Complete Worship Video 3/22/2020
Jesus Heals A Man Born Blind John 9:1-41 Lent 4—A Voluntary Self Imposed Blindness Cannot Be Cured I want to share with you a Japanese story about a man born blind. Once upon a time there was a man who was born blind. He had never known anything else—so it was part of his nature—incorporated into everything he learned: talking, walking, relations with others, and acquiring the skills necessary for life. His blindness did not really bother him and he made a point of not letting it stop him from doing anything that he wanted to do. As he grew older he grew sure of himself. His house was arranged so that he knew where each piece of furniture and utensil was placed and he got around easily. With time he knew each street in his village and the paths and places within walking distance: the market, side streets, the temple, and the roads out of town into the forest and fields. He had even mastered traveling to the surrounding villages—knowing the paths over the mountain and back to his own home. His senses were more acute than most—and he felt his way along using what he smelled, heard, touched and just sensed as he moved. Being blind didn’t bother him as much as it seemed to annoy others or make others uncomfortable. One day he traveled over the mountain to visit friends on the outskirts of another village. He had been there before—the way was easy and uneventful. The gathering with his friends and others that he met for the first time was one of the best he could remember in a long while. They feasted, sang and told stories, drank and enjoyed each other’s company immensely. And slowly—in twos and threes or alone—each headed for home. He was the last to leave. As he lingered at the door of his friend’s house to say his thanks and good-byes and good wishes—his host urged him to take a lantern on his way home since it had grown very dark and there was no moon out. The blind man laughed at his longtime friend. Had he forgotten that the darkness didn’t concern him? He would find his way home just fine. There was an awkward silence and then his host spoke again, “My friend, it wasn’t you I was concerned about. The lantern is so that others who do not see well in the dark and are not used to being blind might know you on the path and not stumble into you or be startled or frightened.” This fellow sounds a lot like the blind man John wants us to know about in today’s text. He was a man—who was born blind—and apparently has no difficulty with his circumstances. Someone who is doing, “just fine, thank you.” Someone who made others uncomfortable by his condition—especially since they believed he was born blind because he deserved it—SIN. Remember—the disciples asked Jesus who had sinned to make this man blind? He asks nothing of Jesus—but Jesus takes the initiative and approaches him to heal him. John tells us it was so God’s work might be revealed in him. Okay—before we get any farther along—let’s review some of the things we know about the writer of the Gospel of John. First of all—John uses a lot of metaphors and representational imagery. Not everything is exactly what he is talking about. In this instance he is talking about blindness. Physical or spiritual blindness—it doesn’t matter—because the important thing is that despite his physical blindness this man is healed and in the process his spiritual blindness is removed as well. That is not the case for everyone involved. Secondly—John is very focused in his determination. He is going to tell us things about Jesus that get across his main point. That point is—Jesus is the Christ—he is Divine. Everything John writes about, points to and tells us is the ultimate fact that Jesus is divine. In the tale of the blind man we see his progressive steps of faith as he comes to realize who Jesus really is—exactly what John wants us to know as well. Blindness is not determined by 2 seeing or not seeing—but by recognizing or not recognizing the revelation of God in the works of Jesus. After he is healed—when asked about his ability to now see—he responds that a man named Jesus healed his blindness. You know—some guy who put mud on my eyes and had me wash in the pool of Siloam. Jesus is just another human being. Then—later on we hear him say to the Pharisees in response to their question: “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said “He is a prophet.” A prophet is significantly more than a “man.” Maybe there is something more to this Jesus fellow than first impressions give. Still later—in the interrogation session with the Pharisees—the man comes to the conclusion that Jesus must be from God. The Pharisees say, “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The formerly blind man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes, we know that God will not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Yes—only a person from God could effect such a miracle! As he grows in faith—as he moves beyond mere conversation into the total ability to see—this man receives a severe blow. He is thrown out of the synagogue. To us today this would not seem like such a bad thing. But for this man and others of his time it was a very dangerous event. Roman law was such