John 9:1-34 Who is truly blind?
03/22/20 fb, website
Have you heard this Story about that French bicyclist who visited the US a few years ago? , there was this amazing bicyclist and he had ridden in all of the big races and explored France and other European countries and their roads and mountains. He skills were well known and he had received a lot of praise for his achievements. But he realized he had yet gone out to Colorado and ridden there. And Colorado has a huge array of mountains that can be ridden on bikes. So one spring a couple of years, he thought well this is my chance. He felw out to Denver to get ready for his ride. On this particular trip, he thought he decided that he would not ride alone. He thought because he was in a new region of the word that he did not know he would ride on a tandem bike with a childhood friend. This way he could share his accomplishment with someone else. And so they started off one morning, and it was hard going, but the biker felt, wow what an experience, it’s a great day I’m out here with my friend, it is beautiful and I am just glad to be here. I didn’t it expect it to be this slow going, but its going well. So it took them the better part of the day, and when they finally reached the mountain peak the bicyclist turned to his friend and said look what we did. It was really hard work but we did it. And his friend said, it was a good thing I was with you and so I could help you. Imagine what could have happened if I did not have the brake on the whole time, you might have slid backwards and never have gotten to the top of this mountain.
Does life ever feel like that? As though someone is applying the brake while we are trying to accomplish a task, be it an ordinary or outstanding undertaking? Are there times when life seems to be much harder than it has to be? Has there been a time in our lives when there have been people challenging and doubting the wondrous nature of God and this world that we live in. I think there can be times when there is resistance to faith and to God moving in the world. And I would like to lift up the scripture passage for this morning as a time when life appeared to much harder than it had to be.
Jesus was travelling with the disciples in Jerusalem when they came across a blind man. And when the disciples saw this man, they figured that it was time for a pithy intellectual conversation with their teacher and rabbi. In the past, the disciples had often found themselves coming up short in conversations with Jesus. Whether it was them being unable to answer the questions Jesus asked of them, or finding themselves lost in conversation, the disciples usually found that they could not measure up the wisdom of their teacher. So this time they decided to be proactive. The disciples figured they would start the conversation with Jesus and demonstrate with their words how much they had grown during the time of his ministry. So they asked, teacher (rabbi), what is the reason that this man is blind. Was it the sins of his parents or was it his own. There was a prevailing thought during that time that the ailments of people were frequently caused by someone’s sin, whether it was their parents, or their own.
The disciples probably felt good about themselves, they were asking a trending theological question. But for all of their effort, their attempt at conversation over the theological origin of the sin of this blind man. Jesus does not bother to debate where the blame lies with regard to this person’s physical challenge.
He says that the man’s blindness is not connected to someone’s sins, but rather that this is a situation where the glory and love of God can shine through as an example to the surrounding community. Jesus tied himself to the divine light of the world, and then he proceeded to heal this man
Jesus took this opportunity with the disciples rather than debate theology and instead decided to heal someone one. Now he takes a rather earthy approach to this healing, literally and metaphorically. He spat onto the ground and makes mud, which Jesus then applied it to the blind man’s eyes. He then sent the blind man to go wash in the pool of Siloam.
The method of healing that Jesus employed would not have helped this man with cleanliness (already unclean due to blindness, less than whole). To start with, this blind man have been viewed as unclean, since he had a physical challenge. He would been ranked in the lower ranks of society, and people would have avoid interaction with him. The process of, using dirt and spit would not have sped the process of ritual cleanliness. It is interesting in this story that Jesus sent the man to the pool of Siloam. The pool of Siloam was known as a mikvah. This was a designated place where a ritual Jewish bath for cleaning oneself spiritually could take place. And after using the mikvah and returning to the area, this man could see. And he proclaimed this miracle to the people that were around him.
Now, our first thought might be that once the man announced that he could see again, that his vision had return, we would probably assume that the surrounding crowd would be excited for him, and rejoice along with him.
Yet, for some reason, the people instead to applied the brake on the joy of the situation. Rather than be caught up in the excitement of the miracle, people first began to question whether or not it was actually the same man that used to be blind and sit there. Some people doubted and felt that it was not the same man. I guess after a while people reluctantly came to the conclusion that it was the same man who had been blind. Then the next line of resistance occurred. The people then began to ask questions about how this could have possibly happened, and who in the world would have accomplished such a thing. The man with the newly restored vision told the story simply about the man who healed him, but admitted he did not know who his healer was.
It is evident that there remains some skepticism amongst the people. They involve the Pharisee in this situation. The Pharisees were the religious ruling authorities at that time. They would have been the ones enforcing the rules of religious life and how to live in community. They would have been the experts on the Law of Moses, found in the book of Leviticus. The Pharisees would have been the appropriate authorities to recite the rules and laws and help determine whether or not this man with restored sight was clean or not.
And technically the way the man was healed was wrong. The Pharisees had not been involved in the process, not had any temple priest. And Jesus was not a religious authority by the standards of society at that time. And by the way this healing had taken place on a Sabbath, the one day of week where healings and miracles were not supposed to take place. So there were plenty of negative things to say about this healing story, calling into question its validity or its authenticity.
There are a number of possible rationales why people in this story might doubt or question as to what happened. Yet, the fact remains that the presence of god’s son, brought about healing and wholeness for this one person that Sabbath so many years. Jesus was less concerned with all of the rules of religious life, and more invested in seeing another person healing from a challenging affliction and be able to be a part of society once again. Jesus was focused much less on the letter of the law and more on the spirit of the law, so that the actions that Jesus performed demonstrated the glory and power of god in the community, and completely transformed the life of a man who had been physically disabled. So while at the beginning of the passage we can see who it was that blind, I have to wonder who it was that was truly blind by the end of the scripture reading.
We have a passage from the Gospel of John that involves healing and kindness. Yet there is the presence of negative thinking and cynicism, enough that the crowds calls the man into question, his parents, and even involves the Pharisees. We might need to ask the question is where is the faith of the people, and are they spiritually blind to God’s presence and miraculous powers.
We can look at this passage and see the wonderment of god, and the powers of Jesus and his ministry. We can also get caught up with questions, with doubts and disbelief and miss what is meant to be seen here.
God is with us, and God’s beauty and precious love is here. God will walk through life with us, in this challenging situation that we face as a community and as a world . We need to be secure in our faith, and make sure that we are being intentional about our faith, and our courage as Christians.
Thanks be to God and may the people of god say together amen