Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Blind Man Who Saw Jesus

Lent 4A

It was a beautiful Saturday morning. Jesus and his disciples were walking around Jerusalem, deciding what they were going to have for lunch and what he was going to teach about in the synagogue that afternoon. As they were walking, Jesus happened to lock eyes with a blind man and when his disciples saw who he was looking at, they asked him a question. Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?  They assumed that he had been born blind, he must not have been an old man. Neither, Jesus replies, he was born blind so that God may be glorified. And he makes one of his famous I AM statements, I am the light of the world. Seems like a bit of a non-sequitur. Then Jesus spits on the ground, makes mud, and spreads it on the blind man’s eyes. Reminding the disciples of the story of creation, where God created humans out of mud. Jesus tells the blind man, face covered in mud, to go wash in the pool. It wasn’t far from where they were and the man came back excited. He could see! Astonishing! The people around started noticing and creating a stir. Is this the same blind man? While the man was washing and exclaiming about his new sight and figuring out what everything looked like, Jesus and his disciples had moved along. Another day in the kingdom. But the crowd kept asking the formerly blind man, where is he? Where is Jesus? All he could answer, the poor man, who had never even seen Jesus, was I don’t know.

How often are we able to answer the question, Where is Jesus? Certainly, it can be hard to see Jesus in this world. The priorities of our government and society are not well aligned with Christian action. I think of all the pictures of Jesus as a white, long blonde haired, bearded, blue eyed man with perfect skin, and I look out into the world and I see no one who matches that description. Where is Jesus? Where is he now? Yet, once Jesus has opened our eyes, we are able to see him everywhere, in everyone. Not as a white man, but as the light of the world. Lighting up that which is most precious in each of us.

The formerly blind man is a spectacle. Of course, someone decided that the Pharisees needed to see this, so they take him to them. Naturally, because it’s a Sabbath day, this great news doesn’t go over so well. What happened? Who was it? How did it happen? Why did it happen? When did it happen? I’m sure the formerly blind man was subjected to full questioning. However, the answers don’t clarify the situation. Who is this healer and how can he heal on the Sabbath day? A sinner couldn’t do this, but then it is a sin to work on the Sabbath. Human rules get very confusing. The Pharisees turn on the formerly blind man, What do you say about him?
He is a prophet, he says.  Funny enough, Jesus doesn’t actually do anything prophet-like in this passage. Prophets weren’t known for curing people. Prophets weren’t known for disappearing. Prophets were long winded. They cried destruction and ruin down on the people of Israel. They wouldn’t let people alone. The people had tried to kill Jeremiah, and Daniel, and Elijah… but they kept coming back. Wouldn’t shut up. However the formerly blind man insists. Jesus is a prophet. If I were dragged into court because of my encounters with Jesus, what would I say about who Jesus is? I would say Jesus is my redeemer. Jesus died that I might live more fully. Jesus is my Savior and that which keeps me caring. If you were dragged into court because of your life experience with Jesus, what would you say about Jesus? Is Jesus a prophet, a teacher, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God?

My guess is that no matter how the formerly blind man had answered, the Pharisees were not going to be happy. They call in the parents. Perhaps they will get a good answer to what has happened from them. However, his parents have no idea. This is probably the first they have seen of their son that day. Look at that! He can see! I feel for them, emotionally confused. Wanting to be happy their son can see, and also scared because of being questioned. Worried about their son getting mixed up with this Jesus character. They try to bow out, ask him, he can speak for himself.

The Pharisees are getting frustrated now. They call back the formerly blind man. The man who healed you is a sinner, they tell him. It doesn’t matter to the healed man. He has already become a disciple of Jesus. He shows more spiritual maturity than the Pharisees, the synagogue teachers! Naturally, that bothers them to no end and they drive the formerly blind man out. The formerly blind man, the healed man, knows. Jesus comes from God. There is no other acceptable answer to how this miracle happened. The joy in the healed man must be overwhelming. He has met a man of God. God has given him life, new life, healing, love, a new teacher, a new mission.

We don’t know what Jesus was doing all day, however, when all is said and done with the Pharisees, he turns up again. Jesus goes and finds the healed man. He asks him, Do you believe in the Son of Man? At this point, the healed man may have believed anything Jesus told him. You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he. Not a grand I AM statement this time, but the indirect logic of “oh, that’s me.” The healed man confesses belief in Jesus and worships him. He doesn’t scoff at him, shout yea, right! He doesn’t ask his list of top ten questions to ask God. He accepts and praises. He moves on with his new work in the world. His maturity in accepting his place as a disciple is astounding. This healed man has gone from being an outcast because of being blind to being acceptable in society to being an outcast again, this time because of Jesus, all in one day.

Unfortunately, the Pharisees are shown misunderstanding Jesus one last time. The passage plays with the ideas of light and darkness, seeing and being blind over and over again. What can we see with our eyes? What can we see with the eyes of our hearts? Of our souls? Through the eyes of God?  Jesus specifically says that he is the light of the world, but being able to see the light of the world requires being able to see beyond the light of day. This story, like so many others in the gospel of John, parallel the stories in Genesis. John has written about the new creation. Jesus is recreating the world, healing it, saving it, loving it. That is Jesus’ work. Our work in the world is the work of the healed man, accepting Jesus’ marvelous gift and praising, confessing and worshiping, being open and being made new. Amen.