Scripture: John 9:1-41
Some of you know that last month Bev and I went to a play at the Highland Arts Theatre. For Christmas someone gave us the package deal of taking in all five plays over the winter and spring season. As we went for the first time, as part of the performance I was pulled up on stage to take part in a scene. It was kind of weird, but it was also kind of fun.
This past week we went back for our second play, but this time we got seats in the balcony. We thought we’d try a different vantage point. So we arrived, went up the stairs and found our seats. Just as we were getting settled, the ushers called out to me, “You won’t get called up on stage from up here!”
For the particular play last month, four people were used from the audience in four different scenes over six shows. I was on the stage for what felt like a really long time, but it was probably five minutes at best. And the ushers remembered me. All I could respond with was, “I don’t know what it means if you remembered me!”
She laughed and gave me some sort of compliment about the night.
Now I don’t know what to think the next time we go, but I’m glad we have more seats in the balcony.
It’s funny how we get remembered. And how the memories around what people think of us are are different in any given context.
For instance, the usher has a particular memory of me and with that she has painted some sort of image of who I am in her mind. This image will be different than what many of you would think of me as being your pastor and a preacher. This woman, I suspect, has no idea I am a pastor, which I’m sure would change her perception.
Likewise, the basketball team I coach also would have a different view of me. They probably see me as the man who screams at them from the bench. Who knows what kind of impact that would have on their views of me! I’m sure they’ll have lots to tell their therapists someday.
Also, when I referee games, again people are seeing me in a different context. In those cases I’m just hoping those people aren’t waiting outside the gym to jump me after the game!
There are so many different ways in which we can view people. We operate in so many different contexts. There’s our life at home. There’s our work life. There’s our social life. There’s our church life. There’s our vacation life. There’s all of those and probably a whole bunch more. Each one, each a different circle of people who sees us in a different way than another group.
I had a phone call last week asking if I could referee a basketball game. This morning. I just politely replied “I’m a little busy preaching, so I don’t think I can make it.”
The caller simply said, “Ok, thanks.”
I wonder what he was really thinking though? Sometimes it’s a bit awkward to realize someone in a new light. To have an image of someone in your head skewed by strange new information you didn’t know before. What an interesting discussion that would be.
Of course, Jesus constantly challenged people’s perceptions. Not just about himself either. Jesus regularly challenged people to see others in a different light as well. We certainly see an example of this in our scripture reading today.
Our reading this morning kicks off with Jesus and his disciples walking along the road when they come upon a blind beggar. Just before this, Jesus had been teaching that people who sin cannot go where he is going. That is, they will not inherit eternal life with God.
So with sin on their minds the disciples ask Jesus why the man was born blind. Obviously if you are born with a disability it’s not because of your own sin, so it must be because of something else, like his parents’ sin. So they ask Jesus who’s sin was the cause of his blindness.
Jesus simply says it was no one’s sin who caused his blindness. But his blindness will be be used to show God’s glory.
Jesus bends down before the man, spits on the dirt to make some mud, and then spreads it on the man’s eyes. Once the application is complete, he tells the man to go wash his face in the pool of Siloam.
The man does this and sure enough he can see. For the first time in his life, he can see!
This of course calls upon all kinds of confusion. The man tries to go home and live a normal life, but instead his neighbours are unsure of who he is. He sure looks like the same guy, but he can see! So it must be someone who looks just like him.
It happens right? You walk through the store and see someone off in the distance and think, “Yeah, I know her!” But as you get closer you realize it’s a complete stranger. Hopefully you haven’t been waving like a mad man trying to get her attention first!
The blind man, hearing his neighbours, says, “I am the guy!” and begins to tell the story of how he got his sight because of Jesus.
Now after the short story is told, the people want to meet Jesus for themselves! But the blind man, because he was sent away to wash, never actually saw Jesus, nor does he know where he went. All he knows is that he can see, for the first time in his life.
Now there’s a bunch of holes in his story that the people just can’t get past. He’s been blind all his life, and now he can see. But he can’t tell you who did it and using mud seems a little dubious. So they take him to the Pharisees.
The Pharisees have all kinds of questions for him.
“Who did it?”
“How did it happen?”
“When did it happen?”
“Well, it was Jesus. He put mud on my eyes and I washed it off. Now I can see. O, and he did it the other day on the Sabbath.”
These answers do not go over well at all. Some Pharisees say Jesus is not from God because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath, thus he is a sinner. Others say sinners could never do the things Jesus is doing.
Frankly, it’s causing a bit of a mess for them to deal with. Quite a headache really.
So they ask the blindman, “What do you say about him?”
“He a prophet” is the reply.
The Pharisees are struggling with this story, so they want more information and get the man’s parents involved.
“Tell us what happened!” they demand from the parents.
“We don’t know, ask him!” they reply. Partly because they likely don’t know anything more than what they have been told, and partly because they want to protect themselves. If they call Jesus the Messiah, which they appear to believe, they will not be allowed in the synagogue any more. That’s harsh punishment for a Jew.
