God’s Work Changes Lives

Written by Joel on May 17th, 2011

April 3, 2011
Fourth Sunday in Lent
John 9:1-41

In today’s Gospel reading we hear about how Jesus ruined the life of a blind man. Let me explain…

Jesus continues his journey (again on the run because he made some religious folks angry with statements he made about himself) He happens upon a man born blind; he was just passing by.

I want to give the disciples a break here; I don’t think they were being rude, nor trying to test Jesus. I think they just still had some important questions of their own; in particular one of the most difficult questions people of faith have been struggling with for a very long time: “If God is all good and if he is all powerful, why do bad things happen?” In Jesus day (and for many generations before) it was a popular belief that misfortune, pain, and suffering was punishment for sin (well, I suppose that belief is found even today). And now, in reply to this most difficult question; Jesus answers…”Wrong question.”

This man did not sin. His parents did not sin. He was born blind so that God’s works might be displayed in him.

The answer here, I do not believe is an answer to the “why bad things happen” question. Jesus leaves us to struggle with that question. Certainly, God does not cause misfortune to fall on people just to show how great God is – that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But in this particular case, with this particular blind man; God’s glory is about to be revealed.

Jesus heals the blind man. He spits on the ground and made mud and put it on his eyes (Yes, that was a gross back then as it would be for us today). And how strange that the way Christ heals the man would make any one of us that much more blind. Have you ever got mud in your eye? The healing is not quite complete; Jesus sends the blind man to wash in a nearby pool and it was there that he regained his site. Listening to the instruction of our Lord (though he could not even see him); the man was blind; but now he could see!

When the blind man returns home, we get the first image of how drastically his life had changed – ruined some might say. We learn in verse 8 that the man made his living by begging. In those days, there was no well-fare system, public assistance, low-income housing, or food stamps. People who had a rough set of circumstances (people who couldn’t walk, windows, orphans, the blind) were dependent on the offerings of others. Most often these folks would sit outside of the temple and meet worshipers as they went in and out. The faithful would provide tithes and offerings directly to those who needed it. I learned in Williamsburg, that even just a few hundred years ago, in our country’s infancy the church did such a good job of caring for the poor that a tax was collected and given over to the church to administer to the poor and needy. So the blind man made his living by almsgiving; well he used to make his living by almsgiving. How many worshippers would continue to give their hard-earned offering to a man who could now see. Now he could see, but he was born blind; there is no indication that he had any other work experience other than begging. Could you imagine the difficulty he would have trying to enter the work force as a grown man with no education and no experience? The man could see, but he lost his only source of livelihood.

This healing became the buzz of the town; it was the major newstory of the day and it came to the attention of the Pharisees who opened a formal investigation. Verse 14, now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath – and as you may know healing is not to take place on a Sabbath. They questioned him about the circumstances surrounding this healing. The didn’t question Jesus, who broke the Sabbath rules; they put the man born blind through this trial.

We learn that the man born blind had parents who cared for him (verse 18). But now with the controversy of being healed on the Sabbath, the parents had to start distancing themselves from their son who went so far as to call Jesus a prophet. Oh no! Ask him, we kinda don’t want anything to do with it. They were so afraid of getting wrapped up in the controversy and being thrown out of the synagogue. The man could see, but lost the support of his parents.

The trial continues, the conversation gets heated, the Pharisees get angry. And finally the verdict comes down – he was thrown out of the synagogue; excommunicated. This was the most severe form of punishment available by the church in that day. He would no longer be able to participate in the life of the synagogue, nor in the community. The man could see, but he was cast of the church.

Jesus finds the man born blind, who could no longer beg, who lost the support of his parents, who was thrown out of the synagogue. And offers him even greater sight. Do you believe in the Son of Man? Tell me! I want to believe. You see him, right here in front of you. The man believed and he fell down right there to worship him. This is God’s glory revealed in the man born blind.

The story leaves the blind man there and we are left to wonder what happened to him and what he did with his new transformed life. But we do know that the man could see; and the man saw Jesus as the Son of Man, The Lord, worthy of worship; the redeemer and savior of the world.


 

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