Sunday, 30 March 2014

Man born Blind

GospelJohn 9:1-41 
As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
‘As long as the day lasts
I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;
the night will soon be here when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world
I am the light of the world.’
Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man, and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.

  His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.

  They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man. However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we do not know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’

  So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

  Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.
  Jesus said:
‘It is for judgement
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those with sight turn blind.’
Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:
‘Blind? If you were,
you would not be guilty,
but since you say, “We see,”
your guilt remains.’


John takes this story very seriously; I assume we are meant to as well. John enjoys using the idea of 'seeing' throughout it gospel. Comparing the superficial with deep understanding and asking which level do you think you are on?


This story of the 'man born blind'  reads like the transcript of a trial. And in many ways, it is. Jesus' disciples have been with him all this time. They have witnessed  all the works that Jesus has done; have listened to all the words of forgiveness and justice. Yet they still cling to the idea of a 'scapegoat'. They still comply with the idea that there are people within the community who are the 'other' and the 'lesser. Guilty of nothing more than fulfilling a need for someone to blame. 



Jesus didn't believe it. He didn't seen anything wrong with being blind, or lame or a leper; what bothered him was the judgement that went along with it. That there were people, rites and traditions that  decided who was 'in' or 'out' when his Father looked at everything and pronounced it, him, her, them - 'Good'.

When the disciples ask the question 'who can be blamed for this disability?' it must be hoped that they are beginning to think twice. But they still wait for a cure- for the man to made whole in their eyes so that he can be accepted. 

With a delightfully creative gesture Jesus turns to the good earth for the healing. And, without even asking, the man is given his sight; returned to his family; his assumed 'sin' is washed away in Siloam's water. Yet not much seems changed.

There is still a need for a scapegoat. So the finger points to Jesus. It seems that that someone can look godly; act godly and speak godly - but that doesn't make them godly. Not if you have already made your mind up. 

Which some of the Pharisees have - any friend of his is no friend of ours. Like us the Jews relied on their clerics to give them the answers. Why should they not trust them now?

You can say 'we see' but what do you see? Is the rules, the status quo? You cannot heal on the Sabbath; you cannot heal at all without there being a price; you cannot take away sin without sacrifice. You cannot befriend the stranger or question prejudice. 

Sadly, our faith remains full of exceptions and prejudices. We worship knowing that even the religious media is full of hate and discrimination. How are we to live as disciples except by 'seeing' the Word.


We read the Gospel to remind ourselves that hatred and exclusion are human failings not God's. In asking God to heal us of our blindness - in prayer and in life - we become witnesses. The works of God - kindness, generosity and compassion -  can be displayed in us when we have been bathed in the Light of World. 




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1 comment:

Lynda said...

What an example of simple faith in Jesus as the man speaks to the Pharisees in verse 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.” I pray for such a faith. Blessings.