Let us pray: Dear Savior, when bad things happen to us, Your children, we and those around us wonder: why? We wonder why our faith didn’t protect us? We wonder whether You are somehow angry with us? We wonder if we’ve done something wrong? Today remind us that those are the wrong questions to ask! Remind us that “all things work for good to those who love You.” Yes, remind us that sometimes You use strong believers to make those around them think about You all the more and to turn to You in repentance, thus showing Your power in and through us. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE MIRACLE WORKER!
TEXT: John 9: 1-7, 13-17, 34-39
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
When I was in the seminary we were told that most pastors move to another church about every 7 years. During my 28 years in the synod I’ve seen that born out time and time again. We have a lot of youngish pastors who have shifted around among our various parishes. And then we also have a few, like me, who have stayed in a particular church for a long time. Currently, there are only about 5 other pastors in the entire synod who have been in their parishes longer than I have.
Former President Orvick once said at a synod leadership meeting that we need to encourage pastors to remain in their churches longer. He was wise in that counsel and I agree with him. For when you serve God’s people in a particular locale for many years you really get to know them. They open up to you. You know their history and their family’s history. And thus you can better serve their spiritual needs by being specific instead of general.
As I look back over the years I can recall various members who were stricken with a disease or had something else “bad” happen to them. Both they and the congregation wondered: why? Why did God allow this to occur? But, in some instances, those faithful believers recounted to me how some relative or friend who was alienated from God’s Church suddenly was stricken by their friend’s affliction. They began to think of their own situation and how they would handle such a trauma in their life. And suddenly the light dawned on that suffering believer and they realized that God knew they were strong enough to handle the trauma, so He allowed it to happen to them in order to reach that other lost soul! In all such instances, blessing results, good comes from evil. For after all, isn’t a soul worth Christ’s suffering and death? And doesn’t our suffering then have eternal meaning?
Well, as I looked over this lesson, I thought of all that. And it again solidified the truth that:
GOD USES PEOPLE TO REACH PEOPLE
A couple months before Christ went to the cross, embraced suffering and trauma for us and died to save us, He and the disciples were walking along in Jerusalem. They spotted a man born blind and blurted out loud this question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Like most people the disciples thought that human suffering was always the result of someone’s particular sin and thus a judgment from God. Jesus, of course, knows otherwise. After all, He’s God! And He seeks to set them straight. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life…Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the pool of Siloam.’ So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”
Right here Jesus shows tremendous compassion. He heals this blind man. He gives him sight for the first time. Came you imagine seeing colors for the first time? Can you imagine seeing shapes and faces and people, when previously you could see nothing? How overjoyed this man must have been! How stunned his friends and neighbors must have been! Yes, Jesus is the Miracle Worker, the Son of God Who gives light and life!
The day of that miracle was a Sabbath day. The Pharisees, those ultra-conservative, religious zealots had strict laws governing work on the Sabbath, and they used them as an excuse to blame Christ for dishonoring God by laboring on the Sabbath in healing this man. But other Pharisees could clearly see the miracle and wondered how this fellow Christ could do such a thing, why would God allow this to happen on a Sabbath?! They quizzed the now sighted man, and he told them about Christ: “He is a prophet.” At that they got angry, accused him of being a sinner from birth and threw him out. In short, they shut their eyes and became blind to God’s using people to reach out to people, in this case, them.
Jesus hears of this, seeks the fellow out, and asks that pointed question: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”—Which was code word in those days for the promised Messiah. “Who is he, sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus then said: “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking to you.’ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And Jesus then adds: ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’”
So, the question I have for all of you is this: Are you blind to God’s using people to reach other people, or do you behold His gracious work revealed through the sufferings of others? That’s a hard question, but an important one. Look at your own life. You’re a Christian. God’s Son had died to give you His goodness, righteousness, and truth. He has personally given to you the keys to heaven, the forgiveness for all sins and the gift of eternal life. Likewise, He promises never to leave nor forsake you. He promises to make your life have an eternal significance. He promises that “all things will work for the good to those who love Him.” So, when trauma comes into your life, do you view it as a curse, a judgment from God for some sort of sin–just as the disciples originally thought and the Pharisees thought—or do you open your eyes of faith and see that perhaps it was the only way God could reach another soul? Yes, God uses people to reach people!
To be sure, sometimes this works and sometimes hard-hearted sinners reject these attempts by God to reach them. They see their believing relative with cancer and just get angrier with God instead of turning to Him in repentance and faith. And so, like the Pharisees, God’s loving attempt to reach them by using that Godly relative or friend is swatted away and judgment comes. But in other cases, it works! People are reminded of their own mortality and pray to God to spare them, heal their relative, and their spiritual blindness falls away into the bright light of faith. If God so chooses to use you in such a manner, rejoice that you have been found worthy of the work. If He chooses to use another for such work, rejoice over their faith. But, whatever problems intrude into our lives, never, never question His love and compassion for you! Look to Christ’s cross and behold His undying love. Feed on His strength. And then conclude your cogitating on that great big “why?” question with these words: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” And: “This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Amen