Only One Name                                           John 9

Lent 4 A                                                  March 19, 2023,                           St John, New Orleans

I was recently visiting with a number of people when one of them started talking about a news story regarding a certain famous person. 

No one could remember the person's name, yet most of us knew the story. 

Even those who hadn't heard the story about, “old what's his name,”

based upon our description of what he was known for, 

the others knew exactly who we were talking about. 

So, even without a name, the deeds of some people make them widely known. 

“You know, that guy from the insurance commercial.” 

or, “that Prince who married the American actress,” etcetera.

Perhaps there are others you've known because of the circles in which you move. 

Maybe there is an infamous ancestor that everyone talks about at family gatherings. 

Or local legends and ghost stories about famous former residents. 

Or that person from your class in high school 

who pulled that epic April fools’ prank 

that was never quite appreciated by those who attended outside the time you were there. 

My point being, in this age of likes, follows, influencers, and YouTube stars, 

Some people still stand out of the crowd and are remembered, 

even in their anonymity.

Our gospel for today is about one such man. 

John Chapter 9 is all about, “the man born blind.” 

The portion read here today was just a selected few verses to help illustrate what is important about that text. 

But many of our churches will read the entire chapter today. 

And I encourage you to do so on your own time later today or this week. 

I can't think of another person mentioned in the Bible about whom so much is written, without mentioning his name. 

And as the chapter begins, it would seem he is just background material. 

Part of the scenery. 

“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.” 

he didn't engage in conversation with the man, 

nor did the man reach out to Jesus. 

He was probably one of many beggars and pan handlers 

seeking to be the recipients of the generosity of the people milling about. 

It was also a Sabbath, so everyone was from nearby. Not from out of town. 

And giving alms on the Sabbath would have been a good deed.

 Even though the people who were following Jesus that day probably knew him, 

none spoke his name or referred to him as a distinct personality. 

He was only referred to in the third person, 

“you know, the man who was born blind.”

In fact, even Jesus disciples didn't really see him as a real person with needs or feelings, but as an object lesson. 

“Tisk, tisk. “Jesus, (Rabbi, teacher), whose sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

They assumed he was someone to be scorned or at least pitied, because his condition was the effect of sin. 

And they were curious, “Who sinned?”

like a bunch. Of drivers who slow down to rubberneck over a car wreck on the other side of the road, 

and wondering, “I wonder what happened over there? Which driver? Made the fatal mistake?” 

And since those categorized as “sinners” in that day were cast out of society, 

they wanted to know how they might be spared a similar outcome. 

Like all good Jews of their day, they worked hard to avoid sin so that they could earn salvation as sons and daughters of Israel. 

But Jesus's answer wielded a stunning blow to their question. 

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Of all the marvels, miracles, and signs of Jesus’ public ministry, in this one he is most clearly displaying and announcing his authority as God the Son, the Messiah. 

After his explanation as to the purpose for his handicap, 

Jesus makes a poultice of spit and dirt and covers the defective eyes. 

Then he tells him to wash in one of the pools of ceremonial washing according to the Old Testament law. 

And because he has this mud on his eyes, and he presumably is still blind, his friends must take him there. 

Jesus simply does, with an audience of disciples and skeptics alike, what was promised in scripture to those who believed: 

To rid yourself of sin and guilt, wash in the pools of Jerusalem near the temple. 

Then show yourself to the priest for absolution. 

When they brought him to the Pharisees, they could not deny his healing, but they would not assign it to God. 

“Saturday as God's Day of, you know?” so there must be another answer. 

They asked him again, “Who did this for you,” and he said, “He is a prophet.” 

And they cast him out, essentially ignoring the healing and refusing him to be allowed back into the social framework of Israel's faithful. 

Basically, he was declared as still a “Sinner” even though the so-called “evidence” was washed away with the mud in the waters of Siloam.

Upon hearing of this injustice, Jesus asked to see him again. 

He asked the man if he believed in, “the son of man.” 

This was a common expression for the Messiah, the one who would restore Israel and save its people. 

“He answered, and who is he? So that I may be leaving him?” 

The man had faith in the Savior, despite his reputation and condition. 

He knew the Messiah was coming regardless of what he did or said. 

So when Jesus explained he, himself, was that person, 

the man said, “Lord, I believe.” and he worshipped him. 

Then John closes the chapter with Jesus saying that he came into the world that the blind may see, and that those who see may become blind.

Now at this point, there are at least a couple of sermons to preach concerning “What does this mean?” 

We could talk about how we should help the poor, handicapped, and those on the margins of society, 

for that is what Jesus did on one level. 

And that is certainly a good work for those who follow Jesus. 

We could also talk about the futility of the laws of men and how the Sabbath was not established to prevent us from doing good. 

But as I look to this scripture in context, and especially, the words of Jesus himself, 

this account is not about poverty, good works, social justice, or nameless, downtrodden people. 

It is not about how we react to similar situations in our own time. 

No, the entirety of the events of this day are to declare Jesus Christ as Messiah, the son of God, and the only one with the power over sin and death. 

And the very savior that the Law and the prophets pointed to for millennia. 

And to be that Messiah, he must have the authority to save anyone, at any time, in any way he sees fit. 

And those who cannot accept his authority and his name 

are exposed for the unfaithful, power hungry, vipers 

that John the Baptist exposed them to be.

That's the kind of savior you and I need today. 

We need a savior who cannot be cancelled by the world and its powers 

because he not only established those powers in them and gave them their authority 

but can remove them from power as he desires or sees fit. 

We need a savior who can deliver us from the corruption of these bodies, whether they are sick and diseased or they tempt us into unholy living,

 because he took all that brokenness with him to the cross, 

so that it would have no power over our eternal souls. 

We need a savior who is not affected or deterred by our sinfulness. 

And we see the evidence of that resilience and power in that the grave did not hold him, 

and on the third day he rose to life again in victory over the death and sin of the world, which was nailed to him on that cross. 

We need the “Son of man.” We need the Messiah. We need Jesus.

And that is precisely what we receive at the font when we are baptized. And at the rail of Holy Communion. 

We received Jesus, in the flesh, now, and forever. And in person by his Holy Spirit. 

We receive new life through the forgiveness of all our sins and by the declaration of Righteousness proclaimed over you by the father at your rebirth. 

And we are saved from an eternity of pain, suffering, loneliness, and despair, 

had we not been noticed by Jesus 

and had he not stopped and made us to see. 

To see him and his marvelous light.

We will never know the blind man's name, this side of heaven, and likewise, most of our names will be forgotten in 100 years or less.

But the faith of this man is still talked about. 

Not because he was so great, 

but because the one in whom he believed was the greatest of all.

And that is the faith we are called to: Faith in Jesus. 

Not because of what it does for us,

 but for what it says about him. 

And as you hold tight to that faith, people may ask you, 

“who did this for you? 

Who gives you a peace that passes understanding? 

Who comforts you in pain and loss? 

Who knows everything you ever did wrong, 

not to accuse and demean you, 

but so that he could be sure he took those things to the cross with him, 

and so that those stains were not left on you at the final judgment?” 

and when we are asked, “who? What’s his Name?” We can boldly say, “Jesus.”

May each of us see his light until that final day when he takes us home. 

So that we can live in his light and reflect his light. 

So that everyone around us might gain their spiritual sight and see the light as well. 

Even as we as a congregation strive to heal, comfort, and save the world around us, 

all in the power of his name, Jesus. Amen.