The Tale of the Tape
The Tale of the Tape is an expression from boxing. The opponents' height, weight, and reach are measured. This is done at a press conference so you can see how the fighters match up. The historic name for this Sunday is Occuli Eyes, from the first word in the Latin Introit. This text is obviously about seeing, but something else is exposed by the Tale of the Tape, something else when you see the numbers.
The numbers reveal that sinners are only found here. The word sinner occurs 4 times in this chapter but nowhere else in John's Gospel. We read in verse 16 some Pharisees protested the judgement of other Pharisees that Jesus couldn't be from God with, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" In verse 24 some Pharisees try to get the healed man to confess Jesus is a sinner: They say, "Give glory to God; we know this man is a sinner." In verse 25 the healed man replies, ""Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know." And in verse 31 the healed man says that Jesus can't be because, "We know that God does not listen to sinners."
In all 21 chapters of John, the only time the word sinner' is used is in our chapter and it's used 4 times. But it's not being used in the sense that all men are sinners. Sinners' here is for men in their sins who don't desire to be delivered. Augustine says that the word sinners' in Scripture is not usually applied to those who live righteously and praiseworthy. The word is reserved for those actively wicked,' for those living in their sins either not admitting them or not wishing to break with them (Trench, 323).
In all of John's Gospel this is the only place the Holy Spirit wants you to see "sinners." And look who is identified as such by the leaders of the Old Testament church? Jesus. The Tale of the Tape reveals that every reference to sinners' is to Jesus. Though the Pharisees don't get the point, it is fitting for the One whom John declared to be carrying away the sins of the world to be identified as the sinner.'
Likewise, look about you; see that only sinners are in here. There could be both kinds. Those damned in their sins because they don't recognize them, won't confess them, and don't want to be free of them, and sinners who make no claim to being anything but blind. When they try to see on their own, they see sins that aren't there, and they don't see sins that are. They see the Savior when He is Judge and Judge when He is Savior. They see only bread and wine on that altar and plain water in that font and nothing coming out of my mouth but wind.
Only those who come to the confession that they are blind, see, says Jesus at the end of the text. Those who maintain they see remain blind. Sinners who maintain they're good enough, see no reason for needing Christ, no reason for Christ to pull them away from their sins. These are lost in blindness. The saved, the redeemed don't claim to see anything but what Jesus says is there.
The Tale of the Tape reveals something else here: see that the worship of Jesus is only here. This chapter is the only place in the Gospel where anyone is said to worship Jesus specifically. In chapter 4 worship of God is mentioned. In chapter 12 the Greeks are said to come to worship at the Passover, but only here is it said that Jesus is worshipped.
If you've ever seen fighters actually being measured, when you see how much further the tape is stretched along the arm of one fighter than the other, that's dramatic visual testimony of him having the advantage. Likewise, when you see that only here in John is Jesus said to be worshipped you are struck by this fact. The Holy Spirit is highlighting something for you.
So, let's go back to see how this astounding thing happens that the Man Jesus comes to be worshipped as God by this man. He begins by saying no more than Jesus is a man. Pressed on by the Pharisees' denial of what has happened to him, he confesses that Jesus is a prophet. See, just like Jolene last week, the healed man recognizes Jesus speaks for God, and just like last week, he finally comes to the conclusion: He's Yahweh in the flesh. He says after Jesus has revealed Himself, "'Yahweh, I believe,' and then he worshipped Him says the text.
The Tale of the Tape reveals that Jesus is only said to be worshipped here in all of John. See also that in here too worship is only of Jesus. We're not worshipping the generic God in whom all American say they trust. We're not worshipping the generic God whom the nation is said to be under and whom every politician calls on to bless America. No, that god is the one with many names, the one whom has many paths to him. Neither do we worship a higher power' or a force.'
The worship done in here is only of Jesus. No one can come to the Father or the Spirit apart from Him. No man has seen God at any time or can see Him. The only way you can know God is through Jesus who makes Him known. The point being we are blind to God apart from as Paul says "the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ." In Jesus, God calls for the weak and heavy laden to come to Him. In Jesus, God is revealed as the Great Physician of body and soul. In Jesus, God is revealed to have mercy that endures forever. In Jesus, God doesn't lift up His voice or put out a guttering wick.
You can look at 2 fighters side by side and get an idea how they match up, but something happens when the Tale of the Tape puts numbers, shows reality to you. So far the numbers in this chapter compared to the rest of John shows us that sinners' are only here in John and all 4 times it refers to Jesus. Second, we see that the only time John specifically says Jesus is worshipped is here. The two tales of the tape go together. If Jesus opens your eyes to the fact that He is the one who became sin to save you from your sins that leads to worshipping only Him. The last thing the tape shows us is that results of judgement are only found here.
The act of judging is mentioned elsewhere. John 3:17 says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but to save the world through Him." Jesus repeats this in 12:47 "I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." In our text a different form of this Greek word is used. This form indicates the result of an action not the action. The purpose of Jesus coming as chapters 3 and 12 tell you is not to judge but to save. What glorious news that is, right? If you've ever had a someone out to get you, you had to watch every step you took. Jesus says, "I don't come into your life like a white gloved inspector for the purpose of finding your dirt. I've come to save you from it." However, what results when men reject Jesus' holiness for their sins, Jesus' sight for their blindness is judgement.
Jesus is the great dividing line. Everyone lines up on one side or the other of Him. Nobody is neutral towards Jesus. Everyone is making a confession about Him. To remain silent in the face of the Truth, speaks loudly. So does claiming to see who Jesus is and what He does based on your sight, that is blindness. But claiming you don't see anything but what Jesus says to be there, that is seeing.
The result of Jesus coming into the world is the judgment of both groups. Imagine you have a block of wax and a block of clay out where the sun shines all day. The same sun will melt the wax and harden the clay. That will be the result of the sun shining; that won't be the purpose. But the sun will reveal the one to be wax and the other clay. Likewise, if a sighted individual and a blind person are in the same totally dark room, turning on the light doesn't cause the person to go blind or the sighted to see. The turning on of the light results in revealing what both are.
So, the Tale of the Tape reveals that this chapter which uses this particular form of the word judge' is not about the judging action of Jesus but the judgment that results from Jesus being present. If you hear the Word of the Law and reject that it shows your sins and your need of a Savior, the result will be you going on your blind way into the outer darkness. If you hear the Word of the Gospel and reject that Jesus kept the Law in your place and died to pay for your sins, the result will be you judge yourself unworthy of everlasting life and so you'll remain forever in the dying you were born in.
Not one of us can open our own eyes. It takes the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the good news for you is that He wants all to see. The bad' news is that this can be painful. In King Lear, Shakespeare depicts the Earl of Gloucester as blinded by an enemy and in despair against God over his blindness. He wants to end it all. His son, disguised as a fool, says he is leading the blind man to the White Cliffs of Dover where he can end it all. Shakespeare makes a big deal of how the son makes his father believe he's on the very edge of the cliff. Can't he smell the salt air? Can't he feel the fresh sea wind? The blind Earl jumps thinking he has cast himself to his death, but falls only to the level of his feet. This opens his eyes to his pride that caused him to despair of God's gracious will and care (Act IV, 6).
The tape tells the tale of this text. You're to be brought to the realization that holy Jesus is the only sinner; and He saved you by being such and so wills to bring you to worship Him only. Finally, He isn't in here in word and song for the purpose of judging you, but every encounter with Him you have or avoid results in judgment. May your blind eyes be opened as the Earl's were so that see you despair not of God's will in Christ but your own, of what you see not of what He does. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Third Sunday in Lent (20170319); John 9: 13-17, 34-39