Archive for the ‘John 9:1-41’ Category

On Light and Darkness


Monday, March 27th, 2017

The Fourth Sunday in Lent (A), March 26, 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

“Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” So says the final words of our epistle lesson this morning (Ephesians 5:8-14). But what do these words really mean? Are we to think of our faith, our very salvation as nothing more than an alarm clock that rudely awakens us from a pleasant dream, leaving us the choice to either get up and walk the rest of our lives by faith with Christ, or simply hit the snooze button and drift off back to pleasant dreams? Well, yes; that is if you feel separated from God because of the shameful things you’re doing and never repented of, or if you’ve always felt that being baptized or living out your baptism is either a childhood fantasy or a complete waste of your time, then yes quite frankly, this alarm is for you. “Awake, O sleeper and (get up) from the dead, and (then) Christ will shine on you!”

In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus leaves us with some ominous words. Listen: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” [John 9:39]

Now some of you may be confused; you may see Jesus only as the great Savior of the world. You may want to quote our gospel from two weeks ago and remind me that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that who so ever believes in Him won’t perish, but have everlasting life. You’ll also no doubt, remind me that God didn’t come into this world to condemn it but to save it. [Jn. 3:16] Now if you told me all of this, I would agree with you, but I would also add that Jesus came to save a sinful world! So, what difference does that make? Well, you have to first admit that you are part of that “sinful” world that Jesus came to save! In other words, you have to first admit that you need saving; that you have sin that you can’t deal with on your own and you need a Savior; you need God’s help… you need His means of salvation! And this was exactly what we learned in our gospel reading this morning.

Consider this, a man blind from birth. He is a Jew and he has probably followed the true religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all of his life. He comes from a good Jewish family with a mother and father who love him, pity him, because of his blindness, and they care for him as best that they can. If you were this blind man you would have long ago accepted that this was your eternal lot in life. Are you angry with people who treat you as less than a man? Maybe! Do you get angry with your parents because they still at times treat you like a child? Perhaps. Are you angry with God for allowing you to be born like this… probably so. And what do you do with all of this disappointment and anger? Well you do what everyone else does, you go to temple and you pay the prescribed sin offerings and then just hope that God will somehow find room for you in His heaven.

But one day you meet a man who speaks truthfully to you; he doesn’t talk down to you, but with you. He tells you that God is real and He knows precisely why you are blind. And then He lays hands on you, he comforts you, sends you to a pool in the temple to wash something off of your eyes that He just applied and… praise God from whom all blessings flow, you can see for the first time in your life! What would you do then? Well again, the rules of worship say you should go show yourself to the religious officials so that God can be praised. Well, you do that and they just belittle you just as they did when you were blind. Even your parents refuse to offer comfort and support; they tell you that you’re and adult and you should work it out on your own with the temple officials. So much for life being better if you could see! Now what? Are you angry with the people in the temple? Probably. Are you angry with your parents? Most likely. Are you still angry with God? Yes, maybe more so than when you were blind! Now what do you do? Well…. Nothing!

You see, this has never been about what you do, instead it is about what God does; it always has been. In our gospel lesson what did Jesus do after restoring the man’s vision? He went to the man who was blind. Because, you see there was still more to the work that God was doing for the man. Restoring his physical vision was just a way to wake him up from his sleep. Now Jesus must do the true work of God; He must speak the gospel to him.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (that is the Messiah)?” (And the man who was blind at birth but now sees) answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe?”

Even though this man was confused about a lot of things and disappointed by a lot of people, He knew for certain that this man Jesus, who spoke truthfully and lovingly to him, who gave him something he thought he would never have this side of heaven was one man that he trusted. So he was willing to go and believe in anyone that Jesus pointed out as being His Savior. And Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” Now it all made sense; now he understood why this man’s voice was so comforting and yet so authoritative. So he said, “LORD! I believe,” and he worshiped him.” [Jn. 9:35-38]

He worshiped Him! That means that He saw first who Jesus was and second, he saw the gospel truth in Jesus Words; he was saved! “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!” Did you know that those words written by St. Paul were actually taken from an early church hymn. I suppose it’s possible that they could even have even been written by this man or someone from his time. They explain a lot about the gospel call that Jesus gave not just to that man born blind but to everyone who witnessed it and who reads about it today. If that hymn describes the call of God before the man received Jesus as his savior, then this hymn describes the song of his life afterwards and even our lives now. Listen: “I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus! In Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus!” [LSB 411 vs. 1]

