The Transfiguration of our Lord
February 23, 2020
“Are You Blind?”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church
There was a group of seniors sitting around and talking about their ailments. “My arms have gotten so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee,” said one. “I couldn’t even mark an ‘X’ at election time, my hands are so crippled”, said another. “What? Speak up! What? I can’t hear you!”, said a third. “I can’t turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck,” said another, to which several nodded weakly in agreement. “My blood pressure pills make me so dizzy!” exclaimed another. “I forget where I am, and where I’m going.” Finally one confessed, “And my cataracts are so bad; I can’t even see my coffee.”
“I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old,” winced an older man as he slowly shook his head. The others nodded in agreement. “Well, count your blessings,” said a woman cheerfully, “and thank God we can all still drive.”
Sort of scary, huh? But of all the ailments that we all might get someday the loss of eyesight can be most difficult. Did you know that half of all Americans from age 65 to 75 have some degree of cataracts? This cloudiness in the lens of the eye alters vision. Objects become blurred and distorted. Loss of vision is gradual and, unless treated, the cataract can cause blindness in the eye. The good news of this, though, is that when surgery is required it almost always corrects the problem.
Physical eyesight is precious, ask anyone who is battling problems with a detached retina or glaucoma, or has macular degeneration. But spiritual eyesight is just as precious. Today in our text the question of spiritual eyesight is raised. Paul says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (II Corinthians 4:4)
The god of this age is the devil and he blinds us with all types of lies and deceptions. If sin becomes our way of life we are blind. If we allow the world around us to direct what the Christian church will believe and practice we have become blind. If we hold to teachings that are wrong and false and unbiblical we have become blind. If we have lost a confidence that Jesus Christ is our only Savior from sin and death and hell then we have become blinded.
Some time ago I was watching Turner Classic Movies and the movie Bonnie and Clyde was on. Toward the end of the movie when the two were just about to get caught and their crime career over and their life ended, Bonnie asks Clyde is he could do it all over again, with no one trying to catch them, how would it all be different. Instead of saying that he wouldn’t repeat the life of crime because of all the misery it had caused them both, he simply answered that if he had to do it all over again he would make sure he wouldn’t rob any banks in the state were they were living. He thought that that way they would always have a place to come back to where no one was looking for them. Blinded by sin and foolishness!
In Paul’s letter he says that unbelievers are blinded by the god of this age. For many who are lost and unsaved, Christ does not make sense. They just cannot understand why someone had to die in such an awful way for them. The cross just doesn’t make any sense. It is religious foolishness.
But we are not immune to Satan blinding our eyes. When we begin to accept the ways of the world in which we live, we are blind. If we use the same filthy words that an unbeliever uses, we are blind. If we have lowered our sexual morals and have accepted what the world around us accepts and practices, we have been blinded. If what we do or think does not glorify and honor God we are living in darkness.
Are you blind? Sure, that has been our problem. We have been blinded by our sin or by a weak faith or by a wrong faith. And just as one who is losing sight needs surgery or some type of correction, so do we.
This is the Sunday of the Transfiguration, the day when Jesus showed on the outside the brilliance of who He is on the inside. “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2) For everyone of us who has been blinded by darkness, open your eyes and look into the brilliance of this Christ and you’ll have good sight.
On that mountain Peter, James and John were there and Moses and Elijah joined them on the mountain. Moses and Elijah and Jesus spoke about His departure, the things He was going to do in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:31). But do you remember what Peter, James and John did when they saw all this and heard the voice of God from heaven? They fell down to the ground, terrified, and then when it was all over the text says matter-of-factly, “When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” (Matthew 17:8) Do you want to cure blindness in the soul? Then see what they saw – only Jesus.
Bo Giertz who served as a Lutheran Bishop in Sweden wrote a book titled The Hammer of God. In it he writes, “It is a blessed thing when a believing soul looks in the Word for Jesus only. That I have not done. I have looked for penitence, for amendment of life. I have taken stock of my deeds, but I have lost sight of Jesus in all this mess. Like hammer blows aimed with unerring precision against the head of a nail, the words ‘Jesus only’, recurred again and again and sank ever deeper into the consciousness. Jesus only, the foundation of faith, and man sees nothing else, believes in nothing else and builds his hope on nothing else.”
They saw ‘Jesus only’, do you? Do you see Him as the answer to your sin? Do you see Him to triumph over your death? Do you see Him to give to your life new strength and direction and hope? I have seen a sign in a number of pulpits that reminds the preacher what the purpose of preaching is. The sign says, “Sir, we would see Jesus”. These are the words of the Greeks in John 12 as they are looking for the Christ. “Sir, we would see Jesus.” (John 12:21) That is the purpose of what we are doing here, that is the purpose of every sermon. We want you and ourselves to see Jesus. See Jesus as your Savior, see Him as your hope and joy, see Him as the light of the world, One that would come into darkness and dispel it with the brilliance of His presence. See Him clearly as the One who would give a great strength to your life!
Are you blind? If you fail to see who Jesus is and know that He must be the central part of your life, then you are blind. This Wednesday is a huge day in the life of the Christian Church. It is the beginning of Lent and the start of a walk that will take you to the horrid cross of Christ. In the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” the physical sufferings of Christ are vividly put before your eyes. It is not something we want to consider – the suffering and the death, that is. Maybe I like the whole thing that my sins are forgiven and that I have peace with God through Jesus, but I don’t want to know exactly the cost of that peace and forgiveness and redemption. I don’t want to see what the penalty of my sins actually was.
But that movie will allow us to truly see what the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Or, when Jesus speaking about Himself as the bread of life says, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51b)
Are you blind? Blindness comes not just to the eyes though, it moves to other parts of the body as well. The heart is blind when it does not believe in or follow Jesus. There is an old Scottish saying that says, “There’s none so blind as those who will not see.” Maybe that is why Paul would write to the Ephesians with the words, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you.” (1:18) I find it interesting that on the Mount of Transfiguration after the great brilliance of Jesus was revealed, the word from the Heavenly Father was, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5) Sight is enhanced by what we hear about our Savior and then we follow His voice.
But if the heart and the ears tell us a great deal about what is inside us, it is the eyes that seem to be a path to the soul. When someone is ashamed of what they have done, they hide their eyes, cover them up with sunglasses or close them in pain. Have you ever had someone who requested that you look into their eyes when you answer their question? It is hard to lie when you must look directly into their eyes. When mothers ask that of their children you just know that they can look all the way into your soul!
Are you blind? Not if you have Christ! Your eyes and your ears and your heart are able to see full redemption and total cleansing. You are able to see that He is your Savior and friend and that you are able to follow in His path each day. In Corinthians Paul says, “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” (II Corinthians 3:16) Now we can see.
When I started this sermon 15 minutes ago I told you about the group of seniors with all their ailments but who were reminded by one of them, “Well, count your blessings and thank God we can all still drive!” Well, look at us. In all our blindness God has come with the brilliance of Christ and brought us new sight. We are able to rejoice that we have seen our Savior. We can rejoice that we have experienced new life and eternal assurance. We can be happy that our feet have been put on a new path – God’s way for life.
Blind? Not with Christ as our Savior and Lord! Amen.
(Today’s sermon, was preached on the very day the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, February 7, 2016)