Open My Eyes Lord

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Lent 4
SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 5: 1-8 and John 9: 1-12
“Go,” [Jesus] told him, “wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
John 9: 7 9 (NIV)

THE MAN BORN BLIND

One day, Jesus was walking through the streets of Jerusalem with his disciples. They came across a blind man by the side of the road. The end of the story is predictable; Jesus healed that man and enabled him to see. But as we read this story, it also opens our eyes to some realities about how Jesus operated. And because it tells us about what Jesus did, it also teaches us about the way that we should see the world too. So, let’s look at this story in order that our eyes may be opened.

It starts off with Jesus walking through the streets of Jerusalem with his disciples. While walking along they encounter a man who had been blind from birth. Chances are he was doing what most disabled people did back them. He was probably begging by the side of the road in order to do something to earn his keep with whatever relative he happened to be living with because that’s what they did back then.

But then in John 9:2 (NIV) Jesus’ disciples asked him an interesting question that we may find a little bit weird: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” We hear that question and wonder where it came from because that’s just not the way that we think. We don’t see blindness as a punishment for sin. We see it as a medical issue. If someone was born blind then something must have happened during the development of the baby before birth to cause the blindness. Connecting blindness to sin just doesn’t cross our minds.

But that’s not how the people of Jesus’ day saw it. They believe that physical disabilities such as blindness or deafness or even a club foot were the direct result of sin.  It came from Old Testament passages like Numbers 14:18 (NIV) where Moses said, “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet, he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” This sounds odd to us but we need to understand where those people were coming from. In the Old Testament, it’s quite true that sometimes the children did suffer for the sins of our parents. For example, when Israel turned its back on God and God allowed the Babylonians to defeat Jerusalem and carry off the Jews into Exile – that’s right at the end of 2 Chronicles – it wasn’t just the parents who suffered. It was also their children and their children’s children. In fact, it wasn’t until seventy years later that the Jews were allowed to return home. During all those years a number of generations suffered for the sins of one generation.

So the concept is there in the Old Testament. But people in Jesus’ day began to take the principle of children suffering for their parents’ sin down to a personal level rather than leaving it at a national level. So when the disciples saw the blind man, they thought that someone must have sinned in order for him to be born blind. It couldn’t have just happened. It had to be for a reason and somewhere in there was the belief that this blindness was the result of sin. Someone had to be blamed.

Let’s look at Jesus’ response in John 9:3 (NIV) where he says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” What is Jesus doing here? He’s encouraging the disciples to see this situation not as a chance to cast blame but rather as an opportunity, an opportunity to glorify God. The disciples don’t yet know what Jesus is going to do for this blind man but he is encouraging them to get past their temptation to blame and see this as an opportunity for something better.

I think there’s a message in there for us. We live in a world where it seems that everyone is trying to blame everyone else for everything that goes wrong. But does blaming really do any good? Sometimes it does. If someone does something wrong that hurts others, then they need to be held accountable. Justice needs to be done and to be seen as being done. And that involves placing blame. There are loads of examples in the Bible where that’s the case. In Exodus 22:1 it says that if a man steals a sheep and slaughters it or sells it then he needs to pay back the one he wronged with four sheep. Basically, if you get caught stealing than you owe the other person four times what you took from him. The same principle holds in Luke 19 where Zacchaeus the tax collector accepted Jesus and decided to follow him. As a tax collector he had stolen all kinds of money from the people. But when he came to Christ he said that he would pay back to everyone four times what he had stolen from them. And it was a happy day in Jericho where he lived. When people hurt others, they need to be held accountable and part of being accountable is to accept the blame.

But with this man who was born blind, Jesus is telling the disciples that they need to stop trying to blame someone because, in this situation, there is no one to blame. But then Jesus goes on to say that the important thing is to use this situation as an opportunity to glorify God. It rather sounds like a verse that I’ve quoted to you many times in the past. Romans 8:28 (NIV) says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” What that tells us is that God can take situations that we find so disheartening – like this man’s blindness – and use them for good. In this case, as we shall see in a few minutes, God will use this man’s blindness to point even more people towards Jesus. By opening this man’s eyes. Jesus will also open the eyes of others to the truth of his gospel.

