Can I propose a challenge for you? Do you want to be tested? What I would do is close the back doors of our worship space. I would hang light-blocking curtains on every window in this sanctuary. Block out all traces of light. Make it absolutely pitch-black— so dark that you can feel it, so dark that you cannot see the hand in front of your face. Of course, I do not want you to work too hard (and move out all the furnishings). So I would leave them all here— the pews, the piano, the pulpit and lectern, the baptismal font, the railings and doors— everything would stay right in place. Then I would take this itty bitty needle and just throw it. It will land somewhere in this room. Maybe it lands in the balcony. It could land in the back Sunday School room. Maybe it rolls under a pew or falls in a hymnal rack. Who knows? Ready for the challenge-part? I want you, in the absolutely pitch dark room filled with stuff, to go and find it. Could you do it?
It would be difficult, right? Maybe even impossible. If there is no light, how would you keep from ramming into a pew? …or tripping up the stairs? …or falling over the balcony? How would you know if you are re-circling the same area or actually making some progress? The only thing you could possibly use are your fingers— ten fingers groping every square inch of the floor, the furnishings, and the steps for this itty bitty needle.
That is why we use lights. Light chases away darkness. Light warns about obstacles and reveals a path. Light allows your mind to see information then react.
When it comes to what you know about Jesus (and what he does for you), you need a light. You need something that chases away harmful, false ideas. You need something to guide your choices and decisions. You need something that leads you on the only right path to heaven. Be sure, many boldly claim to think they know what God expects of them, but only Jesus The Light of the World Shines! Blinding those who see and Giving sight to the blind.
You see that in our reading. [Jesus] saw a man blind from birth. That’s right: from birth. No work accident steals away his sight. No car-accident damaged his eyes. He did not fall off the playground and hit his head. The moment he enters the world, he cannot see. And just in case you are wondering, his parents are not drunks or sex offenders or abusers that God stepped in and chastised them by taking away their child’s eyesight. The baby was not going to grow up and enter a life of crime, and so God zapped him with blindness. This man is blind because sin is in the world. You know your world is not perfect. Since the world is not perfect, it means our bodies are not perfect; this man’s body did not develop eyesight. He cannot see.
Yet, Jesus enters the world to reveal, to illuminate, to shine something special: This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. It is a play on words! “Displayed”— like a projector playing a movie on the big screen. No one will miss the movie; no one will miss what Jesus is about to do. After all, he uses a real object. He spits on the ground, makes some mud with the saliva, and puts it on the man’s eyes. People see and feel the mud. He uses words people can hear and understand and act on. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam.” Jesus does a work and the man reacts.
[He] went and washed, and came home seeing. Not only does the man see, but people see this— with their eyes! The disciples witness that Jesus did something. Neighbors see a once-blind man now using his eyes (John 9:8). His parents admit he was blind (9:20-21). There is no denying this.
The Bible uses a special word for this kind of powerful act: “a sign.” Yes, you can call it a “miracle;” you can call it a “sign”— they both have the same purpose. A miracle (or sign) leads you to see something special about Jesus.
Even the Pharisees cannot deny that this once-blind man has fully functioning eyesight. They cannot deny that Jesus is the One who made those eyes work. Everything points to Jesus as Someone who has the power that God Almighty possesses. Yet, their minds are already made up: Jesus is a sinner. How can he be “God-approved” if he breaks their manmade version of the Sabbath? “Sabbath” means “day of rest.” God gave the Sabbath for people to receive spiritual rest in worship. Yet, according to the Pharisees, Jesus is not supposed to even help someone in need. Since he broke their rule, then how could he be from God? If he is not from God, then why listen to him? They find every reason to discredit his miracle. Jesus, The Light of the World Shines in their presence. They see him, but blind themselves to his significance.
Remember my challenge? Find the itty bitty needle in a pitch-black, so-dark-that-you-can feel-it, fully furnished room? What if I offered to flip on the lights and rip the curtains down from the windows and throw open the doors? Would you want that?
Of course you would! It would be foolish to reject the light! It would be foolish to fumble around in darkness, hoping to find your goal. Yet, are you not tempted to do just that?