The story’s told about a man who became blind at the age of ten. He came from a wealthy family, and they spared no expense in finding a medical way to restore their son’s eyesight, but nothing worked. The boy grew to be a man, and he was resolved to the fact that he would always be blind, so life went on for the blind man. He did as all men do, seeing or blind, he worked and provided for a future. One day part of his future began to take shape. He met the love of his life. The two were engaged to be wed and they set the date. Several months before the wedding, the man was called into his doctor’s office and told that there was now a surgical procedure that could restore his eyesight. The man was excited but also nervous; you see it had been 20 years since he saw nothing but darkness. Well after a moment of prayer, he of course agreed to have the surgery. The man informed his doctor that he would be married in 6 weeks, so he asked if he would be able to see his wife on his wedding day. The doctor assured him that the healing process would be complete by then and the bandages could be removed. On the day before the wedding, the doctor called the man into his office to remove the bandages, but the man refused instead, he asked the doctor to come to his wedding and take off the bandages at the altar. He said that the first image he wanted to see was that of his lovely bride standing before the altar of the Lord, so that he could marvel at her beauty and praise God at the same time.

Dear friends, if you see and know Jesus as your Lord and Savior; if you see Him as both God and man; if you see him as your only means of pleasing God; and if you see all of this because God’s Word has both healed you and saved you then you are like the blind man in our gospel reading and like the blind man in my story.

By God’s grace and through the eyes of faith that He has opened with His Word, you see the brightness of God in Jesus Christ; you are drawn to this light and you follow it. Jesus is your light that allows you to see not just your sin, but God’s forgiving love that shines from the cross.

You follow this light from the cross to the baptismal font, where you were bathed and washed clean in God’s own light; you were recreated! And from the font it is your desire to follow that light where ever it leads you. And where does it lead you? It leads you out into our community where sin, death, and darkness blind our neighbors. And what are you to do as you follow the light of Jesus? You let it shine! But make no mistake; this light is not your light, not even a little bit! No, it is all God’s light reflecting off of you. As Jesus is your Sun, you are His moon. Your little gospel light is simply a reflection of Jesus wonderful light that is eternal in the city of God. And your prayer as you follow Him is simply this, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. Bring your light into the darkness as I follow you.”

So dear friends, God is calling those of us who once were in darkness, but now have been given eternal life through His gift of spiritual sight to walk as children of light.

What are we to do? We are to gather around His Word and Sacraments and try to discern through the leading of His light what is pleasing to the Lord. We are to be in the world, but not of it; we are to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose the darkness by our lives that trust and follow Christ’s light. Through the Word of God, our lives are shaped and through that same Word we are shaping our community by exposing the darkness of sin with Christ’s own light. We are to be a reminder, an alarm that shouts into the darkness and this sinful world, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (too)!” In Jesus name… AMEN!

Eyes Shut Tight

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Lent 4 (A), March 23, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant.” [Isaiah 42:14]

The song you just heard, “Slipin’ Into Darkness” by WAR, is meant to act as our mental hook, to hang this very important message from God upon.

Our text this morning leads us to ask ourselves, “Why can God no longer restrain Himself?  Why does He cry out like a woman in labor?”  Well the answer is, because His children, you and me have a tendency to slip into darkness.  We are a lot like the Israelites of old, or if you prefer, like the frog who is slowly being boiled alive.  We see nothing wrong with our warm bath of sin; in fact, it feels very comfortable and soothing.  But as the water slowly becomes hotter, it begins to perform a work of decay called apathy upon our bodies.  Slowly but surely, like the frog in his bath, we are being boiled alive within the acceptance of sin in our lives and Christ’s church.  And God’s message is, if we will not listen to His Word now, today, and every day, before we know it, it will be to late; we will have already slipped into darkness.  So to prevent us from “slipin’ into darkness”…

“The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious.” [Isaiah 42:21]

What law is that?  Well it is the law that is presented to us in all of God’s Word.  It is the law of holiness, which demands that we acknowledge our sins, and it is the law of promise, which declares that only God can prevent us from “slipin’ into darkness.”

Is God serious about this law?  Well, listen to Him speak and I will let you be the judge: “I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands, and dry up the pools.”

These are words of judgment; they represent the finish of all things created in both heaven and earth.  They are words about the end of days.  God was telling the children of Israel that the final day was coming.  They of all people had to know that this was the truth.  They could trace their origins directly back to Father Abraham; the great patriarch of all of God’s children of faith, who heard God speak the impossible and by God’s gift of faith, He was enabled to believe God, and that belief was accredited to him as righteousness.

