March 15, 2020

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 42:14-21

Epistle Lesson; Ephesians 5:8-14

Gospel Lesson;                              

Sermon Text; John 9:1-7

                       John 9:13-17

                       John 9:34-39


The text we will look at for today is selected verses from John, chapter nine.  This is in Jesus' name.


As Jesus was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, 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 God's works might be revealed in connection with him.  I must do the works of Him who sent me while it is day.  Night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the World.”

After saying this, Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and spread the mud on the man's eyes.  “Go,” Jesus told him, “wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”).  So he went and washed, and came back seeing.

They brought this man who had been blind to the Pharisees.  Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.  So the Pharisees also asked him how he received his sight.

“He put mud on my eyes,” the man told them.  “I washed, and now I see.”

Then some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God because He does not keep the Sabbath.”  Others were saying, “How can a sinful Man work such miraculous signs?”

There was division among them, so they said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him, because He opened your eyes?” 

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

They answered him, “You were entirely born in sinfulness!  Yet you presume to teach us?”  And they threw him out. 

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out.  When He found him, He asked, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”

“Who is He, Sir,” the man replied, “that I may believe in Him?”

Jesus answered, “You have seen Him, and He is the very One who is speaking with you.”

Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” and he knelt down and worshiped Him.

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, in order that those who do not see will see, and those who do see will become blind.”


These are your words Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Well, I have to admit never in my life did I ever, ever think I would be standing in front of a congregation, and we would be in a state of affairs where we were undergoing a pandemic.  And, we would have just had an announcement from our governor that all schools, all K through 12 schools, should be closed in the state.  I never thought that would happen.  I never thought we would be in a situation where there would be travel restrictions.  I never thought we would be in a situation where the economy was crashing around us, because of a pandemic.  I never thought we would be in a situation where we would be asking members not to shake one another's hand, and where we would not be passing the Offering Plate.

I guess maybe deep in the back of my mind I always thought, “We live in the United States of America.  We have such advanced medicine, and technology is so great.  Things like that happens in third world countries.” 

But, it shows us how quickly, how quickly we can be brought to our knees. 

I was in my office yesterday, and I was getting ready for my sermon.  One of our custodians knocked on my door.  He had gloves on, rubber gloves on, and he was sanitizing things.  His name is Moses.  We talked a little bit about the pandemic.  And then, as Moses was leaving, he stepped out of my door, and as he waved to me he said, “May God have mercy on us.”
I thought, “What a great little prayer to say.  May God have mercy on us.” 

We realize now that we are like beggars, and we need the mercy of God.

I want to show you something that to me is very, very interesting in Scripture.  We need God to have mercy on us.  And, particularly here we are in a time of physical aliment, where we need God's mercy.  Did you know that if you go back into The Old Testament (The Old Testament covers a span of time of about four thousand years), do you know how many physical healings you find God performing in those four thousand years?  Three.  Three in four thousand years of world history, as far as we know, God miraculously healed people three times. 

-There was a king by the name of Hezekiah, and the Lord provided him fifteen extra years of life, because he had begged the Lord of that.

-There was a man name Naaman who was healed of his leprosy miraculously.

-Then, the only other time we are aware of in The Old Testament is when the people were being bitten by poisonous snakes.  The Lord provided a way they could be healed by looking at the bronze serpent.

So, in four thousand years of church history, world history, those are the three healings.  Now, the Lord had given a sign in the book of Isaiah, one of the ways to know when God had come in the flesh.  That sign was in the book of Isaiah

“When He comes, the blind will see. 

The deaf will hear. 

The lame will walk. 

The sick will be healed.”

