The Fourth Sunday in Lent
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 9:1-41

IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, THERE IS ALWAYS MORE GOING ON THAN FIRST APPEARS. IN THE ACCOUNT OF JESUS GIVING SIGHT TO A MAN BLIND FROM BIRTH, IT IS NOT SO MUCH THE MIRACLE THAT JESUS PERFORMS, BUT THE REACTIONS TO IT THAT ARE POTENT WITH IMPLICATIONS FOR ALL CONCERNED, AS WELL AS FOR US. THE STORY BEGINS WITH JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES WALKING ALONG AND COMING UPON A MAN BLIND FROM BIRTH. WHEN THEY SEE HIM, ONE OF THE DISCIPLES ASKS, “RABBI, WHO SINNED, THIS MAN OR HIS PARENTS, THAT HE WAS BORN BLIND.” THIS WAS AN EXPRESSION OF THE SUPERSTITIOUS RELIGIOUS THINKING THAT PHYSICAL HANDICAPS WERE THE RESULT OF GOD’S JUDGMENT FOR SIN. THEY DON’T SEE THE MAN, THEY SEE ONLY HIS DISABILITY, AND THAT ONLY AS A RESULT OF SIN.

THIS POOR MAN, WHO WAS AN ADULT, HAD BEEN SITTING IN THE SAME PLACE MOST OF HIS LIFE, BEGGING FOR ALMS FROM PASSERS-BY. HE COULDN’T WORK; ALL HE COULD DO WAS BEG, BUT HIS EARS WORKED JUST FINE, AND HE COULD HEAR THE JUDGMENT THE DISCIPLES, AND SOCIETY, LAID UPON HIM. JESUS, HOWEVER, SEES THE MAN AS A REVELATION OF GOD’S WILL.

THE FIRST THING JESUS DOES IS FREE THE MAN FROM THE FALSE JUDGMENT OF SOCIETY, SAYING THAT HIS BLINDNESS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SIN. HOW WONDERFUL THAT STATEMENT MUST HAVE SOUNDED IN THE EARS OF THE BLIND MAN, BREAKING A LIFETIME BURDEN OF FALSE JUDGMENT. JESUS THEN SPAT ON THE GROUND AND MADE MUD PASTE (THE WORD FOR EARTH IS ADAM, SO JESUS USED ADAM TO HEAL A SON OF ADAM) AND SPREAD IT ON THE MAN’S EYES, TELLING HIM TO GO WASH IN THE POOL OF SILOAM. HE DID SO AND CAME BACK ABLE TO SEE.

YOU WOULD THINK THAT HIS NEW SIGHT WOULD BE A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION, THAT HIS NEIGHBORS WOULD REJOICE FOR HIM, AND HIS PARENTS WOULD HOLD A FEAST. HIS NEIGHBORS COULD NOT ACCEPT THE EVIDENCE OF THEIR OWN EYES, EVEN THINKING IT WAS SOME SORT OF TRICK WITH A LOOK ALIKE. DIVIDED IN THEIR OPINIONS, THEY TOOK HIM TO THE SYNAGOGUE TO GET THE JUDGMENT OF THE PHARISEES. THAT IS WHERE THE QUESTIONING GOT SERIOUS, BECAUSE IT WAS THE SABBATH, AND NO WORK, NOT EVEN HEALING, WAS TO BE DONE ON THE SABBATH.

NOW THE PHARISEES HAD A LOT OF TRADITIONS ABOUT WHAT CONSTITUTED WORK ON THE SABBATH, BUT MOST, IF NOT ALL, WERE HUMAN INTERPRETATIONS OF WHAT GOD’S LAW MEANT BY NO WORK. WHAT JESUS DID GAVE THEM A REAL HEADACHE; HOW COULD JESUS HEAL A MAN BLIND FROM BIRTH UNLESS HE WAS FROM GOD, BUT, IF HE WAS FROM GOD, HOW COULD HE VIOLATE THE SABBATH. AT FIRST THEY TRIED TO DENY A MIRACLE TOOK PLACE, BUT ALL THE WITNESSES AGREED THAT THE MAN BLIND FROM BIRTH COULD NOW SEE. THEY EVEN DRAGGED HIS PARENTS IN FRONT OF THEM, AND THEY CONFIRMED THEIR SON WHO WAS BLIND COULD NOW SEE. WHEN ASKED HOW COULD THIS BE, AFRAID THAT THEY WOULD BE CAST OUT OF THE SYNAGOGUE, THEY TOLD THE PHARISEES TO ASK THEIR SON.

