A Sermon by Rev Brian W. Keith
Preached in Glenview, Illinois
September 29, 1991

Blindness is a terrible affliction. Imagine not being able to see the incredible array of colors, especially when fall is drawing near. Imagine not being able to read a map or see the beauties brought to us through the lenses of cameras. And imagine not being able to see a child ride his bike or a friend smile. While a heightening of the other senses can enable someone to manage without sight, a wonderful element is thereby removed from life, and the person is surrounded with a shroud of darkness.

While natural blindness is certainly a frustrating and painful condition, it merely reflects the kind of problems where there is spiritual blindness in our lives. Spiritual blindness causes us to flail around in our lives, not really knowing or being certain of what we ought to do or what kind of person we can become.

Spiritual blindness exists wherever there is ignorance. Where someone lacks a knowledge of who the Lord really is, of the process of regeneration, and of the nature of the world the Lord intends us to live in forever, there is a terrible void in a person’s life. Yes, someone can go through life, attending to numerous responsibilities, doing his job, taking care of the home, and apparently being a healthy, useful member of society. So where there is ignorance about spiritual matters, that life is shrouded in darkness. It is without any real purpose or direction.

But worse than that are those whose religious beliefs foster blindness. Those who have been taught that matters of religion are best left to the theologians and cannot be understood by the average person are having their spiritual eyes put out. For when someone is told to accept something on faith with no real understanding, with no real appreciation of the truth, there is a darkening and claustrophobic feeling.

Spiritual blindness is not simply a problem of whether one can recite information or even feel comfortable just understanding how the world works. For being blind spiritually has significant problems even as natural blindness does in this world. As our natural sight enables us to see hazards to avoid them and shows us better paths to follow, so a spiritual sight of truth can lead us to steer around hellish situations and direct us on heavenly paths. And fortunately, where spiritual sight is lacking, our lives are often reduced to the lowest common denominator, namely what we want to do. Sometimes what we want to do is all right, but often it is not all right. In fact it may be destructive, self-centered, and painfully hurtful to those around us. If we don’t have a clear sight of the difference between right and wrong, then anything we desire to do may seem all right.

The example given from the lesson in Divine Providence is most telling in this regard. Where there is not a clear sight of marriage, of how one man and one woman can deeply love each other and receive a genuine eternal love that is different from any other from the Lord, it is so easy to justify all manner of less-than-orderly situations. Without a clear vision of marriage, adultery seems relatively unimportant, simply a friendly contact between people, not much different from shaking hands or talking in a restaurant. Casual sexual relations can easily be justified wherever there is not that clear sight of what sex can mean inside of marriage and how destructive it is outside of marriage.

A miracle the Lord did in healing the blind man points to how our blind spots can be healed, how we can see to walk in the Lord’s path.

As the Lord was in a small fishing village by the Sea of Galilee named Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Him wanting the Lord to heal him. It is noteworthy that the blind man did not call out to the Lord nor perceive Him by Himself. For one of the traits of spiritual blindness is the lack of recognition that one needs any help. Often we don’t know where our blind spots are. We think we see things so clearly that our way is the right way, that all others are wrong. It’s only when others bring us to the Lord, pointing out an imperfection that we have, challenging a tradition, that we have the possibility of being healed.

Obviously the people who brought the man assumed that the Lord could heal him; they could not. Our blindness is never really healed by other people. Yes, we listen to them, have them criticize our ideas or suggest different ways for us to live. But their talking means little or nothing to us unless we sense something of the Divine there. Even as that blind man did not resist their taking him to the Lord, so our blindness can begin to be cured when we allow others to lead us to where the Lord is in our lives.

Interestingly, unlike many other miracles done immediately, the Lord took the man by the hand and led him out of town. Naturally there’s no good reason for this to occur because the Lord could heal anywhere He wanted. But spiritually the town Bethsaida describes the state of hell in which we may be living. When we are actually doing what’s wrong, living in a disorderly way, the Lord can’t heal us. It’s only when we step out of the problem and move away from the situation that we are willing and able to have our eyes opened to what the problem really is. If we are locked into one way of looking at things or one method of behavior, our eyes cannot be opened.