They knew first hand from their sacred writings, how God used Moses to intervene in their lives, in order to save them from slavery in Egypt.  They knew how their powerful God punished the Egyptians by causing great plagues to strike the land so that Pharaoh would let God’s people go.  And they knew that God had before dried up the water by parting the sea and making a straight path for them to escape and eventually arrive into the Promised Land.  They knew about God’s care for them in the wilderness, and they also knew that after all of this, many grumbled and sinned against the Lord and died, never reaching the promise land.

And now, as God speaks through Isaiah, He is warning them again about their sin, and it’s penalty; they would once again, because of their sinfulness be enslaved in the land of the Babylonians, but God would one moe time bring them back home to their own land.

All of this that God does, demonstrates who God is: He is a jealous God, who loves His children who relate to Him by faith, with an everlasting love.  He is the God who will not give His glory to another, and not allow His children to follow any other god, whether it is man or religion.  In order to be saved from God’s wrath, all they had to do was close their eyes to any other messages, and simply follow God’s promises of deliverance by faith, and they would be spared from His judgment.

But all of their history and their immediate physical reality was meant to act as a way to help them remember and believe in their God who saves; it was meant to prepare them to follow their God who would come among them and “lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known” before. [Isaiah 42:16]  They were to see their “Savior,” God’s “Suffering Servant” Jesus Christ, as God’s only solution to defeating their persistent sins and hard hearts.

Jesus is our only God given resource to ensure that you do not slip into darkness.  He has come to save those of us who know that we are indeed blind to God’s will and deaf to His warnings.  So He has come to guide us out of that sin in paths that we do not know; paths that we could never find on our own.  He has come to turn our darkness into light, the rough places into level ground.  These are the things that He does and He will never quit trying to call you who are baptized into His name, to follow Him.

We who make up the church, that is those of us who call ourselves Christian can hear these Words of promise and begin to think that there is nothing that could ever cause us to “slip into darkness.”  Why do I say that?  Because the same danger that enslaved the children of Israel also threatens all of Abraham’s children of faith; that is, it is still a very real threat to the church; to you and me.  What danger is that?  The danger of being a privileged child of faith but rejecting the very means that makes us privileged; the means that saves us.  What means is that?  It is all of God’s Word; both the promises and the threats of judgment and punishment.  The real danger that confronts us is that we would become so comfortable in our salvation that we are no longer uncomfortable in our sins!

Do you know what a besetting sin is?  Listen to how the book of Proverbs describes it: “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.” [Proverbs 27:12]  So, a besetting sin is a sin that no longer bothers you; something you either no longer fight or are no longer bothered by.  It is something that God’s Word makes clear as sinful, but the society we live in does not have a problem with.

Besetting sins are those things that you know right a way are wrong, because God in His Word has made that truth clear to you, but over time, like the frog slowly boiling towards its demise, you no longer care; you are comfortable in a sin that will eventually if not repented of, cause you to slip into eternal death.

Besetting sins then may have this type of effect on you: You may no longer believe that marriage as God has described it in His Word is the truth for society today, in fact you may believe that marriage really isn’t necessary at all.  You may no longer care that God’s Word declares that life begins at conception.  You no longer care that gossip and slander are evil and contrary to everything that God declares good.  You may no longer hear God’s warning that you must not neglect the meeting of the saints, that is you must do everything you possibly can, to ensure that you do not miss coming to church, where you receive His Word and sacraments.  You may no longer seem to care that God’s Word challenges you to give the complete tithe, that is 10% of your income to His church, all so that He can prove to you how much He loves you as He blesses you.  You may no longer extend the invitation to your neighbors to come to church with you and hear God speak His truth and love.

By embracing your besetting sins, you have become like those who see many things but do not observe them; whose ears are opened, but do not hear. [Isaiah 42:20]  And this morning, God is warning you that you are “slipin’ into darkness.”

So what are we to do?  Nothing.  Instead, you are to trust in what God has done and what He is still doing within you and around you.  You are to simply continue dying to your old sinful nature and the lure of our sinful society, and follow Jesus and live.

Jesus alone has come to save you.  Jesus alone is the embodiment of all of God’s Word and will for you, both the threats and the promises.  Jesus is the “Suffering Servant” who took your sins upon Himself and allowed this World and the devil to strip Him of His dignity.  He allowed this for you; He chose to suffer and die in your place; on your behalf.   He was smitten, stricken, and cut down, so that by His stripes you would be healed.  Upon the cross, as the life of the Son of God slipped into the darkness of death, the Son of God cried out to His Father,  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Do you want to know why the Son was forsaken by the Father?  So that you would not be!  Do you want to know why Jesus allowed His life to slip into darkness?  So your’s would not!  As Jesus died upon the cross, He became the very embodiment of all of God’s Word, both the threats and the promises.  As you read God’s Word, this is the message that God so desperately wants you to receive… GOD LOVES YOU… He loves you enough to send His Son to die for you.  Isn’t this enough to take your eyes off of the false gods that promise you nothing lasting and eternal, and then fight to rest in the God who promises you everything, if you will but believe and follow His Son Jesus Christ?

