St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-26-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 03-26-2017

Personal Experience

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

The Idea can be traced all the way back to the Book of Exodus, to the time when Moses goes up the mountain for a second time to re-receive the Ten Commandments; this after that little incident with the people making a calf-idol to worship while Moses was up there the first time.

In that story we read the words God spoke to Moses saying,

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6,7)

These words are unsettling, hard to grasp. All in one sentence God proclaims himself to be “…merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” and states that he will “…by no means clear the guilty… to the third and fourth generation.”

It’s the latter part of that statement that lead to a belief that God will punish children for their parents sins; and that leads the Disciples to ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Their thought was, as was commonly believed, any ill fate that fell upon someone was the result of sin; if not their own then that of their parents.

Jesus’ response to their question can be just as unsettling and hard to grasp as he says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

On the surface, we are lead to believe that, even though the man and his parents were sinless, he was still subject to suffering in blindness by the will of God; just so Jesus had someone to work a miracle on.

Within this lengthy story, the reason for the man’s blindness is only a very short part that we dare not ignore but look at carefully.

In doing so, we might first notice that the blind man never asked Jesus for healing; it was entirely Jesus’ initiative. And we notice that Jesus never announced that he was going to heal the man’s blindness, he only spoke of doing God’s work as he rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes.

Next, the man’s eyes are opened and the miracle creates quite the disturbance. First the local people are arguing whether this is the same man or not. Then the Pharisees are brought in who begin a full investigation, even calling the man’s parents into the scene. All the while, the healed man keeps repeating his story “I was blind and the man named Jesus healed me.” Well, almost repeating those words.

The healed man begins by referring to Jesus as “the man named Jesus” when speaking to the quarreling neighbors. But when he is speaking to the Pharisees he states that he believes Jesus to be “a Prophet”. And after the Pharisees were done with him Jesus comes to him and asks “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” to which he replies “Lord, I believe”!

In this we see a progression of openings. The man’s eyes were opened immediately but his spiritual sight was opened gradually over the course of story. He sees Jesus as a man; he sees Jesus as a Prophet; he sees Jesus as the Son of Man!

And, throughout the story the man himself progresses from being a blind beggar to having his identity doubted, to preaching to the authorities in Jesus’ defense, to becoming a believer.


The Pharisees declare themselves Disciples of Moses; the Prophet who delivered the Law that they put all their confidence in. But even as men of God, they had no personal experience. And when God came near them they refused to believe even when seeing, with their own eyes, the miracles God was working all around them.

Whether or not God caused the man’s blindness and for what purpose he was blind is not the point. The point Jesus made through him is the value of personal experience! Through the wonders of God’s work in his life the man’s physical eyes were opened to see a world he had never seen before and through the wonders of God’s work in his life the man’s spiritual eyes were opened to see a world he had never seen before; the world with God actively working in it.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, could see the physical world; they could read the Law of God; but they were blind to God’s active work in their world.


Though the blind man has the largest part in this story, we are not given his name; allowing us to insert any name; allowing us to insert our name. Without your asking, but by his initiative, Jesus came to open your eyes to what the Pharisees could not see; the still-active God working miracles in your life! But, as the Pharisees were not willing; you mustbe willing to see!

Open your eyes, look around you and within you, see the marvelous works of God; not in the faded images of an ancient picture book; but in the continually refreshing world in the care of a still-working, still-speaking God. It is in your own, personal experience with the living God that you will understand the “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”God; and the “by no means clearing the guilty God” whose greatness and ways cannot be fully accounted in mere words.



1 Samuel 16:1-13
16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”
16:2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’
16:3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”
16:4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”
16:5 He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
16:6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.”
16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.”
16:9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.”
16:10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.”
16:11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”
16:12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”
16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm 23
23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.
23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.

Ephesians 5:8-14
5:8 For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light-

5:9 for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.

5:10 Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.

5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

5:12 For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly;

5:13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,

5:14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

John 9:1-41
9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.
9:2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
9:3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.
9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
9:6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,
9:7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
9:8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”
9:9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”
9:10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”
9:11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”
9:12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
9:13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.
9:14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.
9:15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”
9:16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.
9:17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
9:18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight
9:19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”
9:20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;
9:21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”
9:22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.
9:23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
9:24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.”
9:25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
9:26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
9:27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”
9:28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.
9:29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”
9:30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.
9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.
9:32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.
9:33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
9:34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
9:35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
9:36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”
9:37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”
9:38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.
9:39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
9:40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?”
9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.