THEN THE PHARISEES TRIED TO COME UP WITH A WAY FOR JESUS TO GIVE SIGHT TO THE BLIND BUT STILL BE A SINNER. AS YOU READ THE ACCOUNT, YOU CAN ALMOST SEE THE HOLY SPIRIT AT WORK IN THE MAN WHO HAD BEEN BORN BLIND. HE BEGAN TO PERCEIVE THAT THE PHARISEES WERE AFRAID, AND THAT WHAT JESUS HAD DONE THREATENED THEM, AND THAT THEY WERE CLUELESS. AT FIRST, THE FORMER BLIND MAN ANSWERED THEIR QUESTIONS WITH RESPECT. OVER TIME, HE BEGAN TO POKE FUN AT THEM. BY THE END OF THE EXAMINATION, THE BLIND MAN WAS PREACHING TO THEM, AND EVEN THOUGH HE HAD NEVER SEEN JESUS, OR HAD A FULL UNDERSTANDING OF WHO HE WAS, YET WHAT LITTLE HE KNEW, HE CONFESSED. “I ONCE WAS BLIND, BUT NOW I SEE.” HE COULD SEE NOW THAT THE ONE WHO HEALED HIM WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PHARISEES OR THEIR SABBATH RULES. IN THEIR ANGER, THE PHARISEES TOSSED HIM OUT OF THE SYNAGOGUE, BUT, BY THEN, HE DIDN’T CARE. THE WONDERFUL IRONY OF ALL THIS IS THAT THE PHARISEES DID THIS ON THE SABBATH.

HEARING THAT THE FORMER BLIND MAN HAD BEEN CAST OUT OF THE SYNAGOGUE, JESUS SOUGHT HIM OUT, AND IDENTIFIED HIMSELF TO THE ONE HE HAD RESTORED. THE ONE WHO COULD NOW SEE COULD SEE CLEARLY INDEED, AND HE FELL DOWN AND WORSHIPED JESUS. THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS; JESUS SEEKS US OUT, AND WHEN, BY THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT OUR BLINDNESS IS HEALED, WE CAN SEE THE TRUE POWER OF GOD IN THE PERSON OF JESUS, AND OUR ONLY RESPONSE IS TO WORSHIP THE ONE WHO HAS FREED US AND MADE US WHOLE.

THE PHARISEES IN THIS STORY, AND IN GENERAL, WERE NOT WRONG FOR BEING TEACHERS AND PROTECTORS OF THE LAW OF GOD. MOST OF THEM WERE PROBABLY GOOD AND DEVOUT MEN WHO SPENT A LIFETIME TRYING TO LIVE RIGHT AND KEEP THEIR FAITH PURE; BUT THEY WERE PEOPLE AND, LIKE ALL PEOPLE, HAD BLIND SPOTS. WE ALL HAVE A BIT OF PHARISAICAL BLIND SPOTS IN US, EVEN THOSE OF US WHO HAVE BEEN CALLED TO BE THE FOLLOWERS OF THE CHRIST OF GOD. WE CAN OFTEN SEE ONLY THE HANDICAP AND NOT THE PERSON. WE CAN FIND OURSELVES JUDGING OTHERS WITHOUT A FULL UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR SITUATION, OR THE DIFFICULTIES OF THEIR LIVES. WE CAN FAIL TO SEE THE POWER OF GOD AT WORK IN WAYS WE WOULD NEVER ANTICIPATE, OR EVEN UNDERSTAND. WE CAN FIND OURSELVES THINKING OR SAYING SOMETHING CAN’T BE WHAT GOD WANTS US TO DO BECAUSE WE’VE NEVER DONE IT THAT WAY BEFORE. WE CAN BE SO BLIND AS TO NOT EVEN SEE THE NEEDS OF OTHERS WHO ARE RIGHT IN FRONT OF US, BECAUSE WE ARE SO PREOCCUPIED WITH OUR OWN AFFAIRS.

WHAT JESUS DID ON THE SABBATH BY HEALING THE BLIND MAN WAS TO RESTORE HIM TO A PLACE IN THE COMMUNITY. WHAT THE PHARISEES DID ON THE SABBATH WAS TO CAST HIM OUT OF THE COMMUNITY. THEY COULD NOT SEE THAT THE SABBATH WAS THE MERCY OF GOD FOR MANKIND, AND ACTS OF MERCY ARE ALWAYS THE WILL OF THE FATHER. TO SEE THIS IS TO SEE TRULY.

IT IS ONLY WHEN WE RECOGNIZE OUR BLINDNESS, AND CRY OUT TO OUR LORD AND GOD TO OPEN OUR EYES, THAT HE WILL RESTORE OUR SIGHT AND WE CAN SEE HIS POWER AT WORK IN US AND IN OTHERS. THEN WE CAN SAY, I ONCE WAS BLIND, BUT NOW I SEE.
AMEN

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