Fourth Sunday in Advent John 9:1-41

The story is less about the miracle and more about the reaction of people to the miracle. The blind man and his family were repeatedly asked, “Who healed this man?” Since the Pharisees could not acknowledge Jesus as a miracle worker, they kept pressing the man.

The story shows two mutually exclusive views of Jesus. On one side are Jesus, the disciples, the man, and his parents. On the other side are the Pharisees who thought they had a corner on God.

Jesus spells out the point of the story: “I came into the world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Is that a riddle?

I learned what that meant from a certain professor at Lenoir-Rhyne – although not intentionally. The registrar reminded me I had not yet taken the required religious courses. If I wanted to graduate with my class I had to take two religion courses in summer school.

Dr. Rudisill discussed how Jesus went about doing good, healing the sick, teaching in parables. Not only did Jesus teach the highest ethical expression the world has ever known, but his life exceeded his teaching. There were many people who encountered Jesus but who saw him only as a Galilean rabbi. They did not see him as the Son of God. Dr. Rudisill put it into a single sentence. He said, “Thousands see Jesus who never saw Jesus.”  I began to reconsider my career goals.

The question of who we see when we look at Jesus Christ is always appropriate, timely and unrelenting. Our perception of Jesus can grow in a process that is never completed in this life. We easily repeat the once-secret words — I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth; I believe in Jesus Christ — and so on.

But do we see Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah, the victim on the cross, the resurrected Savior? The stories, parables and miracles of this itinerant Galilean rabbi tell us how to look at God.

The Pharisees saw God in justice and punishment. The man born blind was being punished for somebody’s sin. If Jesus relieved God’s punishment, he was undoing the will of God. The Pharisees laid eyes on Jesus, but they never saw him as savior of the world, the healer of our diseases, the forgiver of all our sins.

Pharisees thought truth was something locked away in a big accounting book God kept in heaven. They already knew all about God. They saw no point in a growing faith, requiring new responses to a living God.  They already had their facts about God locked up.

“Can you mix clay and saliva on the Sabbath day? No, because that is work, the work of a potter, and therefore forbidden on the Sabbath.” Even if application of a clay paste to eyes heals blindness, that is equally forbidden because it is work on the Sabbath.

But what if Jesus, acting with the power of God —-No, the Pharisees would answer, “We have already quoted the law.”

How many of us believe we already know all about God? Do we see Jesus for who and what he is?  After all, thousands of people who saw Jesus in Palestine never saw him.

The reverse is also true, that thousands today who did not see Jesus of Nazareth nevertheless do see him as Messiah, prophet and preacher of the kingdom of God.

The healed man saw Jesus first as a wonder worker. Then Jesus became a prophet to him, and finally, he saw Jesus as one sent by God.

Does God want us to grow in faith and grace and in our response? If our eyes are opened, do we ask what God has in mind for us now, today?

If we think God merely looks on while we take direction for the future from the habits of the past, then we picture God as a scorekeeper. We’ve locked him in the grandstand merely to watch what we do.

But if we think God is alive in Jesus Christ, then he’s leading us from one revelation to another so that we keep on seeing God with new eyes.

He is always ahead of us, opening new horizons of spiritual expansion.

We have been called, selected, named in our baptism, chosen, set apart. We know Jesus Christ as the savior of the world who died and rose for us.  We think kindly of God.

But are our eyes opened? Would we prefer God to leave us alone?

The kingdom of God is about blindness cured, light shining in the darkness, seeing God and the world in a new way, becoming believers in word and deed.

Jesus said of himself that he came to visit judgment upon the world. Those who are blind are healed, and then we continue to see God in new ways. Those who think they see but do not, finally will be blinded by the judgment of God.

I have no doubt that God expects people who have new sight to live in the light of the kingdom present in our midst. We cannot re-visit Nazareth and put our feet where Jesus walked in Galilee or Judea.

But God in Christ is now at work in his church, giving us renewal in the waters of baptism, in the bread and wine, in the power of his word that is preached, prayed, sung, read, and lived out in our midst.

Thousands who were with Jesus the son of Mary never saw him but we do see Jesus, the Son of God, as our savior, the sacrificial Lamb of God in our place.

Messiah opens our eyes to see the Kingdom of God roundabout.

God sent him into the world, that those who do not see might see. By God’s gift of Jesus Christ, our eyes are opened. He touches us to heal our blindness. Now, greatest news of all, we see him.

Thanks be to God.