Dear friends, for a long time, God seemed to be silent; that is He allowed men to go their own way.  And what was the result?  We began to think that God was not serious about sin.  But this morning, God has spoken; you’ve heard that He is deadly serious about sin, especially those who are so comfortable in their salvation that they are no longer uncomfortable in their sin.

And now you have heard God shout out: I WILL NOT LET YOU SLIP INTO DARKNESS!  I will not allow the one l love to simply turn his back on Me and be overtaken by Satan and his devils.  You are mine; I have purchased you with a great price and washed you clean in the waters of your baptism.  You are mine and I will be relentless in my pursuit for your eternal soul.  I will hound you with my Word of threats until your soul once again longs to hear My promises of forgiveness.  I will do this, until you are no longer comfortable in your sin; until you learn to close your eyes tight to the lure of this sinful world, and place your hand of faith upon my Son’s shoulder as He leads you with eyes of faith through these many dangers and snares, to the place I have prepared for you in paradise.  I will not let you go “slipin’ into darkness”…  AMEN!

Light and Darkness

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

The Fourth Sunday in Lent (A), April 3, 2011
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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 INTRODUCTION: “Awake, O sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” So says the final words of our epistle lesson this morning (Ephesians 5:8-14).  But what do these words really mean?  Are we to think of our faith, our very salvation as nothing more than an alarm clock that rudely awakens us from a pleasant dream, leaving us the choice to either get up and walk the rest of our lives with Christ or simply hit the snooze button and drift off back to pleasant dreams?  Well, yes; that is if you feel separated from God because of the shameful things you’re doing and never repented of, or if you’ve always felt that being baptized or living our your baptism is either a childhood fantasy or a complete waste of your time, then yes quite frankly, this alarm is for you.  “Awake, O sleeper and (get up) from the dead, and (then) Christ will shine on you!”

 In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus leaves us with some ominous words.  Listen: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” [John 9:39]  Now some of you may be confused; you may see Jesus only as the great Savior of the world.  You may want to quote our gospel from two weeks ago and remind me that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that who so ever believes in Him won’t perish, but have everlasting life.  You’ll also no doubt, remind me that God didn’t come into this world to condemn it but to save it. [Jn. 3:16]  Now if you told me all of this, I would agree with you, but I would also add that Jesus came to save a sinful world!  So, what difference does that make?  Well, you have to first admit that you are part of that “sinful” world that Jesus came to save!  In other words, you have to first admit that you need saving; that you have sin that you can’t deal with on your own and you need God’s help… His means of salvation!  And this was exactly what we learned in our gospel reading this morning.

 Consider this, a man blind from birth.  He is a Jew and he has probably followed the true religion of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all of his life.  He comes from a good Jewish family with a mother and father who love him, pity him, because of his blindness, and they care for him as best that they can.  If you were this blind man you would have long ago accepted that this was your eternal lot in life.  Are you angry with people who treat you as less than a man?  Maybe!  Do you get angry with your parents because they still at times treat you like a child?  Perhaps.  Are you angry with God for allowing you to be born like this… probably so.  And what do you do with all of this disappointment and anger?  Well you do what everyone else does, you go to temple and you pay the prescribed sin offerings and then just hope that God will somehow find room for you in His heaven.

 But one day you meet a man who speaks truthfully to you; he doesn’t talk down to you, but with you.  He tells you that God is real and He knows precisely why you are blind.  And then He lays hands on you, he comforts you, sends you to a pool in the temple to wash something off of your eyes that He just applied and… praise God from whom all blessings flow, you can see for the first time in your life!  What would you do then?  Well again, the rules of worship say you should go show yourself to the religious officials so that God can be praised.  Well, you do that and they just belittle you just as they did when you were blind.  Even your parents refuse to offer comfort and support; they tell you that you’re and adult and you should work it out on your own with the temple officials.  So much for life being better if you could see!  Now what?  Are you angry with the people in the temple?  Probably.  Are you angry with your parents?  Most likely.  Are you still angry with God?  Yes, maybe more so than when you were blind!  Now what do you do?  Well…. Nothing! 

