Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known … I will turn the darkness into light before them,” 2 Isaiah writes that in the Old Testament lesson for today. Those words remind us a lot of today’s Gospel reading from the book of John, too. There Jesus heals the man who was born blind.
In performing this miracle, Jesus does exactly what Isaiah said the Messiah would do: He turns this man’s darkness into light. That blind man himself said, as the words were later incorporated into the famous hymn, Amazing Grace: “I was blind but now I see!” As the account of this miracle continues, the healed man sees more and more. The more the Pharisees grill him about how he was healed and who healed him, the more his faith grows. In the end, this man gives a very powerful witness to Jesus. He worships Jesus, the one who took his blindness away. He moves from darkness into light.
The Pharisees go the other way. They observe the light that Jesus brings, but they really don’t see. They choose instead to stay in the darkness. The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy is there for them to see. The blind man who was healed stands before them. It is sight and light brought to a man born blind, but they refuse to believe.
For the man born blind, Jesus created a completely new world of light where there was only darkness before. How much different would his life be now?
That’s what our Epistle text from St. Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus is about. The words he wrote in Ephesians answer that question. The man that Jesus healed was blind, in darkness. Now that he could see, he is in the light. The world that he previously knew only by his other senses was brought into a new light. Not only that, now he could also see the one that God had sent to be the Savior of the world. He saw the “Son of Man,” the light of the world.
You and I—most of us, anyway—we are blessed with the gift of physical sight. We’re not blind in the literal sense. Some of us probably know a person who is blind. But few people in this room even suffer from eyesight so poor that is disabling. We have the best of medical care that corrects and protects most of the problems we have with our eyes.
In lots of ways we see better now than any generation. When I was going to elementary school, very few children wore glasses, and those that did often got teased about it. Nowadays it’s no big deal for anyone of any age to wear glasses, although some people choose to wear contact lenses or even to have surgical correction of vision problems.
I remember when I got my first pair of glasses. My vision wasn’t really poor, and still isn’t, thanks be to God. But I did sometimes have challenges seeing detail at a distance, or with fuzziness or glare around bright lights at night. I went to an optometrist and had an exam, and found out I could use some glasses. I didn’t want to believe it, but couldn’t ignore the facts. After the checkup the doctor brought me out to pick the frames for the new glasses. As I sat there he must have seen the dubious look on my face. “You don’t really want to wear glasses, do you?” he asked.
“Not particularly!” I answered.
He pointed out the window of his shop to a tree. “What do you see?” he asked.
“A tree,” I said in a sarcastic voice.
Holding the lens that matched the prescription for my glasses in front of my eye, he asked again. “Now what do you see?”
“Leaves!” I said. Before that, I knew that when you looked at a tree, you were supposed to see leaves. I just hadn’t realized what I had come to be missing in my vision. I was blind to it. In a sense, I was brought into the light. I became a lot more willing to accept the fact that glasses could be of benefit to me.
We also have artificial light… at least of the electric sort. Now, it’s not very often that the power goes out around here. The lights are very dependable. Once in a while, we have power outages from thunderstorms or high winds, or perhaps it could happen from an ice storm in the winter.
Whenever you mention the power being out you always hear stories from folks who lived in earlier times, when the power could be out for days or even weeks, depending on where they lived. All that is pretty much an historical anomaly; our lights rarely go out today.
Yet even if we can see well and we have plenty of light, there is darkness to be found in our lives. It’s a blindness that doctors have no cure for. It is a darkness that you can’t fix with a thousand suns, let alone a flashlight. And all that blindness and all that darkness live deep within our hearts.
We live with this darkness every day. We struggle with what we know is right and what we want for ourselves. Our blindness and darkness comes out in our selfish desires. It comes out in our anger. It comes out in our laziness. It comes out in our apathy.
We know the darkness. We most often point it out when we see it in other people, because we think we’re so enlightened. But what we think we see only in others is merely a reflection of our own troubles. What’s more, God’s light, His Holy and Perfect Word, exposes us for what we really are. It shines unyielding light on our sinful nature. When the darkness that’s in our hearts is in control, there can be only darkness in our lives.
