March 6, 2005 - Year A - Lent 4

 John 9:1-41

 9  1 As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Master, was he born blind because of a sin of his, or of his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither was it for his own sin nor for his parents’. He was born blind so that God’s power might be shown in him. While it is day we must do the work of the One who sent me; for the night will come when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

As Jesus said this, he made paste with spittle and clay and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then he said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means sent.) So he went and washed and came back able to see.

His neighbors and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Isn’t this the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “It’s the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am the one.” 10 Then they asked, “How is it that your eyes were opened?” 11 And he answered, “The man called Jesus made a mud paste, put it on my eyes and said to me: ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went, and washed, and I could see.” 12 They asked, “Where is he?” and the man answered, “I don’t know.”

13 The people brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. 15 The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided 17 and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a prophet.”

18 After all this, the Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had recovered his sight; so they called his parents 19 and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind, how is it that he now sees?” 20 The parents answered, “He really is our son and he was born blind; 21 but how it is that he now sees, we don’t know, neither do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is old enough. Let him speak for himself.”

22 The parents said this because they feared the Jews who had already agreed that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ was to be expelled. 23 Because of this his parents said, “He is old enough, ask him.”

24 So a second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Tell us the truth; we know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “I don’t know whether he is a sinner or not; I only know that I was blind and now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He replied, “I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

28 Then they started to insult him. “Become his disciple yourself! We are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man we don’t know where he comes from.”

30 The man replied, “It is amazing that you don’t know where the man comes from, and yet he opened my eyes! 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone honors God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never, since the world began, has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him.

35 Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is he, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said, “You have seen him and he is speaking to you. 38 He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said, “I came into this world to carry out a judgment: Those who do not see shall see, and those who see shall become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees stood by and asked him, “So we are blind?” 41 And Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. Now you say: ‘We see’; this is the proof of your sin.”

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Jesus is the light: the blind man sees the light of day. Jesus is the light, but people are divided about him. Some are open to the light, that is, to faith; others remain blind, that is to say, they keep their own ideas and “their own” belief and refuse to believe in the messenger of God.

One way of deepening our understanding of this chapter would be to observe the Jewish people’s reactions to the miracle. Some open themselves to the light, that is, to faith; while others prefer to follow their own lights. This Gospel story shows us the blind man who immediately understands the significance of the cure, the fearful and pragmatic parents, and the Pharisees who do nothing but judge and are unaware that they condemn themselves as they judge.

The Gospel opens up to us another way of interpreting the miracle: the one who begins to see is the believer (see vv. 4, 39-41).

Master, was it a sin of his or his parents? (v. 2). Jesus refuses to consider every misfortune as God’s punishment. The healing of the blind man was performed on the Sabbath. So people wonder if God will side with the law forbidding work on that day, or with the man who performed such a good work. The Pharisees defend the Law, as is to be expected from people who are closer to the written word and more distant from human needs.

You don’t know where the man comes from? Who live in such a way that they are able to receive the truth? It is quite understandable that the Pharisees cast out the blind man, because faith in Christ necessarily separates the believer from those who do not recognize the way God is working.

Many people think that faith is an illusion. They think faith is a cover-up of reality and that what is real is limited to material things, only that which is seen, touched, counted or measured.

Truth is different. The believer sees the same things that others see and know; but besides that, she captures something that escapes those who lack faith. A special sense is needed to see beyond the material world.

Christian faith is more than belief in a God higher than us. Faith is an ability to know by the light of Christ everything that is true, either in the goals or the means people use. The faithful one sees whatever other people see, but also perceives something that is out of their reach. We should not think that to believe or not to believe is a matter of minor importance in the struggles of life. Even when fighting together with non-Christians for concrete goals, we will hardly agree on what is more important.

With the coming of Christ a sentence, or judgment, is carried out (9:39). This means that humanity begins to be divided, because all must take a position in respect to him. Jesus judges people, or rather, we are those who judge ourselves when we accept or reject him.

[The Community Christian Bible]

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1. We are a meaning-seeking people, constantly asking, "Why?", to which Jesus responds in a manner different than we expect. We ask an either/or question and Jesus responds with a third way we didn't want to consider.

In the next instance of healing the disciples may well ask, "Is this to show God's power?" and Jesus will respond, "Nope, it is to connect forgiveness of sins with healing" or "Nope, it is to simply to be kind to someone who needs healing."

What is impossible for us is possible with a little spit-and-God to polish the world.

2. Our usual pattern in the world is to talk about others without hearing how they speak about themselves. We can make up something good about what happens to someone or we can attribute their circumstance to something malevolent.

In today's church this is happening to anyone who is not overtly heterosexual. It is happening in the world wherever there is poverty. It also happens within families for a variety of reasons. When a blessing comes to anyone thought to be outside the usual boundaries of status quo behavior it is cause for debates, spin, doctrine, and trials. May we soon listen to each other rather than about each other.

3. In the midst of a doctrinal debate the last thing taken into account seems to be that of experience. In our Wesleyan way, Experience is a very important addition to the Scripture, Tradition, Reason bases of judgment. Experience brings us right up against issues of mercy and forgiveness, the radical strangeness of GOD's grace, in a way that maximizes our paying attention to them.

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