Then the Lord spit in the man’s eyes. While we would consider this a rather unclean approach, the fluid from the Lord’s mouth was symbolic of the truth that He wants us to see. What’s more, it affects us when it hits us in the eyes. When we realize that the Lord is telling us not to embellish our stories, in effect lying to make ourselves look better, then we see what the Lord is telling us.

The Lord also put His hands on the man. And what this means is a communication of everything of one’s life. For the message is that our spiritual eyes are not opened to what is good and evil simply by the facts being told to us. Rather it’s when we sense that this is the Lord’s message for us to help us not to condemn, not to harm but when we sense the Lord’s love and mercy there, then our eyes are opened.

It’s interesting that the Lord posed a question to the man, asking him if he saw anything. Now the Lord was not so unaware as to what the effect would be that He was seeking information from the man for His own sake to see if the miracle worked or not! The purpose of His question here, as with all His questions, is to encourage us to respond. Yes, the Lord does know everything about us, but He wants us to understand by thinking and by speaking. It has been said that no one truly knows anything until he is able to explain it to a child. The process of struggling to grasp an idea so that it can be communicated to someone else anchors it in our minds in a way not possible otherwise. This is why the Lord asked the question, not because He needed to know but so that the man could analyze what was happening to him. What this means for us is that as we are taking in information from the Lord’s Word, it will tend to be pushed to the most remote parts of our memory unless we are engaged in talking about it with other people. Perhaps we are wondering about how the Lord’s providence works, say when there’s an unexpected death or an apparently amazing bit of good fortune. We can wonder about the subject, read about it, and really feel as if we have gained a new insight. But if we don’t share that with others by trying to express it to them, it will tend to drift off and be forgotten. And we should not assume that we are just imposing our ideas on others, be they within our small circle of friends or even outside of the church. Because if someone is a friend, he or she is interested not just in spending time with us but in hearing what we think. To communicate ideas is not to impose but to share.

The man whose sight was being returned then responded that he saw men “like trees walking.” The reason his sight was not clear at first is that our initial grasp of any subject is rather stiff and unfocused men like trees. For we can’t come to all the answers right away. To gain deep insights into providence, into the process of regeneration, does not occur immediately. For wisdom is not synonymous with our first instruction. Yes, we sense the presence of the Divine and we are excited by the light that we see there. This is the light of the trees walking. But our sight is obscure and we shouldn’t be upset when our initial thoughts of a subject or our initial understanding of a subject is flawed.

The Lord did not leave the man in that quasi-seeing state. He put His hands on the man’s eyes again and had him look up, at which point he was restored and saw everyone clearly. The Lord’s putting His hands on the man a second time describes a kind of illustration, enlightenment, that comes after we have digested ideas and worked with them for a while. What this means is that we can’t assume our knowledge on any subject is adequate or that it is sufficiently organized in our minds to see clearly. Our blindness, at least a haziness, remains until the Lord is able to place His hands upon us again. For this to happen we need continual contact with the Divine. The man who saw men like trees walking could have left it at that point. He could have been satisfied with a partial restoration. But he stayed. The Lord wants us to stay too. He wants us to continue the process of learning, of thinking, and of gradually understanding so that our first sight is not our last.

The sight that the man regained can be ours when we have a depth of understanding of what is true, not simply a knowledge of the facts, not a rudimentary understanding of them, but a clear sight of what they mean. So when we think about the teachings revealed in the New Church about a life after death, they are not simply ideas that are interesting or attractive, but they are an expression of the Lord’s love and mercy and a description of what can be ours. They come alive when we sense their power and the fact that they are not abstractly applied to someone else, but they are intended to depict for us what the Lord would give us.

Or when we think about the ideas concerning use, our ability to affect others for the better, they can at first be very general unfocused ideas that we ought to have a job and do something productive with our life, an idea which is men like trees walking. But when we sense the Lord’s presence in what we do for other people, even in the mundane tasks that don’t seem to be well rewarded here, then we see clearly and are able to see light that really is the Lord’s presence with us.

