Shrove Sunday

"And Jesus said, For judgement I have come into this world that they which see not might see and they which see might be made blind." John 9: 39

The evangelist John writes in the ninth chapter of his gospel that the Saviour had given sight to a person who had been born blind and had been blind for thirty years. Because of that matter the Pharisees and scribes became angry with the Saviour, who had opened the eyes of the blind man, and said that he was a sinner or ungodly person. But the Pharisees also became angry with that man who was born blind, for when the Pharisees began to question that man whose eyes were opened, they asked him what kind of a man he thought it was who had opened his eyes, and that man confessed that he believed that Jesus was a prophet. Although that man was born blind, and therefore could distinguish no letters in a book, nevertheless he had better knowledge of the Christianity than the Pharisees and scribes. That man who was born blind surmised from his own experience or the feelings of his heart, that God does not hear sinners, and that Man who could open the blind one's eyes had great power of God. But the Pharisees and scribes were very angry with the Saviour because of that barking. And that spiritual hatred made them so blind that they said he was a sinner and the greatest evildoer. Sometimes they thought that He had a devil, although some said, "Could a devil open a blind one's eyes?" Because of this spiritual blindness, the Saviour said that they who do not see might see, and they which see, might be made blind. Natural man always thinks that he has eyes, that he sees better than the Christians where the way goes to Heaven. He thinks that he has a better knowledge of Christianity than these awakened. He thinks that an awakened person, whose eyes the Saviour has opened, has become insane, and that they are pos-essed of evil spirits. Therefore they behold the Christianity to be wrong and a remarkable superstition; the Christians are in their minds an accursed group, who do not allow honorable people peace of conscience.  But this false faith of the people of the world comes from that spiritual hatred, which makes them blind, as the Pharisees and scribes did not know a worse man in the world than that Jesus of Nazareth, who reproved them of iniquity. And also the blind throng of the world cannot find worse people than these awakened people.  But it comes from that spiritual hatred which makes the sorrowless blind.  Therefore the Saviour also says that they who see might be made blind. As a fish becomes blind in the bright light, natural man also becomes stone-blind through that heavenly light which appears through this Christianity. An eye doctor can best understand why a fish becomes blind in bright light. But we have seen that when the bright light comes suddenly upon a fish, it becomes so blind that it sees nothing.  But the older and larger fish who are a little farther as on the edge of the light, they flee with their life from the light into the darkness, for they fear the light.  So also old adam fears that spiritual light and flees with his life into the darkness, where he has been accustomed to swim since his childhood. A fish sees better in the darkness than in the light. Natural intellect can see better in natural darkness than in the light of Christianity what is right and what is wrong. But when the light of Christianity shines in the eyes, then he becomes so blind that he cannot understand at all what is right and what is wrong.  He becomes so blind that he sees the Christianity as the effect of the devil's spirit, and his natural state, which is spiritual darkness, he sees as Christianity. And when a natural person becomes so angry with the Christians that the gall bursts, then he begins to suck the blood of the Christians.  The conscience does not tell him that it is wrong, but spiritual hatred gives him that wrong assurance that it is right, that the Christians must be hated and beaten. With that intention the Saviour says that they who see might be made blind, that is, hypocrites and mouth Christians, who have the best outward knowledge and a large intellect, must become blind through Christianity, but the blind, that is, the simple ones who do not have such a large intellect, must see what true Christianity is like.  But the natural intellect is so opposed that it shakes its fist and says, "Is that true Christianity, which makes a person blind? Should a person not receive better eyes or a better understanding and better enlightenment through Christianity?" Yes, such eyes which can stand to see that light which shines in the Christianity, those eyes become brighter through Christianity. But such eyes which have become red from liquor, or through adultery have sunken into the eye cavities, or because of spiritual hatred have become bloody, or because of greed have dried up: said in a word, those who have eyes like an owl, who can see best in the darkness, they become blind because of that light which shines in the darkness. So also the large fish who swim in that natural darkness, they become blind in the light of Christianity. They can not bear to see the light, and therefore they flee as fast as they can from the edge of the light into that natural darkness, where they have become accustomed to swim. The Saviour says that they love darkness and hate the light, because their deeds are evil. They do not dare to come into the light so that their deeds would be revealed. Everyone who does evil fears and hates the light, for the Christianity, which is that spiritual light, reveals the whores and the thieves. The enemies of the light or of Christianity, and also drunkards and whiskey merchants, cursers, fighters, greedy ones, lovers of the world's goods, all earthlings, spooks and evil spirits which move about in the darkness, they flee when the day lightens. All wolves and beasts which rend and ravage the sheep at night, go into their dens when the sun begins to shine upon the earth.  So also the owls, who hunt their prey at night, fly away when the day lightens. All those creatures of darkness, who cannot bear to see the light, are now watching and waiting when the sun sets and when this small light would dis-appear, which has now appeared, that they would be able to again hunt for souls of men and eat up their possessions through whiskey trade.  But we hope and pray to the Father of light, that He would open the eyes of all the blind who sit by the wayside begging, that they too could see what kind of light it is. As He opened the eyes of the man who was born blind, and the eyes of that man who sat by the roadside begging, so He even now can open the eyes of all blind ones who cry, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me, that I may receive my sight." Pray, all blind ones, pray all poor in spirit, and pray all wretched ones, that they who have received their sight would not become blind again, and that all that are still blind would receive their sight, that they would see to travel to eternity. Hear, oh Son of David, the cry of that blind wretch, who sits by the wayside begging. Our Father, etc.