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

Let’s look at what Jesus says next. In John 9:4 (NIV) he says this: “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.” What Jesus is saying in this verse is that life will not always be sunny and bright. Jesus said, “as long as it is day.” He did not say that the day would last forever. Darkness will come. You can count on it. Individuals will have dark nights of their souls. They will face sickness, heart ache, unemployment and death. We will all face hardships. No one gets to live a life unscathed by suffering. It’s part of the fallen world in which we live – like the man’s blindness.

If I asked everyone here this morning to name one time in your life when the darkness crept in and life became difficult, I’m pretty sure that you could all name one time. In fact, I’m pretty sure that you could name three or four or more. And for some of you, one of the reasons you’re here today is because you’re going through one of those times right now. And if that’s where you are then I pray that something you hear this morning will give you a reason to hope and carry on even though you may feel yourself surrounded by darkness.

Jesus said that we will face darkness but he said is that the darkness will not last. Why? Because he is the light of the world. Have you ever been in complete darkness? I remember back over thirty years ago when Ruth and I were first married. We had just begun my internship in North Bay and Ruth and I were on a familiarization tour of Northern Ontario. One of the stops was a gold mine near Timmins, Ontario. We got into an elevator and began a very quick free fall descent into the depth of the earth – to about a mile which is a bit unnerving all by itself because it took less than a minute if I recall. Our guide showed us their underground offices and where they kept food and water in the event of a cave in – always nice to know. And then he did something that caught our attention. He turned the lights off. In fact, he turned all of the lights off. When you are a mile below the surface of the earth and the lights are turned off, there is absolutely no light. You can’t see anything because there is no night vision, not even a tiny wee bit of it.

Our tour guide offered some reassurances that it he had turned off the lights on purpose just to show us how dark it was. And then we were quiet for about a minute but it seemed like an eternity. And finally, the tour guide turned on a small flash light. And all of our eyes immediately went right to that light. But that’s what you do when you’re in darkness. You look toward the light. It’s normal and it’s natural. In fact, it’s hard not to look toward the light.

That reminds me of something that happened about a month ago when Rebekah was doing some testing with a concussion specialist. Most of the testing involved her following a dot of light. She had these special goggles on that tracked what her eyes were doing. And the doctor could tell by how her eyes tracked the dot which part of her brain was affected. It was really interesting. One of the final tests involved not a single dot but disco ball of dots flying around the room. They were everywhere and Rebekah’s assignment was to NOT look at the lights that were flashing around her. It was actually quite comical because as hard as Rebekah tried not to look at the lights, her eyes kept tracking them.

It reminded me of how natural it is to look at lights. And if Jesus is the light of the world, then it seems to me that it’s natural for us to look toward him as well. When the darkness comes, it is to him that we look because he can take away the darkness just as in the story he eventually takes away the man’s blindness so that he can open his eyes and see.

MUD

Then the story get weird again. After speaking these words, Jesus does something that most of us would find more than a little disgusting. In John 9:6 (NIV) it says, “Having said this, [Jesus ] spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.” Yeah, sure he did. Maybe it’s good the poor guy couldn’t see what Jesus was doing.

So, why did Jesus do this. The first reason is because it’s what the people believed back then. The important things wasn’t the spit. The important thing was the mud that Jesus made with his saliva. What we have forgotten in our culture is that many traditional societies see great healing powers in muds, especially clay mud. The first evidence of this appears in Mesopotamia thousands of years before Jesus’ birth. But it has been a common theme throughout the world until the advent of modern medicine. The truth is that this is not all superstition. Depending upon where you dig it up, clay contains all kinds of natural chemicals and bacteria that can improve healing. In fact, if you go home today and Google “healing mud” you can order some for yourself and try it out.