Blindness exists with everyone. And the Lord constantly works to heal that blindness. If we will allow ourselves to be brought into the Lord’s presence by the questions or encouragement of our friends and loved ones, and if we will then allow the fluid truth from the Lord’s Word to touch our unseeing eyes, it will allow Him to touch our hearts so that we may know that He is our God. Then we may begin to see. At first it will not be clear or perfect; many will be the times we will see men like trees walking. But if we allow the Lord to remain with us, if we retain our contact with Him in the Word and in worship, then He can continue to touch us, healing all our blindness, giving us a sight of all things living.

This is the Lord’s will for us, that from being blind we might see, that from being trapped by falsities and distorted ideas we might have a true picture of what heaven is like, both after death and in our life now. Amen.

Lessons: Mark 8:22-30; DP 144

Divine Providence 144

Neither can anyone be reformed in a state of blindness of the understanding. These also have no knowledge of truths, and consequently of life; for the understanding must teach truths and the will must do them; and when the will does what the understanding teaches, its life is fashioned according to truths. But when the understanding is blinded, the will is also closed up, and from freedom according to its reason it does only the evil that is confirmed in the understanding, which is falsity. Moreover, the understanding is blinded not only by ignorance but also by religion that teaches blind faith, and also by false doctrine. For as truths open the understanding, so falsities close it; they close it from above but open it from below, and the understanding, open only below, cannot see truths but can merely confirm whatever it wills, especially falsity. The understanding is also blinded by the lusts of evil. As long as the will is in these it moves the understanding to confirm them; and so far as the lusts of evil are confirmed, it is impossible for the will to be in the affections of good and to see truths from them, and thus to be reformed.

For example, when one is in the lust of adultery his will, which is in the delight of his love, moves his understanding to confirm it, saying, “What is adultery? Is there anything wicked in it? Is there not the same thing between husband and wife? Cannot children be born from adultery just as from marriage? Cannot a woman admit more than one without harm? What has the spiritual to do with this?” So thinks the understanding which is then the courtesan of the will, and so stupid has it become from debauchery with the will that it cannot see that marriage love is spiritual, heavenly love itself, an image of the love of the Lord and of the church from which it is derived, and thus that it is in itself holy, that it is chastity itself, purity and innocence; and that it makes men to be forms of love, since consorts can love each other mutually from inmost things and thus form themselves into loves; and that adultery destroys this form and with it the image of the Lord; and what is horrible, that the adulterer mingles his life with the husband’s life in his wife, for a man’s life is in the seed.

As this is profane, therefore hell is called adultery, and heaven on the other hand is called marriage. Moreover, the love of adultery communicates with the lowest hell but true marriage love communicates with the inmost heaven; and the organs of generation in both sexes also correspond to societies of the inmost heaven. These things have been recorded that it may be known how blinded the understanding is when the will is in the lust of evil; and that no one can be reformed in a state of blindness of the understanding.


A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, April 28, 1991

“Then they reviled him, and said: `You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes'” (John 9:28-30).

Walking along with His disciples on the Sabbath day, the Lord noticed a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked the Lord whose fault it was that he was blind the man’s or his parents’. The Lord replied that it was neither. He then announced that He must do the works which He was sent to do, and proclaimed Himself the `light of the world.’ “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay, and He said to him: `Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ … So He went and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6,7).

When the neighbors and acquaintances of the man saw him, they questioned whether it was indeed the same man, for a miracle such as this was unknown at that time. But the man did not leave them in any doubt. He told them that he was the one who had been born blind. They then wanted to know how he had received sight. He told them how a Man named Jesus had made clay with His saliva, anointed his eyes, and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam.

They then brought the man to the Pharisees, and he was again questioned concerning this amazing miracle. Upon hearing his recital of what had taken place, the Pharisees concluded that the Man who did the miracle must be a sinner since He had done it on the Sabbath day. They therefore asked the man, “`What do you say about Him because he opened your eyes?’ He said, `He is a prophet'” (John 9:17).

