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The Eyes Have It

3/15/20

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Of course in parliamentary procedure when the vote is called it's, "All in favor say aye", a-y-e, not e-y-e. May this play on homonyms root the lesson of our text firmly in your heart.

Sure the eyes, e-y-e-s, have it. Even before you heard the Motown hit "Heard it Through The Grapevine", you agreed with the sense of the lyric, "Believe half of what you seeand none of what you hear." Trust your eyes more than you do your ears. The eyes have it. Tell me that those maps showing the spread of the coronavirus, those graphs showing what the stock market is doing or not, those charts showing the price of oil and gold don't impact you more than the words of the person reading the story? When a person's blood pressure is higher when taken in a doctor's office, it's called White Coat Syndrome. What the person sees sets them off. A child in arms tenses up when a pediatrician enters wearing a white coat. Early on the eyes have it.

The first two verses of the tale of the Man Born Blind demonstrate this. "And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" Based on what the disciples saw, they knew God was punishing sin in the case of the man born blind. It was either the sin of the man or the parents. Their eyes don't lie. It was obvious to them that the man was born blind. Men didn't do this to him. God did. And we conclude the same. We judge what the invisible God is doing by what we see with our eyes. Our eyes don't lie. Tragedy, poverty, pestilence that we see with our own eyes, tell us what God is doing, thinking, saying.

Jesus sees to the eyes having it, but this too is a play on words. Jesus sees the eyes have it in the sense of the expression: "They have had it." Repeatedly, the Lord frustrates our eyes. If in Job, the Lord had not let us into heaven, we would see no more than Job did: the death of all his children by natural disaster, the loss of all his property by raiders, and a bodily pestilence that ravaged him. That's all Job had before his eyes and his 3 friends' wrong interpretation of it was the same as the disciples in our text: God is punishing a sinner here. Job eventually gave into this and denied His faith in a gracious, merciful God. But then God showed up in a whirlwind and let his eyes have it.

And He lets our eyes have it in Is. 45:15, "Surely, Thou art a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!" Did you catch that? It's the Savior God who hides Himself, who one can't see with His eyes. Could the Savior God be hiding in painful, tragic sickness and afflictions? Could the Savior God be in weak, ordinary looking Sacraments right in front of our eyes and yet we see Him not? Read the entire account of the Man Born Blind. Jesus heals Him by spit and mud and ordinary water and on the Sabbath day. Jesus healed others by means of words, without spit, mud, or water, but does so here to confound our eyes.

This is the Naaman experience: " Naaman was furious and went away and said, Behold, I thought, 'He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper'" (2 Kin. 5:11)! He didn't see Elisha do anything dramatic. He didn't even see him at all. The mighty general of the Syrian army only saw a messenger tell him to dip himself 7 times in the muddy Jordan.

And the Pharisees could only see Jesus as "this man, this fella, this guy" who couldn't be from God because He didn't keep their Sabbath. Don't you see? Both of these are a version of, "If I don't see God doing what I want, think, desire, when I want, think, desire, the way I want, think, desire, that is proof positive He isn't God."

Surely, thou Savior, God of the Church are a God who hides Thyself. Isaiah 53 says specifically of Jesus: "He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." The Lord of all the cosmos wraps Himself in flesh that bleeds, gets sick, tired, hungry, and thirsty. The Lord of all knowledge makes known to you His salvation by the foolishness of the cross. You see the Lord's salvation in Baptism that looks like nothing but Water and He communicates His saving Body and Blood to you with what your eyes tell you is nothing but bread and wine. He lets the eyes have it alright. He virtually pokes them out. And He says in the last verse of our text that is exactly what He came to do. "For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind." God tells us again and again: "walk by faith not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). "We see in a glass darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12). "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter," (Pv. 25:2a). "Wait for the Lord who is hiding His face" (Is. 8:17). "Thou hast covered Thyself with a cloud" (Lam. 3:44). Haven't your eyes had it, yet?

