The Man Who Does the Divine
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Delivered By
Rev. Jonathan Gruen
Delivered On
March 30, 2014
Central Passage
John 9:1-7

Rev. Jonathan Gruen
Text: John 9:1-7

The Man Who Does the Divine

            Ok, parents and grandparents.  Admit it.  You’ve done it before.  As you walked into church, or before leaving a kid with a sitter, or even if you were just staying home—you’ve seen the smudge on the kid’s face and you went like this (lick thumb and pretend to wipe a face).  You have, haven’t you?  You did that because it works!

            Human spit is a powerful thing!  It cleans kid’s faces.  It begins to work stains out of clothes.  It cleans your teeth.  It helps you dissolve food.  It can even start fights when you expel it onto another person!  It is the means of many powerful works.

            But have you ever used it to heal someone?  Have you ever seen it used to heal someone?  I bet you haven’t.  Spit can do a lot of things, but healing people isn’t one of them.  Unless, of course, you are talking about the spit of the Jesus.  Then there’s no limit.  For this is a man who does the divine.

            In John chapter 9, we see an encouraging example of Jesus doing the divine, doing Godly things that only God can do.  Now, Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem, and they are really stirring things up.  Or, really, I should say that Jesus’ teachings are causing a stir—some believe and rejoice, some reject him and seek to kill him.  In fact, just before our account today, Jesus is nearly stoned in the temple for claiming to be divine.  But since the religious leaders were violently rejecting Jesus' teaching and Jesus himself, our Lord leaves the temple and proves his claims.

            So then we have this Gospel account.  “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” (v. 1-2).  It’s not an altogether bad question, for there are some sins of the parents that could directly cause blindness to an unborn child in the womb.  Sometimes, too, we suffer direct consequences and yes, even punishments, because of the results of our own actions.

            But Jesus’ answer indicates that this blindness was not a direct result of sin, either of the man or of the parents.  Now, yes, we could say in a very broad way that any kind of brokenness or sickness or suffering is because of sin that caused the fall of man and corruption of creation.  But quite often when we suffer loss, sickness, and sorrow we can find no direct or narrow correlation to a specific sin.  So, Jesus explains to the disciples that there is not one specific sin that directly caused this result of blindness.  And he also says something that gives us a bit to chew on.  He says, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him" (v. 3).

            Notice that Jesus doesn’t lecture them about why sin is in the world and that we now have suffering.  Unlike our culture, they are keenly aware of that.  Jesus instead tells them that sometimes suffering is allowed by God because it glorifies God.  And you have to understand that when God is glorified, it is not for God’s benefit, but for ours.  Now, we talked about suffering last week from the great text of Romans chapter 5.  We made some points that we can rejoice even in suffering, and that suffering produces good in us, and that hope will not disappoint.  But we can add another point onto it today, that in our suffering, the glory of God can be shown to those around us.  That’s why Jesus said that this man was blind so “that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

            Indeed, look what good comes from Jesus’ interaction with the man!  The man himself is saved from sin and death, as we’ll see, and that is better than any physical health and sight!  Also, as other people hear the man’s testimony, they are hearing the Good News of Jesus.  Now, yes, some still reject it, but you can be sure that many found great comfort and hope in the One who could do such mighty things.  So, the man endured years of blindness, but in the end, through it God brought eternal life to him, and possibly to many other people.  Is it worth it?  You bet it is! Now, that’s easy for me to say, not ever having endured blindness.  It is not an easy cross to bear.  But God did something great and wonderful, and accomplished something even greater than the healing that (no doubt) the man’s parents and the man himself had prayed for.

            So also, we should be ready to give glory to God, to proclaim our thanks and the Good News of Jesus at every opportunity, to bear patiently the struggles of the present, and watch for God to be at work.  Remember St. Paul, who suffered from the “thorn” in the flesh (whatever it was)?  He also gave glory to God and has encouraged millions by his patient suffering.  For because of it, we have these words from 2 Corinthians 12: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:8-10).

            The second part of Jesus' response is this: "We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world'" (v. 4-5).  Jesus is teaching them and us that our time is limited (like a day that will soon be turning to night) and we are here for a purpose, so let us do the works of God.  Now, we could apply that a hundred different ways.  In brief, we can summarize our life for God by saying that we should be good managers of everything in our possession: making our seconds count as we use our time for godly things, doing godly works; using all our skills for God’s glory, serving and benefiting our neighbor by the good, quality, valuable things that we do; using every cent in a God pleasing way, returning a portion to Him for the ministry and works of God that he is doing on earth and in this place, and being responsible, careful, and wise with the rest; giving sermons about Christ with our words and our actions, as our acts of mercy proclaim God’s love and our witness tells of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  Let us do the works of God while it is still day.