Yes, I am not talking about actual light. Rather, your Jesus clearly reveals his truth in the Bible. Yet, so often you may be tempted to put on a Pharisee-mindset and see only what you want to see! And the surest way to make this come true? Just say, “I think Jesus would (fill in the blank)”
Jesus clearly says: “Do not give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25). You see it; you understand those words, and yet out comes: “I think Jesus does not care if I skip church for a while— he would understand.” Jesus clearly says: “I am the Way, Truth, and Life. The only way to God is through me” (John 14:6). The mind wonders if that is truly fair and concludes: “I think Jesus will save everyone— it doesn’t matter what they believe.” Jesus teaches: “If you hold to my teachings then you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31-32). Yet, when the heart does not want to obey those teachings, if it wants to believe something Jesus does not teach, then it defends: Then “I do not think it matters if you believe everything about the Bible. Just believe in Jesus. That’s it.”
That “I think” statement is nothing more than scrounging around in spiritual darkness, trying to pick and choose what you will believe about Jesus. The truth is, Jesus tells you what he does. He shares quite plainly: “I am the Light of the world.” If you choose to believe (and rely on) a “I think” answer, then you will never see The Light of the World Shining. You will live blind to the only Savior!
That is why The Light of the World Shines! He comes into the world to give sight to the blind— literally. A man born blind can now use the full capacity of his eyes. This is a miracle. That miracle points out that Jesus is more than a man. It proves that He is a prophet— someone sent out by God with a message. If you listen to those words, you realize he is more than a prophet. The words he preaches are something you follow. You listen, you take them to heart; you find ways to put them into practice. You listen and you trust. When Jesus calls himself the Son of Man you know he is just that. This is the one God sends for you. This is the One God sends to render judgment.
Judgment can sound terrifying. We usually think of judgment as someone exposing all the bad things you have done and then damning you. Yet, Jesus gives you sight to see just what kind of judgment he renders.
You know, “judgment” speaks of an unfavorable sentence and a favorable one. If you ever stand in the court of law, you will hear the judgment: “Guilty!” or “Innocent!” Both are judgments. Yes, Jesus makes it clear that those who are blind to him—those who reject the truth that he died to remove sin free of charge, those who think he is make-believe, those who do not want to listen will fall under a hellish judgment.
Yet, you, you who receive him by faith, you who trust that he has wiped away your self-reliance, you who see him remove every “I-think” statement on the cross will receive a favorable judgment. He will declare: “You are my child!” The Light of the World Shines! Giving sight to the blind.
You see Jesus as someone special; you see him as God’s Son. So you, like the once-blind man, worship him. Yes, we often think of worship as sitting in a church building singing, praying, and listening. Yet, your worship is not just limited to this space. When you take his words to heart you are praising God; you exalt him by putting him in the first place of your heart.
Jesus may no longer physically be in your world, but he is still the light of [your] world. He will remain a light for you to follow as long as it is day. You usually work when it is daytime because you can see what you are doing. When nighttime arrives, you stop working. Jesus compares life and death to “day” and “night.” While you are alive, that is your time to (1) believe that Jesus’ death on the cross has washed you from sin and gives you heaven, and (2) for you to continue strengthening your trust in this.
There is no second chance to believe after you die. There is no “believing” for another. “Day” and “night” can end at any moment. Just a week a ago, a tree tragically fell on a couple’s car. They were quite young; full of years— and yet, God allowed their time on earth to end. You are not guaranteed to live 80, 90, or 100 years. The time to see Jesus is not tomorrow or next year or right before (you think) you will die.
While you still live in “day,” you have the chance to flock around the words of Jesus. You have the ability to see him light up your path to heaven. You have the privilege see Jesus shed light on the doubts you may have. His Word illuminates advice for any decisions you face. He reveals the dangers of wandering into spiritual darkness. The Light of the World Shines! Giving sight to the blind.
I don’t know if you could ever find an itty bitty needle in pitch black darkness. That is why we use lights. Light chases away darkness. Light warns about obstacles and reveals a path. Light provides clear information you need for life.
When it comes to what you know about Jesus (and what he does for you), you need a light. You need the Bible to chases away harmful, false ideas. You need Jesus’ teachings to guide your choices and decisions. You need a Savior give you the only right path to heaven. You have it. Jesus The Light of the World Shines! Blinding those who see and Giving sight to the blind.
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