that only two religions were recognized—Judaism and the Roman version where multiple gods were recognized and worshipped. If one did not belong to the synagogue—they must accept the Roman religious practices or suffer the consequences—which many early Christian martyrs did. This man suffers hardship because of Jesus—and he didn’t even ask for Jesus to intervene! As the man begins to see—more and more clearly—the Pharisees become progressively blinder and blinder to the truth of God’s revelation in Jesus. Blindness is a congenital condition for all human beings. Whether one is born blind or becomes blind—it is the inability to recognize the truth—it is an unwillingness to face the truth. The Pharisees held on to their preconceived beliefs about God—and how God works and reveal God’s self to us. They became blind. Loved Ones—how are we like those Pharisees? How do we deny the truth? What preconceived ideas about God do we have and hold onto for dear life—afraid to let go and experience something fresh and new from God? God can only act in this manner. God only loves these people. God only… You fill in the blank. Those who are blessed by Jesus soon run into trouble in the world because good news has enemies. We—by baptism—are chosen by God and the Spirit rushes upon us and opens our eyes to begin to see as God sees. We are children of light—we are to see what others do not see in their blindness. But—we are also in need of God’s healing, vision, and conversion to deeper faith and insight. We are given a choice. We can be ignorant of God or we can be given knowledge of God and faith and insight. If we choose to see—we may be cast out of the community—as the man born blind is. We can choose whether we will walk in darkness and contribute to the sins of the world or to stand with Christ. Christ is the Light of the world (v5) and tells us in Matthew 5:14 that we too are the light of the world. Like a lantern we are to shine in the darkness. Returning to our story from Japan. The blind man had never thought of anyone else needing his light before—so—humbly—he took the lantern from his friend and headed over the 3 mountain. He cleared the top of the rise and headed down—feeling his way along as he did and savoring the memories of the day and all that they had talked about and shared together—rejoicing in such good company. And then—all of a sudden—someone slammed head-on into him—throwing him off the path and sending his lantern flying off away from his grasp. As he groped his way to the path—getting back on his feet again—he spoke into the darkness at the other person. “What is wrong with you? Are you blind? Did you not see my light?” There was an awkward silence for a moment—and the voice came back, “Forgive me friend. I saw no lantern. Your light must have gone out.” And so each went his way—the light left lost by the path. It is said that both went home blind. This story is a parable—like many Jesus told. It leaves us bewildered, wondering, and left with fragments of something that both intrigues us and disturbs us. It unsettles us as much as being thrown off the path. Many aspects disturb us—the thought that the blind man is used to the darkness and not bothered by his lack or loss. Or—that he never thought that his ease in the darkness might be a danger to others. Or—worse still—that his light had gone out and he was totally unaware of it. The gift given by one more aware was lost. And there is the final line—it is said that both went home blind. There are—it seems—levels of blindness. Jesus hears of the formerly blind man’s expulsion and goes to him. He asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” This is a major jump in belief—in faith! The Son of Man is the innocent one who offers his life—and judges with justice on behalf of the poor and the innocent. The man does not recognize Jesus—but he asks, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him? Jesus reveals himself and the man makes an act of belief—he worships Jesus. He has met and seen and been drawn into the light. He dwells—secure now—in the house of the Lord. But the Pharisees react vehemently. Jesus responds to them with a dark note. He says, “If you were blind there would be no sin in that. ‘But we see,’ you say, and your sin remains.” The dividing line is drawn. We are either with Jesus or against him. We either live in the light or dwell in the darkness. We are either made holy in the waters and forgiveness of baptism and live in Jesus’ presence—ore we are stuck in our sin—blind—refusing to worship God and accept the blind man as our brother. The more we live in the light—the more intolerable those who serve and live in the darkness will find us. The story is a realistic assessment of how the world rejects those who stand in opposition to its evil. We can ask a question or two of our community in light of the story. Are we the man born blind? The half-blind disciples? The man’s family or neighbors? Onlookers? Pharisees? Where do we stand in relation to the light—to Jesus? Who do we think he is? This story of the man born blind is the story of every believer who follows Jesus the Christ. May our tale end with relationship with Christ in the light as did this man’s.