Undefeated by Spiritual Blindness

Pastor Jon Brohn

Bulletin

 

My dear friends in Christ,

What would it be like to be blind? I’m not talking about standing in a pitch dark room, or walking through a forest on a cloudy night, or standing in a cave with the lights turned out. What would it be like to be blind, to open our eyes and see nothing—no light, no sun, no color, no shape? What would it be like to live in that kind of darkness every single day?

Statistics tell the story of darkness. Globally the number of people who are visually impaired is estimated to be 285 million. 39 million of them are totally blind. That’s roughly equal to the total population of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio. That’s a lot of people!

How can someone function living in total darkness? They learn to adapt. They listen carefully to the sounds around them—the sounds of cars and traffic signals. They move from place to place tapping a long white cane on the ground in or with a seeing-eye dog. Their fingers read a book by skimming over Braille dots, or they listen to books and documents thanks to AI readers. No matter what adjustments they make, it doesn’t change the fact that they are blind and can’t see.

As Jesus moved through the city of Jerusalem, “he saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1 EHV). This man had never seen anything. He had no concept of light, or shape, or color. All he knew was darkness. Jesus’ disciples asked what sounds like a cruel question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2 EHV). The disciples instinctively looked for the reason behind his blindness. It hadn’t occurred as a result of an accident, or weak eyes, or cataracts. There must be a reason—some sort of sin—that would lead God to strike someone with blindness.

Is that what God does? Does he punish sin by striking someone with a physical disability? Does he send cancer to someone because of some deep moral flaw? Does he push a car off the road and cause a paralyzing accident because of some hidden sin? Does he send a pandemic because the world has fallen so far away from him that he can’t stand it?

Have you ever gone to the eye doctor? I can still remember my first visit. The doctor told me that I had two problems. First, I was slightly nearsighted. I could see things up close, but not so well the farther away they were. I also had a weak left eye. He gave me exercises to strengthen the muscles around my eye. My latest visit to the eye doctor brought no new surprises. My eyes have changed over the years. For a while I didn’t need glasses at all. Now, I am more farsighted—I can’t see things that are up close, but can clearly see things farther away. Were my eye doctors the cause of my eye problems? No! They simply identified the issues I faced with my eyes and provided solutions so I can see better.

We need to know and trust that God is not the author of evil. He’s the eye doctor who wants to help the eyes of our heart see more clearly. The problem lies in us. God points out that sometimes we’re nearsighted—we see things clearly up close, but farther away, not so well. I think we’re struggling with that right now when it comes to coronavirus. We can see pretty clearly where things are at right now. It’s the future, the unknown that is scary. What will happen if we come in contact with someone who is infected? Will we get sick? Will we become so sick that we go to the hospital in critical condition? We don’t know. It’s scary. We might even start to panic.

Sometimes God points out our farsightedness. We get so caught up in planning for the future that we forget about the importance of the here and now. We want our careers to reach a certain point and we work hard to get there. We get the promotions, do the professional development and earn additional degrees. We set ourselves up for future success. Meanwhile, we forget the close up things—raising our children, teaching them the importance of Jesus in their lives. We ignore needs at home, next door, or here at church because we’re too busy, or have too many other important things to do. We are far sighted.

Our Eye Doctor even points out our blind spots—the things in our life we don’t see and don’t want to see. We may have a blind spot for alcohol. “I’m not drinking that much. I can control it. I just use it to unwind.” We may have a blind spot for gaming. “I’m not addicted to screen time. I just need to finish this part of the game.” We may have blind spots when it comes to sex and gender. “It’s so unloving to tell my friend that having sex before marriage is wrong.” “It’s intolerant to say that gender is gender—a man is a man and a woman is a woman.”

The sad truth is, we aren’t just struggling with visual disabilities—we are stuck in spiritual blindness. We are blind to who God is, what he says, and what he does. Isaiah described it like this: “We grope along a wall like blind men. We grope like people with no eyes. We stumble at noon as if it were twilight. Among the healthy, we are like dead men” (Isaiah 59:10 EHV). If we remain blind, we’ll be lost in eternal darkness, where Jesus warns there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!