Jesus came, and something happened that had not happened in the entire history of the world.  There was literally an explosion all over the place of healings.  Jesus was healing the deaf.  They could hear.  He was giving sight to the blind.  People who were lame were able to walk.  The sick were crowding to Him to be healed.  So, here was this sign.  “This is it.  God is with us.  This is God in the flesh.”  Showing Jesus, as God Himself has power over all things, including the fact that He has power over physical ailments.  And so, when we say, “Lord have mercy on us”, we certainly run to Jesus who we understand has power over all physical ailments.  We pray to Him, “Lord have mercy on us.”
Look at what Jesus does in today's scripture reading.  Jesus, in today's scripture reading, has mercy on one particular individual.  It certainly goes to show that while Jesus came for all people,

He also came for every single individual. 

He goes to this man who had been born blind.  He has this physical ailment.  Jesus' intention is to help this man who had been born blind. 

Now, that blind man could not go find Jesus.  Jesus went to find him. 

Jesus went to find him! 

That is the heart of Jesus.  He comes to find us in our ailments, and our sicknesses.  He loves us, and He cares about us.  So, He goes to find that man in his ailment.

The same is true with all of us, whatever ailment you may have, and it could be some day some of us will have Corona Virus, or someone in your family will have Corona Virus, but Jesus comes to us.  He is merciful. 

Maybe it is something else.  Maybe you have a chronic ailment like that man has.  His was blindness.  Maybe you were born with some physical disability.  Maybe you were born with a learning disability, and you have had that all of your life.  Maybe you were born with asthma.  Or, maybe you have had chronic pain.  Maybe you have cancer.  But, whatever those physical ailments are,

Jesus loves us, and He comes to have mercy on us. 

In fact, one of that man's ailments not only was the fact he had this physical ailment, but it impacted him economically.  That blind man was a beggar.  He sat at the steps of the temple and begged, because he could not make a living in that day. 

Our ailments may have impacted us economically.  Whether we get Corona Virus or not, we are being economically impacted by an ailment that is going across this world.  The stock markets are crashing.  People are going to lose jobs.  They are going to wonder where income is going to come from.  Maybe your insurance does not pay for all of the things you want it to pay for, when you are going through some challenge. 

Jesus comes to us in those ailments.

So, here we find Jesus coming at this time of ailment.  As God, He has power to help us in all of our trouble.

Interestingly, the disciples asked the question that is so natural to ask.  “Why was this man born blind?” 

Their assumption was a kind of typical assumption.  “Somebody did something wrong, and now he is suffering the consequences.”  “Maybe he did something wrong, and he is suffering the consequences of doing something wrong.”  Or, “Maybe his parents did something wrong.  Maybe his mom was an alcoholic, and because of that her son was born blind.”  “Maybe his dad was an abuser, hit Mom, and because of that the little boy was born blind.  Is that what was going on?”

Do you have ailments?  Do we have ailments, because God is punishing us for something we have done? 

I love how Jesus redirected their questions.  He said, “It is not that this man or his parents did anything wrong.”  Instead of asking the 'why questions', then Jesus gets us to look at the 'what question'.  When God, who is in control of all things, permits illness to come, or ailments to come, what is going on?  Jesus says, “This man was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him”.

That is such a comforting thing to hear.  Whatever ailment we have, ultimately, Jesus is the Lord of the Church.  The Bible tells us Jesus rules over all things for the good of the church.  That is literally, He rules over ALL things for the good of The Church, His people, His believers.  Even in physical ailments, He can use them to the advantage of His people, His Church, so that the works of God can be revealed. 

We are going to see how the works of God were revealed in this particular blind man.  But, I want to take a brief time, here to look at how God can use physical ailments so that His works may be revealed, so that His people, His Church may be built up.  I want to look at three ways that happens.

        -Number one, God can use physical ailments as a testimony to believers.  God can use physical ailments as a powerful testimony to other believers.  When someone is going through some physical ailment, whether it is a lifetime physical ailment, or a current sickness, the way a Christian reacts to that, the way a Christian digs in to scripture, the way a Christian finds their strength in the Lord, His love and His forgiveness, and has confidence in that, can certainly be a testimony to other Christians.  Let me give you two examples of that. 

