Lord, unveil my eyes

Perhaps more so than any of the other gospels, John’s gospel weaves together the record and interpretation of Jesus’ miracles which are ‘signs’ revealing who Jesus was and what He had come into the world to do.   Whilst each of the signs leads to a genuine response of faith, John is actually critical of a faith based solely on miracles…The real significance of the miracles of Jesus is that they point forward to Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, to the transformation brought by the new age of the Spirit, and thus lead to a faith in Jesus the (crucified) Christ, the (risen) Son of God.  The signs then give us an insight into Jesus; his humanity and his deity.  It is often said if you want to know Jesus – God the Son, read the Gospels…if you want to know God the Father, get to know Jesus and do this in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The seven signs or miracles featured in John’s gospel are:

  1. The wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-11)

  2. Jesus Heals an Official’s Son (John 4:46-54)

  3. Jesus Heals on the Sabbath (John 5:1-18)

  4. Feeding the Five Thousand (John 6:1-15)

  5. Jesus Walks on the Water (John 6:15-21)

  6. A Man Born Blind Receives Sight (John 9:1-41)

  7. The Death and Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44)

In our Gospel reading today we are presented with the sixth sign in which a man born blind receives sight.  We must view this sign in the context of how we learn in the previous chapter where Jesus had revealed himself as the Light of the World, and now brings both physical and spiritual sight to a blind man whereas in stark contrast the Pharisees remain blind.  The Light of the World can do two things:

  1. It can bring salvation to those who are blind

  2. It can bring the shadow of judgement to those who will not step into the light

It is a hard truth that we too can sometimes be like the Pharisees.  We can become more concerned with the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law, we can be the first to pick up stones to stone other people we pronounce judgement on because of sin rather than facing up to the sin in our own lives, and at times we can be so blind in our lack of faith and understanding.  It is perhaps surprising that the disciples fell into that pattern of behaviours too… when seeing the blind man, the very first thing they ask of Jesus is “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus reply is a gentle rebuke and challenge “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” 

and I want to shout from the rooftops that yes, in this broken world there are times that innocent people suffer and it is not God’s fault.  We live with the consequences of the fall, the consequences of our actions, and we live with the reality of “The god of this age [who] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)  The devil rejoices every time all that is good, all that is holy, is twisted, corrupted and perverted.  “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)

But “Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.” “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:30-31)  We must remember that “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”  (1 John 3:8)  And here Jesus does just that and reveals God’s work in the blind man.  In doing so he infringes Sabbath tradition on three occasions:

  1. He heals on the Sabbath

  2. In making the mud to apply to the man’s eyes he kneaded on the Sabbath

  3. He anointed the man’s eyes, also prohibited on the Sabbath

The thing is, Jesus steps into the brokenness of this world.  He steps into our own darkness, our own brokenness, our own blindness.  And in this time of Lent we are invited to journey with him through the wilderness to come to that place of understanding and belief, to the place where perhaps we come the closest to plumbing the mystery – the foot of the cross…and beyond.

The blind man went on such a journey too.  Yes, he received physical sight.  But in his journey into faith he also received spiritual sight. When asked who Jesus was, on each occasion his answer changed – ‘the man called Jesus’ (v11), ‘He is a prophet’ (v17), ‘the Son of Man’ – and finally ‘Lord I believe’ (v35-38).  Do we know Jesus as a man, a prophet, the Son of Man or are we in that place of faith – “Lord, I believe.”

The Pharisees were invited on that journey, and yet they chose not to see even when confronted with the Light of the World, the Light of Christ.  Their hearts were hardened and their position was that anyone who confessed that Jesus was the Messiah would be “put out of the synagogue.”

As Milne so aptly states “Whenever we find ourselves valuing the letter of God’s law above its spirit; whenever we find ourselves unable to rejoice in the saving and renewing of lives simply because the instrument used was not someone who dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s of our theological group; whenever we lose the daily, hourly sense of joy in the grace of God by which alone we know him and live before him, then we need to beware. ‘Lord, is it I?’ The only security against Pharisaism is grace, which is perhaps the reason the Lord may from time to time permit us to stumble in our Christian walk so that we may have opportunity to rediscover it.” (Milne, B. (1993). The message of John: here is your king!: with study guide (p. 142). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.)

And so my dear friends, one of my favourite choruses is called the “Power of your Love”.  One of the verses says:

Lord unveil my eyes

Let me see You face to face

The knowledge of Your love

As You live in me

And Lord renew my mind

As Your will unfolds in my life

In living every day

By the power of Your love

 

Isn’t that a great prayer?  Lord, unveil my eyes.  Let me see you face to face.

May that be our prayer as we continue our journey through Lent and may we capture the truth that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”  (1 John 3:8)

Amen

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