John 9:1-41 • April 3, 2011
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
Mrs. Smith was stark-naked and just about to step into the shower when the doorbell rang. She hollered, “Who is it?” He shouted back, “It’s the blind man.” She figured it was safe, so she opened the door. He looked at her in shock and asked, “Where do you want me to hang these blinds, ma’m?”
That’s not necessarily the way in which this story in John’s gospel today unfolds, but we’ll see and I’ll let you make that determination for yourself.
There are seven “signs” in John’s gospel that point us toward Jesus and his identity. They are not meant as a means to an end all alone, but meant move us or lead us toward this Jesus in ways that are visible and unlike anything else we experience.
These signs are Jesus turning water into wine in Chapter 2, healing of the royal officials son in chapter 4, healing of the sick man in Bethzatha in chapter 5, Jesus walking on the sea and feeding the 5,000 in chapter 6, raising Lazarus from the dead in chapter 11 – of which we will look at next week. In this week’s text Jesus heals the man who was born blind in chapter 9.
These gospel readings during lent are quite long, so I want to break us out of the mold a little this week and walk through this gospel text scene by scene rather than simply reading it all the way through.
A prevailing understanding of sin in Jesus’ day, maybe even still today, is that there must be some relationship to sin and something a person has done. The immediate questions raised by the disciples are “who sinned?” Whose fault is this man’s blindness? Is it his fault or his parent’s?
This man hears the voice of Jesus, has Jesus’ spit and dirt on his face, and the faith to walk to the pool of Siloam to wash as Jesus says. This man had never met Jesus before and I would guess had never thought that being able to see would ever be possible for him. Yet he had enough faith in this stranger to go and wash.
When someone comes to the baptismal font to receive the sacred gift of washing in the waters of Holy Baptism, do we celebrate with them or begin the interrogation and debate over who’s at fault for the sin they bring with them to the font?
The man goes as Jesus tells him. Returning to the neighborhood and the beginning of the interrogation. The man doesn’t seem to be shaken by this, he simply says “this one called Jesus did this to me and I do not know where he is now.” He only knows that he was blind a little while ago and now can see. This isn’t an illusion or the man’s stunt double, he is healed.
The neighborhood can’t figure this out, so they take the man for a second interrogation. This time by the leaders in their community who will know what’s going on. The man seems to be getting a little frustrated with having to tell his story again, so he seems to simplify it a little in the hope that they will understand it then – “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”
The leaders in the community don’t get it either and are increasingly divided over the whole situation.
The leaders don’t believe the man or the fact that he was actually blind, so the need reinforcements. Let’s call in the parents to make sure he isn’t just lying about the whole thing. His parents don’t understand the healing or who did it and seem to be much more concerned with their own standing in the synagogue than the well-being of their son.
The blind man has not had a chance yet to celebrate his new freedom from the darkness of being blind from birth. He continues to be subjected to questioning and analysis. The man’s frustrations cause him to get a little irritated and turn the interrogation around. He asks the Pharisees, “Do you also want to become his disciples? If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
Well – that wasn’t very helpful in the debate. It just made everyone even more upset. The fear of being kicked out of the synagogue that the parents had, has just become a reality for the man who once was blind.
Finally – maybe we’ll get a little clarity in the mess that has taken place here. Jesus, help us out here, please. Three beautiful things happen here. Did you catch them?
First, remember that the blind man only hears Jesus voice and feels his touch. The man wants to celebrate what has happened to him, but after the extreme interrogation that he has just endured that resulted in getting kicked out of the synagogue, he’s not sure what to think or believe. It’s not until now that he sees Jesus. Second, his conversation with Jesus is pretty simple, yet life changing. Third, I think the complete healing for this man comes as Jesus says to him, “You have seen him.” The man’s response is one of worship. Thanksgiving. Belief. Faith.
In the gospel of John, “sin” at its most basic is not recognizing Jesus as the messiah, the one through whom God is at work in the world to save the world. The blind man recognizes Jesus as his savior by hearing his voice and feeling his touch first and then seeing him.
As you and I hear the voice of Jesus this week and feel his healing touch, my hope and prayer is that our response in faith will be one of worship and praise as we proclaim, “Lord, I believe.” Listen and walk faithfully with eyes wide open. Amen.