Click play to listen to the audio version of this sermon.
Would you take out your bible please and turn to Genesis, chapter 3. (Page 2 in the pew bible). We're going to consider what happened and the meaning of what happened when Jesus gave a man, born blind, his sight. But we're going to come at this from a different direction than we're used to and that we've come at this before.
We're going to read this familiar account of the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve into sin and highlight a few things along the way. We'll read chapter 3, verses 1-11, stopping along the way.
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.' " But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it YOUR EYES WILL BE OPENED, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
The serpent is making Adam and Eve a promise. His promise to them is that he will give them sight. "Your eyes will be opened." What the serpent is really telling the man and the woman is, "right now you are blind. When God made you He made you blind. Your eyes are closed. But I will open your eyes and give you sight."
"So when the woman SAW the tree was good for food, and that it was a DELIGHT TO THE EYES, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. THEN THE EYES OF BOTH WERE OPENED, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
When the devil wants to attack Adam and Eve, it is interesting that he takes aim at their eyes. It is true, that as soon as Satan successfully attacks the eyes, He goes after the ears. But this morning, our focus is upon the eyes. With their eyes, they see God's presence with them and His loving care for them. With their eyes, they also see themselves, as they really are, creatures of God, fully dependent upon His care for them and completely free to call upon Him for every need of body and soul. And with their eyes, they see each other. Nothing is hidden from their eyes. They see everything as it really is.
But then, "the eyes of both were opened." And rather than seeing more, they actually see less. They can't see the truth about themselves and so rather than confessing their sin, they deny the obvious. And they put barriers and walls up around them so that others can't see them the way they had. And worse of all, they can't see God.
"And they HEARD the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
They can no longer see God, now they can only HEAR God. They had been at such perfect peace with God that they had no fear of Him at all. But now they are afraid. Aren't we all afraid of what we cannot see?
But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I HEARD the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." God said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Genesis 3:1-11)
When the devil opened their eyes, he really closed their eyes. The 'sight' that the devil promised them was really blindness. This is the way the devil works. He promises something good, but which is always bad.
The blindness inflicted upon Adam and Eve is so deeply imbedded into the spiritual DNA of both of them, that all of their offspring are born blind. This blindness is a hereditary blindness that affects the whole human race.
When Moses, the man of God, was on the top of Mt. Sinai with God, Moses asked the Lord for a special favor. "Moses said, 'please show me your glory.'" And God said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The Lord…' But, you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." (Exodus 33:19-20). That is a long, long way from the way things were when God made man in His own image in the beginning.
So, one of the distinctive characteristics of the Old Testament is that what it says about God is based solely on "hearsay." The prophets hear God and the say what they hear. And they ask us to believe what they have heard.
Only rarely does a prophet like Isaiah say, "I saw the Lord…" (Is.6). But even when they do, it is always in a vision or a dream. Never do they see the Lord face to face and ask you to believe what they have seen.
And yet, there is this promise that is repeated several times through the Old Testament. "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened."(Is.35:5). The serpent had promised to "open the eyes of the 'so called' blind and Adam and Eve believed the lie. But now God is promising to atone for their sin and reverse the curse of blindness. And the faithful ones of the Old Testament believe the promise of God and live in hope for that day to come.
A man like Job, rests his hope on this promise. Job says, "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall SEE GOD." (Job 19:26)
So, when St. John reports, "as Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth," and Jesus opened this man's eyes and gave him his sight; what John is declaring is that the long awaited time has arrived. Jesus Christ has come into the world to redeem the world by atoning for the sin of the world and opening the eyes that were closed in the Garden of Eden.
By giving this man his sight, Jesus is announcing that the blindness inflicted by the devil is being reversed. The cure for the disease is "at hand." Jesus Christ, who alone sees the Father 'face to face,' is opening the eyes of the blind so that we too, may see God.
And so, one of the great distinctions between the Old Testament witness and the New Testament witness to God, is that in the New Testament, the Apostles testify, not to what they have heard, but to what they have SEEN. John begs us to believe his testimony. But faith is no longer based on 'hearsay.' New Testament faith is based on "eyewitness testimony." "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have SEEN HIS GLORY, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14). Moses could not see God's glory, but now, in Jesus Christ, the eyes of the blind are opened and they see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
In his first epistle to the Church, John implores his readers to believe what he writes BECAUSE HE HAS SEEN IT. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have SEEN WITH OUR EYES, WHICH WE LOOKED UPON and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life- the life was made VISIBLE, AND WE HAVE SEEN IT, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made VISIBLE to us-THAT WHICH WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD we proclaim also to you. (1 John 1:1-3).
St. Luke opens his gospel by saying that his account of the life of Christ is not based on 'hearsay,' but "from those who from the beginning were EYEWITNESSES." (Luke 1:2).
St. Peter says what no Old Testament prophet could have ever said, "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were EYEWITNESSES of his majesty." (2 Peter 1:16)
After Jesus' ascension into heaven, the Apostles need to replace Judas and bring the number back up to 12. The list of potential candidates is not based on those who "HEARD" about Jesus and all that He did, but only those who were 'EYEWITNESSES' of all that Jesus had done from His baptism at the Jordan to His Ascension into heaven, because the New Testament witness is based on EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY, which in and of itself, is proof that in Jesus Christ, the new order of things has been established.
When St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, he asks them to believe what he says about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, because "he APPEARED to Peter and the 12. Then he APPEARED to more than five hundred brothers at on time… Then he APPEARED to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he APPEARED also to me." (1Cor.15:5-8).
One of the most remarkable things about the Revelation of St. John, is what he sees. Over and over again, John repeats this refrain, "I saw," "I saw," "I saw…" In heaven, it will just like it was in Eden before the fall into sin. We will SEE everything clearly, as they really are.
The big difference in a New Testament faith verses an Old Testament faith is not in the object of our faith. Both Testaments point to the same Savior of the world, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. But a New Testament faith is based on what the Apostles SAW with their eyes, eyes that had been blind, but by the amazing grace of God were opened to SEE.
And what is it that Jesus opened their eyes to see? He opened their eyes so that they could see that He is the Son of God, that His death on the cross is the atonement for the sins of the world, that His resurrection from the dead is the victory over death and the grave.
In the waters of our Baptism, Jesus opened our eyes so that we may see too. And yet, our seeing is not the same kind of 'seeing' as the man whose eyes Jesus touched with mud and spit. We don't "see" Jesus like the Apostles saw Jesus or like those 500 others who were 'eyewitnesses of His resurrection.' At least not yet. Paul writes to the Corinthians saying, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face." (1 Cor. 13:12)
I can't help but wonder what it must have been like for this man who was born blind, when he went to the pool of Siloam, washed the dirt off of his eyes and opened them. What was that like for him? What was it like when Jesus found him and the man asked Jesus who the Son of Man is. And Jesus replied saying, "You have SEEN him, and it is he who is speaking to you." What was that like?
Whatever his experience might have been, it was just a preview of what we will all experience when, one day, after our eyes have been closed in death, we open them. And there stands Jesus, saying, "You have SEEN him, and it is he who is speaking to you."