar story. Jesus walks along the path near the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. There is a man who was born blind. The disciples ask Jesus why the man is blind. Was it his sins or his parents’ sins that led to this disability? Jesus uses this scene and question as a conversation starter regarding blindness. Physical blindness and spiritual darkness.

     † † † 

    THE MAN who was healed sees that God is present in Jesus. The religious leaders are spiritually blind, contending that the work of Jesus is demonic. In their resistance to him, their blindness — their sin — is revealed.

    The inquiry conducted by the Pharisees includes testimony from the formerly blind man and his parents. They want to know who healed the man. Does he think the man is a prophet? The man who was healed, can’t say for sure, but assumes the healing came from God.

    When they can’t get the information they desire, they decide that maybe he wasn’t blind after all. That is, until they bring in the parents who confirm, yes, indeed he was blind his whole life. The religious folks interrogate the man again, trying to bully him. They insist that he “give glory to God” and suggest that Jesus is really a sinner.

     † † † 

    THE PHARISEES come into this story of restored sight assuming they can see and the man is blind.

    ■ They “saw” that blind, ill, or poor people are that way because they had sinned against God.

    ■ They “saw” that their laws and stipulations are the path to life. Therefore, healings are not to take place on the Sabbath.

    ■ They “saw” that Jesus cannot be a genuine prophet or healer because he does not abide by their Sabbath laws.

    ■ They “saw” that, since Jesus is a sinner the healing cannot be genuine—the man must have been able to see already.

    ■ They “saw” that because this man was born blind, he was a sinner and could teach them nothing.

     † † † 

    THEY CAN’T SEE. They’re quite sure that God cannot be listening to Jesus, because Jesus doesn’t play by their rules.

    They insist Jesus is a sinner, but the formerly blind man confesses that he doesn’t know whether Jesus is a sinner or not. All he knows is that “I was blind, now I see.” Many Christians since — including John Newton, the slave-trader turned abolitionist — have been inspired by the man’s confession: “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

     † † † 

    THE QUESTIONS FOR US as we begin this 2020 Vision sermon series are:

    ■ Where does our own spiritual blindness lie?

    ■ In what ways are we unable to see the presence of God in our midst?

    ■ But more importantly, how does Jesus open our eyes to the things of God? How does he reveal our blind spots so that we can let go of them and give glory to God?

    The good news is that there is amazing grace available to us. Our eyes can be open to the new reality that is God’s presence, so that we might give glory to God. Jesus still comes to those in need to grant sight.

     † † † 

    THERE IS A STORY of a woman blind from birth who was asked by a friend, “How do you sing ‘Amazing Grace’? When we sing it in church?”

    We all remember the words. We’ll sing it again in a few minutes.

    “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
    I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

    The woman answered, “When we get to that verse, I straighten my shoulders, and sing with gusto, ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, and I still can’t see! But … praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

     † † † 

    A PERSON CAN BE physically blind and have 20/20 spiritual vision. And a person can have perfect 20/20 physical vision and be spiritually unable to see a thing.

    May God open our eyes to see.

    — Keith Cardwell   

    «A person can be physically blind and have 20/20 spiritual vision. And a person can have perfect 20/20 physical vision and be spiritually unable to see a thing.»

    SCRIPTURE FOR THE DAY

    ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:


    John 9:13–41
    Holy Bible, New International Version


    The Pharisees investigate the healing
    13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

    16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

    But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

    17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

    The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

    18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

    20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

    24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

    25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

    26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

    27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

    28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

    30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

    34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

    Spiritual blindness
    35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

    36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

    37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

    38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

    39 Jesus said,[a“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

    40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind, too?”

    41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

    — This is the Word of the Lord.
    — Thanks be to God.


    Footnotes:

    a.  John 9:39  Some early manuscripts do not have Then the man said … 39 Jesus said.


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