When we insist that our eyes still have it, we're still in our sin and guilt. That's what Jesus says to the Pharisees at the end of John 9: "Some Pharisees who were with Jesus heard Him say this and asked, What? Are we blind too?' Jesus said, If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains'" (40-1). The historic Latin Introit, "My eyes are ever on the Lord" gives this Sunday it's name: Oculi, eyes. And why does David say in Psalm 25 that his eyes are ever on the Lord? Because only He will release his feat from the snare. We have expressions like, "I can't see my way clear to" Or, "I can see no way out" That's the only conclusion God's Law can lead you to. Apart from the Lord, you can't see anyway out of your sins or sinfulness. But we think we do: I see if I try my best, or stop doing that, or start doing this; I see that if I start thinking this way, believing that way, I can get my foot out of the snare. But the snare of sins are choke collars. The more you strain and struggle the more secure they become till they choke you to death.

Realizing you're dead in sins is the equivalent of your eyes being poked out, realizing you are blind. This is where the Lord Jesus means for the Law to take you. Paul says, "I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what lusting really was if the law had not said, Do not lust.' And sin, seizing the opportunity presented by the commandment, produced in me every kind of lust. For apart from the law, sin is dead Sin sprang to life and I died" (Rom. 7: 7-8). Be blinded by the Law so that you only see the Light of the world. Go by what Jesus sees not by what you do. You've seen this depicted on TV. The blind person has to have a sighted person describe something. "Tell me what you see." Yes, Jesus, my eyes don't have it. You must tell me what your eyes see.

God alone sees reality. We don't. All the disciples looked at the man born blind and could only see sin and judgment. They were certain of these two truths; just not certain whose sin and judgment they were seeing: the man's or his parents. But what does Jesus see? He tells them: "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him'" (9:3). That's not what anyone else saw when they looked at this man blind since birth. Do you think the mom and dad holding their baby boy looked down at him and saw the works of God displayed? How about when he as a toddler stumbling over things on the floor, running into walls, unable to play with the other children and was being made fun of? There eyes could only see some sort of judgment, some sort of tragedy, some sort of godless conclusion.

You know why you come to church each Sunday? Let me rephrase: You know why you ought to come to church each Sunday? Not to hear what the pastor thinks or sees; you got plenty of thoughts of your own and at least 95% of you see better than my 20-800 plus uncorrected vision does. No, you come here in the faith that Jesus is going to tell you what He sees. Gideon is thrashing grain in a cave for fear of the Midianites and the Lord says He sees a mighty man of valor (Judges 6:11). The Lord looks at the pagan king Cyrus and says He sees "My shepherd" (Is. 44:28). Ain't that a hoot? It gets better. The Lord looks at the widely vacillating Simon and says He sees Peter, a rock (Mt. 16:18). The Lord looks at Paul who makes Christians suffer onto death and says He sees the man who will suffer greatly for Him (Ac. 9:16). You know what's better than even this? When you look in the mirror you see nothing but a miserable sinner. When God looks at you in your Baptism, under the Absolution, with the Body of Jesus given over unto death for your sins and with the Blood He shed to cover them, He sees not you He sees Jesus.

The African proverb about the Jack Russell dog used to track wounded lions is: When the Jack Russell looks in a mirror he sees a lion. Let that be you. See not what you use to be, see what Jesus sees. Confessional Lutherans say the true worship of God is: "the exercise of faith wrestling with despair" (Treatise 44). The German fleshes it out a little more: True worship is "'The exercise of faith which fights against unbelief and despair over the promise of the Gospel" (Kolb, 338, fn. 47). And don't think I don't know where all of you poisoned by postmodernism are heading: O you're saying perception is reality. No, postmodernism says that and worse: i.e. that perception is God. I'm telling you in the real world, Jesus is God. And what He sees that's reality. His eyes have it, and He says aye', i.e. yes to you. Amen

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Third Sunday in Lent (20200315); John 9: 1-41