Grace and peace to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
What a curious text we have this morning. (John 9:1-41) What shall we do with it? I could read it again, but that would fill up half of my preaching time. This is a curious text, because Jesus is relatively absent for most of it. He comes in at the beginning and ending, kind of like bookends to a story. This chapter of John is really the story of the blind man that Jesus healed, and everything he went though after Jesus entered his life. So let's take a look.
So, Jesus and his disciples are walking along, and they see a bind man. The disciples ask Jesus who's to blame for the man's blindness. You see they're thinking back to Moses and the Ten Commandments, where God says that God will revisit the evil that person does for three or four generations. So, the disciples think that because someone messed up, this man is blind, and they want to know who's fault it is. But Jesus answers that it wasn't this man or his parents. There's a lesson in itself. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. But God can even use the bad things for good, and so this is where Jesus steps in. Jesus knows what this man needs, and seeks to do the will of God, and so he spat into the dirt, made mud, and rubbed it into the man's eyes. Now, I'm not an eye doctor, but I don' think that's how curing blindness works. I generally try to keep dirt out of my eyes, but in this case, Jesus knows what he's doing. Just as in the beginning, when God created man from dirt and the word, Jesus was creating anew. Jesus sends the blind man to the pool of Siloam to wash, and then the man came back being able to see.
What follows for the man is a huge legal battle, as neighbors, onlookers, and the Pharisees all try to have their say about what really happened. No one can seem to believe that this man, blind from birth, can now see. First the neighbors argued whether it was the same blind man or not. Then the pharisees argued that the person who did the healing couldn't be from God, he worked on the Sabbath! When the blind man tries to speak in his own defense about what happened, no one believes him. So the people call in the formerly blind man's parents to testify that yes, this is their son, and yes, he was born blind, and no, we don't know how or who healed him. But it's okay to ask him about it, he's of legal age to speak for himself. When they talk to the formerly blind man again, they try to get him to claim their side of things, and have him call Jesus a sinner. They just wanted to be right, they didn't care what actually happened. But when the formerly blind man told them the same things as what he did before, they became angry and drove him out.
So, now it's time for Jesus to re-enter the story. Jesus had heard that this man had been driven out, and came and found the man. Understandably, it had been a rough first day with having sight. Jesus asks the man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” to which the man replies with a question, asking who is the Son of Man. When Jesus reveals that he his that person, the formerly blind man responds with “Lord, I believe,” and worships Jesus. Jesus responds by saying that he came into the world so that those who can't see may now see, and those who claimed to be able to see would now be blinded.
So, what do we do with this text. Well to start out, I want to talk about two things, blindness and boldness. On blindness, John's gospel has several mentions of light/dark, seeing/blindness paradoxes. You see, the man that this story centers around faced physical blindness all of his life. Then Jesus entered, and took the blindness away. There are several times throughout John's gospel that Jesus claims that he is the light of the world. By comparison, the Pharisees claim that the could see all along. And here's a funny twist: The blind man sees what the Pharisees do not. The only way people can approach the light of God shown in the person of Jesus is acknowledging their own blindness. Approaching Jesus pretending to know (Nicodemus) or to see (Pharisees) amounts to spiritual blindness. As the chapter progresses, “blindness” moves from a physical to a spiritual level. By the end, the blind man not only sees in a physical way but also believes, receives spiritual light.
And now on boldness: Recently, there's been a statue in the news. There is a giant bull statue on Wall street. It stands at about eleven feet tall, and weighs about 7,100 pounds. It's head is lowered, it's nostrils are flared, and it's horns are ready to go. But this isn't the statue that is in the news that I'm talking about. The statue I'm talking about is a recent addition that is a little girl that stands feet apart, hands on hips, chest out, and chin up, facing down the bull. You see, I can imagine that this was the position of the blind man as he stood up to the pharisees. They had all the power, all the ability, and all the strength to make things happen in the community in that day. And here was a man, so small an inconsequential, that they weren't even willing to listen to what he was saying.
Dear friends in Christ, today's gospel lesson is about blindness and boldness. You see, during the season of Lent, we talk about what God has done for all of us through Jesus Christ. Christ died a horrible death for you, for you, for all of us, and for me. And now God is still at work in our lives today through the Holy Spirit. Now, there are times that can see God at work in our lives, in the big things and small things. But there will always be someone or someones to try to bury us under legal work. “Did God really do that in your life?” “Are you sure that it wasn't something else?” Dear friends in Christ, take heart. God loves you so much that Jesus Christ would die for you so that all of us can live lives of redemption and grace. We know that God works in our lives, even without us asking God to do so, and God can even work evil and turn it into good. And so my prayer for you is that when you see and when you speak about what God has done in your live, you too may stand with hands on hips, chest out, and chin up, facing down the bull, and tell others what God has done in your life.
Thanks be to God, Amen.