2014-03-02 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
GodStory, Act IV: Jesus
Key Event #26 of 40
Reading: John 9:1-41
Bible commentators call this one of the greatest [most cleverly written] stories of Jesus in all the gospels…and perhaps that’s why it shows up in all 4 gospels!
It’s especially “fun” in John because for most of the story, Jesus has disappeared!
This is a vivid and humourous story of seeing…or not seeing….of journeying towards the light, or choosing to ignore the light – –
Opening our eyes and allowing our whole beings to filled with light OR
closing our eyes, clenching our fists and moving towards the shadows…
into the night.
As the week-long festival of booths concludes, Jesus and his disciples decide to get out of dodge (so to speak)…it has been quite a week…the remnant of 11 disciples that had entered Jerusalem 7-days earlier has again become a larger force to be reckoned with but that has not come without its scars and woundings… the opposition from the crowds and the religious leaders in Jerusalem continues to escalate.
Jesus just can’t stop comparing himself to God and it is driving the religious people crazy! Jesus also speaks of a freedom that is foreign to so many who have their ideals and ways tied up with rules, regulations and traditions. He also talks of light versus darkness…in fact, he is using “I AM” statements and one of his most recent declarations about himself is Jesus saying “I AM the light of the world… whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
The light of life??
Someone in the crowd shouts out to Jesus: “Where can I get more of this light?”
The religious leaders tell them to shut up…to stop joining in the blasphemes of a mad man…they say: “You are a Samaritan and have a demon!” They pick up stones to throw at him but Jesus hides away and slips out of the temple courts.
So getting out of dodge for Jesus and his disciples is not a leisurely walk in the park but a frantic running through the masses who are leaving Jerusalem after the festival. Imagine thousands of people leaving the city and Jesus and his disciples darting in and out of the crowds eluding the religious leaders who were chasing them with stones in their hands…
They don’t get too far out of town before Jesus stops.
He sees a man who has been blind for many years.
The blind man sits near the side of the road with several other beggars and misfits…tattered clothes, a weathered mat to sit upon, listening to the movements and noises of his environment with glazed eyes and non-expressive, pursed lips.
He hears one of the disciples ask a question he’s heard many a time:
“Rabbi…who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?
The blind man hears an answer he’s never heard before:
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned…let the works of God be revealed in him…We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world, I AM THE LIGHT of the world.”
“The light of the world?” the blind man perks up. He thinks to himself: “If there’s anyone in this world who could use a little light you’d think that…”
The blind man hears a spitting sound…too close for comfort…
He then feels some kind of paste pushed upon his eyes and smeared across the bridge of his nose…is this a joke? He wonders to himself…are these people making a fool of me?
He hears the voice of the one who is called ‘Rabbi’:
“Go…wash in the pool of Siloam.”
A 20-minute walk for a person with sight, but for a blind man in a bustling crowd it’s a hour-long journey. Pushing against the crowd he makes his way to the bubbling brook just on the perimeter of the temple courts. And as he washes his eyes, it feels as if scales are falling from his eyes and he can see! Colour. Faces. The sky. Pillars. People laughing. Children playing. Dogs chewing on bones.
The blind man shoots his arms into the air and cries out “I can see! I can see, I can see!” He jumps around like child…tattered clothes….matted hair…. Crying out “I can see!”
He pushes his way back into the bustling crowd and sprints to the place he calls “home”… other beggars and cripples with their makeshift tents who have squatter’s rights just outside of Jerusalem. He shouts at his friends: “I can see!” Look at me….look at me….I can see!”
One of the merchants who lives nearby overhears the screams of the once-blind man and asks: “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”
The man shouts out: “Yes, I am the man…I am the man!”
The merchant replies “But how were your eyes opened?”
The once-blind man answers: “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”
The merchant inquires: “So where is he?”
Once-blind man answers: “I do not know!”
Now some of these merchants were friends of Pharisees and knew enough about religion that making mud on a sabbath is “out of bounds” for a Jewish worshipper.
They implore the once-blind man to join them as they go to the temple courts to talk to these wise, book-savvy religious leaders.
The Pharisees echo the questions of the rural merchants: “How were your eyes opened?”
The once-blind man answers: “The man called Jesus! He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed. Now I see.”
One of the Pharisees grumbles: “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.”
But another Pharisee pushes back: “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?”
And yet another presses into the argument and says: “You’re both wrong!” Ask the blindman… “What do YOU say about him? It was YOUR eyes he opened.”
The once-blind man says: “HE is a prophet.”