The Gospel: Luke 18: 31-43

In today's gospel both spiritual and natural blindness are depicted before our eyes. That man who cried, "Jesus, thou Son of David," was naturally blind. But the disciples were also blind in spirit when the Saviour revealed the suffering which stood before Him, and they did not believe it. In accordance with this we shall, at this moment, speak of that spiritual blindness. The First Consideration shows how a person has become blind; the Second Consideration shows how this blind wretch must receive his sight. We follow Jesus, but we must not reprove that blind man when he cries after the Saviour, for if he knows his blindness, that because of blindness he has become a beggar, he will not cease crying out even if he is reproved.  It is written, namely in the gospel, that the more this blind man was forbidden to cry out, the more he cried out, "Thou Son of David, have mercy on me!"

The First Consideration shows how this blind wretch has become blind. We have heard that this blind wretch was born blind, and if his parents were here, they could then testify that he was born blind as a wolf whelp.  But even if he would not have been born blind, he has any way later on become stone blind, when the devil has reversed his eyes so that all the letters in the book are turned upside down, although the blind wretch thinks he understands rightly those matters which pertain to Christianity.  But when the devil has reversed the eyes of the blind wretch, he sees true

Christianity as the effect of the devil's spirit or as a superstition; but that natural state he sees as true Christianity. He depends upon this that he has lived meekly, even if he would be a little bit of a drunkard, whiskey merchant, adulterer, even if he would set exhorbitant prices and be greedy to gain worldly goods; he takes from the poor and spends on the rich, he curses and fights with people, but certainly he has lived meekly even then. Certainly his conscience does not reprove him of drinking, cursing, or fighting, nor does his conscience reprove him of adultery or greed, for the devil has so reversed his eyes that he does not see his sins. But he certainly even then has sharp eyes to see faults in the walk of the Christians, although he himself drinks, curses and fights, commits adultery and steals, it does not come upon the conscience. But the speech and reproaches of the Christians, they become such a great burden upon the conscience of the blind wretch, that he cannot get peace of conscience before he has sucked the blood of the Christians.  But how could his own terrible deeds come upon his conscience when the devil has hidden all his sins from his eyes and covered all his filthiness under a cover of meekness, or washed his heart clean with the slime of dead faith.  Namely, if this blind wretch would not have lived so meekly that he could depend upon that, that God must repay his good deeds in eternity, nevertheless he takes and steals grace and thinks thus, "Not all wrong-doing will fall only on me, since the whole world has lived in the same way." He also takes from that a false consolation that if he has to go to hell, certainly others will come after him; no doubt being in hell will be easier when there are lots of companions. Such a miserable envy comes to the devil if others would be better than he; for that reason he must put all those sins upon the Christians in which he is bound, even the worst and cruelest; for example, that Christians are blasphemers of God and servants of the devil, who do not allow honorable people peace of conscience. There it is best seen how blind a sorrowless person is, when in his mind all the effects of the Holy Spirit are the effects of the devil's spirit. Anyway so those meek Jews thought, that the Saviour opened the eyes of the blind with sorcery and the help of the devil. They said that He had a devil and that He was in alliance with the devil. The same thought all the servants of the devil have even now, who have been born blind as wolf whelps and whose eyes the devil has reversed. They even now have that belief that the Christians are servants of the devil's spirit and an accursed crowd, enemies of God and man, who do not give honorable people peace of conscience.  Spiritual hatred has made them so blind that they thirst for Christians blood. In that way the servants of the devil receive peace of conscience, when they have that belief that Christians are servants of the devil.  Now if the Christians are the servants of the devil, then the children of the world are the servants of God.  If the Christians are fools, then the children of the world are wise.  If the Christians are dogs, then the sorrowless are angels.  Such conclusions they make, that the Christians have the wrong faith, therefore it follows that the thieves of grace have the right faith, and through that conclusion, drunkards, whiskey merchants and fighters become Christians. But they who reproach people of wrongdoing and of an ungodly life, they are false prophets. And if the world, with the power of the law, is not able to suck the blood of the Christians, they try with fists, with evasions and falsehoods, threats, and cursings, with beatings and scourging, that thereby peace of conscience would come.  But the more the blind wretch becomes angry and scourges, the deeper into hell he falls.  Now a naturally blind person knows that sight is lacking, but a spiritually blind person thinks that he can see.  He thinks he knows where the way goes to heaven, and he becomes very angry if someone tells him that he is blind and that in that blindness he will go into open water. The Saviour said to the Jews, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin," if you knew your blindness, then you would not travel so boldly to destruction. "But now ye say, we see, therefore your sin remaineth." If a natural person would know his blindness, he would not be so bold to hate and to blaspheme the Christians.  But that very thing,  that a natural person imagines that he sees or knows where the way goes to heaven; just that belief that he has eyes, although he is blind, that makes this blind wretch bold to curse, drink, fight, commit adultery and steal, keep a liquor trade, and blaspheme the Christians. And when he does such works, he is in his mind then a good Christian, a meek man and an honorable councilman, for he is well praised by the world. But the Christians who reprove him of adultery, greed, cursing, fighting, drinking, and whiskey trade, in his mind they are an accursed crowd, when they do not allow this blind wretch to go to hell in peace. Oh you blind wretch, buy for yourself eye ointment,  that you would first begin to know that you were born blind, and have traveled blindly to this day.  If you would become so blind that you would have to sit by the wayside and beg, then you would finally have to begin to cry out, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" But now you cry out in your blindness to the prince of the world to help you every time that you become angry.

