March 19, 2023
Fourth Sunday in Lent
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one who gifts us with eyes of faith. Amen
Life doesn’t always turn out as we expect.
Samuel didn’t expect that Saul
who he anointed King of Israel
would fall out of favor with God,
and when God showed him potential candidates
for the new King
he did not expect to anoint the youngest son of Jesse,
to be fair Jesse didn’t even consider David a candidate
leaving him out in the field to tend the sheep
while his older brothers paraded in front of God’s prophet.
The parents of the man in our gospel for today
did not expect their son to be born with blindness.
Waiting to meet their child
I’m sure they envisioned more for them
than a life spent begging
because that was pretty much the only option for one born blind.
We’ve all had experiences in life
where things did not go as we expected,
sometimes the unexpected was just something we hadn’t considered as a possibility,
other times we were disappointed
and grieved the loss of the future we had envisioned,
but however we got there
the experience brought us to the point of asking
‘well, what now? Or where do I go from here?’
In these moments
we have several options for how to react
but they all boil down to acceptance or rejection
we can pause and consider
that the world is broader than we’d previously understood
and that just because something is unexpected
or even inexplicable
doesn’t mean that it’s not possible,
we just hadn’t considered it before,
or we can choose to reject the unexpected and inexplicable
because it doesn’t fit into how we understand the world to work.
We find these reactions play out in the story of Jesus
healing the man born blind.
Jesus encounters the man,
blind from birth,
and restores his sight
but when this man who now sees
tries to reenter society
his neighbors, those who used to see him begging
have trouble believing it’s him,
‘if it’s you, who we know as one who was blind,
how is it that you can see?’
they ask him
and he goes through the whole process
that Jesus went through sharing the instructions Jesus gave him
and he tells them
‘I followed the instructions and now I can see’
and the neighbors are so perturbed
that they bring him to the Pharisees,
who also ask how he received his sight,
and the man goes through the whole thing again
and they start trying to understand
how this could be,
how Jesus could do this thing
(because remember this story is really about who Jesus is).
Some of them hold Jesus up to their understanding of the world
and because he doesn’t fit their expectations
for a faithful person
they quickly come to the conclusion
“This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.”
“But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’”
these others are not so hasty,
they want to understand
and so they ask the man what he thinks about Jesus
(he says he thinks Jesus is a prophet)
and then they bring in his parents to ask them
‘is this your son? Was he really born blind? How do you explain this?’
And his parents have no explanation for how their son can now see.
So they go back to the man and ask him again,
But now they are doubling down on their understanding of the world,
Without leaving room for the possibility of something new
And because in their understanding working on the sabbath is against the law
Jesus who healed on the sabbath is a sinner,
‘how can this sinner have healed you, what did he do?’
they badger the man
and finally he’s had enough
and he tells them “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
and this is too much for the pharisees
and they respond with what almost seems like a school yard taunt
‘well you were born entirely in sin so what do you know?’
And they kick him out.
They reject that which fails to fit
into how they understand the world to work.
But that’s not the end of the story.
Jesus hears that the man had been driven out,
and he goes and finds him,
and reveals to him the truth about who Jesus is,
the Son of Man,
and the man whose sight was restored
His understanding of the world
is broadened by his unexpected encounter
and he worships Jesus
and Jesus concludes this section
with the statement “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
further confusing the Pharisees nearby,
and indicating that his actions
are about more than the physical act of seeing
but understanding the truth about God that is revealed in Jesus.
In the gospel of John,
Jesus is the way to understand who God is,
and here Jesus proclaims that he is the light of the world
and he shines so brightly
that even this man born blind sees,
and knows the truth about God,
the truth that with God nothing is impossible,
no one is born outside of God’s love
and that love is so strong that it brings life out of death.
And that is what Jesus does for us as well,
in the waters of baptism
God reveals to us the truth about who God is
and gives us the insight to view the world through this truth,
through the eyes of faith.
The eyes of faith are God’s gift to us
To help us when we encounter the unexpected.
In the face of the unexpected
Whether we’re grieving or just plain confused
Looking through the eyes of faith
Allows us to pause and wonder
‘what is God up to?’
‘Where is God at work?’
And because this gift
These eyes of faith
Are from Jesus
Who reveals the very heart of God
We know to start looking for God
At the points in our life
Where we hurt the most.
Jesus faced suffering and death on the cross
God does not avoid the painful parts of life
Rather God comes and is with us in the midst of them.
God promises that they are not the end
Because our God is one who brings new life out of death
The most unexpected thing of all
As people of faith we can handle anything
Because our God has handled everything
And gifted us with eyes to see the truth
That nothing can separate us from the love of God. Amen
*I am thankful for the work of Dr. Craig Satterlee for inspiration and exegesis in forming this sermon.