Pastor Sherry’s message for March 19, 2023

Scriptures : 1 Sam 16:1-13; Ps 23; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41

My new, favorite, contemporary, Christian song is, “Follow Me,” by Casting Crowns* (Thrive CD, 2013). The lyrics are as follows:

(Look/listen for the repeated themes.)

At the end of myself, I am empty and dry

I have nothing to give, But surrender inside.  

[Jesus responds] Let down your nets, This is not the end

From now on, you’ll be Fishers of Men. [Who is this? Peter, Lk 5:1-11]

Follow Me, Follow Me, Follow Me.  

At the end of myself, Judgment calls out my name

I’ve been looking for love, but I’m swallowed by shame. 

[Jesus responds] Throw away all your stones, Find forgiveness in Me.

Let me be your new passion, My daughter you’re free [Woman caught in adultery, Jn 8:1-11]. 

At the end of myself, I’ve done things my own way;

This world gave up on me, now it’s death I do pay.

[Jesus responds] You know who I am, I’m sin’s sacrifice;

Today you will be… in paradise.  [Thief on the Cross, Lk 23:32-45]

[Any seeker] Who is the man who calmed the seas?

And Who is this man who loves the least of these?

[Jesus responds] I am the Promised One; God gave His only Son.

And those who believe…Will live eternally.

At the end of yourself, just follow Me.

I will give you new life, just follow Me, Follow me.

If at the end of yourself, just follow Me.

You may lose everything, just follow Me.

I will give you new life, just follow Me, follow Me.

The repeated themes are, off course, Follow Me, and, At the end of myself. When we come to the end of our own resources, we know we need Jesus. Another way of saying this is that without Jesus, we are spiritually blind. Two of our Scripture passages today deal with blindness (physical and spiritual) and what it takes to come out into the Light of Christ. Let’s examine them together:

A. John 9:1-41 details Jesus’ healing of the man born blind.

The context is that of a Sabbath Day when Jesus spots this blind man begging before one of the Temple gates in Jerusalem. Blind and other physically impaired persons usually did not make a living—in those days–by practicing a trade. Instead, they customarily stationed themselves somewhere near consistent foot traffic and begged for food money from passersby.

Upon seeing him, the disciples want Jesus to explain the cause of the man’s blindness (a theoretical, theological discussion). But Jesus downplays the issue of who or what to blame, saying (v.3, The Message, Eugene Peterson, NavPress, 2002, p.1937)”You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. Then He proceeds to meet the man’s most pressing practical need, saying (vv.4-5, MSG)We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent Me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. [Remember, this was a predominantly rural culture with no one working past sundown.] For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light. (Other translations say, I am the Light of the World.) The poor guy has lived in darkness his whole life! Jesus isn’t going to stand there and argue the why’s of the fellow’s condition. He intends to heal him.

He also intends for them and for us to realize He is God. He makes an “I AM” statement—to Jewish ears, he was declaring His divinity. God the Father had identified Himself to them as “I am Who I am,” meaning that He has always existed; in a sense, our God is always exists in the present tense. In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes many I am statements so that the Jews would realize He was identifying Himself as God: I am the Living Water; I am Manna from Heaven; I am the Way, the Truth; and the Life; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the Resurrection and the Life; etc.

Now, this poor blind man has never enjoyed light in his life, but the One who is the Light of the World is going to bring it to him. He makes a kind of clay from saliva and dirt and places it on the guy’s closed eyes.

Now, consider this: The blind fellow has heard Jesus’ voice; he has felt Jesus’ touch; he has probably even smelled Jesus’ scent. He obeys his unseen Redeemer by going, as instructed, to wash the clay off in the pool of Siloam (which John tells us means “sent.” The man was sent by Jesus to the pool named “Sent”). He seems to trust Jesus, sight-unseen. He chooses to do what Jesus tells him (Contrast this with Naaman the Syrian general who was too proud to dip himself—as the prophet had instructed him—in the Jordan. His servants had to convince him to “follow orders” to obtain his healing.)

Throughout the rest of the incident, the Pharisees are trying to figure out how a rabbi who breaks Sabbath rules against working on that day—which makes Jesus a sinner in their eyes—could possibly work a miracle of God. The guys’ neighbors can’t explain it. Some of them don’t even recognize him since he is now sighted. His parents do recognize him but are afraid the religious rulers will excommunicate them if they celebrate Jesus, so they avoid committing themselves. But the grateful and spunky guy takes them to task! He’s not concerned about their theological issues. He just knows he was born blind but now has his sight.

Then Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees when He calls them physically sighted but spiritually blind. He has worked a miracle that they cannot accept. In so doing, He has fulfilled the prophesy from Isaiah 61:1 that Messiah would restore sight to the blind. But in their confidence that Jesus cannot really be the Messiah, they refuse to see the evidence before their own eyes.

B. Paul also addresses the topic of spiritual blindness in Ephesians 5:8-14. Of course he (and we) start from knowledge that Jesus is the Light of the world. As Peterson puts it his paraphrase (MSG p.2132), Paul exhorts us You groped your way through that murk [habitual sins] once, but no longer. You are out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it. In other words, prior to accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we lived in spiritual darkness. Once we accept Jesus, we live the Light of Christ. As St. John would say later in 1 John 1:5-6 God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. We demonstrate the fact that we dwell in Christ’s light by living a life different from that of our culture: We demonstrate goodness or kindness to others. We live lives that are righteous as we try to do those things of which Jesus would approve, and avoid doing the opposite. Our words and our manner reflect truth—i.e., we are sincere and genuine.

Finally, Paul urges us to (v.11) have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness….Dark deeds aren’t driven away by preaching or lecturing against them; but rather, our actions speak louder—and are a better witness to Christ—than are our words. Rev. Dr. J. Vernon McGee relates a true story of one of his parishioners. She was a married lady who grieved the fact that her husband was uninterested in Jesus. She wanted him to share her faith and to accompany her to church and in prayer. So she educated, begged, pleaded, nagged, and even resorted to crying through the two meals a day they were together. Dr. McGee told her to stop that immediately. He recommended she pray, fix excellent meals, and deal with her husband with a smile on her face and a loving attitude. It took about six months, but one day he suggested they attend church together. We cannot shame another into accepting Christ (McGee’s commentary on Ephesians, Thomas Nelson, 1991, pp.142-143).

The song I read earlier gives 3 examples of people who chose to follow Jesus: Peter, the woman caught in adultery, and the thief on the Cross. Our Gospel lesson provides an additional one, the man born blind. As with each of them, we often come to Jesus when we come to the end of ourselves; i.e., when we exhaust ourselves trying to save ourselves. We realize we can’t do it on our own. We recognize we need Jesus. Then, like the man born blind, we obey Him out of thanksgiving for His gift of salvation and healing.

Following Jesus means we don’t just claim we love Him, but we live lives that are changed due to our relationship with Him. We come to demonstrate the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22) love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, patience, faithfulness, and self-control. We live out being good, being right with God, and being truthful.

Dear Lord, help us to live lives that are pleasing to You and that reflect Your Light to a lost, angry, and hopeless world. Help us to truly follow You. May the way we live attract others to You, O Lord, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

©️2023 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

*Follow Me by Casting Crowns’ video: https://youtu.be/LraPDltKlvI

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