Summary: Sermon uses clips from classic movie, The Miracle Worker, to help communicate the experience of blindnessand the experience of receiving sight.
Seeing Physically & Spiritually
Fortifying the Foundations # 22
We don’t know this beggar’s name. Few people knew his name at the time of our story. But many had seen him as they approached the temple in Jerusalem. Pharisees had dropped him a coin or two as they went toward the place of worship. His was a familiar face in Jerusalem but few people took the time to learn his name or really get to know him. He was known by one predominant feature—blindness. That was something he had lived with all his life. It was interesting to discover that this is the only recorded case of Jesus’ dealing with congenital disease. That doesn’t mean there weren’t other that he healed. Remember John specifically told us there were many other miracles not recorded. But this is the only one recorded in scripture.
We don’t see this man asking Jesus to heal him because in his heart he has no hope of seeing. He has reconciled himself to his blindness and spends his days asking for people’s help.
It is hard for me to imagine what it would be like to have been born blind. He has never seen the difference between royal blue and fire engine red. When I think of canary yellow I can see the color and envision the bird because I have seen both. But this man has never had the privilege.
As we watch the opening scene in the classic movie about Helen Keller called “The Miracle Worker” allow yourself to consider this man’s plight before we consider his healing.
Play Opening Scene in The Miracle Worker (3 minutes)
This man has lived with his handicap for at least 20 or 30 years. This Sabbath day seems like any other to him. He gets dressed and goes to his regular spot to ask for alms. But God has planned something marvelous for him. By the end of this day he will never be the same. His life will change completely. You do know that God has plans for you and me and for sinners who have not yet tasted of His goodness?
As he sits there Jesus and his disciples come walking toward him. He can’t see them but he hears them and hopes they will be generous to him. He extends his hand to receive what he can. But Jesus does not drop a coin in his hand and walk on. Jesus looks at him with “that look” that the disciples have seen before. Jesus is not just looking at him. He is looking deep inside him and seeing the pain he has suffered. This man does not know what the Father has in mind for him but Jesus does. Have you ever had Jesus look at you that way? He is always watching over us. But there are those kairos moments in life when Jesus seems to pause (Bible says “As he went along...”) and focus all his attention on you. With eyes filled with love and compassion Jesus looked intensely at this man.
The disciples respond to Jesus’ focus on this man. How did this man get in this situation? He or his parents must have done something awful to deserve this. We hear their question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” How did they know this man was born blind? It was common knowledge. Why did they assume that his affliction was caused by some horrible sin? Because that kind of shallow theology was common in Judea at that time. The rabbis had developed a saying, “There is no death without sin and there is no suffering without iniquity.” How did they arrive at that conclusion? Because there is an element of truth in it. Before sin entered the world through Adam’s disobedience there was no sickness, no sorrow, no death. As a broad statement all sickness is due to sin. There are also instances where sickness and tragedy are a direct consequence of sin. When the earth opened and swallowed Korah in Numbers 16 that tragedy was directly brought on by his rebellion. When leprosy struck Uzziah in 2Chronicles 26 it was because of his sin. When Ananias and Sapharah suddenly dropped dead their demise was directly linked to their sin. Person sin can bring terrible consequences.
But just because something is sometimes true does not mean it is always true. Job’s friends assumed his sickness was caused by some personal sin. It was not! And in the end God vindicated Job. I would be extremely cautious about judging someone’s sickness or sorrow the way Job’s friends did or the way these disciples are doing.
Jesus’ answer could have involved a long theological discussion about generational iniquities. There is a lot he could have said about the danger of judging others. But he simply says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” What work? The work Jesus is about to do in healing him. I do not think that it was for the glory of God that this man was blind. But his healing is what is manifesting the glory of God.