Sermon, Lent 4A, Sunday March 26, 2017, St Petri
41 Jesus said…., ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
Life has its tough things and easy things and everything in between. We need good sight to navigate this journey – as individual Christians, as families serving the Lord, as a local community of Christians with resources to use well, the future to plan for under God, the mission to bear witness to his grace here in our place.
How shall we see? What helps people see Him? How can I see him and his presence in my day? Who should I consult, ask, rely on to see?
Today we will hear that we don’t see as much as we think; that we are more blind than we think, even as Christians – or we can be.
We will hear that the greatest blindness is not admitting that you are blind; that the best seeing is acknowledging that you are blind to him.
I wish I could see more of God at work in you and in my own self. What will give me eyes to truly see him and what he is doing day-to-day? We have the answer here – but because of our human brokenness, it is hard to see. Unless we know we are blind, we will never see.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.
2 His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 3 ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. Jesus spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
As usual, people around Jesus get to see and hear things that challenge them. Today they get to see the Light of the World at work – what that looks like in real life.
On this particular day, different people discover how good their eyesight is.
The disciples: They get a lesson about their blindness when it comes to dealing with sickness and disability.
The unnamed blind man: He gets a lesson about who it is that gives light and life and how he can live life truly seeing.
The religious people: They get a lesson about what they can actually see, and they don’t like it at all.
It is best to place yourself among these. you, like me, are probably in all three.
They and Jesus come across one of the many blind people who are reduced to begging to keep alive.
Their response to this obvious suffering is a question – a very obvious question for people of the day – based on a very common belief of the day. “Who sinned? This guy or his parents?
The belief is that God punishes people for sin in one way or another; and ‘special sin’ gets ‘special punishment’.
His disability must be a result of his parents’ sin. They must have done something really bad to deserve this bad suffering. So, the belief was that anyone who has a child with any disability is being punished for a bad decision, a bad motive, a bad life.
This belief is still quite common. Just think of the belief in reincarnation. Or, listen to what people often say, ” What have I done to deserve this?”, and, ” She must have done something really bad to suffer like that”.
Same belief as Jesus’ disciples here: Suffering is punishment for wrong. God or fate or “Mother Nature” pay us back for our wrongs.
Thank God today that Jesus respond with, “Not him or his parents”. Suffering is not payback from God and neither is disability. Jesus removes this false and destructive, heartless and damaging belief from our sight. Jesus gives such hope when he days that disability and sickness are places where God heals and restores in his way – short or long, but always love.
The unnamed blind man.
Jesus directs this blind man to receive some spit and sand on his blind eyes and then get himself on over to the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem where he is to wash it off. And the guy responds. He does what he is directed to do in good faith and probably quiet desperation. The blind man can now see something. Not everything, but something. And people at the pool are watching…. “Who did this for you?”, they ask.
‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’
This causes a stir. That is the point of the miracles. They point to the Words that are around them and man who says the words.
Some of the people want to hear what the experts say about this, after all, it is the Sabbath Day and this kind of thing is expressly forbidden by them. Plus, the experts in God hold themselves up as the experts on seeing. This should be fun to see!
15 The Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed, and now I see.’
16 Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man (Jesus) is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’
But others asked, ‘How can a sinner perform such signs?’ So they were divided.
The man replied, ‘He is a prophet.’
The legal eagles go to work. “Who did this and how? The man just tells what happens. He just names Jesus, “a man”. He has no idea who Jesus is. But he does know he can now see something.
The Pharisees have a big problem. How can a man who is not able to see God; Jesus, whom they name “sinner”; a lawbreaker; breaking the Sabbath law to do it even, do this work that only God could do (give sight to a blind man)? Like Nicodemus, and the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus does not fit into their well-defined categories of who can see and who can’t!
18 They still did not believe. They sent for the man’s parents. 19 ‘Is this your son?’ they asked. ‘Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?’
20 ‘We know he is our son,’ the parents answered, ‘and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age…”
Well, in the style of Mr Trump, they say. “this is ‘fake news’. They get his parents in and grill them. They also have no idea what happened and who ‘the man’ is. But that say that this is our boy and he can now see. No joy for the seeing but frustrated law keepers!