            Friends, this is the task of the Christian, the disciple who heeds Jesus’ words and walks in Jesus’ way.  But you and I often aren’t up for the task.  Paul boasts in his weakness.  We bemoan it.  Jesus proclaims that we ought to be busy doing the works of God, but like the disciples we are preoccupied with figuring out who the biggest sinners are, and who is worthy mercy.  Or we are simply too busy entertaining ourselves.  We call evil what God calls good.  What God calls evil we embrace.  Our sinful nature seeks all that is worldly, all that is selfish, and all that is opposed to holiness.  And that’s why we often fail to trust God, fail to walk in his ways, fail to be responsible managers of all the resources at our disposal for work in God’s kingdom.  Instead of being busy for God, we are busybodies.

            In reality, we are by nature spiritually blind, just like the man in our text is physically blind.  By nature, we are born spiritually blind, just like the man in our text is born physically blind.  By nature, there was nothing we can do to see God at work and to know him, to have our eyes of faith opened.  That’s why like the man in our text, we need Jesus.  We need Jesus to open our eyes, to give us forgiveness, to strengthen us to be doing the works of God.

            And this, I am glad to say, Jesus does for us freely!  But this, I must also say, is done in what appears to be a very strange way.  Jesus does these divine works with his very human body.  Notice what he does for the man.  We will see he does something very similar for us.  Look at what he does: “Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva.  Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent).  So he went and washed and came back seeing” (v. 6-7).

            Here’s the amazing thing—once you get past the “yuckiness” of Jesus’ actions you can begin to appreciate the incredible proclamation of that action.  Jesus here is proclaiming that he is True Man, like us complete with spit, and also True God, able to help and heal and restore.  Even more, Jesus demonstrates that God can do divine things by means of a human body!  In other words, God and Man are united in the person of Jesus Christ, and in Jesus, the human is capable of doing divine works.

            His human hands touch an unclean leper, and instead of Jesus’ human body becoming unclean, the leper is cleansed and healed of his disease.  A woman with an incurable flow of blood reached out and touched the edge of his garment, the garment that clothed his very human body, and she was cured.  Jesus reaches out to touch a corpse, and instead of becoming defiled, the dead man rises to life!  Here in our text, Jesus takes the dust of the ground, uses his own human spit to make it into mud, and it heals the blind man. 

            The man, Jesus, does the divine--not just in the healing, but also in the bringing of the man to faith.  Listen to the conversation they have later: "Jesus heard that they had cast him out [of the synagogue], and having found him he said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered, 'And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?' Jesus said to him, 'You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.'  He said, 'Lord, I believe,' and he worshiped him." (v. 35-38).

            By means of his humanity, the Son of God brings physical and spiritual sight!  And, only a short time later, Jesus’ human body would be used for the restoration of not just one man, but for the restoration of us all.

            You see, Jesus, filled with compassion for all humans, allowed his human body, very capable of experiencing pain, to be tortured, crucified, killed.  If you get past the “yuckiness” of all the blood, we see an amazing thing.  His very human blood, shed for us, does a very divine thing, it forgives.  1 John 1:7, especially the second half, is a great verse to have memorized.  It says, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

            The blood of Jesus forgives us our misconceptions about hurting people.  The blood of Jesus cleanses us from the stain of our uncompassionate actions.  The blood of Jesus transforms us from spiritual blindness, spiritual deadness, and spiritual hostility to enlightened children of God who see with eyes of faith.  It is the human body and human blood of Jesus, offered on the cross, that also comes to us in the bread and the wine to do a divine work, to forgive sins again, to strengthen our faith as we seek to walk in compassion, to do the works of God, and to walk as children of the Light.

            You see, we were born spiritually blind and (as Martin Luther summarizes for us) we could not by our “own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ [our] Lord or come to him.”  “But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me [or opened my eyes of faith] with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith."

            So Christ reaches out to all who are hurting in this world.  He reaches out with more than just a mudpack for the eyes.  He reaches out with his blood to cleanse sinful hearts and heal hurting souls.  You bring all your sins and mistakes and hurts with you today, but Jesus, begin True God and True Man, has compassion on you and washes those sins away with his blood.  He fills you with his Spirit so that you can heal from and look past all the hurts of this life.  By the power of the Spirit you can look forward to the eternal joys of heaven and realize that our afflictions here and now are only temporary.  And you can look forward to seeing those whom you touch with Christ’s compassion there with you.

            Friends, by faith, the blind see.  Though we still suffer many afflictions, still struggle to defeat sin, still battle against the devil and all adversity, though we still wage war against the false teachings of this world, we know our eyes have been opened, and we are strengthened by the Spirit to walk by faith, keeping our eyes on the cross of Christ, living with compassion for one another, serving as careful managers in the good work entrusted to us.  Therefore, we can all rejoice as we make the good confession “I once was blind, but now I see.”  Praise the precious Blood of Christ! Amen.