Not What We Expected
"...But Now I See"
John 9: Jesus gives sight to a man born blind
Lent 40 days to a new life ... true in surprising ways
The sign outside our worship center on Old Post Rd reads … “Lent: 40 Days to New Life.” When Tony put up that sign, who could have guessed the true and surprising ways the promise of that sign would be fulfilled?
When we entered the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday, that sign-phrase concisely captured the aims and purpose of the season. Over the course of 40 days, in our study, prayers and worship, we follow Jesus to his last week in Jerusalem, his last meal with his disciples, to the cross on Good Friday and to the empty tomb that first signals his resurrection from the dead on Easter morning. See: 40 days to new life. And, over the course of 40 days, we are invited to intentionally tend to our relationship with God, letting go of the things that keep us from fellowship with God and cultivating the habits that will keep us close to God. Once again: 40 days to new life. A life that brings into the present the hope of God’s resurrection future in Jesus Christ.
No one could have guessed or realized that 4 weeks into Lent, we would find ourselves here. It truly has been 40 days to a new life, and we’re just beginning to learn how to live and connect in new ways. The message and invitation to Lent has taken on new depth and dimension. This Lent we see the world differently than we did in past years.
Where is God in this? What is God doing?
The question of sight is at the core of this week’s Gospel reading from John 9, particularly a gift of sight that reveals God at work in Jesus for the life of the world. The question of sight asks, first, “What do you see?” then moves to ask … “Where do you see God in this?” And finally, “What do you see God doing?” And we ask those questions as we witness a man’s transformation from complete blindness to full clarity of sight. And, I think we can hold on to those three questions as we take each new day in this new reality: What do you see? Where do you see God? What do you see God doing?
The story in John begins with the disciples observing a blind man who is begging for his daily bread. That’s what they see, and it gets them wondering: “Who sinned,” they ask, “this man or his parents that he was born blind?” In that question, the disciples ask “Where do you see God in this?" and "What do you see God doing?” at the same time. And they have in their asking the question revealed how they are answering those questions. What they see is God responding to sin with blindness. A God who has punished sin by denying sight to this man. They wonder, however, whose sin is God punishing? Who’s to blame?
And so when Jesus answers their question, he speaks to correct the disciples mis-seeing of the situation. Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed that when I read the words on the page are not as clear as they used to be. It happened gradually, but it got to the point that fine print became completely invisible to me, and slightly larger print I would often mis-read. I wasn’t truly reading. It was more like guessing what the words might be. It was noticeable, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I went and had an eye exam. When the doctor put the right lens over my eyes, I was amazed at the clarity of sight! Wow, I thought, this is much better. And that’s part of learning from Jesus. Jesus gives us a new way to perceive what’s truly going on in the world. The disciples question was based on a wrong understanding of God and a wrong seeing of the world.
Jesus said: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, his blindness happened so that God’s work could be seen in him.” Jesus then accomplishes God’s work in the man. He makes mud, puts the mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to go and wash. After washing, the man sees for the first time. He has a new life, and at the end he finally sees Jesus face-to-face and Jesus welcomes him into a fellowship that is an enduring and eternal life.
So the corrective lens for the disciples who have witnessed this whole thing develop shows them that God did not send the son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world. We are shown that God is glorified and God’s heart is truly revealed in Jesus doing God’s acts of compassion, mercy, and love; in the healing and salvation that comes in knowing Jesus; and finally in the reconciliation that comes through Jesus’ death and the new life that emerges in Jesus' resurrection.
At the end of the story, the man testifies, “I once was blind, but now I see.” That’s what God is doing in Jesus, giving sight to the blind. Taking away the sin of the world. Establishing a fellowship with all people that unites the world as God’s people. In all this, God is glorified and God’s purposes for us and the world are revealed so that we too can see and know and trust and love God.
And that brings us back to our own surprising Lent … these 40 days to new life in Christ.
I wonder how God might transform this moment when look for the ways in which God has answered our prayers, drawn us to God and how we can see and bear witness to the many ways God is being glorified and the works of God are being displayed? There’s a surprise revelation at the end of this Gospel. The surprise is that clarity of sight is expressed not just in whether he can see with our eyes — not just the relationship between external world, eyes and brain — but clarity of sight is all about receiving the gift of faith, the power to see Jesus, trust Jesus’ word and testimony about who he is and what God is doing through him, and finally to enjoy new life fellowship with God through Jesus … in the Spirit.
I wonder how God is being glorified in you? I wonder how the works of God are being revealed in you? Spend some time this week looking with new eyes, with Jesus’ eyes, at the world around you. Let me, this community, and the world know what you are seeing. And use this Gospel as a model.
First, don’t miss the obvious expression of compassion, mercy and love that you see around you — the medical professionals, the first responders, the drivers and warehouse workers and others we rely on for the basics of this life, and don’t miss those obvious opportunities God has presented each of us to act with compassion, mercy and love in way that overcomes fear with love. To love all people following Jesus’ example.
But don’t stop there … let’s spend some of this time we’ve been given to go a little deeper into our lives to see with fresh eyes the works of God within us. You might …
There is no doubt that our world has been turned upside down for a while. It’s the most vivid and dramatic season of Lent any of us has ever experienced. At least that’s how I see it. Clue me in on what you see God doing in your life and in your neighborhood. Let’s walk this road with Jesus together.
Let’s pray. God, we are in a situation here that we have never experienced before, but we know you are with us, give us the eyes to see you work in all things so that we might testify to your glory by living in a way that gives glory to you in all things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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