Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Lenten Vespers in the Week of Laetare (Lent 4)

John 9:1-38; Ezekiel 36:23-28

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples asked Jesus, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” It wasn’t because of any one’s sin in particular that the man was stricken blind, but the LORD permitted him to be stricken blind so that He might display His glorious work in him. The blind man was a type pointing to Jesus Himself, who knew no sin Himself but was made to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. The blind man was Jesus. Just as the blind man was not blind because of his or his parent’s or anyone’s sin, so Jesus took all men’s sins upon Himself, became all men’s sins for us, that the works of God might be displayed in Him and we might be made righteous in Him.
Indeed, this is what Ezekiel prophesied saying, “I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” God’s holiness and name are something that I don’t think we appreciate today as we should. That God is holy means, not merely that He is sinless and perfect, but that He is other and transcendent. God’s holiness is what sets Him apart from everything else so that you are either with God in a right relationship with Him or you are other, that is, you are not with Him and in a right relationship with Him. The Original Sin was more than a fall from grace, it was a fall from holiness. By their sin, our First Parents plunged all humanity and all of creation into otherness. Yet, God’s holiness demands our holiness as the LORD Himself has proclaimed, “You must be holy, as I, the LORD your God, am holy.” Thus, the LORD’s holy name, which we have defiled by sin, would be vindicated when He put forward His Son Jesus to become sin for us, so that in Him we might become holy again and the righteousness of God.
Just as the man born blind was blind, not because of any particular sin, but so that God’s mighty work might be displayed in Him, so the Son of God would become a man, taken from the nations. Though Jesus knew no sin, the LORD made Him to become all sin for us. Through His bitter suffering and death, the LORD cleansed Him from all sinful uncleanness and removed the sinful heart of stone. And, in His resurrection, the LORD gave Jesus a heart of flesh and put His Spirit within Him. And, finally, the LORD received Jesus back to Himself and to His holy and righteous presence, the firstfruits of those who believe and are baptized into Him. God’s mighty work through Jesus has vindicated the holiness of His great name and has made us His people once again.
Isaiah prophesied the same saying, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” This is what the holiness and righteousness of God demanded, and He has fulfilled it Himself before the eyes of His people.
Thus, as much as we must acknowledge and confess the seriousness of what it means that our God is holy and righteous, and also the consequent seriousness of our sin which separates us from God and makes us other than Him, so must we also acknowledge and confess what our LORD has done for us in sending His Son and making Him to be sin for us, suffering humiliation, affliction, crucifixion, and death to make us clean, holy, and righteous in Him once again.
After Jesus restored the blind man His sight, the Pharisees accosted the man and questioned him concerning his healing and Jesus who had healed him. The healing work was the LORD’s, and it was accomplished in the sight of the people, just as Ezekiel and Isaiah prophesied. The LORD has done all that was necessary to make us holy, to restore us to a right relationship with Him once again. The question now is, will you trust Him, believe Him, and receive this salvific gift of grace, or will you refuse and reject it and insist there must be some other way? The Pharisees appealed to Sabbath law and considered Jesus a sinner for healing on the Sabbath, saying Jesus could not be from God. They could not see, they refused to believe that Jesus had fulfilled the Law and was taking the sin of all upon Himself to the cross. The Pharisees claimed to be disciples of Moses, that is disciples of the Law which only condemns. The LORD was making His Son to become the sin of all and to suffer and die under the Law of Moses so that it could no longer condemn those who trust in Him.
Who sinned? In truth, I did. You did. We all do. But, Christ has borne our sin – all our sin – in His suffering, crucifixion, and death for all the world. He became the blind man. He became our sin, so that in Him we are now the righteousness of God. Believe this, trust this, for Jesus’ sake.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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