How many of your either know or knew someone who people might say is “different?”
They end up in this category for many different reasons-race, colour, creed, beliefs, religion, the community they live in, or even a disability. I can tell you from personal experience that it is no fun to be labelled as “different.” I can sympathize with the blind man in the reading we heard from John 9:1-41. I hope that all of us as Christians can sympathize with him as well.
When the disciples saw the blind man, they saw an object of theological curiosity. In contrast, Jesus saw a man in need. There was a common belief at that time that suffering was the result of sin. The New Testament argues that this is not necessarily true, although situations such as cirrhosis of the liver and lung cancer are caused by the sins of drinking and smoking respectively. Even today, there are some people who look for someone to blame when tragedy strikes. They would rather call it a curse of God or a fitting punishment for some previous fault or crime instead of admitting that such things just happen or might happen to them.
Sometimes God allows us to go through suffering and hardship so that we can see Him deliver us through His mercy and power. Miracles can and do happen when we pray to God. For example, many of you know that I’ve been going through a tough time money-wise because of working part-time. The recent death of my mother did not help the situation either. A couple of months ago I was running short of money one day and wondering how I was going to make it until the next payday. I prayed to God for an answer. I was eating my supper one evening when all of a sudden someone called to me from the front hall of my house. One of our parishioners dropped off a sympathy card along with a bag of groceries. Even better was the surprise I found inside the sympathy card-money meant for me!
Jesus used the metaphors of night and day to highlight His identity as the light of the world. Then he brought light to the blind man by healing him. Jesus could have simply spoken and restored the man’s sight, but his instruction to go and wash in the pool of Siloam was perhaps intended to test the man’s faith.
Jesus saw the blind man who was in physical and spiritual darkness and responded to his need. Similarly, he responds to our need for spiritual light because we live with the handicaps of our sin, limitations and false ideas about God. Baptism gives us our initial sight, just like washing in the pool at Siloam helped to give the blind man his physical sight. As we continue our journey through Lent, we have a chance for a spiritual eye exam. Just as we need to have physical eye exams on a regular basis, we need to have our spiritual eyesight checked regularly.
Sometimes our spiritual blindness is the result of the influence other people have on us. As one of our former ministers said one time, “You are who you associate with.” We live in a world where sin is waiting to pounce on us just like a lion or a tiger pounces on its prey.
Spiritual vision allows us to see who we are before God, where we are going and what we have to do along the way. Jesus’ gift of spiritual sight gives us the direction we need in our lives today. Sin is the rejection of the light that was brought into this world by the Light of the World. Our response to that light is important. The Light of the World has the purifying power that cleanses the worst of sins just like many cleaners can clean the worst types of physical dirt.
The way the formerly blind man reported his encounter with Jesus provides a pattern for sharing faith: “Here is my story. This is who I was—blind, helpless and hopeless in my sin. Then I met Jesus, and this is how my life changed.” It is difficult for people to argue with a person’s story.
The Sabbath was established as a day of rest, but the Pharisees had added numerous regulations to make sure everyone “rested.” In their thinking, this healing—if in fact the man had actually been healed—was “work” and thus violated the Sabbath. The law about not healing people on the Sabbath was not God’s law. It was their interpretation of God’s law. To make matters worse, the Pharisees were important, educated, prosperous, respected—and it went to their heads. As we might say locally, they were “too big for their britches.” They assumed that they had they answers, so they closed their minds to new ideas. Instead of celebrating the man’s good fortune, they saw only a violation of their rules and a threat to their power.
Their power was also threatening. The man’s parents acknowledge that he was their son. They acknowledge that he was born blind and could now see, but they either did not know or were afraid to acknowledge the source of his healing. Perhaps they were afraid that if they said that he was healed by Jesus, they would also be expelled from the temple.
Unfortunately, a similar situation exists today, especially for our Christian brothers and sisters in the Third World. Many of them face opposition and persecution because of their faith. The difference between them and the blind man’s parents is that these Christians are proud of their faith and are not ashamed to speak about Jesus.
God’s healing presence was felt through the healing of the blind man’s sight. If people believed that his blindness was the result of sin, then Jesus’ healing should have proved to them that God works through Jesus to forgive sin. The blind man saw what the Pharisees refused to see. Jesus was more than a mere man. The blind man could see God and His truth. The Pharisees could not see this.
The Pharisees rejected the blind man’s healing as a miracle. They held on to their understanding of the man born blind as a product of sin and nothing else. They rejected the evidence of the miracle for the sake of the comfortable worldview that they had been trained to hold.
The worst thing the Pharisees could have done was to assert that they were not sinners. The best thing they did was cast the man out of the synagogue, where he saw Jesus with his own eyes and worshipped Him. Jesus did not rob the Pharisees of their sight, but they were blinded by their refusal to see. They assumed that they could see clearly and rejected anything that was different from their beliefs. Jesus did not condemn them, because they are condemned already because they did not believe in the Son of God. As is often the case with those who reject Christ, the Pharisees were blinded by their pride, not by ignorance. They chose not to understand. They preferred the darkness of their own self-interests to the Light of Christ. The Pharisees are on trial, not the blind man. His newly found freedom judges their darkness. The Pharisees used their so-called superior spiritual position as teachers of the Law as a weak, pathetic defense. Those of us who are Christian leaders can be tempted to fall back on our credentials such as a seminary degree or certificate of ordination when we are confronted by the witness of a newly born disciple of Jesus.
The Old Testament phrase, “Give God the glory” is a Hebrew phrase that often meant “Confess your sins and repent.” Many religions will say we know, just as the Pharisees did, but traditions and prejudices blind their followers. The newly sighted man challenged Jesus’ opponents with his “I know” declaration. His experience was not second-hand faith but the result of a direct encounter with Jesus. In anger, the Pharisees threw the man out of the synagogue. When Jesus heard about this, He sought out the man, just like he seeks us out, offers us His help and encourages us in our walk with God.
There have always been people who reject the truth in order to maintain the status quo, but there have also been those who are willing to stand up and speak up about this bad habit. When someone who tries to live up to the truth is rejected by society, he or she will be sought out by Jesus and called to a new life in Christ.
Through His healing of the blind man, Jesus confronts our spiritual blindness and reminds us that we must look beyond our own perceptions, rules and biases. If we allow our self-righteousness to blind us, we will never see the face of Christ. We will never meet him if we close our eyes to His presence in the world. We can learn to see clearly by doing these three things:
Changing how we see God.
Changing how we see and what we see in our lives.
Changing how we live.
Like Jesus, we must work the works of him who sent us while it is day. That work is the work of shining light into the darkness and leading those who seek the light of God’s truth into Christ’s presence. It is there where we will find life eternal and light perpetual-and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best light to see.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1456-1458)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, Fourth Sunday of Lent (A).” retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- Frederikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 162-173)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Version. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Pastor Dick Woodward, “A Definition of Sin.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Bayless Conley, “Not Ashamed.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Ryan Duncan, “Born Blind.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Exegesis for John 9:1-41. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com