As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see. The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.” But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!” So they asked him, “How are you now able to see?” He answered, “The man they call Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes, and said, ‘Go to the Pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and then I could see.” They asked, “Where is this man?” He replied, “I don’t know.” Then they led the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus made the mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes on a Sabbath day. So Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. The man told them, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.” Some Pharisees said, “This man isn’t from God, because he breaks the Sabbath law.” Others said, “How can a sinner do miraculous signs like these?” So they were divided. Some of the Pharisees questioned the man who had been born blind again: “What do you have to say about him, since he healed your eyes?” He replied, “He’s a prophet.” The Jewish authorities had already decided that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be expelled from the synagogue. The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.” Jesus heard they had expelled the man born blind. Jesus said, “I have come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don’t see can see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard what he said and asked, “Surely we aren’t blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. accountable for every fault and failure.” (John 9:1-41)
We just heard one of the many ‘miracle’ stories in the Bible – about Jesus’ ability to heal those with afflictions.
Our story today unfolds as Jesus and his disciples are walking through Jerusalem. They see a man who is blind, in fact, blind from birth. It was the common understanding of that time that when illness occurred, it was God’s way of punishing people for their sin. So we are not surprised to hear Jesus’ disciples say,
“Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? (John 9:2).
Jesus immediately clears this up for us by saying that this has nothing to do with sin in this man’s life or his parent’s. God is not punishing them; God is not angry with them. Jesus solidly states that the concept of ‘original sin’ is a construct of man, not God. Every day God shows His love and pours out His blessings to all His children.
There are two kinds of blindness in the story. One is of the man who was born with a physical defect of blindness. The second is of the religious folk who had a spiritual defect and were spiritually blind. The lesson tells us that spiritual blindness is far worse than physical blindness. Physical blindness can be healed, but spiritual blindness resists healing.
In the gospel we have this interesting dialogue between the man who had been blind and the Pharisees. The Pharisees begin to question him; they want to know how he received his sight. They want to know who healed him, and they want to know what the man believes about Jesus. They believe Jesus cannot possibly be from God because he broke the religious law and healed on the Sabbath. They seem to miss the point that the man’s healing is a miracle — a miracle that had never been heard of before. For some reason that miracle doesn’t seem to matter to them at all.
Indeed, this is one of many instances in the Bible where Jesus ‘broke’ man-made rules to do the work of God.
The real point of this story is spiritual blindness. . . the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees, as well as the spiritual blindness of each one of us.
The most important message in this story is the hope of a new world. It is a hidden message and requires spiritual eyes to see. The healing of the blind man, the raising of Lazarus, the forgiveness of the adulterer are all signs of the promise of God’s kingdom. Above all, the resurrection of Jesus is the sign that the end of the story has not yet been told. There is more to come. In the restoration of all things, blindness, rejection,
death and sin will be no more
This story about a blind man receiving his sight is not a miracle story at all, but a description of the process of removing our blindness about who Jesus is.
This “healing story” is about developing eyes that can see beneath the surface to truth. It is not about visual sight, but about insight or second sight. All of us are blind and in need of Jesus’ touch.
It is about seeing past the false rules and values of the world to the loving, inclusive, all-forgiving love of God.
These few passages establish a truth—spiritual blindness is a serious condition, a condition that leads to spiritual death. Let’s examine some common causes of spiritual blindness.
1. FOLLOWING BLIND GUIDES
- As we search for meaning in the afflictions of the world we sometimes look for spiritual ‘junk food’ – quick fixes to help us understand our world. These spiritual guides do not see the truth of Jesus and will lead us astray. Perhaps they are those who would incite us to ‘war’ in the name of prestige of encourage our greed in the name of ‘Prosperity Gospel’. Maybe they are leaders who urge us toward irresponsibility and cloaking policies of social elitism and cruelty.
As Jesus said in Matthew 15:14
if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
- Are we so spiritually blind that we are willing to die in that ditch?
- Some of us are to hesitant admit that we are Christians because we fear what others may think. There is such a negative connotation on Christianity right now that most people shun away from professing their faith; they practice a “DON’T-ASK-DON’T-TELL” philosophy.
We fear not belonging, or are searching hard for the real message of Christianity.
3. RELIGIOUS CONFUSION
- Some people are blinded by religious confusion. In this world, there are many religions/faiths/ practices. When we interact with other faiths or religions, we don’t know how to respect their beliefs and still be rock solid in our own faith in Jesus.
We need to remember that Jesus told us,
I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. (John 14:6)
- This does not necessarily mean that other ways are not also Christlike, but means to follow the teachings and life of Jesus is the sure way to present and eternal happiness; but it no way implies other ‘ways’ are not worthy.
- Many people are indifferent to their faith, sliding by day-by-day because they may be ‘too busy’ to fit any spiritual searching in their calendar; they may not want to look at their faith because it doesn’t always come out like they wish. And if they do try to look at their spiritual blindness, they don’t have enough knowledge to understand, or willingness to seek that knowledge.
But we don’t have to be spiritually blind – we can lift those blinders off our eyes. We can gain the spiritual sight that will lead us to a fulfilling life in Christ.
How do we do that?
It is hard work to follow Jesus
- – and yet it is so simple!
Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God (Micah 6:8)
Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31)
Love your God with all your heart (Luke 10:27)
Realize that we are forgiven, accepted by God as we are.
That God’s grace abounds to all
- – so simple it is hard to believe!
As we go about our week, let us think about this Gospel reading. Let us think about our relationship to God, and our relationship to the church.
How do we see it?
Do we question everything?
Do we cynically look at everything and say, “Well, that will never work,” or “we did this before,” or “it will never happen.”
Or can we be open, and can we be positive and believe that goodness really does exist.
That God really wants to change us.
That he wants to forgive us.
That He showed His power over death by raising Jesus from the dead, and that is what we continue to celebrate today.
God wants us to have very clear and very bright spiritual vision, about Himself, and about each other, and about ourselves.
Let us be open to that. Let us remove all ignorance, and all cynicism, and whatever stones and hardness that are in our hearts. Let us remove those obstacles by whatever means possible.
It simply is a matter of accepting the Grace of God, and a matter of our will assenting to that. Let us do that, and then we will see the true brightness of the resurrection.
Let us pray:
O God, open our eyes to your presence in our lives. Give our lives meaning as we follow where you lead us. Let us silence the voices of spiritual arrogance and rationalization within us. We humbly ask this in Jesus’ holy name. Amen
Delivered at Saint John’s Worthington Episcopal Church, Worthington, OH and In The Garden Community Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, OH, 30 March 2014