I have two favorite hymn writers.  One is a guy by the name of Martin Ringhart, and another is a guy by the name of Paul Gerhardt.  Both of those  men lived in Germany in the 1620's, about one hundred years after Martin Luther.  While they lived, there was a plague that went through Germany that makes Corona Virus look like a Kindergarten picnic.  This black plague sweep through, and people were dying left and right.  These two men had relatives, family, and friends who were dying from this terrible disease that was sweeping through Germany. 

Martin Ringhart was a pastor, and things got so bad in the town he lived in, with this plague that was sweeping through, that all of the other pastors were either dead, or had fled, so he was the only one left.  He was presiding over about forty burials a day.  Forty burials a day!  His wife even died.  So, this man was ministering, and living through this plague.

Martin Ringhart wrote one of my favorite hymns, and God used that as a testimony to The Church.  Do you know what hymn he wrote?  “Now Thank We All Our God”.  Isn't that awesome?  In the midst of all of that, he could write a powerful hymn that still today we use to be built up in our faith.  Just listen to these words.


Now thank we all our God

With hearts and hands and voices.

Who wondrous things has done.

In whom this world rejoices.

Who from His mother's arms

Has blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love

And still is ours today.


Oh may this bounteous God

Through all of our life be near us

With ever joyful hearts,

and blessed peace to cheer us

And keep us in His grace

and guide us when perplexed

And free us from all ills

in this world, and the next.


Paul Gerhart is another one of those hymn writers.  His college almost had to close down when he was going to college, because the plague was going through his town.

Then, as he got a little older, that plague again took a lot of his family and friends. 

He wrote more hymns in our hymnbook, I think, than anybody else.  One of my favorites, one of my all time favorites I actually used at an LYA Convention.  During the convention, we had a pastor's wife, a young pastor's wife, stand up and speak in front of a whole bunch of young people.  She was dying of cancer.  She talked about her faith, and how her faith was going to get her through all of it.  You could have heard a pin drop. 

Then, after she was done speaking, the master of ceremonies said, “And now, Pastor Bartels will come up, and say a prayer.”
I thought, “What do I say, now?”

Then, I thought, “I am going to pray one of Paul Gerhart's hymns, because he went through trouble just like this.” 

It is one of his little hymn verses.  Here is how it goes.


Lord Jesus, who does love us.

O, Spread Thy wings above us,

And shield us from all harm.

Though evil would assail us,

Thy mercy will not fail us.

We rest in Thy protecting arms.


So, we know one of the powerful things God can do through ailments is use it as a testimony to other Christians so that when we get in to trials and troubles, our faith is strengthened.

        -Secondly, we know God can use physical ailments as a witness to the unbelieving world. 

Jesus told the story about two men who built houses.  One built a house on rock, and the other built a house on sand. 

The winds and storms came.  It began to blow, and beat against those two houses.  One house fell, with a crash, because it was built on sand.  The other stood firm.  Not because the house was so strong, but because the foundation was so strong. 

It was built on the Rock,

which is Christ.

There are people today, (you just go to Face Book, and you can see this all over the place), whose foundations are crumbling.  They are fearful.  They are terrified.  They are worried.  They don't know what is going to happen.  They don't know what to do. 

They will be able to look at people, Christians, who are going through the same troubles, the same trials, and see, “Why is that person so solid?  Why are they on such a foundation that seem to be unshaken through all of this troubles, trials, and fears?”

They will begin to see that person has a real relationship with a real God, and it gives them real strength.  God can use ailments to the advantage of His Church, to draw unbelievers to take a look at Christ, and the comfort He offers, and His Word offers.

        -The third thing that trials, and ailments can do is this.  About one hundred years before Martin Ringhart lived, and Paul Gerhart lived, Martin Luther lived.  In Martin Luther's day there was a plague that went through Wittenberg, and it killed a lot of people.  He was involved in this plague, and so he wrote a pamphlet giving advice, “What do you do, when something like this happens in your town, or in your country?”  It is a wonderful little pamphlet.  At the very end of the pamphlet, (he waits until the very end) he talks about spiritually.  “What do we do spiritually, when something like that happens?” 

