The Gospels from John this Lent form an interesting progression. We started on the fringe two weeks ago with Nicodemus. Then we met the woman at the well last Sunday, and she steps closer to understanding Jesus and his message. Today we meet the man blind from birth. When he worships Jesus near the end of the Gospel, he’s in. You remember how he said, “Lord, I believe.” He’s just about as “in” as you can get.
When he says this, you remember that Jesus is consoling the man born blind, whom Jesus had cured, after the Jews had driven him out of the synagogue. And I want to read for you the last three verses of the Gospel today:
39 “Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ 41 Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,” your sin remains.’”
Of course, this miracle is a miracle about more than physical sight being restored. As in the stories of Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well, our Gospels for the past two weeks, the physical world is doubled by a spiritual world, and the spiritual world is more important to eternal life. “You must be born from above.” “But those who drink of the water that I will given them will never be thirsty.” In both cases, Jesus really is speaking about spiritual life, not physical life.
And so, the man born blind is cured not only of physical blindness but also of spiritual blindness. I want to rewrite verse 41: “Jesus said to them, ‘If you said you were a sinner [were blind], you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We are not sinners,” [we see] your sin remains.” You and I could rewrite this verse many ways and remain faithful to its meaning. True sight is admitting our sin. Blindness is denying our sin.
The blunt point is that we need Jesus. We need to be cured. We need God’s medicine. We need God’s grace. We need God’s life to have life in us. The minute, the second, we say we do not need these things is the very minute a part of us begins to die. The minute that we say “we see” is the very minute we are blind. The moment we say we have the strength is the very moment we are weakest.
The very good news is that the cure is here. The cure, the medicine, the grace, the life, the strength are right here. God gives us all these things in abundance, in spades. God gives them to us in the church, in the sacraments, in the scriptures, in our families, in our friendships, in our work, in our hobbies, in every moment of our lives. We have an embarrassment of encouragements, a multitude of directing signs pointing the way out of our predicament of sin and its dreadful consequences. The truth is that of all of those pointers, we have to find only one. One of them, just one of them, is all we need to point us to home and to heaven.
You remember what the man did when his sight was restored. “He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him.”