Why is it that two people can see the exact same thing and see it in a totally different way? Say I’m crossing the street and a car almost hits me. One of you might say, “O poor Pastor Kolander, that crazy driver almost hit you. What was he thinking? Are you okay?” But another of you might say, “What are you, crazy, Pastor Kolander? What were you thinking? You must have scared that poor driver to death by walking right in front of him. I hope he’s okay.” Depending on what really happened, one of you might be right and one of you might be wrong – or, as is often the case in earthly things – there might be a little bit of truth in both statements. The guy crossing the road may not have been as careful as he should have been, and the driver of the car may not have been paying as much attention as he should have been. Who knows?
Keep that in mind, though, as we talk about Jesus giving a blind man the ability to see, something that many people saw, but something that many people saw in totally different ways. Only in this case, we can know that there is only one right way and one wrong way to see what happened when Jesus gave sight to a man who until that time could not see. Today I am praying that each of us will know how we can be – and why it’s so great to be — The One Who Can Really See!
Jesus had just finished telling the people, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Most of the people who heard him say that, however, didn’t believe him, because they knew that by saying that he was saying he was God, and because he was saying he was God, they wanted to put him to death, as they ended up doing down the line a bit, as we know very well. But Jesus was still reaching out to those who were against him, and he was also wanting to encourage those who believed in him, so the next thing we see him doing is answering the question his disciples asked about this man who was born blind. “Who sinned,” his disciples asked, “this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Isn’t that the kind of question you or I have probably asked quite often in our own lives, when something — whether a really bad thing or a pretty minor thing — has gone wrong: “God, what did I do wrong? God, why are you punishing me? How come this happened to me, when I am working so hard to show my love for you?”
Notice Jesus’ answer, because Jesus’ answer really is the key to understanding this whole section of the Bible, as well as the key to answering all our questions in life when we really want to see what God is doing in our lives, but we just can’t see it. Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” It wasn’t that that these people had never sinned, just as it is not that you and I have never sinned in our own lives. That we know only too well, and that we need to confess ever so much, just as we did together earlier in our service. But what Jesus is saying is that the bad things that happen to us in our lives – while they are the result of sin in life, in general – they are not the specific result of a specific sin, unless of course a specific sin caused something bad, like we purposely ate too much and we got sick. What Jesus is talking about here is that whatever we go through in life is meant to direct us to the “works of God,” he said. “But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
So, what were the works of God displayed in the life of this man who was born blind? There are two works of God that are obvious, and maybe you could see more if you looked for them. For one thing, what happened to his sight? Jesus did something that might seem strange to us, but Jesus always does things that might seem strange to our human way of thinking. He spits on the ground and makes some mud with it and puts it on the man’s eyes – something that couldn’t have felt that comfortable. And then he tells him to go wash off that mud in a pool of water that was nearby, and then without any fanfare the Bible says in simple, straightforward language, “So the man went and washed and came home seeing.” Many people who saw that this man could now see didn’t believe that the man who gave the sight was the Son of God, but the Son of God did miracles like this so that people could see that that was exactly who he is – and so that by believing in him they might have eternal life.
But many people did not want to see this. Thankfully, the other main work of God in the life of this once blind man – in fact, the main main work of God in the life of this once blind man – is that now he could see something else. He could see by faith who this man was who gave him his sight. The Pharisees asked him how he came to see, and the man told them what Jesus told him to do and how he could now see and that he must be a prophet, causing the Pharisees not to rejoice that the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies had come – the one that prophets of old had said would give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf and walking to the lame – but instead they mocked and insulted this poor man who was just telling them what Jesus did. They said,“You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us? And they threw him out.”
Ironically, they were right in that this man was steeped in sin at birth, just as we all are. However, they meant it as an insult, but we agree with it as a confession – as a reason for all of us to fall on our knees before the almighty God and thank him for his amazing grace that once we were lost, but now are found, were blind, but now we see. Praise God! In that amazing grace, Jesus continued to lead this man away from the mockery and the insults to the one who would someday soon bear the mockery and insults for us all. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asked. “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact he is the one speaking with you.” “Lord, I believe.” “Lord, I believe,’’ and he worshiped him.” Even if that once blind man had not had his sight restored, he could nevertheless see by faith who it was that talked to him so: The Son of Man who came as one of us to save people from sin, who as the Son of God did miracles like this to show that he could truly do what he came to do… And that was the work of God that Jesus had said the people would be able to see in the life of the once blind man in answer to the question, “Who sinned – him or his parents – that he was born this way?”
What a great thing, isn’t it, that that is how God speaks to us, when we wonder “why” about things, or when we wonder how things will ever be different or can possibly work out for our good? As human beings, we often don’t know why or how. In fact, that is right where God wants us – admitting that we don’t have the answers, because we don’t have the answers. But he does. His way with us is a loving way. His way with us is a way that always has as its purpose to help us see the works of God in our lives. Sometimes that way allows us to see the works of God with an answer that is just as we hoped it might be. At other times that way allows us to see the works of God a little further down the line after he has strengthened us more – after he has built up our patience more – after he has led us to depend on him more – after he has given us a chance to serve others more. And at other times we know – even as he does those same things of strengthening and building us up by reminding us of his promises that cannot fail – at those other times he will allow us to see once and for all the reason for the pain, the sadness, the question – the reason for the hurt, the agony, the heartache — when he removes the blindness once and for all and lets us see him just as he is face to face in the glory of heaven, which on earth we cannot fully see.
“For judgment,” Jesus said when all was said and done near that pool of water that day. “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” What a miracle of amazing grace that for the sake of what Jesus came to earth to do – and did do – God our heavenly Father has judged you and me to be his perfect children. He sees us as spotless and perfect in his sight. That, therefore, is how we in total humility but complete confidence can see ourselves. And when we see ourselves in that way, we can then see everything that happens in our lives in a totally different way. We can see everything that happens in our lives as something that God will use to allow us to see the works of God in our lives and in the lives of other people, as he leads us to join a man once blind to say to our Savior, “Lord, I believe.” And, just like him, to worship him. In so doing – in this doing — each and every single one of us is The One Who Can Really See! Amen.