Rev. Matthew Zickler’s Sermon for March 26, 2017

March 26, 2017
John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-41

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  This morning we meditate upon the Gospel lesson, the healing of the blind man at Siloam.

God does His work out of the fallenness of the world.  Of course, we have to be clear, in the beginning God created the world to be good.  He looked at it and saw that it was “very good.”  But ever since the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil passed beyond the lips of our first parents, that goodness has been corrupted.  It has fallen and it bears hardly a resemblance to what it first was.  Now, this corruption is all we know.  Now this fallenness is all we can observe.  It’s all that we have to interpret the world.

And this is what the disciples were working with at the time of Jesus when they looked at this blind man.  And so, you can see why they asked the question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  “Teacher, we know someone messed up big for this man to have to suffer like this.  Who did it?  Who can we waive our fingers at? Was it the man?  Was it his parents?    But you see, God does His work from the fallenness of this world.

But of course, as they ask this question, we ask the same question in our own way, don’t we?  We work with a different assumption, but we still ask a question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Why is it that my friend who lives so well as a Christian has lost two children to miscarriage, and his wife to a car accident, but now is suffering cancer?  Or why is it that the woman who works next to me who is so sweet has an abusive husband and now her son has been diagnosed with a congenitally terminal disease?  Why do these bad things happen to good people?

What’s underlying these questions?  What’s the question behind the question?  How can God let this happen?  Or even more challenging: if God is good, how do these things happen?  And what does Jesus say?  At best, it’s not satisfying, at worst, it’s confusing isn’t it?  “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  What?  So, we can’t blame this man?  We can’t blame this man’s parents?  We just have to deal with this God working and displaying His works in Him?

If you remember the story of Job, it’s not too far from that, is it?  Most of you probably remember Job, and a lot of what happened.  He started off as the man who had the full household, he had all the land and all the animals.  And then they went, one piece at a time.  Job lost his children.  He lost the fruitfulness of his land, he lost the wealth of the animals.  And if that wasn’t enough, he lost his health.  He got sick, he had boils, he was so miserable he wanted to die.  And we can understand why, if we’ve ever experienced those things.  And what does God say?  He finally comes to Job, and again, it’s not very satisfying.  Do you remember?  He comes to Job and asks Job if Job was there when He created the world?  He says, in short, I’m God and you’re not.  That’s the short answer here.  God’s God and you’re not.  Why is the man blind?  Why do bad things happen?  Because God’s God and you’re not.

But as God He does His work out of the fallenness of this world.  And as He is God, we have to understand that He doesn’t have to justify His actions to us.  God doesn’t have to answer to us.  Why would He?  In fact, look around at conversations about God in our day, and this is a common theme, isn’t it?  There’s even a philosophical term for it.  It’s called Theodicy – the justification of God.  We as people feel like we have to justify God and His actions.  But, while the conversation can perhaps be helpful in opening a non-Christian’s ears to be willing to hear the Gospel, the reality is the Law tells us that this is totally unnecessary because we should get that God is God, and when it comes to why bad things happen to good people, it doesn’t matter because it’s not up to us it’s up to God.  We should even perhaps acknowledge that “there is no one who does good, not one.” As Paul does.  We should acknowledge the reality of saying, “Why shouldn’t these things happen?”  God does His work out of the fallenness of this world.

But yet these questions keep coming, don’t they?  The people we know fall prey to death.  We ourselves fall prey to suffering.  We even bear the weight of our own shortcomings and our sin.  And so, we keep asking these questions.  And why do we keep asking them?  Why do we still keep saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?”  Because we’re blind.  We are just as blind as that poor man sitting in the temple.  We should understand that we need to be sitting in the presence of our Lord hands outstretched begging for even the least of the crumbs from His table.  But we don’t see it.  Like we talked about this past Advent, we are so darkened by our sin, we don’t get just how dark things really are.  We are so blind in our sin, we don’t get just how blind we really are.  But like Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”  And as He responded when the Pharisees denied their blindness, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”  In other words, when we deny the blindness we have, our guilt remains.  But when we acknowledge it, something is relieved in that.  And God works out of the fallenness of this world.

