Someone’s Son


Last week we had thirst and water and someone’s daughter, Jolene. This week it’s blindness and light and someone’s son, Colombo. He’s a TV detective from the 70s. He appears unkempt, bumbling, and unawares. However, he proves to be hyperaware, intelligent, and purposeful. He saw things crooks thought he'd miss and other cops never did see.

We learn from Colombo in the text that Light is found in the strangest places. Read all of John 9. Only recently have pericope systems used the whole chapter. Read it; you’ll find the fact that he is someone’s son prominent. His parents are consulted by Pharisees as to their grown son being blind from birth and they dither. They’re afraid if they testify to Jesus having done this miracle, they’ll be put out of the synagogue. The disciples, on the other hand, are decisive about the man’s blindness from birth asking, "’Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’" Blind eyes are only punishment for somebody’s sin, so they think.

Can’t blindness be a good thing? Blinders are put on a horse, so it can only see in front, keeping it on the straight and narrow path and from being spooked so that it lunges sharply. “Don’t look down,” is very good advice when on the narrow edge of something tall. And if you’re wise, when someone who knows you tells you, “don’t look” at something like an accident, you’ll heed their advice, and be glad not to see. Somethings stay in your mind’s eye as if burned there. Sometimes turning a blind eye is good. Solomon advises, “Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you” (Ecc. 7:21).

Located as we are across from the Texas School for the Blind, let me be clear. Blindness is a burden, a cross, a trial, but is there no light here at all? There’s got to be. Listen to what Isaiah prophesies about Jesus. "’Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but My Servant, and deaf like the Messenger I send? Who is blind like the One committed to Me, blind like the Servant of the Lord’” (42:18-19). Jesus is so ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ that He says in John, “’I did not speak of My own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it… So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say’" (Jn. 12:49). And He sees only what the Father does. In John 5 Jesus says, “’I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing,’” (19).

Not only does the Lord use blindness, but there is light that produces shadows, blindness in another place. LED’s do this in particular. They light a limited area brightly and outside that is darkness. I’ve been in darkness so deep that you literally couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. It’s unnerving because you know it’s there. You can sense it, but can’t see it even a little. The Plague of Darkness was the 9th plague. Read Exodus 10. The Lord sent “a darkness which may be felt.” Part of sensory deprivation chambers is taking away not just all sound, touch, taste, and smell but sight.

Limited bright light produces deep darkness that disorients you. The world casts bright but limited light. Nobody seems to take my point about flying while street lights changed over time. In the 70’s it was mercury vapor lights. In the 90’s and ought’s it was sodium, and now it’s LEDs. There was a certain warmth to the landscape with mercury vapor’s blue-green light. And even though sodium is a jaundiced yellow, it gave off a dusky hue. In both cases the light was diffused over the landscape. Now, looking down from a plane, LEDs make is bright as day only right here. At the edge of a town’s LED’s, even single farms, darkness. This is how the world’s light shines. It lights up the things of it own, and only limited light on the things of God. Natural Knowledge can tell you there is a God, an eternal, all powerful God who is not at all like you ( Rom. 1:20). But it knows nothing of the saving things of God: That the Man Jesus is God the Son. That His flesh is lifegiving. That there is salvation only in His name. That God in Christ wants to save you. The world’s LED can’t light these things.

The world’s LED’s cast the important things of God into outer darkness. You recognize that phrase? We find it 3 time in Matthew on the lips of Jesus: “But the subjects of the kingdom [who reject Jesus] will be thrown outside, into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him [the man who refused the Lord’s wedding garment] hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (22:13). Finally Jesus says to the servant who didn’t use His talents: “’And throw that worthless servant outside, into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'” (25:30). 

Do you see? We mistake the darkness the world’s LED lights throw on the things of God for the true, outer darkness, which is really everything outside of God’s gracious presence. Men fear being outside the world’s light. Those who fear God, fear the outer darkness He warns of. The healed blind man, our Columbo, is being threatened with being pitched into the darkness outside of the synagogue if he doesn’t deny the true Light of the world. In this section of John, Jesus has been at the temple since 7:14. In chapter 8 Jesus tells the Pharisees that He is the light of the world. You know what that means? Anything, any one, outside of Jesus is in darkness. What Jesus says and does is not just lifegiving but light-giving. He sheds light on what is sin and what is not. Sinners, myself included, are always confusing what is and isn’t sin. Repenting of what is not and holding on to what is. He exposes the only way out from under Sin, Death, and Devil; the only way out of the darkness of the World, and your own fallen Flesh.

They say drunk people swimming in Lake Travis frequently drown because they dive in loose their orientation and swim deeper into the darkness rather than up to the light. We habitually go deeper into the darkness. On our own, we can only do that. Jesus bids, “Come unto Me. I’m your light and life.” He alone can reveal what God the Father did with your sin and sinfulness: He put them on Jesus’ innocent back; see them, right there. And Jesus carried that weight, that burden, during a lifetime of holy living and through an eternity of hell. The Pharisees, the OT church leaders, and the OT church, rejected Jesus thinking they saw just fine without Him. Indeed, on the cross, everyone, even His beloved disciple John, His mother, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, thought He was gone forever in the darkness of death. The only one who still saw a glimmer of light was that centurion who when he saw how Jesus died said, “Surely this man was the Son of God” (Mk. 15:39). For the rest Jesus had no more light to shine on the Law, their sins, life, death, the world without end. They were in effect blinded by the light going out. But Jesus is no Tinker Bell. His being the Light of the world does not depend on us believing that He is.

Oh would that we be, as the 1976 hit sang, “Blinded by the Light” as Paul says. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). See how Paul moves from God’s created light to the uncreated light of the glory of God radiating from Jesus? Paul was so blinded by that light in Acts 9 that they had to lead him by hand into Damascus. He was Jesus-like in that he could only see what God showed him. Like, Jesus, the only obedient Son of the Father, he was blinder than any man. Like Jesus, Paul could only go by what God said was there. At the end of our text, Jesus says only the blind really see.

Be that blind. Only see what Jesus says is there. By the light of the Law, Jesus says nothing is in you or this world but Sin, Death, and Devil. The Gospel shines the Good News that the God Man overcame these unholy 3 by fulfilling and then by paying in full the Law’s requirements. In the Gospel, He declares to us blind people: God can see no sins of yours. He sees no Death in your future. And the Devil is left to roar like a toothless, decrepit lion. He points you to your Baptism and says that’s not just simple water only that’s forgiveness. He points you to absolution and says, “I see your sins being forgiven by these words before God in heaven as if I did that Myself.” And He sees what no man on his own can, no technology could detect, what no one on their own could ever believe: He sees you depart from this altar with His Body and Blood that gives you life now and salvation forever.

Read all of John 9. Our bumbling Colombo finds the truth of what is sin and what is light. Two concepts that are prominent here. The Greek word for sin is found 4 times here but nowhere else in John. From the opening verses of John 9. Jesus tells the truth about both light and sins. "’Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world’" (3-5). Jesus has dealt with you sins according to God’s will. Now in His light, be like the physically blind but spiritually.

Coming out of a shut-in’s house by the blind school I found a man with a cane tapping in her driveway about to pass into her fenced yard. I asked if he needed help. He said he was lost and just needed to find the blind school. I asked, “Do you know which the direction the sun is?" Instantly, I mean instantly, he whirled around to face the winter sun. I told him on which side to keep the sun to get back. He said thanks and was off without hesitation. As long as he had the sun’s light he was good. This is true for us and the Son. Amen

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Third Sunday in Lent (20230312); John 9:1-41