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Oculi

3/27/11

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Oculi is Latin for eyes. This Sunday is called Oculi Sunday from the first word in the Latin Introit "eyes." This was the Sunday the early church examined the catechumens. This was followed by their renunciation of the Devil and all his works and ways. Their eyes were opened you would say. As our Introit says, "My eyes are ever on the Lord." I wonder. If open eyes are equated with knowing and understanding, why are mountain top sages usually depicted as blind? Why are people in divine ecstasy usually pictured with white eyeballs?

In any event, we start our text with both eyes opened to the narrow path of salvation. The man healed in our text travels the same path as the woman at the well did last week. That's not surprising. Jesus says there is only one path that leads to everlasting life; it's narrow, and few can see it. That path is none other than Jesus who says that He is the Way. Salvation is seeing who Jesus really is.

Both the woman at the well and the man healed of blindness start with seeing that Jesus is a man. In verse 11, not part of our text, when asked how he was healed he says, "The man they call Jesus made some mud." The path to life, to heaven, to salvation starts on earth with the flesh and blood Man named Jesus. It doesn't start with thinking heavenly thoughts. It doesn't start with thinking about the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God Almighty. It starts with the Man Jesus.

This Man is like you in all ways. He knows your temptations, your fears, your challenges. He faces life and death as a Man. He gets tired, hungry, thirsty. He laughs, cries, bleeds, and dies. He feels His heart beating in His chest just like you do yours. He requires air to fill His lungs just like you. He's not like Hercules half-man and half-god. He is 100% true Man. Neither is Jesus like the Greek gods that temporarily take on human form. From His conception in the Virgin's womb, Jesus is true man for eternity.

The narrow path of salvation starts with the Man Jesus, but it doesn't end there. The next stop for both the woman of John 4 and the man of John 9 is seeing that Jesus is a prophet. Note neither one say Jesus is the prophet. Moses predicted in Deuteronomy 18 that the Lord would raise up a prophet after Moses whom they were to listen to. This prophet was the Messiah. But neither the fallen woman nor the blind man say he's that prophet. They just confess that Jesus is more than an ordinary man.

It's necessary to stop at this way station on the way to salvation. It was a common Jewish belief that a prophet was the highest position a man could hold. When people today call Jesus a great teacher, the most influential man who ever lived, or even God's spokesman, they are stopping at this way point, but salvation isn't found here.

Salvation is reached when they see Jesus is Lord, Jesus is God. The woman at the well saw it when she confessed Jesus as I AM. The man in our text saw it when He bowed and worshipped Jesus as the Son of God. I really hate to do this, but I have to point out a difference in the Greek editions of the New Testament. Up to at least 1951 the Greek text has Jesus asking, "Do you believe in the Son of God?" There's excellent testimony to this reading. But after 1951 the alternate reading was preferred, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" It's Bible class material to explain this. Just note it's more powerful for Jesus to ask, "Do you believe in the Son of God," and for the man to answer he does and then worship Him.

So we enter our text with both eyes opened to the narrow path of salvation that is no broader than the Person of Jesus. But during Lent we shut one eye because of what we see. You don't think so? Sure we do. We veil the crosses before our eyes. We bury the alleluias out of sight. We voluntarily give up seeing our full joy for the time of Lent. We keep both eyes opened on who Jesus is but we shut one eye as we see what He does.

You know that our basic problem as fallen humans is that we are blind to spiritual things. We lack all capacity to see spiritual things. We don't see dimly, darkly, or hazily. We don't see at all. Think of how you could not describe a color to a person born blind. That's how impossible it is for us to see spiritual things. Yet, we act as if we see it all. Fallen man acts like he can see the true God, but in reality he makes a god in his own fallen image. We think we're on the path of salvation. In reality we're groping in spiritual darkness never, ever to see the path to heaven.

Spiritual blindness was the plight of all fallen humanity, and that's why Jesus was treated by God as if He was guilty of it. Read Isaiah's Servant Song of the Christ in chapter 42. There he records God asking, "Who is blind but My Servant so blind as the servant of the Lord?" In the Passion Readings on Wednesdays we see the Lord blindfolded, hit, and taunted for not being able to see. We see a crown of thorns smashed down on His head so blood drips into His eyes. The Lord has pity on the physically blind but the spiritually blind who claim to see are without excuse; God has no pity on them. So Jesus during Lent receives no mercy, no let up, no help.