You see, this has never been about what you do, instead it is about what God does; it always has been.  In our gospel lesson what did Jesus do after restoring the man’s vision?  He went to the man who was blind.  Because, you see there was still more to the work that God was doing for the man.  Restoring his physical vision was just a way to wake him up from his sleep.  Now Jesus must do the true work of God; He must speak the gospel to him.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man (that is the Son of God)?”  (And the man who was blind at birth but now sees) answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe?”  (Even though this man was confused about a lot of things and disappointed by a lot of people, Hew knew for certain that this man Jesus, who spoke truthfully and lovingly to him, who gave him something he thought he would never have this side of heaven was one man that he trusted.  So he was willing to go and believe in anyone that Jesus pointed out as being His Savior).  (And Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  (Now it all made sense; now he understood why this man’s voice was so comforting and yet so authoritative).  (So) he said, “LORD!  I believe,” and he worshiped him.” [Jn. 9:35-38]

 He worshiped Him!  That means that He saw first who Jesus was and second, he saw the gospel truth in Jesus Words; he was saved!  “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”  Did you know that those words written by St. Paul were actually taken from an early church hymn.  I suppose it’s possible that they could even have been written by this man or someone from his time.  They explain a lot about the gospel call that Jesus gave not just to that man born blind but to everyone who witnessed it and who reads about it today.  If that hymn describes the call of God before the man received Jesus as his savior, then our sermon hymn this morning describes the song of his life afterwards and even our lives now.  Listen: “I want to walk as a child of the light.  I want to follow Jesus.  God set the stars to give light to the world.  The star of my life is Jesus!  In Him there is no darkness at all.  The night and the day are both alike.  The Lamb is the light of the city of God.  Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus!” [LSB 411 vs. 1]

ILLUSTRATION: The story’s told about a man who became blind at the age of ten.  He came from a wealthy family, and they spared no expense in finding a medical way to restore their son’s eyesight, but nothing worked.  The boy grew to be a man, and he was resolved to the fact that he would always be blind, so life went on for the blind man.  He did as all men do, seeing or blind, he worked and provided for a future.  One day part of his future began to take shape.  He met the love of his life.  The two were engaged to be wed and they set the date.  Several months before the wedding, the man was called into his doctor’s office and told that there was now a surgical procedure that could restore his eyesight.  The man was excited but also nervous; you see it had been 20 years since he saw nothing but darkness.  Well after a moment of prayer, he of course agreed to have the surgery.  The man informed his doctor that he would be married in 6 weeks, so he asked if he would be able to see his wife of his wedding day.  The doctor assured him that the healing process would be complete by then and the bandages could be removed.  On the day before the wedding, the doctor called the man into his office to remove the bandages, but the man refused instead, he asked the doctor to come to his wedding and take off the bandages at the altar.  He said that the first image he wanted was that of his lovely bride standing before the altar of the Lord, so that he could marvel at her beauty and praise God at the same time.

 Dear friends, if you see and know Jesus as your Lord and Savior; if you see in Him as both God and man; if you see him as your only means of pleasing God; and if you see all of this because God’s Word has both healed you and saved you then you are like the blind man in our gospel reading and like the blind man in my story.  By God’s grace and through the eyes of faith that He has opened with His Word, you see the brightness of God in Jesus Christ; you are drawn to this light and you follow it.  Jesus is your light that allows you to see not just your sin, but God’s forgiving love that shines from the cross.  You follow this light from the cross to the baptismal font, where you were bathed and washed clean in God’s own light; you were recreated!  And from the font it is your desire to follow that light where ever it leads you.  And where does it lead you?  It leads you out into our community where sin, death, and darkness blind our neighbors.  And what are you to do as you follow the light of Jesus?  You let it shine!  But make no mistake; this light is not your light, not even a little bit!  No, it is all God’s light reflecting off of you.  As Jesus is your Sun, you are His moon.  Your little gospel light is simply a reflection of Jesus wonderful light that is eternal in the city of God.  And your prayer as you follow Him is simply this, “Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.  Bring your light into the darkness as I follow you.” 

So dear friends, God is calling those of us who once were in darkness, but now have been given eternal life through His gift of spiritual sight to walk as children of light.  What are we to do?  We are to gather around His Word and Sacraments and try to discern through the leading of His light what is pleasing to the Lord.  We are to be in the world, but not of it; we are to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose the darkness by our lives that trust and follow Christ’s light.  Through the Word of God, our lives are shaped and through that same Word we are shaping our community by exposing the darkness of sin with Christ’s own light.  We are to be a reminder, no an alarm that shouts into the darkness and this sinful world, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (too)!”  In Jesus name… AMEN!