Sunday, March 02, 2008

Is Seeing Better?

John 9: 1-12

Sometimes it’s tough to see Jesus. Sometimes, it would be easier to stay blind. It’s less trouble, and you know what to expect from life.

The blind man who is healed by Jesus in today’s gospel passage was born so, as the story goes. His blindness has been caused by either his own sin before he was born, or the sins of his parents visited upon him. That’s what the people around him had always said, anyway.

But Jesus had a different opinion. He was born blind, Jesus said. Whether he sinned or someone else did isn’t the right question. A better question might be, how can God’s love be shown to him or through him to others? And then he proceeds to spit into the dirt, rub it together into a paste, and daubed on the man’s eyes. Then he said to go to the pool of Sent and wash that mud off.

So the man goes, and he realizes that as soon as the mud is washed off, he can see!”

Now it gets hard. The people are fascinated with this—this guy was born blind! Has he been forgiven the sins he committed before he was born? Have his parents been forgiven for their sins, the punishment of which he has received? They don’t really even recognize the guy, they keep asking if it is him, or just someone who looks like him. He says that he’s the guy.
“What happened?”, they ask.
“The man Jesus healed my blindness.”
“Where is he?”
“No idea.”

Well, this healing happened on a Sabbath, and the perpetrator was nowhere around, so they took the victim of this lawbreaking to the religious authorities.

“Tell us what happened”, they say.

“Jesus restored my sight.”

And off the religious authorities go.

“Well, this Jesus broke the law. That makes him a sinner.”

But there is argument; “if he is a sinner, how can he restore sight?”

Finally, they remember the formerly blind man, and ask him: “What do you say about this guy?”

“Don’t know the man, but I’d say he’s a prophet.”

For these religious people without much imagination, it can’t be true that Jesus is a prophet, that he would heal on the Sabbath, because that is not what a prophet would do. (We do tend to want our prophets to follow our rules.) And so, the mind not being as limber or as open as it should be, the conclusion becomes “well, this guy isn’t the blind guy after all.” It takes the man’s parents to come in and say “he is our son, he was born blind, but we have no idea how he came to have received his sight. We don’t know who did it. Ask him, he was there, and he’s an adult.”

So they drag him back to the authorities. OK, you have to testify now, and say that this Jesus guy is a sinner. He healed on the Sabbath. Give glory to God and tell us how much of a sinner the man Jesus was!”

Well, our formerly blind hero won’t buy it. “Look, people. I was blind, now I can see. I’ve told you this already. I have no idea whether he is a sinner. All I know is that I can see. Why do you want to hear this story again? Are you looking for him so that you can follow him too?”

“Psh! Follow him? We follow Moses. We don’t know this guy at all.”

“You don’t know him, and yet he healed my blindness? That’s rich! You’re the authorities. You call this Jesus guy a sinner, and yet he opened my eyes, and we know that only the ones who listen to God can work miracles!”

The authorities reply “Whoa, slow down there, buddy. YOU don’t get to teach us about sins and forgiveness. You were born with the sins of your father on you. You’ve got nothing to teach us. Out of this institution you go! You are no longer a member of us!”

Hearing that the man had been kicked out, Jesus went to find the man, who now could see Jesus, but had lost what little religious standing he had. Jesus asked him, “Do you believe that there is someone coming who will provide the judgment of God?” The man replies “yes, but who is he?” Jesus says “Me.” The man says “I believe you”, and worships him. Jesus says “I come to bring light to the world, and those who can’t see it will be treated according to their willing blindness.”

And the religious authorities say “We’re blind? Nah. Can’t be. We’re the authorities.”

When God works in the world, people don’t want to hear it. It’s uncomfortable. When something happens to people who are outside of our safe little boundaries, we don’t believe it. “Because of who they are”, we say, “what they claim can’t be true.”

If you believe in grace, if you believe that God works in all of his children, whether they believe in him or not, then you have to be open to God choosing people you consider to be weird, or dangerous, because of what they do or who they believe. You have to almost expect it. After all, God can’t do much work with those who don’t have any problems, who know everything.

Is seeing better than knowing?

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