Monday, March 3, 2008

This week's sermon: Jesus heals the man born blind

John 9:1-12.
Jesus comes across the man as he is walking with his disciples. The Disciples make a common assumption here. The reasoning goes like this, God’s wrath equals punishment; punishment is bad things happening in life; therefore bad things happening in life is a result of God’s punishment. It was a common belief then, it is still around today. So, trying to sound very spiritual and discerning, they ask Jesus who sinned this man or his parents that he was born blind. Jesus corrects their error, telling them that this man is blind for God to show forth his glory.
Jesus goes to the man and does not wait for the man to ask to be healed. Instead, telling his disciples that he must work as long as it is day, he makes mud with his saliva and spreads it on the man's eyes. Remember that when God made man from clay, he breathed into him the breath of life. Here Jesus is using the very stuff we are made of to restore this man’s sight. He put the mud on the man’s eyes, told him to wash, and he was healed. End of story, right, everyone rejoices and praises God? Not exactly.
People are so jaded and unbelieving, that they would rather believe that there is a long lost twin of the man born blind who is just showing up in the neighborhood, than that this man could receive sight. Isn’t that the way it always is, when we are confronted with something outside of our scope of reality, we will come up with just about any other explanation so we don’t venture outside our comfort zone. It happens all the time. Doctors are not convinced miracles happen, so they call it “spontaneous remission.” Here, the people are so confused and in need of definite answers to this out of place happening, that they march this man straight to the Pharisees.

John 9:13-34.
The man tells his story to the Pharisees, and they are divided over whether or not this counts as a miracle. The reason they were so taken aback by the man’s story is that Jesus make mud. By spitting and mixing the clay, he was doing “work.” And by putting the saliva in the man’s eye, he was doing so for healing purposes, which was also “work.” According to the rabbinical rules of the day, by doing this kind of work, Jesus was in gross violation of the Sabbath. So, here is a man who has performed a miracle, pointing to God’s favor on him, who also has violated what the understood rules of the Sabbath are. This is a paradox that they cannot resolve. So they do the unthinkable, they ask the man who was healed what his opinion was. This is unheard of, these guys have the answer for everything under the sun, and they are asking this man his opinion of Jesus. The man tells them that Jesus must be a prophet.
Not being able to decide who Jesus really is, the Pharisees turn back to the issue of “did this miracle actually happen?” They call in the man’s parents. The parents confirm that this is their son, but they have no idea how he came to see. Isn’t this sad? The very people who ought to be throwing a party to celebrate his new sight are now distancing themselves so they don’t get thrown out of the Synagogue. They are more concerned with tradition and religion than their own son.
The Pharisees call the man back again to rejoice because they have decided that Jesus must be a sinner. The answer the man gives to the Pharisees this second time is the most simple and profoundly succinct answer I have ever heard about Jesus. "Whether he is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see." I don’t know who he is, but I know that he made an impact on my life. This is the shared testimony of all who have had their lives touched by Christ. "I may not be a theologian or a scholar, but he changed my life. They question him again about the process Jesus used to give him sight, and the man asks if they want to become his disciples as well.
They call themselves disciples of Moses, and claim that there is more proof that Moses was a man of God. The man argues back that Jesus is performing miracles, that should be enough to prove to them that God is in his corner. Not only that, Jesus is performing miracles that no one else can do. Moses didn’t even do that. Remember in the Pharaoh’s court, every miracle Moses did, the Pharaoh’s magicians could duplicate. Here, Jesus is giving sight to a man born blind. Our doctor’s today still don’t have a handle on this. They can cure some sight issues that exist from birth, but not all, and not completely like Jesus did. This man was an adult, and when Jesus gave him sight there is every indication that he had no problem putting that new sight into immediate use. The reason that doctors have trouble with giving sight to adult patients is not in fixing the eye. There is a certain part of our brains that interprets what we see. If that portion of our brains does not develop within a certain amount of time after our birth, it is difficult, if not impossible to develop the ability to interpret what we see, even if the eyes are working. Jesus restored this man’s sight so completely that he had not problem seeing and using his sight to get around.
Not only is Jesus demonstrating the power of God, he is doing so in immeasurably greater ways than any who have come before, and even those who have come since. And the man gives the glory to God by saying that without God, Jesus could do nothing. The man who received his sight is beating the Pharisees at their own theological arguments and they are angry. So they strike with the only weapon that they have left, and that is the argument that in order to have been born blind, the man must have been steeped in sin at birth.

John 9:35-41.
Jesus has compassion on the man, and goes to find him. He reveals himself to the man as the Messiah. And the man puts his faith in him.
This simple man, who before that day had been unable to be a complete member of society, he may not have been allowed to fully enter the temple, yet this day he has received his sight. He has stood face to face and argued theology with the Pharisees. He has met the Christ and worshipped him. And we still have his testimony today because we need to know that it is not always the trained, the scholars, the theologians who always get it right. When you boil it down, it is the one who has met Jesus face to face and put his trust in him who gets it right.
Precisely because of their training and exposure to the Word of God, these men ought to have known Jesus when they encountered him, but they were too caught up in their particular theory of who the Messiah would be to accept the one that God sent.
The overwhelming message to us today is to connect ourselves to Christ. He is the one who can correct us in our errors like the disciples who thought the man or his parents must have sinned in order for him to have been born blind. We need to be connected to him so that we are not caught up in the concerns of religious tradition to the point of neglecting the truth of the gospel. We need to be connected to Jesus so that we have kingdom priorities guiding our lives, not advancing our own little kingdoms, but God’s kingdom.
Being connected to Jesus opens our eyes to the world around us. We get our focus off of our little world and begin to see God at work in the wide world around us. We need to be connected to him so that when all else fails we can say, I may not know everything, but this I know is true, I once was blind, and he opened my eyes.

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