That the first reason, because it was part of his culture to believe in the healing power of mud. The second reason was because Jesus wanted to do something to show this man that he was going to open his eyes. Putting mud on his eyes was a sign to the man that Jesus was serious. He wanted to heal him. He wanted to enable him to see for the first time in his life and Jesus’ actions of making the mud and putting it on his eyes was a clear indicator that something special was going to happen. Whether or not Jesus actually used the mud to heal the man, we don’t know. After all, Jesus did not need mud to heal. He just had to say the word and it would be done. But the man didn’t know that so Jesus did something to show that man that he was going to open his eyes and enable him to see.

RESPONDING IN FAITH

The final thing that Jesus does with the man is found in John 9:7 (NIV) which says, “‘Go,’ [Jesus] told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam.’” Again, this is something that on the surface does not make any sense to us so let me try to explain. The Pool of Siloam is a water source for the old city of Jerusalem. It actually was a marvel of architecture built by King Hezekiah in the 8th century B.C. to ensure a fresh water supply to the city in times of siege. He had a conduit 1,780 feet long cut out of solid rock which opened up into a large and deep pit within the city walls. Over the years, various pools were thought to be the Pool of Siloam but the real one was not uncovered until 2004 when a maintenance crew doing road repairs accidently stumbled on it. What was discovered was a man made cut in the rock roughly a rectangle 225 feet long by 15 feet wide at a depth of about three storeys. There are stone steps going down from the street level to the water level.

When Jesus told the blind man to go and wash himself in the Pool of Siloam, he was asking him to do something that would have tested him because it would been difficult but doable. First of all, the blind man had to find someone who would take him to the pool because he was probably not sitting down beside it. Jerusalem was a large enough city even back then. Then he would have had to make his way down the steep stone steps which were probably wet from others going up and down them. And there was no railing to prevent him from falling over the edge and onto the stones below. Once down there he would have had to find a place to wash in the pool and get the mud out of his eyes.

The rest of verse 7 tells us that he did what Jesus told him to do and after he had washed, he went home able to see. But the point is that Jesus didn’t just say some magic words that healed the man. He could have but he didn’t. Jesus insisted that the man respond in faith in some way in order to complete the healing that opened his eyes.

This is something that we need to remember. Jesus can open our eyes but sometimes he asks us to make an effort. Sometimes he wants us to respond in faith to what he has done for us.

What does that look like? Maybe that depends on what Jesus wants you to see? Maybe your blindness is that you don’t understand what it’s like to be hungry. To be healed of that, you might want to volunteer at Gleaners some morning. That might open your eyes. Or maybe, like most middle class people in Cottam, you’re blind to what it’s like to be poor. Head over to the Downtown Mission some day and help prepare or serve a meal. That might open your eyes to the effects of poverty. Or maybe you’re blind to the suffering of the refugees who have come to this country to escape persecution and violence. Maybe to be healed of that, you could offer to welcome and get refugees settled. There are a number of organizations in Windsor that do that work and I suspect that they might open your eyes to the needs these displaced families. There is no better way to heal our blindness than to look at the real issues and get involved in seeking real solutions. That will open your eyes.

SHARING

The final thing I want to mention comes right near the end of the story. John tells us that the man went home able to see. The neighbours, of course, are shocked. How could this be that he’s walking around and not bumping into things? He was blind this morning. It only makes sense that he’s still blind in the afternoon. Some of the people even thought that he was a different man, that he only looked like the blind man who begged by the side of the road every day. But the man responded by assuring them that he was indeed the man.

Then John 9:10 (NIV) says, “‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they demanded.”

He responds in John 9:11 (NIV) by saying, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put in on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed and then I could see.”

Here’s something to think about. When Jesus opens our eyes and allows us to see things that we may not have seen before, what we can do is tell others what he did for us. It great stuff to go and offer to help out with the poor or the hungry or the refugees. But it’s also important to let people know why you are doing it. Otherwise all you are is a generous person doing some good deeds. And don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with generous person doing good deeds. In fact, that’s a very good thing indeed.