He makes this profound little statement.  Here is his profound little statement. 

“Before something like that happens in your town,

or in your country,

go to church,

so that you know how to die.”

Go to church, so that you know how to die.  I want to tell you something. 

-Only the people who really know how to die are the people who can really live. 

-Only the people who really know how to die are the ones who can really live in this life. 

We have a man whose funeral we just had on Thursday.  He had this ailment.  It was not Corona Virus, but he knew he was going to die.  He wanted to talk to Pastor Tweit and me on a regular basis, because he wanted to know how to die.  He wanted to know how to die, confidently.  That was on his heart, and he wanted us to talk him through that. 

How can a person die with confidence? 

It was a privilege to be able to go to his home, and talk through that.  It was a privilege to be able to sit down with him, and say, “Thank God it is not our good works that save us, because if it were our good works, we would never know if we did enough.  We would always be uncertain as to whether we are going to be saved.  But, the Bible tells us we are saved by grace, through faith, because of what Jesus has done for us.”  

To give him that confidence was such a comfort to be able to tell him, “You know, there is a Bible passage that says, 'The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from ALL sins.' 

“When it says 'all sins', it means all sins. That means when God looks at you through Christ, He says, 'I do not see any sin in that person, period.'”

It was such a comfort to be able to tell him that, and then tell him, “The Bible says, 'Whoever believes will be saved.' 

Then, to ask him, “Do you believe that?”

And he said, “Yes, I do.”

Then to say, “Well, that means you are going to be saved.  You can have the confidence you are going to be saved.”

But then, he would ask questions like, “Well, how do I know my faith is strong enough?  I want to have confidence, when I close my eyes, that I am going to go to Heaven.  How do you know your faith is strong enough to be saved?”

I used this illustration with him.  He had a Kleenex box by his hospital bed.  I pulled out the Kleenex box, and said, “Look at this Kleenex box.  If I am tightly holding on to this Kleenex box, how many of the Kleenex are mine?”

He said, “They are all yours.”
Then I asked, “What if I am just barely holding on to this box, how many of the Kleenex are mine?”

He said, “They are still all yours.”

Whether I am holding on to it weakly or strongly, I have no more, one way than the other. 

I looked at him and said, “Thank God the Bible doesn't say, 'God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son that whoever believes in Him with a really strong faith shall not perish.'  Thank God it does NOT say that.  It says, 'Whoever believes...'”

I asked him, “You believe in Jesus, don't you?”
“Then you are going to Heaven.  You can die.  You know how to die with absolute confidence God will keep His promise that whoever believes will be saved.”

Christians know how to die.  You know how to die.  And, if you know how to die, then you know how to live.  You can live with absolute confidence knowing, “God loves me for Jesus' sake.  I am going to Heaven someday.  My sins are all forgiven.  If my sins are forgiven, God is my friend.  If God is my friend, I don't have to fear anything.”
I love how, after Jesus healed this man of his blindness, the man made this simple, wonderful confession of faith.  He simply said,

“Lord, I believe!”

“Lord I believe!”  What a confession. 

Our Large Catechism says the word 'Lord' is a wonderful summary.  That one word summarizes everything Jesus is.  He is our Lord. 

-He is in charge of all things. 

-He watches over all things. 

-He paid for all of our sin. 

-He is in control of everything I believe. 

What a comfort.  So, we can go through life confidently, as Christians, no matter what comes.

I want to conclude with this little statement from Martin Luther, from that little pamphlet, where he wrote about how a Christian should react when a plague comes to town.  He summarizes this way. 

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us.  Then, I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.  I shall avoid places and persons where my presence in not needed in order to not become contaminated, and thus per chance inflict and pollute others, and so cause their death, as a result of my negligence.  If God should wish to take me, He will surely find me, and I have done what He has expected of me.  And so, I am not responsible for either my own death, or the death of others.  If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place, or person, but will go freely in order to help him.”


Now, may the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep our hearts, and our minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.