But the Pharisees doubted whether he had indeed been born blind. They therefore called the parents of the man and began to interrogate them. The parents claimed him as their son and affirmed that he had been blind from birth; but, knowing the hostility of the Pharisees toward Jesus, they refused to say how he had been cured, saying that he was of age and could answer for himself. The Jews therefore called the man again, telling him that Jesus was a sinner, and that he should give the praise to God. They then began to question him again, pressing him to make some statement of which they could accuse him. When he asked them whether they also wanted to become Jesus’ disciples, they reviled him, saying that they were Moses’ disciples, for they knew that Moses spoke with God but they did not know where Jesus was from.

Then “the man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes … Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing'” (John 9:30,32,33).

Then the Pharisees, in anger, expelled him from the synagogue saying, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” (John 9:34) When the Lord heard that the man had been expelled, He came to him and asked him if he believed in the “Son of God.” The man inquired who He was, expressing a desire to believe in Him. Then the Lord told him that it was He who was speaking to him. Upon hearing this the man declared his belief in the Lord and fell down and worshipped Him. The Lord then declared that He had come into the world to give sight to the blind, and make blind those who could see. The Pharisees then inquired whether they were among the blind. To this the Lord replied, “If you were the blind, you would have no sin, but now you say `We see’; therefore your sin remains” (John 9:41).

This story of the Lord’s miracle of giving sight to the man born blind is dramatic and deeply touching. We sense in it the joy and wonder of the man who received sight after so many years of utter darkness. We are warmed by the compassion and mercy which the Lord showed toward the blind man. We are amazed, astonished and dumfounded by the hostility and antagonism which the Pharisees exhibited toward the man who had been blind and his benefactor, and by their fanatical desire to discredit Him. Instead of rejoicing at this man’s good fortune, and marvelling at this wonderful miracle, they rebuked and persecuted the man and his family, and finally expelled him from the synagogue.

Dramatic as this story may be, and wonderful as the miracle was in itself, this story is not mere history. It is not an event done and finished. The miracle of giving sight to the blind is one which the Lord is continually effecting with all people who genuinely desire it. Remarkable as all the Lord’s miracles were in themselves, they were not the fulfillment of His mission on earth. Because the Lord is infinite, everything He did while on earth looked to spiritual and eternal ends. The Lord did not come on earth to heal people’s bodies. The body lives for only a few short years and then it is discarded, like clothing that has served its use. He came to heal the spirits of people their minds, which live on in the spiritual world when the body has been put off. All the miracles which the Lord performed were ultimate representations of spiritual things things that pertain to the hearts and minds of people (see AE 475:19).

All the diseases which the Lord healed while on earth have their spiritual correspondents (see AE 815:5). The man born blind whom the Lord healed represents all those people who are ignorant of Divine truth, and who, through a genuine desire to know the truth, are enlightened by the Lord at His coming.

We would recall here our lesson from Isaiah. We read there of a closed book that none could understand, neither the learned nor the simple. This book was the Word. The Jews, through their refusal to obey the Lord’s precepts, closed their understanding to the truth revealed by the Lord in His Word. Thus the book was closed to them; and because it was closed to the leaders and teachers of the Jews the learned they closed it to the simple who depended on them for instruction from the Word. Instead of teaching genuine truths from the Word they taught man-made precepts: “their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). They “make a man an offender by a word … and turn aside the just for a thing of naught” (Isaiah 29:21).

Because of this situation the Lord prophesied that He would do a marvelous work when He came on earth. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the Book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness … Those also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmured will learn doctrine” (Isaiah 29:18, 24).

Here we see described one of the purposes of the Lord’s coming: to open the understanding of people their spiritual sight so that they could see Divine truths in the Word. He came to open the closed “Book” so that people could learn doctrine from it doctrine applicable to life Divine doctrine, not man-made doctrine, the precepts of men which turn aside a person for a thing of naught. This is the interior meaning of the miracle which the Lord performed for the man born blind. And the means by which He healed the man describe the means by which He may open the interior understanding of each individual, and impart to him a genuine rational faith.

The clay which the Lord used to anoint the man’s eyes represents good the good affections which a person has acquired by a life according to truth (see AC 6669:6). After anointing the man’s eyes, He told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This represents a cleansing by repentance from what is evil and false, for all the ceremonial washings of the Jews represented repentance, as did the baptism of John in the fords of the river Jordan.

