Christ Lutheran Church Upper Darby
Christ Lutheran Community Church
March 22, 2020 Worship Sermon - "John 9. The Blind See"
Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser
Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Have any of you thought you knew someone only to discover - as time went by - that they were not the person you initially judged them to be?
I imagine that has happened to all of us. I’m often very quick to jump to conclusions about people, so there have been many times when I have had to reassess my opinion of them. Just this past week, I had my eyes opened by one of you. As I was walking past my grocery store, seeing people coming out with bags loaded with paper towels and toilet paper, I was quick to judge them for hoarding. But one of you helped me to see that maybe those people were shopping for neighbors who can’t leave the house. Maybe, they were buying supplies for emergency food cabinets. Is there hoarding going on in our society? Yes, unfortunately. But we can’t always judge just by looking at someone whether they are hoarding or whether they are doing something truly noble.
Sometimes, our initial opinions of people prove to be incorrect. That’s one of the themes running through our readings from Samuel and the Gospel of John.
In Samuel, we hear about how God chose David to be the king of Israel. When God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the new king, Samuel jumped to the conclusion that Eliab was the one God has chosen. Maybe Eliab was the tallest of Jesse’s sons. We know that Saul, the previous king, was very tall; and it is the case that tall people tend to win elections here in the United States. But God does not judge people based on their appearance or the height of their stature, a fact that brings me great consolation as someone who is a full four inches shorter than the average American man. Eliab was not the one God chose to be king.
Jesse had all his sons march in front of Samuel and God said no to all of them. Samuel was confused by this and he asked Jesse, “Are these all of your sons?” To which Jesse replied, “Well there is one more, the youngest, but he’s out in the pasture watching the sheep.” Jesse hadn’t even bothered to invite David to the party. I guess Jesse assumed that David, being the youngest, could not be the one God had chosen.
But notice what David was doing while all his older brothers were vying to be king. David was watching the sheep. David was doing what kings are supposed to do. They are supposed to watch over and protect the most vulnerable members of society. Throughout the Bible, good kings are described as shepherds who care for their flock. And, of course, in Psalm 23 we read how God is a good shepherd who protects us and makes sure we get what we need. And so, the shepherd boy David was the one God chose as king.
The Lord does not see as humans see. We humans look at outward appearance, so our first impressions of people are often wrong. God looks on the heart. Samuel and Jesse had to change their opinions about David and about what kind of person God would choose to rule God’s people.
In our reading from the Gospel of John, the man born blind is not only cured of his physical blindness. His spiritual eyes are also opened so that he gradually comes to see the truth about Jesus. At first, he refers to Jesus as a man; then he refers to Jesus as a prophet; then he recognizes Jesus as the Son of Man, and finally he sees that Jesus is Lord, the ruler of the heavens and the earth. Once the blind man’s eyes are opened to see the truth about Jesus, he worships him as the Lord of all.
As the former blind man changes his opinion of Jesus for the better, the Pharisees change their opinion of him for the worse. They become increasingly convinced that he is a sinner. They blind themselves to the evidence of all the good things that Jesus is doing.
What opens the physical and spiritual eyes of the blind man so that he can see? Jesus anoints them. Earlier this week, when I read how Jesus spit on the ground and made mud and rubbed the mud into the blind man’s eyes, I thought: Jesus, haven’t you been reading all the warnings about keeping at least six feet of distance from other people? We’re not supposed to touch even our own face, let alone someone else’s face. And certainly, the surgeon general would not approve of someone rubbing their spit into someone else’s eyes. That would certainly lead to contagion!
Well the contagion that we are talking about here is not a virus. It’s the Spirit of God. When Samuel anointed David, the Spirit of God fell upon him. Just as Samuel anointed David, so Jesus anointed the eyes of the blind man. That’s really a better translation of the Greek: Jesus anointed the eyes of the blind man, and then he washed, and then he saw. When Jesus anointed the blind man, he not only gave him physical vision; he gave him the power to see with the eyes of the Holy Spirit.
You also have been anointed with the Spirit of God. When you were baptized into Jesus Christ, you were anointed with the Holy Spirit. Your eyes have been anointed to see the truth. In some churches, when they do baptisms, they actually anoint the eyes of the baptized with oil to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see the world as God sees it.
Now we Christians don’t always use the spiritual vision that the Holy Spirit can give us. Just like me judging people for buying too many roles of toilet paper, too often we Christians rely on our physical eyes rather than praying that the Holy Spirit would help us to see the truth. But the Holy Spirit has the power to help us see beyond physical appearances to the heart, just as God looks at the heart.
Right now, being able to see the work of the Holy Spirit in our world is so important. Fred Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” That piece of advice seems particularly appropriate for our current time. If you are afraid of all the things you are reading about in the news, use your spiritual eyes to look for the helpers, to look for the ones who are giving life to others. They are the shepherds, like David and like Jesus, who are caring for their flock.
In my neighborhood, a florist decorated the park using flowers that were not needed because the event they had been purchased for was canceled. Those flowers spread joy and beauty to many people. That florist was a helper. Or think about all the health care workers who are risking their own health to take care of others. They are helpers.
Use the eyes of the Holy Spirit to see the many helpers who surround us. It will strengthen your hope in the future.
And at the same time may the Holy Spirit give us eyes to see how we too can be helpers, how we too can be shepherds of God’s people.