The Second Consideration: How must this blind wretch receive his sight? First, if he would realize that he has been born blind, and that he will go to destruction in his blindness. But he strongly argues that he is not blind. The Pharisees said to the Saviour, "Are we also blind?" If the blind wretch would first be won over to know that he is blind, but he strongly argues that he is not blind. And the prince of the world strengthens him in that faith, that he has bright eyes. What can he see when he says he can see? Yes, he sees the kingdom of heaven in hell; he sees cleanness in filthiness, and blessing in cursing; he sees the water of life in the wine glass; he sees mercifulness in greed; he sees God in hell and the devil in the kingdom of heaven; and he sees his own image in the mirror of the devil and it is as beautiful as an angel.  He also sees himself in the kingdom of heaven, but he sees the Christians in hell, such bright eyes the wolf whelp has, when he is in the wolf's den. And when the light of Christianity now whines into his eyes, he becomes stone-blind, as a fish in the bright light. The eyes stand still in the skull as an owl, but he sees nothing more in the Christianity than the effects of the devil's spirit. If now a bright flash would come from heaven and a terrible voice, "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest, it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks," then he will become stone-blind as Saul. Saul also became blind from that light which was brighter than the sun. And thus when he became so stone-blind from the brilliance of Christ, then his companions had to lead him. So it happens with all, into whose eyes the brilliance of Christ suddenly shines. At first they become quite blind: it signifies that the former natural intellect is lost. Before they had a large intellect and with that natural intellect they began to hate the Christians. The natural intellect says thus, "God and my own conscience demand that I must strike and scourge and persecute the Christian sect, for they are an accursed group, they are enemies of God and man.  But now when he becomes blind because of Christ, or when the natural intellect is lost because of Christianity, then he must say as the old Tobit, "What joy have I who must sit in darkness and not see the light of day?" That blind wretch who sits by the wayside begging is now in this soul condition; he is quite blind. It is to be surmised that it is not pleasant for such a person who must sit in darkness.  But when he can hear that the Saviour is traveling near, then he raises his voice and cries out, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" But that large crowd which is following Jesus because of curiosity, or because of that strange doctrine, or because of natural gain which they thought they would gain through the Saviour, they reprove that blind man to be silent. They do not keep him in such estimation that the Saviour should stop because of him. That large crowd which follows Jesus because of honor, or because of worldly gain, or because of curiosity, are hypocrites, mouth Christians and grace thieves, who do not care to hear that the blind wretch cries after the Saviour, whom they keep as a great prophet, as long as he feeds them free.  They are disturbed that an awakened person, who has come to know his blindness, cries after Jesus. They reprove him to be silent.  But the more the world's crowd forbids this blind man from crying out, the more zealously he cries out, with such a loud voice that the voice of the blind wretch finally reaches the Saviour's ears. And although the crowd of the world, who because of dead faith imagine they are closest to the Saviour, forbids you, oh wretched person who has become blind already in your mother's womb, and through this blindness has become so poor and so miserable that you must sit by the wayside and beg, although the hypocrites and grace thieves forbid you to cry after Jesus, do not therefore cease crying out, you blind and miserable person! Cry out, you blind wretch, with such a loud voice, that your voice would be heard above all the commotion of the world, although the great crowd of the world murmurs around the Saviour and scolds you to be silent.  Do not take heed of their threatenings, but cry out with all your strength and with all your soul and with all your heart, that the Lord Jesus would have mercy on you, blind wretch, and would give you sight that you, too, could see the light of the world.  Cry out!  Cry out! you blind wretch, before Jesus passes by, and goes so far that the voice of a blind wretch won't reach any further than the abyss. Cry out!  Cry out! blind wretch.  If the Saviour does not hear immediately, then cry out with a still louder voice!  Do not become silent, although the crowd of the world scolds you to be silent, and forbids you to cry out.  But cry out boldly, then the Lord Jesus will stop and ask you, "What wilt thou?" Your request is that you would receive your sight.  It is so troublesome to be blind and to sit in darkness and beg. Cry out, therefore, you blind wretch, and cry with such a loud voice that it will be heard over the commotion of the whole world's crowd. Then Jesus will come and ask, "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?" And you will answer, "That I may receive my sight." And Jesus will say, "Receive thy sight, thy faith hath saved thee." Amen.