Listen to the audio of today’s Reflection: 

https://soundcloud.com/hapearce/reflection-for-jan-11-2019

John 9:1-39

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

     1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

     3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

     6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

     8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?”Some claimed that he was.

    Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

    But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

     10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

     11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

     12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.

      “I don’t know,” he said.

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

     13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

     16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

     But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

      17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

     The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

     18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

     20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

     24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

     25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

     26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

     27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

     28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

     30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

     34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Spiritual Blindness

     35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

     36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

     37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

     38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

     39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

This passage is actually the listed gospel reading for Saturday, but today’s listed reading covers some of the same ideas as a reading we just based a Reflection on a week or so ago, so I’m going to suggest that we think about this reading instead. It’s a long reading, so I’ll need to show some restraint and be brief.

It seems to me that we’re meant to see two things happening in this story – and those two things are summed up in the last verse of the reading, when Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” I suspect that as he was speaking in his original Aramaic, what Jesus said was probably more like “. . . and those who are thought to see will be shown to be blind.” Because that, it seems to me, is actually what happens in this story. It’s not that the Hebrew religious leadership had great spiritual insight until the day Jesus appeared and then lost it. It’s that the life and ministry of Jesus showed how spiritually blind the leadership had become.

In the story, the man born blind starts out as a completely passive character. He doesn’t cry out for healing. He doesn’t say anything. As far as we know, he doesn’t even know that Jesus was walking by. His healing just happens by the grace of God as expressed in Jesus.

The religious leadership, on the other hand, is portrayed as having great authority – and there was the assumption that they had great insight, too. When the blind man is given sight, the people of the neighborhood drag him directly to the leadership so they could get to the bottom of it and know what to do.

But of course, the leaders are shown to be completely blind to what’s happening. They don’t understand it, and they don’t understand who Jesus is or what authority he has. Even when they drag in the man’s parents and browbeat them the leaders are shown to have no insight at all to the meaning of the events before them.

The blind man, on the other hand, is portrayed as seeing reality more and more clearly as the story goes on. At first, he just knows he can see. Then he sees that Jesus is a prophet. Then he sees how spiritually clueless the leadership is. Then he sees that their authority is so bogus that he can poke fun at them to their faces. And finally, the man sees who Jesus is, and that he’s worthy of worship.

I’m probably just stating the obvious. You don’t really have to be a theologian to see what’s going on here. A man struggling in darkness encounters Jesus and starts to see. Others think they know it all and turn out to be blind.

For us in the 21st century, it seems to me this story challenges us to let the influence of Jesus help us see things more and more clearly, and reminds us that when we rely on “accepted wisdom,” we can wind up looking foolish.

The complication for people of faith is that so much of our “accepted wisdom” seems to come from traditions of the faith. The leaders in this story thought the prohibition against healing on the Sabbath was from God. But Jesus explained that God’s priority was helping people flourish, not strictly enforcing the Sabbath.

So it seems that a question we always need to be asking ourselves as followers of Jesus is whether our customs and practices are really based on his teachings, or whether they’re just human inventions he himself would never be willing to acknowledge as coming from his teachings.

Let’s pray. Lord, open the eyes of our hearts, so that we will be able to see how Jesus would want us to act in every situation of our lives, and so that everything we do will bring glory to you and to him. Amen.

Have a great weekend, and worship joyfully on Sunday!

Henry

(The listed readings for today are Psalms 1 and 150; Isaiah 64:13-16; Revelation 3: 7-13; and John 6:15-27.)