They then call for the blind man again. “By God, tell us the truth! We need to know about this sinner!”
The blind man won’t cast judgement on Jesus. “I don’t know if he’s a sinner, but I know this. I was blind, but now I see.”
Nice words, someone should write a song with those lyrics in it, don’t you think?
They keep pressing. “Tell us what happened! How did he do it!”
The man replies, “I already told you. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to be his disciples too?”
This outrages the Pharisees. They hurl insults at the man, and say they are from Moses, not some guy who comes from wherever he comes from!
I love the blind man’s response.
“Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:30-33)
The Pharisees are not happy with this response and throw the man out on the street.
Nice fellows those Pharisees. But they have just had, in chapter 8, a challenging conversation with Jesus. And they are not happy with him. So, with the blind man who can now see, praising Jesus and also challenging the Pharisees as to how they interpret Jesus, it does not make them any less anxious or angry to know he’s still out there.
A while later, Jesus meets up with the blind man again.
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks him.
“Who is he? Show me and I will believe.”
“You have now seen him; in fact, he’s is the one speaking with you.”
“Lord, I believe!” and the man worships Jesus.
Jesus goes on to teach, and he says this for everyone to hear, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Now there are Pharisees in the crowd at this point. Maybe they followed the blind man, maybe they already had people tailing Jesus around town. Whatever their reason for being there, they speak up.
“What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus answers them, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
Jesus is challenging the Pharisees and the crowd as to how they view him. Is he a man? He sure seems like a man. Is he a sinner? Well, he certainly doesn’t follow all the rules. And the rules say if you don’t follow the rules, then you are a sinner. But Jesus also does stuff that a sinner could never do.
See the problem?
Jesus is of course not talking about physical blindness. But it is the example he is using to get his point across. Being whole physically is not a requirement to be able to follow Jesus.
We do need to be able to see him. But this sight is not about seeing his face, but instead seeing and recognizing just who he is. We don’t need our eyes to be able to do that.
We need to see him for who he really is, the Son of God. And how we do this is by reading and hearing what he has done in the Bible and seeking to receive this same teaching into our own hearts, our own spirits. This is how we see who he really is.
Let’s face it, there’s a pretty good chance that as long we are on this earth we will not see Jesus face to face. We do know he is coming back some day, but we don’t know when that is. So we need to live in faith that he is who he says he is. He is the Messiah, the one sent from God.
The blind man has a pretty good point in his rebuttal to the Pharisees. So I’ll read it again.
“We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
Jesus is either a sinner because he’s not following the rules, or he is from God. He cannot be both. It’s not possible.
But if Jesus is a sinner, then it would be impossible for him to do the things he is doing, because only God can do those things. So if only God can do things like heal a blind man, then the one who can do those things must be from God.
See what I’m saying? Jesus cannot be a sinner because he is doing the work of God. Therefore he must be from God.
This turns the Jewish world upside down. They are waiting for the Messiah, they are desperately waiting for the Messiah because they are living under Roman occupation, they want to be free again.
And if you ask them to describe the Messiah, they would paint a certain picture from their minds. The picture they would describe would be based upon their human understanding of Scripture, the Old Testament. In the Old Testament there are certain rules to follow, which have their own interpretations as to how the Pharisees would see them lived out. The Messiah would act certain ways. He would say certain things. He would observe all of the Law. All sorts of things were being expected of the Messiah.
Jesus doesn’t fit all those things. Jesus doesn’t follow their interpretations of the Law. He does things when he’s not supposed to. He’s rarely in the temple, instead he’s out in the streets talking to sinners. To SINNERS! How un-Messiah-like of him!
The Pharisees were blind to Jesus. They were so caught up in looking for their image of the Messiah, of making sure all the rules were kept, they totally missed him right there in front of them.
Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Messiah. He is the promised one who came to take away all the sins of the world. He is the one who has come to set us free from our blindness and see the glory of God in him.
Do we see?
Do we need to have our assumptions checked and see Jesus in a new way as our personal Lord and Saviour who cleanses us from our sin and brings us new life with God?
Jesus has come so that we may indeed see the glory of God fully in our lives. Just as the blind man who received his sight, the same man who now sits with Jesus in the heavenly kingdom simply because he was willing to say, “Lord, I believe.”
May we be willing to see our Saviour for who he really is and speak in humble voice, welcoming Jesus into our lives, “Lord, I believe.”
Let us pray,
You speak life into our world. You bring hope to our lives. You make us see things as our heavenly Father sees things, and we see it is good. We also see how we have fallen short of all you have asked of us, of what God has asked of us, but this is not a bad thing.
The reason you show these things to us is so we may alter our lives to be more like you, growing in faith and maturing as a child of God.
Keep us growing Jesus. Keep us becoming more Christ-like in our daily walk. Keep us seeing the world in new ways, ourselves and our neighbours. May we be forever changed by the removal of our blindness and see the glory of God through you.
We ask you all these things in your most holy name. Amen and amen.