And maybe you’re doing things because you too are a generous person doing good things. But your also there for another reason; because Jesus has opened your eyes to a need in your community and because of that, you are trying to make a difference. There are many reasons to do good things. For Christians, one of the main reasons is because Jesus calls us to do them. It’s important to let people know that.

Sometimes we’re shy about telling people that bit of information but we really shouldn’t be. We don’t need to be shy about Jesus. We don’t need to be embarrassed to talk about him and what he had done for us because he has done a great deal indeed. The fact that you are all here this morning speaks to how much he has touched your life and will continue to do so.

If accepting Christ into your life has been important to you, then why wouldn’t you want to share him with others so that they also can have what you have. And maybe if you are able to do that, the Jesus can open up the eyes of someone else so that they can see too.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

God of Truth, God of Mercy, like a Father, you support us and lift us up. You place our feet on solid ground but and call us your children. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you for the cross.

Sometimes, like children, we rebel. Sometimes like brothers and sisters, we fight amongst ourselves. Yet, O God, you do not desert us. You enfold us and wrap us in your love. How great and wonderful is your ability and capacity to forgive us and reconcile us to you again.

In our times of darkness, we cry out to you. Perhaps we are afraid or lost, desperate or lonely. When the darkness of night surrounds us we call on your name. And you, by your grace, answer. You bring light to shine into the darkest night. You shine into the smallest corner of our existence and make the shadows disappear. O Lord, our God, how great you are!

We pray for other areas of the world which need to be open to your healing touch We pray for the people in various parts of the world as they continue to live in uncertain times. Shine your light into that situation and bless those who are seeking peace, justice and mercy so that your Kingdom may, in some small way, be made manifest in our world.

Our prayers are lifted this morning for the Mayville family over the death of Paul on Wednesday evening. Thank you, Lord, that he did not linger too long and that he is now home with you in your kingdom. Bless Lou-Anne and the rest of the family as they seek your peace and healing in their lives.

We pray for the sick of our congregation and community, especially Don Raymont, Helen Upcott, Millicent Wormald and Jacqui Sequin, and all others those hospital. Touch them with your Healing Spirit even as you touch us all.

You, O God, know us in ways that no one else ever could. You know us intimately and totally from the most obvious surface traits to our deepest hidden secrets. Help us to daily come to you and trust you with our whole lives for you alone know what is good for us. Fulfill, O Father, your purpose within us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

March 26, 2017 / Lent 4

SCRIPTURE

1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; John 9:1-41; Ephesians 5:8-14

CALL TO WORSHIP

The Lord is our Shepherd

and we are the flock.

Let us worship our Maker and Friend

who cares for us and gives us life.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

Praise be to you, most Gracious God! Praise be to you from our lips. Praise be to you from our hearts. Praise be to you from our hands. Praise be to you from our feet. It is with our lips that we sing our praises. It is with our hearts that we love you. It is with our hands that we serve you. It is with our feet that we journey to care for Creation. As we gather for worship, fill us anew with your Spirit that we may touch the hem of your garment of grace to be lifted heavenward in Jesus Christ. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Your Grace, O God, fills us with good things. Forgive us for keeping them to ourselves. Too often we hide from injustice and neglect to share the Good News of salvation. Unlike Jesus, we turn away from the blind, the lame and the lonely. We accept the status quo instead of challenging the sinfulness of this world. Forgive us for being content with the way things are. Encourage us to strive to live our lives according to your purpose the design. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

When we acknowledge our sinfulness and our need of God’s grace, we free ourselves to be the people whom God has formed us to be. In Jesus, we have our peace and forgiveness.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

With hands we work to earn our keep. With hearts we share the abundance of our labour. With feet we bring to them to your Table asking for your blessing and grace. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

We have sung with the angels of heaven and prayed with the saints of all ages. We have shared the Good News with one another in the presence of God. As we leave, let us remember in whose name we travel. You are Christ’s ambassadors. Live the faith and share the Gospel.

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