John 9:1-3 (EHV) “As Jesus was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that God’s works might be revealed in connection with him.”
The Holy Spirit wants us to know the disciples had the wrong focus. They wanted to know why this man was born blind. What was the reason? Where could they point their finger? Jesus shows amazing restraint. He’s responding to disciples who were more concerned with where to point the finger than how to help the man. Jesus could have sternly reminded them just how sinful the world is. He could have wagged his finger at their sin and how it’s like a 4×4 beam coming out of their eyes! Instead Jesus says, “that God’s works might be revealed.”
God’s work was revealed in how the blind man came to faith in Jesus as His Savior.
In the blind man’s case, God’s works were revealed when Jesus saves him from all sin and its effects including blindness. The fact that the world is sinful and that it causes terrible things like being blind from birth should be self-evident to the disciples. Jesus’s amazing focus is on what a merciful God is going to do about it! He’s going to send a savior! That’s why he’s here! Jesus wanted them focused on him, the great work of God that is revealed.
The Holy Spirit also wants us to know, that in all circumstances where we see the effects of sin, such as the coronavirus, that this happened so that the God’s Work might be revealed in us and for others. This is so important for us today. Calamities like the coronavirus are going to come. Yes, there’s evil and sin in the world.
“Deliver us from evil” is never prayed in a vacuum.
It presupposes that we’re surrounded by evil, evil like natural disasters and disease that can take out huge swaths of the human population. We do know from the Bible, and as we studied in Revelation, that we should not be surprised when this happens. It has happened in the past and will happen in the future. But Jesus has us focused not on the sin and its evil, but on God’s merciful response to it. The worsk of God that might be revealed in this situation: are revealed to you and through you.
What are the works of God that are to be revealed? Consider this: How we treat our neighbor.
We have a duty to our neighbor. After all, isn’t that why we are here? That we might show the light that we have to others? Love your neighbor. Remember Jesus’s two greatest commandments, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Our natural inclination when we are dealing with a crisis such as this, is to think of ourselves. This is not entirely sinful. As Paul writes in Ephesians 5:29. “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it.”
It certainly is not sinful to think of ourselves in the times of crisis, to take steps to care for ourselves and those under our charge (children, employees, etc.).
However, you and I should know that our sinful nature is gonna take this to the NTH degree. With our sinful nature, our God could easily become us. We must take action, because it’s only us after all! We must take care of ourselves at all costs! We must make sure we aren’t shorthanded! Buy all the Toilet paper! Hoard all sanitizer! Our focus could easily be all on ourselves, and forget about others. Our sinful nature would have us focus on making sure we have what we need at the expense of what our neighbor needs.
Then, there’s the devil.who wants us to be afraid, worried, and nervous. He wants us looking inward. And with all this fear and anxiety, he would have us forget and lose Christ. The devil would have us forget and lose the great work of Christ loving us, dying for us, making us children of God, children he promises to take care of, not just spiritually, but physically as well.
Knowing that we have a sinful nature and a devil, how will you respond to the coronavirus?
One response is NOT to let the devil or our sinful nature win. Just because they hate it when we help someone else, we might just say, “Just to spite you, I’m going to think of someone else!” You want me to fear that I’ll run out, just for that I’m going to provide for my neighbor!” Another response: It is pleasing to God to love my neighbor. Jesus says if I take care of even the least of these, I have his appreciation as if I did it to him. In doing something pleasing to God, I also know he will bless me for it. There are promises attached to loving my neighbor too, such as Psalm 41: 1-3 “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”
If I care for someone else, I know that God isn’t going to leave me behind. If I do what he has called me to do, He will take care of me, because I am part of His great work of showing others Christ.
Consider in terms of a burning building. If a building is burning, we don’t rush in without any protection on our part. We take precautions. To do otherwise would be to put God to the test, like driving in a NASCAR race without a seat belt. On the other hand, we don’t just let the building burn reasoning that if God wanted to save anyone in there, he would put the fire out.
You are the means he puts out the fire!
We take all the necessary precautions and then we would enter into the flames, because we are God’s hands in this world.What does it look like? Think of the health care industry. Consider but your job, which provides for you and your family, is also God revealing His work in you. So don’t be afraid to go to work. Yes, take the necessary precautions. You know what they are. Consider the great work that God would have you do by loving and caring for the sick, knowing that God will watch over you too in this needed calling in our community.
As a pastor, I’m asking if you are sick or your immune system is compromised, don’t be afraid to care for your neighbor by staying home. And please call me. Let me know. I know you care for me and don’t want to bother me or expose me to what you might have, but know also that the devil would like nothing more than to drive a wedge between you and the spiritual care a pastor provides. I am willing to visit. I’m not afraid. I’ll take necessary precautions, but I have been called to serve you with God’s gifts, and you can bet God will be with me as I do so.
Children, you’re going to be home for a few weeks. Consider your neighbor, in this care your parents and your teacher. This is going to be an adjustment for them. There’s plenty of temptation here to be lazy or to not do what you are asked. Let the great work of God work through you as you work hard even at home. Be understanding with both your parents and school schedules. A great work of God can be displayed in you as you remember these people are those God has placed over you to prepare you for life.
It’s really easy in a situation like this, to start pointing fingers at the folly of some, and making jokes at their expense.
Not everyone who is responding to this crisis is a Christian, nor will they have your confidence and hope. To look down on someone for their crazy response, to mock them in their fear, the Bible has a term for that: hate, and hatred is murder. 1 John 3: 15- Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers
Even among Christians, even WELS Christians, the response will be different.
Not every WELS Christian will handle this the same way. For in this circumstance the strength and weakness of faith will be revealed. We all won’t respond the same way, and that isn’t necessarily sinful if someone responds differently than you do. Someone strong in faith may say, “Whatever will be will be. The Lord has given me a calling and I’m going to carry out the great work of loving my neighbor. If I get sick, so be it. Heaven is mine. God will provide for my family and we’ll see each other again.” A weak in faith Christian may not respond the same say. Let us not mock, ridicule or judge when another Christian responds differently to this crisis than we would. Even if you consider them weaker than you, they are still part of the body of Christ, and we need them just as much as they need us. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:20 “As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”
I began this sermon talking about focus.
It is a temptation for us in this crisis to focus on the wrong things.
Maybe we focus on the sins of others, focus on how crazy people can be, focus on how bad this world is getting. Let’s realize that the house is burning. Our community is burning. Is not a real fire, of course, but it calls for to action, so that God’s great work can be revealed.
What are you going to do?
First: Look at yourselves and ask: Am I behaving out of fear or anxiety?
If so let me turn to Christ and let His great work in my heart overcome my fear and move me to love my neighbor. Let me also take precautions so that I am not testing the LORD or putting my neighbor into danger. I’ll heed the advice the government has, a government which God has placed over me.
Second: Look at your neighbor.
Find ways that you can love and care for him or her, instead of the cruel jokes and judging him or her. Even that neighbor who’s hoarding all the toilet paper.
This is a turning point, time for us to focus on God’s work in us as we are lights in the world God has called us to this moment.
Let us live up to the people he has called us to be. A loving Christian family of God who cares. God is faithful, God will work great things in us and through us because of Jesus Christ.
This sermon was heavily influenced by Luther’s letter, “How Christians should act during a deadly epidemic?“