Is That What You Think? (John 9:1-41)
Rev. David French

Why? A very simple, yet profound question. It seems to be a question we ask by nature. Why’s the grass green? Why can’t we do this or that? I’d like to say that we eventually outgrow that - but we don’t. Why is just a part of who we are. Now, to be sure, there are times when we don’t ask why. There are times when we already have the facts and already know the why’s, or at least we think we do.

In our lesson this morning, we hear the disciples expressing that kind of confidence. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Notice that they don’t ask why the man was born blind. As far as they’re concerned, they already know why. The man is either being punished with blindness because he’s a sinful degenerate or he’s being punished for the sins of his parents. Either way, those are the only two options.

The thing is, it’s the disciples who are blind to the reality of the situation. They’re the ones who are blind to the ways and will of their heavenly Father. What they don’t understand, and what Jesus makes clear, is the fact that this isn’t an either/or situation. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” 

So, Jesus begins by making it clear that there is a third option when it comes to this man’s condition. He’s not blind because he committed some unmentionable sin. He’s not blind because mom and dad were as bad or worse. “But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Now, before we go any further, it’s important to take a moment to clarify what this means, and more importantly, what it doesn’t mean. It does not mean that God caused this man to be born blind so He could use his suffering to make His Son known. That would make our heavenly Father out to be a vengeful and twisted kind of god; a god who makes people suffer just to use them later, and that’s not the God revealed in the Scriptures. 

It’s also important to remember that the disciples were sort of right with their diagnosis. The man was blind because of sin, but that doesn’t mean he was being punished for a specific sin. It only means that blindness is one of the many physical symptoms of sin found among those who have been born of flesh. You see, this is one of those cases where God is making the most of a bad situation. God didn’t cause the blindness, but Jesus does heal this man’s blindness to reveal that He is stronger than sin and all it brings, from blindness … to death.

Everyone there knew who this guy and that he had been blind all his life. And so, Jesus heals this man’s blindness in front of them all to reveal that He was the promised One, the Savior of mankind, the Messiah. Just as Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah 700 years earlier, the blind were receiving their sight. 

So, this morning we marvel that this man received his sight through the working of Christ. And we rejoice that he was brought to faith through that miracle. But you may wonder … what does this have to do with me? I already believe in Jesus. I already know who Christ is and what He can do. And I certainly have no doubt that you do indeed believe, just like you say you do, but today’s lesson reminds us that we Christians are still also vulnerable to the blindness of sin as were His first disciples. 

How many of you, when things have gone wrong in your life, have ever wondered, even if for just a second, what you did to make God angry? How many of you have ever asked “Why, God? Why is it always me?” Let me ask, “Why not you, … because you’re a believer? Is that what you think?” Remember, sin isn’t just about what you do; sinful is what you are. 

Because of your sin, you deserve nothing but God’s temporal and eternal punishment. You know the words: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And The wage of sin is death.” So now it seems the only thing left for us to do is point a finger at others and accuse them of being “worse” sinners, just like the Pharisees did. We may say, “I’m a miserable sinner,” but in our hearts, we’re sometimes thinking, “but not as miserable as others.” But God’s Word is clear. We, that is all of humanity, are equally guilty and worthy of nothing but eternal punishment. Sin is sin, and “the wage of sin is death.” 

That’s why we’re here today. That’s what “church” is all about. We exist as a church—not because we want to be some non-profit, good-deed doing support group that offers free therapy, snacks, coffee, and depending on your generosity, a nice little tax deduction. But honestly, according to the latest Barna research, that’s all most of our culture wants from their church.

Christ-centered, by grace through faith alone, is just losing its appeal. The truth is, Christianity is being attacked and replaced nowadays with moralistic therapeutic deism which, by the way, is a term I didn’t make up. Theologians in all Christian denominations have been using the term moral therapeutic deism for the past ten years or so. It’s a teaching that focuses on the idea that God wants all people to be happy.

The truth hurts and can make us feel bad. And today, to make someone feel bad is considered hate speech. People would much rather hear that they’re good and that they get to go to heaven because they’re so good. And when life is hard, they can get a little free therapy in the name of Jesus, all so that the “I’m a good person” feeling they claim for themselves can be restored, and so they can continue blindly on their way towards a cross-less, pain-free, feel-good Christianity that that has no eternal value at all. 

My friends, that’s not us! We’re different. We exist as a congregation because we know and recognize the truth of our sin and the truth of Jesus who paid for those sins with His blood. We know and trust Him when He says that teaching and baptizing are the means He works through to make disciples of all nations.

Word and sacrament. Doctrine and practice. This is the place where His divine means of grace are freely administered. By grace through faith, this is where we see and hear Christ at work among us. But we don’t exist just to tend to ourselves, we also strive to make Christ known to a world that doesn’t know or recognize Him. Everyone is sick. Everyone needs the cure that comes from the cross of Christ. 

That’s what Jesus is talking about when He says, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day.” That is, once the darkness of death sets in, there are no more chances. And that leads to reasonable questions: What do your lips and life proclaim to the people around you? Do they hear about your symptoms of sin or your undeserved gift of life and salvation?

The truth is, all our “Why me”s were answered as we confessed our sins … but we also confessed our hope in the One who speaks to each of us His words of forgiveness and life. And so, my prayer this day is that you see the crosses you bear in this life not as divine punishment, but as they really are; that is, divine opportunities that God will use to make His glory, His mercy, and His love known to you and to all who are a part of your life.

In His name, Amen.