MArch 22, 2020 - Gospel: John 9:1-33
1As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We[a] must work the works of him who sent me[b] while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus[c] to be the Messiah[d] would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
Teaching your child to drive is an interesting experience. Ever done it? My oldest daughter was learning how to drive and was checking her mirrors, but didn’t look back. I told her there was a blind spot between her side mirrors and rearview mirrors, She needed to turn her head and take a quick look back before she switched lanes. She didn’t believe me until a car got in her blind spot and disappeared. After that, she was more careful. My daughter had a blind spot about blind spots.
All of us have blind spots. They come out of who we are and where we came from world views- The Road Less Travelled by M Scott Peck talks about how different our blind spots and world views can be and why. Our world views are ours and ours alone. To a large extent we are shaped by ourselves. Our personalities are different than anybody else. We take classes in high school or college that may have other people in them, but nobody else has taken your exact classes, with your exact teachers at the same times. Our views on the world are also heavily shaped by our parents, family, and friends and by where we grow up. If we grow up in a safe place, the world feels mostly safe.
Our world views are shaped by our life’s experiences. If we manage to get a promotion or major success early in life, we often expect others can and should have the same success, if they work hard enough. If we grow up in the ghetto or with parents who abuse us, we think the world is a bad, bad place. If we have a handicap or a parent dies early on, that can also have a big impact on our outlook. If we have a major illness as a child, we often learn to be wary, even fearful of the world. We may want to spend more time with ourselves as adults, simply because we grew up alone.
Sometimes we realize only when we’re older how much impact our early experiences had on us. I knew a woman, I’ll call her Mary, who moved 30 times in her first 18 years. What sort of impact did it have on her? Well she learned how to adapt to different environments: North South, East West, City, Rural America, Canada. Growing up, she learned to leave her clothes behind in a move, but take other things: her parents would always get her new clothes, but they wouldn’t often get her new dolls, new books, new games. She kept two suitcases under her bed at all times: one was “must take” things and the other suitcase was “take if there’s room” things.
As an adult, Mary would get “moving fever.” Subconsciously, when she’d been in a place for a few months Mary would feel the need to pack her stuff and move to a new place. Sometimes Mary would even “pick a fight” with a person in the place she lived, or with the place itself so the next move felt easier.
What would our worldview be like if we were blind? The world be a dark, place, maybe with glimmers of faint light every so often. Today, we have Braille typewriters, computers who can read books, and GPS so even if you’re blind you seldom get lost. But even 50 years ago, it was different.
But back in Jesus’ day it was way different. Today blindness is a handicap. Back 2000 years ago, blindness was viewed as a sign of sin. So the man born blind in our gospel lesson today grew up thinking he sinned or his parents did. He was a beggar, because there was no way for a blind man to earn living. So he grew up dependent on parents or on gifts of others. Most likely, he’d spent whole life like this since he was young, day after day begging, on the streets of Jerusalem. What would the blind man’s view of the world be like? Likely, pretty bleak.
Then along comes Jesus. Jesus puts mud in the man’s eye and tells him to wash. It was decision time for blind man. He’d probably heard about Jesus.
But now should he trust this Jesus or not? He trusts Jesus enough to go and wash like Jesus told him to. After all, what did he have to lose? What happened then? Big, Big changes. He could see. He could see, but he probably is not used to it. It’s not unusual for a blind person who can see for the first time to shut his or her eyes, because seeing is distracting. It’s easier to keep their eyes shut. Strange as it seems, they often shut their eyes so they can find their way around.
So the blind man’s world turned upside-down. The man’s whole world, and view of the world had changed, and he was no longer on the edge of Jewish society looking in. The blind-no-longer man finds himself in the midst of a controversy with rabbis, no less!
What is the controversy? Is Jesus from God or not? Some rabbis say no, because Jesus did this healing work on the Sabbath, breaking the law. Some Rabbis say yes, because only somwone from God would be able to perform miracles. The blind man was caught in the middle, so at first, he does what most of us would do: say as little as possible. They ask the blind man again and he gets bolder. He sides with those who believed in Jesus, and says he's a prophet
The rabbis who think Jesus is sinning get angry and want to see check if Jesus is tricking them. They ask his parents, “Is this your son, and was he born blind?” His parents understand the situation. They are afraid of being excommunicated, thrown out of Jewish society, if they say the wrong thing. Excommunication was a major thing. They’d probably end up on the streets like their son had been. So they pass the buck back to their son again to answer.
All of a sudden something happens inside the man born blind! The rabbis asked him to deny he'd been healed by Jesus. He realizes that they are people who are blind, unable to change. The blind-no-more man becomes fearless! He confronts them with the truth: Jesus is from God. How else could he have been healed? The rabbis get furious. They tossed the man out of the temple. So his LIFE was turned upside-down. And then he finds Jesus again. He’d had quite the DAY, and he talked to Jesus about it. During the conversations that day the man had to change his view of God: God wasn’t punishing him, God cared enough to heal him. He knows now he wasn't blind before because of anybody's sin. The blind does more than see after his eyes are healed, he BELIEVES. He believes Jesus is God and starts a new life. Jesus heals his body before; now he’s healed in his soul.
Jesus isn't content just to heal the blindness in our lives and other people’s; He wants to heal our spirits, too. We can help Jesus heal people. People come to faith when they have a gift from God or from God through us. We must help them. And if things go well, they learn to believe that God is more than just a word they use when they get angry. Only then can they be healed in their souls.
Jesus can do much more than simply help us when we’re in trouble. If we believe in Him, Jesus can change the whole way we look at life-that is, if we let him. If we want Jesus to help us, we’d better be ready for a change. He will get rid of our blind spots wherever they are. May Jesus renew our faith this Lent. May Jesus renew our souls this day of rest. Be at peace. Amen!