Because we insist that we see, because we insist that we know the way to heaven, because we insist that we know what truth, beauty, and good look like, Jesus is not beat to within an inch of His life. No, He's crucified to death. And because sin deserves not just temporal punishment but eternal, Jesus suffers an eternity of hell on the cross. And what happened to the people who saw the suffering, sighing, bleeding and dying Jesus? What happened to the sinners who really saw that horrible sight? The thief's eyes were opened and he confessed Jesus to be his King. The centurion's eyes were opened and he confessed Jesus to be God.

Like Johnny Nash they could see everything more clearly now. Can you? Then admit your blindness. Then you'll be like the sage on the mountain or the person in ecstasy. How so? Our text closes with Jesus saying that is the blind who will see. The blind sage and the white marble-eyed mystic are the ones even we depict as really being able to see.

I begin virtually every Bible class with the prayer, "Open our eyes that we may behold wonderful things out of your Word." I didn't make this prayer up; it comes from Psalm 119:18. The Psalmist is confessing that he's blind. He needs God to open his eyes if he's going to see anything in God's Word. Likewise, the Pharisees searched, read, studied the Scriptures, and claimed they saw it all, but they didn't see they were all about Jesus. Unless Jesus opens our eyes the Bible remains a closed book, not worthy of our study.

Regardless of your age or place in life, I can pretty much guarantee you that you are going to see some horrible things in life. You will see death, suffering, pain, emotional or physical so great you'll want to turn away, you'll want close your eyes. Please do. Don't use your eyes to look at these things. Be like the mountain sage or the mystic. See with different eyes. See like the physically blind do. See with they eyes of another.

Don't look at things with these eyes. They're blind. You can only see what is really there if Jesus tells you. In sickness, Jesus tells you too see health. In suffering, Jesus tells you not to see sin as the disciples did when they first came upon this man born blind. They said, "Who sinned this man or his parents?" Jesus told them to stop seeing sin and see the glory of God.

Does this sound strange to you? Why? Jesus regularly tells you to see something differently than you do. You bring your sweet babies to the font and Jesus says see here: they are spiritually blind, dead, enemies of God. You stand before those who have died in Christ and Jesus tells you stop seeing them as dead because they are very much alive. You come here seeing yourself covered in your sins like so many warts, pimples, and puss filled boils. But Jesus tells you that you are to see your sins forgiven, sent away, healed by the words I speak, and you are no longer to see so much as a blemish on you.

Ben Franklin said to believe none of what you hear and half of what you see. No, believe all of what Jesus says to you in His Word and none of what you see with your eyes. When you lay dying, you will see nothing but death before your eyes. When your loved ones lay in sickness, you'll see nothing but suffering before your eyes. When you witness great tragedy, you like the people in Luke 13, will only be able to see great sin and God's judgment before your eyes.

But with "eyes ever on the Lord," you will see what He tells you is there. In the death of a Christian, Jesus says life is there and angels too. In the sickness of a Christian, more than suffering is there. The Good Shepherd is too leading His lamb through the valley of the shadow death. In suffering or tragedy even the Christian can think he sees a visitation for his sins, but Jesus says how dare you see that! See on the cross is where the bill for your sins was collected and paid. So, see no amount of suffering or tragedy can mean that the mercy of the Lord endures less than forever in your case.

Be blind to what you see, see what Jesus tells you is there. I see plain water, but Jesus says Baptism is not just plain water but it is the water connected to His Word and therefore it is life-giving water. I see a man forgiving my sins, but Jesus says that man is forgiving your sins in His place by His command. I see just bread and wine on that altar, and Jesus says no what's really there is also His Body and Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins. I see no one but me at that altar, but Jesus sees angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven there with me.

Unbelieving writers depict mountain sages and wise mystics as blind because even they realize there is more here than meets the eye. True, and only the eyes of Jesus see it all. On this Oculi Sunday may see with His eyes. Amen.

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church

Third Sunday in Lent (20110327); John 9: 13-17; 34-39