Lent 4 – John 9:1-41
Our Gospel text is very foreign to our ears; in fact, your own ears may have perked up while the text was being read, particularly at verses 18-23. The parents of the man born blind are called in before the Pharisees and asked to answer for their son. And while they acknowledge that this is indeed their son, and that he was blind, they deny the words he speaks regarding Jesus healing him.
That sounds so strange because we live in an age where parents are all but expected to believe and defend every word that comes out of their child’s mouth. Teachers and police officers and other authorities can attest that when there is a dispute, parents always take the side of their own children. Parents themselves find that it is their duty to support and defend their children at every turn, no matter what.
To read our Gospel text, and to hear that these parents deny their own son, is astonishing.
And you can’t even try to explain it away as though the parents hadn’t seen their son for years. He has been blind since birth; every minute of the day, these parents were called upon to aid and assist their son with even the most basic of tasks. And blindness does not get better or go away, so it is entirely likely that these parents were still caring for their son in more ways than one; he surely cannot work, and it would be virtually impossible for him to support a family, so who is to say that this son is not still under the roof of his parents?
The parents of this man born blind likely see their son every single day; he may even still live with them.
And yet, they deny him. They turn their backs on him. Yeah, that’s our son, but he is his own man who speaks his own words, and we bear no responsibility for what he does or says.
Have you ever heard parents say such a thing? It would be unheard of today.
But the Gospel tends to do that. Everyone loves you, until you speak the name of Jesus, and then suddenly you are on the outside looking in, wondering where all your friends went.
It happens in our Gospel text today; Jesus heals a man born blind, and whereas most other days the man would have been held up as a sign of God’s grace and mercy, today he is ostracized.
The Pharisees are not happy with Jesus, they are after all looking for charges to bring against Him; crowds tend to be picky, and while a few months ago they would have tried to make Jesus king, today, they are looking for something different.
Of all people, you would expect his parents to vouch for him.
And yet what do the parents say? He is of age, ask him. We don’t know what happened or what he is talking about; he can answer for himself.
Society said their son was crazy, that he was talking nonsense when he spoke of Jesus, that there was no way he could have been healed by this trouble maker.
And what do the parents do? They cave to the pressure, and deny their own son.
These parents had done everything for their son, and likely still were doing everything for him; but to confess Jesus? That is a bridge to far.
Jesus speaks of this of course; He speaks of a day when fathers and mothers will deny their own children.
You say it could never happen to you? That the bond is to strong to be broken? Well, it happens in John 9. And it happens on a daily basis right here.
Parents deny their own children in the womb, refuse to even give them a chance to be born and to hear the name of Jesus spoken.
Parents deny their children when they refuse to bring them to church to hear the word of God spoken, so that they might believe.
Parents deny their children when they refuse to correct their wrongs and call them to repent; but instead affirm every word they speak and every action they undertake.
Parents refuse to accept that their children might come to hear the name of Jesus, to believe and confess His name before the nations.
And make no mistake: children deny their own parents when they refuse to come to be seen in church with them; children deny their parents when they walk away from the faith they were baptized in. Children deny their parents just as easily as parents deny them.
That is what stops these parents in our Gospel text from confessing Jesus. They fear what might happen if they do. They fear being thrown out of the synagogue; they fear losing the love of the community and the admiration that they had attained. They fear losing the glory of men that they so desired.
What do you fear losing if you were found to confess the name of Jesus? Do you fear that the team your children play on will succeed without them when you don’t show up for games on Sunday? Do you fear that others will see you praying with your children in the restaurant and ask why you are trying to embarrass them? Do you fear that someone will challenge your children at school with a question of faith that they cannot answer? Do you fear that they might be exposed as a sinners in front of everyone?
Which is easier to do? To confess your faith before those who might frown upon you and risk losing some earthly possession or honor; or is it easier to deny your own children, to deny your parents, to deny the faith you have in Jesus?
It is a foreign concept in every other situation, except when it comes to matters of faith. The children are of age, they have made this confession of faith in Jesus, ask them, not me.
You can ask them in fact; you can ask the man born blind in our text. Ask what they believe; ask who they put their trust in; ask about this man Jesus, and what He has done for them.
And as the Proverbs say, a little child shall lead them; and: train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
For to whom does the man born blind lead us to?
Not to the Pharisees who are clinging to the Law and their earthly power; nor does he lead us to parents or others in the crowd who claim to know better, and yet deny the very Lord who stands before them.
No, the man born blind will lead you to the one who did not deny His children, who refused to walk away, no matter what the confession of faith was, but instead called His children to come to Him, that He might bless them and place His name upon them.
For God the Father does not deny His children; and His children are you. God does not deny you when you confess His name before others; nor does He deny you when you must deal with the worldly consequences for that confession; nor does He deny you when others mock you and revile you and persecute you.
No, God the Father calls you His own, for you are His chosen and precious children whom He has called to be His own and placed His mark upon in the waters of Holy Baptism.
Of course, for this to happen, God the Father did deny one person; His own Son. God ignored His cries for deliverance as He hung upon the cross; God the Father poured out all of His wrath and indignation upon the cross of Jesus as He hung there and suffered. He denied Him, so that you might know that He will never deny you.
So when you make that confession of faith, when others deny you, when your own parents and family revile you, you do not stand alone. Your words of confession are known by your Father in heaven who loves you, and who forgives you for those times when you deny your parents, or your children, or even your very Savior.
The man born blind is kicked out of the synagogue; that is the price he pays for his confession. You may face a similar punishment for your own confession, and indeed some already are losing their businesses, losing their jobs, losing friends over their confession of faith. And so we pray that we may stand strong when such persecution comes for each of us.
But your confession will not go unnoticed; your confession will not go unheard, for your Father in heaven hears your cries for the sake of His Son, Christ Jesus.
The blind man sees better than anyone else in our Gospel text, for he sees Jesus for who He truly is: the Savior of the world. May that be your confession this day and always.