March 11, 2018
Second Baptist Lincoln
For the Glory of God
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.  As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."  Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes.  "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.  His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?"  Some claimed that he was. Others said, "No, he only looks like him." But he himself insisted, "I am the man."  "How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded.  He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see."  "Where is this man?" they asked him. "I don't know," he said.
God calls us to work alongside him to do the work of the Kingdom of God that we might declare that we know Him, love him and serve him. There are so many perceptions of God by people around the world. Many world religions operate on the principle that man is there to appease and pacify and angry, aggressive, violent God. Maybe some see God like this. A wise, gentle grandfatherly figure with a deep resonant voice, basically Morgan Freeman. However, in the Bible, we see God portrayed as the supreme being and creator who desires to have a deep and abiding relationship with his people. He demonstrated it with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and many other Old Testament persons. He demonstrated it to people under a NEW Covenant whereby his son’s death on the cross satisfied the debt of sin that had condemned humanity to spiritual death.
Yet even in the time of Christ, there were people who perceived that God inflicted people with pain and sickness because of their sin or even the sins of their parents. In this passage, the disciples see a man born blind. They assume v.2 that someone has sinned, either he or his parents for him to be born this way. They don’t stop for a moment to consider other options – like that it may have been a genetic flaw or a physiological malady (Something that they had no knowledge of at that time in history.) They instead believed it had to be related to human behavior, a sin, or a bad omen. Jesus contradicts everything that they have been taught. He leads them to consider that maybe someone’s challenge and hardship is actually an opportunity that God is providing to display the light of Christ in the darkness of the world.
Consider the fact that everyone here has faced some hardship or challenge – some more than others. Can we really say that we didn’t learn valuable lessons and strategies about ourselves and about God during those darkest hours? Do we not recognize that while we were retreating and licking our wounds – that God was not out front providing a new path for us to walk? Can we truly say that God was not glorified through our hardship? Two kinds of healing takes place in this story. There is the physical healing where the man receives his sight. And there is the spiritual healing where the man sees the light of the world, Jesus.
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, we had summer revival meetings in the elementary school gymnasium in Stanley, North Dakota where I grew up. Lyle Thorpe from Williston had assembled an evangelistic team complete with a variety of music. One of the singers was an Indian man from Poplar, MT names Ernie Yuzicapi. Ernie had been blind since he was a young person – probably from drinking wood alcohol. He sang and played a variety of Country and western songs. Having been blind for many years, it always struck me when he sang the Hank Williams song, “I Saw the Light." Ernie was unable to see even a shadow in front of him, but he could clearly see the light of the world. He sang and shared his testimony and others came to see the light of the world as well.
Notice the question that the disciples asked him in the beginning. They had been taught that illness could somehow be blamed on sin. They could only see it one way. But Jesus showed them another way to look at it. “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed.” We have to be careful how we read this. At first glance we interpret this to mean that God caused this man’s blindness to glorify himself. It’s as if God sentenced this man to a cruel fate so that God himself could be glorified. Read it again…."but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” The blindness did not occur so that God could be glorified, rather, the healing took place so that God could be glorified. God did not make the person blind in order to show his glory, God sent his son Jesus to do works of healing in order to show his glory. I don’t even pretend to know why people get sick. Why does God allow it? I don’t know. But I do know that when we are at our lowest, God can intervene with his hand of healing and demonstrate to family and friends the power of healing. Sometimes God heals and sometimes he chooses not to heal -- for whatever reason.
So in this scene, Jesus bends down and takes some dirt, spits in it and mixes a little poultice to put on the man’s eyes. It might seem strange (even gross) to us that Jesus would use spit. Actually, he didn’t need to use anything. He could have touched his eyes, he would have just commanded him to be healed. In ancient times, spit was often thought to have medicinal power. There was enormous superstition about the spittle of a renown person, especially someone who was known as a healer – as Jesus was. Two others times in the book of Mark Jesus used spit to bring healing. After he does this, he tells the blind man to go and bathe in the pool of Siloam. John indicates in parenthesis that Siloam means “SENT”. Jesus is described numerous times in the Bible that he is the one who was sent from the Father. So the blind man was being sent to wash in the place called SENT by the one who was SENT by God. Secondly, the pool had special significance. Remember last week when I talked about the importance of “Living Water” or water that was flowing in either a river or from a spring. Spring water was especially good, and this pool was fed by the only active spring in the city. It had important religious and ceremonial significance.
The healing of this man must have made a significant stir among the people of the community, family and friends. Sure, there were people who went around trying to demonstrate power of healing. But when Jesus actually healed a man they all knew, it got their attention. It certainly did get the attention of the religious leaders. He healed the man on the Sabbath which was forbidden. They decided then that Jesus must be a sinner since he violated the law. Never mind that he healed a man who had been blind from birth. He must be a sinner.
Do you see another form of blindness here? Just as the man had been blind and unable to see the physical features around him, the Pharisees who were supposed to be the spiritual leaders – were completely spiritually blind, unable to see the spiritual features of Christ. They did not recognize that the healing of the man was an act of compassion. They could not accept the fact that Jesus demonstrated love and goodness on the Sabbath. When they suggested to the formerly blind man that Jesus was a sinner, he responded with some amazing words. Words that ought to flow from our lips as well. He said in verse 25, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"
We think we have to be theologically brilliant and eloquent in order to share our faith with a friend or neighbor. This man wasn’t even completely sure who Jesus is. But it doesn’t matter. His testimony is powerful. "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" That testimony can come from each one of us. Once we were blinded by the objects, trends and priorities of our culture. We are born into sin and ultimately we are all sinners and blind to the things of God. We are separated from God until Christ comes along and opens our eyes. His purpose is to glorify the Father in heaven through opening the eyes of the sinner and redeeming them from their sin and bringing them into the family of God.
May your eyes be open and your heart transformed. AMEN.