The Lord healed the blind man on the Sabbath day a thing which caused the Pharisees to condemn Him. When the Lord came on earth the Sabbath day took on a new meaning. The representatives of the Jewish Church were abolished, and the Sabbath became a day for instruction and meditation on spiritual things and for the worship of God. The Lord, in this and many other instances, healed people on the Sabbath because people are cured of their spiritual diseases by instruction from the Word, meditation upon its teachings, and the resulting internal worship of the Lord (see TCR 301). All this is represented by the Sabbath day.

We would also note the fact that when the Pharisees asked the man what he thought of the Man who healed him, he said he thought Him a prophet. By prophets in the Word are meant those who teach truths which lead to the good of life, thus, in an abstract sense, the truths of doctrine themselves. The Lord was therefore frequently called a “prophet” because He was the Divine truth itself. In this particular instance He is called a “prophet” to signify that spiritual blindness ignorance of spiritual truth is healed by genuine truths of doctrine from the Word (see AE 624:18, 23). We read in the Apocalypse Explained: “The faith by which spiritual diseases are healed by the Lord can be given only through truths from the Word and a life according to them” (AE 815:5).

We would draw your attention to the fact that the man first acknowledged the Lord as a prophet. Later, after he had been expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees, the Lord asked if he believed in the Son of God. The man asked: “Who is He, Lord, that I might believe in Him?” The Lord replied, “It is He who is talking with you.” The man then said, “`Lord I believe,’ and he worshipped Him” (John 9:35-38).

We see here the natural progression of the faith of a person whose understanding has been opened who was been given spiritual sight. When the understanding is first opened, the person acknowledges that it is truth which has given sight to the understanding. But after the person has lived the new truth which he sees, when he becomes a disciple of the truth the prophet’s disciple a judgment is produced. He cannot remain any longer in the former church; he is expelled from the synagogue, for he no longer adheres to their man-made precepts. Then it is that he is asked if he acknowledges the Son of God the Lord in His Divine Human revealed anew to mankind. And by further questioning and study of the newly revealed truth the person is led to make the final acknowledgment, that this same truth which opened the understanding is the Lord Himself in His advent (see AC 2628).

This miracle represents the fulfillment of one of the Lord’s purposes in coming on earth. He prophesied in Isaiah that He would come to open the human understanding so that people could see the inner contents of the “Book” which was closed by their spiritual blindness. He was going to teach them doctrine so that they would cease to err. He proclaimed again this purpose immediately before and after He had healed the blind man, saying, “I am the light of the world … For judgment I have come into this world that those who do not see may see, and those who see may be blind” (John 9:5,39). Those who think they see are blinded, because they see from self-intellegence rather than from the Lord who is the “light of the world” their self-illumined understanding in an illusory light. They see what is false as the truth, and what is true they see as false. They close their eyes against the genuine light of Divine truth.

The purpose of the Lord’s Second Coming is the same as that of the First Coming. In the book of Revelation we read of a “Book” sealed with seven seals, which nobody was worthy to open except the Lord Himself. This was a prophecy of how, in the Christian Church, the Word would again become a closed Book a book no longer understood by the learned or the simple, a book which only the Lord Himself could open in His Second Advent. And it is opened! The spiritual meaning of the Word is now revealed! It gives spiritual understanding spiritual sight to those who receive and acknowledge it.

We see in this story of the healing of the blind man that the Word is not just an historical record of the Israelites, of the Lord’s life on earth and the wonders He performed during the three short years of His ministry. We see that the Word contains within it living truth which can heal our spiritual blindness and cleanse our minds and hearts from what is false and evil. In the revelation of His Second Advent the Lord has opened the Book that was closed. He has revealed Himself anew so that those who err in spirit may come to understanding, and those who murmur may learn true doctrine.

May the Lord, through His open Word, heal us who have been born in ignorance. As we apply these revealed truths to our lives, and repent of our sins, may our understandings be opened so that we come seeing. And when the Pharisee within us raises doubts as to the origin of our new light, may we be led to acknowledge, as did the man born blind, that only the Lord Himself can open the interior sight of our minds and illumine their darkness, so that we may say of the truth when it is presented to our minds, “Lord, I believe.” Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 29:9-24, John 9