Saint Paul knew quite well what he was talking about when he said: “You were once in darkness…” He lived it in his own life. Before Jesus changed his life he stood by and approvingly watched as people threw stones at Stephen until he was dead. Stephen died because he confessed Jesus. He was the first Christian martyr. Paul even held the killers’ coats while they worked their evil. Paul’s world, before Jesus, was darkness.
And even if we don’t care to admit it, we know what Paul is talking about, too. We don’t like it when the light of truth shines on our dark hearts and reveals our sin. We would rather keep our secrets… well, secret. We want our private lies, our private desires, our private darkness, to be only ours. But, God’s light shines on it and exposes it all, and when it does, we want to cower in the corner, and hide in the darkness.
But, Paul also says that we are Children of the Light. We are that because we have been made so by Jesus. He said himself that He is the light of the world. He not only brings light into the world, like when He made the blind man see, but He is the light of the world. Jesus is life, and that life, is the light of men, St. John says at the beginning of his Gospel account. So Saint Paul can talk about our darkness as a thing of the past. Just look how Paul says it: “You were once in darkness…” he said, but now you are light in the Lord.
God’s Word of Light shines on us and tells us of our need for a Savior. It shines on the darkness in our hearts and exposes it. God’s Word also tells us that Jesus Christ is the Savior we need. He won forgiveness on the cross that makes the darkness in our hearts vanish from God’s sight.
God’s Word tells us again and again of God’s great love for us in Jesus. His love was so great that, on a darkened hillside outside of Jerusalem, the Light of the World endured the pain and suffering, the punishment and the condemnation, that our darkness deserved. All the darkness of the world was gathered into that one place, and placed upon Jesus. He took the darkness of our sin to death, and left it in the grave. We know what happened after that: He rose again. He came alive. The darkness of death was defeated by the Light of the World. That’s the Light that shines into your darkness with God’s great love.
When you walk into a darkened room, you can simply flip a switch, and soon light floods every corner. We do it every day without thinking. Light makes a difference in that room. But the Light of Jesus makes a difference in your life. Jesus is your Light. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in Word and Water and Bread and Wine, He enables us to push the darkness away, and see Jesus even more clearly, more brightly, more gloriously. The Light that Jesus gives defeats the dark, unholy things in the secret recesses of our hearts. Like the blind man who saw the light of the world for the first time when Jesus fixed his eyes, our lives are also forever different.
Paul tells us again, “Live as Children of the Light.” The fruit of a life as a Child of Light is evident—goodness, righteousness, and truth. And that describes you and me, too. Even though there still many, many times when the darkness comes out, on account of Jesus we always have the moments of light.
We see these moments in visiting the sick, giving a caring touch or gentle words for a hurting relative or friend, offering an understanding smile. Faithful, though often unnoticed, work for the Church. Contributions that send missionaries to the farthest, darkest corners of the earth, and that keep faithful teachers in classrooms filled with precious little ones. The Light of God shines in and through us, as the love of God reaches out from us, into the dark world that is all around us.
And there are times when we point to the darkness of the world around us, and shine the Light of Truth there, too. It isn’t that there isn’t darkness in us vying to get out, but rather that God’s light is in us, too—and it’s desperately needed out there. “…light that makes everything visible.” There are times to speak up about sin in the world: To defend the lives of the helpless; to point out those things that God says is evil. So there are times when we must speak out against public sin.
It’s not that we want to condemn, but that we want to bring to light what God has done about the whole world’s sin. We want there to be repentance, so that people can be brought from death to life. We want God’s light for other people, too. “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” God has sent Jesus Christ to remove the darkness from your life.” We say to those whose lives are controlled by the darkness. “Turn to him and live in the light.”
Jesus sent the blind man to a pool of water to wash the mud off his eyes. When he did this, his new life in the light began. Our new lives, our new life in the light, also began with our washing too. Every day we as we wake, when the light of day wakes us from sleep and we hop into the shower or wash our face, we remember that new life—the light that Jesus brings to our lives in Baptism. We remember that we were blind, but now we see. We remember that Jesus washed the darkness in our hearts away. We are no longer blind, but are in the light.
We also remember that every day we wake and rise only because the Light of Jesus Christ has shined upon us. The Light of the World then shines through us, to make us a light to the world. Darkness no longer controls us, but light—the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Walk in His light, to life everlasting. Amen.