In fact, I was thinking about this blindness this week, and I was reminded of something from a show that my son and I watch, a Star Wars cartoon called “Rebels.”  In that show, one of the characters loses his sight, but by his blindness, he learns actually to tap in “the Force”—which is the supernatural sort of divine “energy” in that world—and he learns how to tap into it in a superior way which gives him an ability to see even greater things than he could with his eyes.  Now, to be clear, “the Force” in Star Wars should in no way be equated with the Gospel of Jesus, nor with true faith in God.  In fact, it’s much closer to Eastern Mysticism than the faith, and in that regard it is centered on connection to an ethereal sort of “spirit.”  No, the faith is grounded in the promise the Holy Spirit isn’t to be found floating around wherever we feel Him, but where He tells us He will be: in the words of Scripture, in the Gospel proclaimed, in waters of Baptism, and the bread and wine of the supper.  In in those promises, He tells us just how blind we are.  And in that blindness, we have light.  We have sight.  We see who this God is.  We see that this God does His work out of the fallenness of the world.

We see that this God is the God who is certainly right in all of His judgments.  Does He judge to give this one literal sight and that one literal blindness?  He is God and He is right.  Does He judge to give this one illness and that one health?  He is God and He is right.  Does He judge to give this one wealth, and that one poverty?  He is God and He is right.  And He does His work out of the fallenness of this world.

But, this is easiest to understand when we see just who this God really is.  This is easiest to see when we see that this God made this man blind so that precisely at that moment when Jesus stepped foot in front of Him, He would heal the man and show His mighty works.  All the more, it’s easier to understand when we see that this God who determines of His judgment to give this one illness and suffering is the same God who entered into this world to suffer.  In fact, it’s easiest of all when we look at the cross and we see that this God who judges as He pleases was pleased to bear even worse upon Himself on behalf of sinful mankind.  He was pleased to take the worst of suffering upon Himself.  He took not blindness, but something greater.  He took not cancer, but something greater.  He took not pain, but beyond pain.  For us.  For you.  He took the nails pierced through His human hands and feet.  He took on the thorns perforating His delicate human scalp.  He took the spear lancing His human heart.  And He took death.  But beyond death, He took hell.  For you.  He took the suffering, the guilt that every blindness in sin deserves, and He bore it from wicked sinners to forgive every last ounce of that sin in His death and to prove that forgiveness in His resurrection.  Because this God does His work out of the fallenness of the world.

And He has done that to heal your blindness.  In fact, think of how He healed that blind man.  Think about it, He told that man to wash in the pool of Siloam, in the same way, He has washed you.  And to make a note, when He told this man to wash, this word there has the connotation of being a “cultic” washing.  To be clear that’s not a washing of a cult like we think of it.  No, it’s the word for a ritual washing.  You see, in the Old Testament they washed to be cleansed when they were made impure by various things in this life.  But this was just a picture.  In the New Covenant, we understand that we aren’t made impure by things in this life.  No, we’re made impure by sin.  But we have been washed.  You were washed ritually when you were baptized.  There you were cleansed.  In fact, if you notice, John tell us that Jesus spit in the ground and He made mud, then He “anointed” the man.  The word there is from the word “chrism,” where we get Christ.  This man was “chrismed.”  You too have been “chrismed.”  In the washing of baptism, your eyes have been washed in the anointing of Christ.  You have been given new sight where you were blind.  This God works out of the fallenness of this world.

Even more so, just as Jesus reached out his hands with that mud and touched the man, He touches you.  He didn’t spit in the ground and rub mud in your eyes, but He held you over a font and washed away the scales which have blinded you.  He hasn’t placed his hands on your head and healed your bodily infirmities, but even beyond baptism, He has provided for you in body in soul as He has touched you with His body and blood in the supper.  Because that’s what He does, He does His work out of the fallenness of this world.  And your blindness has been taken.  Your fallenness has been redeemed.  This God who cares for you, has healed you with an eternal healing.

So, yes, we have these questions.  Yes, we try to justify this God, but in the end, He is God and we’re not.  And thank Him for that.  He understands it far better than we do.  We are blind and He is the One who gives sight to the blind.  He is the One who gives His all for us.  He is the One who works all of this for good.  He is the One who does His work out of the fallenness of this world.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Rev. Matthew Zickler