Doctor Jesus has the solution. First, he answered the disciples’ question. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that God’s works might be revealed in connection with him” (John 9:3 EHV). Sin causes all kinds of problems, but the blind man and his parents hadn’t committed some terrible sin that needed punishment. Jesus was going to show God at work in the man’s life. He did something that appears to be terribly unhygienic, especially in light of today’s issues with coronavirus. He spit on the ground, mixed up some mud, and smeared it on the blind man’s eyes. Then Jesus told him to go and wash at the pool of Siloam (one of the main water sources in Jerusalem). John described the results of the eye doctor’s prescription. The man went. He washed. He came back seeing!

Jesus had given the man the gift of sight! How incredible would it be to go from never having seen anything, including light itself, to seeing everything in brilliant color and detail? Just think—he could see his mom and dad for the very first time. It must have been amazing!

Jesus had something even better to give the man who had been born blind. After the Pharisees mocked the man and told him that he knew nothing of spiritual things, Jesus found him and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” “Who is he, sir,” the man replied, “that I may believe in him?” Jesus answered, “You have seen him, and he is the very one who is speaking with you” (John 9:35–37 EHV). Jesus, who just a little while earlier told his disciples, “I am the light of the world,” opened the eyes of this man’s heart and showed him the most beautiful light in the world—his Savior. The man could look Jesus in the eye and see him, really see him. The man’s heart saw Jesus and said, “Lord, I believe!” and he knelt down and worshipped him” (John 9:38 EHV).

Did you catch how Jesus opened the eyes of the man’s heart? The miracle of giving physical sight didn’t do it. The man was convinced that Jesus was special, even a prophet. He confessed to the Pharisees, “From the beginning of time, no one has ever heard of anyone opening the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” (John 9:32–33 EHV). The man knew Jesus, but he didn’t know Jesus as his Savior until Jesus told him.

Jesus has done the same thing for us! We heard it in our Old Testament reading. “I will lead the blind on a way they do not know. Along paths they do not know I will direct them. Ahead of them I will turn darkness into light and rough places into level ground. These are the things I will accomplish for them. I will not abandon them” (Isaiah 42:16 EHV). Our eye doctor promises to give us sight. He will lead and direct us in the right path. He’ll turn darkness into light. Jesus does all of that with his Word. He says, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 EHV). When we follow Jesus, he promises light and life. He will help us see the way through coronavirus. He’ll guide us through the ups and downs of the stock market. He’ll provide for those who lose jobs. Even if we lose everything, Jesus promises that we have life—eternal life—waiting for us in heaven!

That leaves us with some really important work to do. Jesus said, “I must do the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4 EHV). In the United States, we have been blessed to see people overcome blindness with their talents and achieve fame. Think of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Ronnie Milsap, Andrea Bocelli, and Diane Schuur. Each of them used their musical talents to the best of their ability in soul, country, classical, and jazz music. Blindness didn’t define them. They defied blindness to share their talents with others.

Who has the best answer to the fear of pandemic that is running rampant around the world? Who can offer hope, real hope to those whose loved ones are sickened by coronavirus? Who can bring powerful comfort to people in the face of death? We can! The blindness of sin doesn’t define us. We were blind, but now we see. We need to defy the blindness that surrounds us and share the light of Jesus with everyone. We can offer his words of comfort. I shared these 7 Anxiety-Calming Scriptures on my Facebook page this week:

  1. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a timid spirit, but a spirit of power and love and sound judgment.
  2. Psalm 4:8 In complete peace I will lie down, and I will sleep, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
  3. 1 Peter 5:6-7 Therefore humble yourselves under God’s powerful hand so that he may lift you up at the appointed time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
  4. Philippians 4:6-7 Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  5. Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be overwhelmed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  6. Isaiah 26:3 You preserve perfect peace for the person whose resolve is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
  7. John 14:1 Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

We have lots of work to do. We have an open door to talk about Jesus with people who are looking for a solution to this pandemic. Everyone is really afraid of dying, and we have the solution. We have Jesus! Let’s use this as an opportunity to do the work God has called us to do while it is still day, and we still have breath in our lungs! Amen.