The frustrated Pharisees mutter to the man: “Liar! Take us to your parents.”
The fourteen Pharisees dressed in their Sunday finest march behind the once-blind man and push him and themselves into the parent’s quaint and quiet home.
The once-blind man shouts out to his parents: “I can see!”
The parents, in a state of shock and confusion, embrace their son but are quickly barraged by Pharisee interrogation:
“Is this your son? Do you say he was born blind? How does he now see?”
The parents respond nervously (for they fear the risk of being de-synagogued): “This is our son…yes, he was born blind…but we do NOT know how it is that now he sees…and we don’t know who opened his eyes!
ASK HIM! He’s old enough to speak for himself.”
The Pharisees interrogate the once-blind man again…
“This man Jesus is NOT from God…so give glory to God! We know that Jesus is a sinner.”
The man answers: “I do not know whether he is a sinner. ONE THING I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” [amazing grace!]
The Pharisees sneer and glare: “What DID he do to you? How did he open your eyes?
Once-blind man answers: “I have told you already, and you would not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again??
Do….Do…. (a grin of sheer joy emerges on his grimy face)…do you also want to become his disciples?”
With demon-like rage they hiss at him: “YOU are his disciple, but WE are disciples of Moses. We KNOW that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do NOT KNOW where he comes from!”
The man is unshaken by their venom: “Astonishing! You do NOT know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We all know that God does not listen to [willful] sinners, but God DOES listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were NOT from God, he could do nothing!”
The Pharisees answer: “You were born ENTIRELY in sins, and YOU are trying to teach US?”
Several of them grab the man and throw him out of his parents’ house.
He lands in the middle of the dusty street and lifts his head as he watches the Pharisees walk back towards the temple.
He follows from a distance…curious of who they’ll interrogate next….
Standing on a high place in the temple courts, a large crowd has gathered….
The voice of the one teaching near the synagogue…it’s the Rabbi!
Jesus walks towards the once-blind man….the man runs towards Jesus.
“Rabbi!” the man cries out.
Jesus stares into the eyes of the one who sees and asks:
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
The man answers: “Sir…who is he? Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus answers: “You HAVE seen him, and the ONE speaking with you is he.”
“LORD….I believe!” The once-blind man falls to his knees, puts his face to the feet of Jesus and kisses the hem of his robe, tears of gratitude well up in his eyes…
Jesus looks around to the crowd of onlookers and says:
“I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
The Pharisees guffaw at another of Jesus’ nonsensical sayings… “Surely we are not blind, are we?
Jesus answers: “If ONLY you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ you are stuck in your sin.”
* * * * * * *
I think there’s 2 ways to journey with this story today…
Towards light – –
Towards dark – –
In this season of Epiphany, I hope you can say you’re being en-lightened by the Light of the world.
Remember the “I found it” campaign? [mid 70’s Christian Billboard campaign]
Well, contrary to finding Jesus if you try hard enough, or ask the right person…the good news of today’s story is that Jesus finds you.
Like the once-blind man….and the woman at the well….and the man healed at the pool of Beth-esda…the recurring good news theme of the gospel of John is that Jesus finds you.
Jesus sees you first. In your proud and strong state WHEN U claim to
know so much/see so well…or in your meek and lowly state WHEN you’ve come to the end of your rope/end of your resources… Jesus sees you first.
And you and I are thus given a choice…to follow this one who calls himself the light of the World, or to stay in the dark…arms folded in front of us…harrumph-ing our way through life, faith – – turning a “blind eye” to the gracious and abundant invitations of our living Lord.
As you make your way to the table of the Lord this morning, follow the example of the poor, lowly, once-blind man – – come to Jesus with a heart, mind and soul that says: “I believe”….and allow the living and loving God to heal you, to feed you, to open your eyes…
Eat the bread of Christ, with eyes wide open….recognizing Jesus’ faithful providence for you…
Drink the cup of Christ, through eyes of faith…fixing your gaze on the fullness of Jesus’ life and his life poured out for you and through you…an empowering presence that animates your life and love towards others…
May the words of Psalm 34 come alive to us at the table of the Lord this morning:
“Taste and see that the Lord is good, happy and blessed are those who take refuge in him!”
In John Chapter 10….this tone of invitation and providence continues…hear Jesus say: “Whoever enters by me, the Gate, will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture…I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.”
The invitation is generous, sure, and lavish.
Jesus’ promises continue…
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them deep, lasting life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Come and see….Come and taste…Come and hear…the Lord is good!