Fourth Sunday in Lent
Passage: John 9:1–9:41
FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT MARCH 22, 2020
Sermon Text: John 9:1-41
Covid-19. Will I get it? If I do will I get really sick? Will I die? I know that lots of people (because I’m one of them) have tried or are trying to take some comfort in where they fit into the charts according to age and overall health, as to whether or not Covid-19 will simply be a passing cold or spell out the end of earthly life for them. No, I’m not in the group of those most at risk, but I left that golden 0-9 group behind some forty plus years ago, and so while I’m not as likely to get really sick, it is possible, and distressingly, for many that I know and love, it’s even probable.
No, for many of us there’s not much comfort in the charts when it comes to Covid-19. Even if we can take some comfort for ourselves in them, most of us know and love some for whom those charts cause far more fear than comfort. And no, with Covid-19 we cannot, as we like to do with so much other trouble and tragedy, take comfort in the idea that it will only strike those who are worse sinners than everyone else . . . those who by their way of life or choices have put themselves in harm’s way. No, Covid-19 is one of those great levelers that can and has struck down anyone.
We might feel a lot better if we can believe only bad people have bad stuff happen to them, but times and trials like the one that our world is facing in this moment show that what Jesus says today is true. Everyone in a world of sin is fair game. In our broken world everything is broken, including each one of us. No one is truly good except God alone as Jesus tells us. Suffering, trouble and death come to all, because all have sinned and all are surrounded by sin. Yes, some people suffer directly because of their sin, but for most people there’s nothing you can put your finger on that is the direct cause of what’s happening to them as Jesus confirms today.
The Lord answers the disciples when they want to know about the blind man, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The man’s suffering and the parent’s suffering didn’t come because of any specific sin, but that did not mean that it was pointless. Jesus says that there was a purpose behind it – an incredible purpose – that the works of God might be displayed in him. This man was going to serve a great purpose in God’s saving plan for the world. He was asked to go without his sight all those years, so that people would have to deal with Jesus, so people would have to come face to face with Him, and so, perhaps, come to know Him and be saved.
As events unfold we see that not everyone is open to Jesus. The Pharisees reject Him. He stands right in front of them, but they close their eyes and remain in their blindness. Even so, in this moment God has still reached out into their lives. The light of the Son has shone on them through this man’s blindness. The Son of God worked to open their eyes, but sadly, they would not see. Yet, still, what a great work was being done through this man, that would not have happened if it was not for him and his suffering. And although the seeing Pharisees remain blind to Jesus, the blind man has his eyes opened by the Light of the world and he sees and he knows his Saviour, which would not have happened if not for his blindness.
When trouble comes upon us, we naturally just want God to take it away as soon as possible. We can even wonder or demand what we’ve done wrong to deserve this trouble, but what the Lord shows us today is that such suffering and trouble has a purpose. It is there to bring us and others face to face with Jesus. Trouble in the world, especially for God’s children, is there as Jesus says, that the works of God might be displayed in us. Trouble in whatever form it comes forces people to face sin and its consequences and opens the door for people to see Jesus. As the sufferings of Christ earn salvation for the world, the sufferings of God’s people serve to bring others face to face with that salvation. We are called into the life of the cross, beloved, which means that we are asked to suffer in the world for the sake of others.
Now, of course this is not easy, a cross by its very nature is hard and heavy to bear. With our Lord Jesus it is natural for us to pray, “if it is possible let this cup pass from me.” What lies ahead is frightening. Suffering, sorrow and grief are not easy for us to embrace even if it means that some great good will come for us and others. Our Lord Jesus goes on to pray to the Father, “Not My will but Thy will be done,” but for us these words can be hard to pray. We do say them day in and day out in the “Our Father” but when we have to pray them knowing what we’re really saying – with Covid-19 knocking at our door – we can only say what needs to be said with God’s help. The cross is not something we willingly take up on our own.
God wants to display His works in us, beloved. It is the whole purpose of our lives as His children in this world. There is nothing greater that we could ever do than serve God’s work of saving others. As His children we should be ready and willing to be a part of that. We should be honoured to be given such a place, but our sin hinders us from freely joining the heart of God here. The cost frightens us. We often aren’t ready to pay it. For this we need to be forgiven. And thanks be to God the truly and only innocent One has suffered willingly, lovingly and mer- cifully for us. Although He had no sin He was made to be sin for us. He suffered and died in that sin, that by His cross we might have this needed forgiveness.
In His Word and through His body and blood the Lord Jesus comes into our broken lives to display His works in them. As we struggle beneath our burdens, as we have to face sickness, suffering, death and things like Covid-19, the Lord Jesus is working in our lives to display His great works of faith, hope, love and peace. These great works come from having Him in our lives, through His gifts, through His forgiveness, through His blessing. The Lord Jesus stands before us in His Word to open our eyes to know and to see who the Son of Man is that we might believe in and that we might trust in Him.
He is the one who comes before us with the wounds of our salvation. He is the one who was beaten for our transgressions, whose stripes have granted us healing. He is the one who was dead, but now lives to intercede for us before the Father. He is the one who has called us out of darkness into His Kingdom of light. He is the one who has delivered us out of death into life.
With Jesus before our eyes in this way, with Him showing us in His love filled gaze all that He has won for us, all that He will give us; then indeed, even as we lay our hearts before God asking for our worldly needs, we may learn to pray that He would use our lives to display His works, even if that means a cross for us. With Christ before us in His Word, creating faith in us He will teach us to pray with Him, “If it is possible let this cup pass from me, but not my will but your will be done. I trust You Father, lead me in Your way to everlasting life.”
And so as far as Covid-19 or anything else goes, I can lie down and sleep in peace because as a baptized child of God my life is in His hands, and come what may He will see me through it all and use it for His glory and the good of His kingdom. Amen.