They are persistent! You have to be if you are going to base your identity and your status on what you can do to earn God’s favour to avoid his punishment. It is a never-ending job that will eventually sap you of all joy.
They drag the man back in.
But now there is a change. The man who can see gains some confidence and courage from the challenge to his integrity. His sight is being tested and it is not all bad.
26 Then they asked him, ‘What did he do to you?
27 He answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!
30 The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.
34 To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.
Ah. So the people who pride themselves on being all seeing, “disciples of Moses” very, very good, clean living and so, closer to God because of their good behaviour, are challenged to see that they can’t see; their blindness is not admitting that they are blind!
That is the greatest blindness isn’t it? Not seeing that you can’t see? never admitting that you could be wrong; never acknowledging that you have blind spots; pretending that you can see when you can’t? deceiving yourself that you are not a sinner in need of grace; or a blind person needing Jesus’ touch of new sight?
Like us, the religious good people don’t like hearing that they don’t know, they can’t see; that they are not as good as they think.
They attack. Now who is paying back who?
34 To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.”
“How dare they tell me who has been successful in life tell me that I need to work on my skills or learn something more, or understand something more!” How dare those younger people, older people, disabled people, sinful people, different people, leader people challenge the great ME!”
Spiritual blindness is pretending that you can see God yourself; without him giving you his sight, from within your own insight.
But what will help us truly see? Here’s the clincher.
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’
36 ‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’
41 Jesus said to the Pharisees in earshot, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
After this man who was once blind is finally thrown out of the church, Jesus finds the guy in the crowd again. There is more sight – a spiritual sight; a 20/20 inner sight to be recovered now. And this changes everything.
“Do you believe”, asks the only One who truly sees everything about us.
“Tell me who he is and I will”, says the man.
“I am the Light you are beginning to see”, says the only One who truly sees.
Now something even more extraordinary than a person receiving sight happens.
For a Jewish man of any station in life to kneel before another Jewish man, and for that Jewish man to let this person kneel before him is remarkable. Jews don’t bow down to any other person or image of a thing because of their understanding of the first and greatest commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me”.
But the man, who can now not only physically see, but who now who truly knows his blindness spiritually, does this very thing right there at Jesus’ feet – he ‘worships’ – either flat on his face on the ground literally at Jesus’ feet or kneeling the same.
It has all been to get the man to this point. Us too. To worship Jesus is the relationship that gives us true sight. He is the light we need above all other light and he gives us sight beyond just mere sight.
Friend, if we really want to see God at work, then kneeling before Jesus in overwhelming adoration and joy at what he has done and is doing for you is where we get our true spiritual eyes.
Kneeling? It is the sign of humility and vulnerability before a God who has our life and death, our acceptance and condemnation in his hands alone.
Friend, Jesus says to you today, ‘If you are blind, you are not be guilty of sin; but in as much as you claim you can see, your guilt remains’.
Lord, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, I was blind but now I see” – thanks to your wonderful acceptance and healing in the baptising of me.
We throw ourselves at his feet – and we truly see all that is needed for this life we are called by him to live.
You want to see? Worship Jesus.
Read the Account quite slowly out loud, pausing to identify questions you have or share what you picture/understand as you go…. Share your questions and pictures….
I suggested that lesson were learn this day by three people/groups of people;
The disciples, the Man born blind and the Pharisees.
What beliefs did each group/person display?
What challenge did Jesus bring to them
Who do you identify with most strong and why
I suggested that people still believe that suffering, and especially disability is somehow punishment for wrong. When you think about the people you know, would you agree with this or are there other things people believe about why suffering happens?
I suggested that the whole point of this account is to show us what Jesus, the light of the world does and says to us in real life. He is the new place of worship and worshipping him gives us true sight.
What do you make of the statement from Jesus;
‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
Who do you know who claims to see and who do you know who claims that they cannot see and what the difference you see in these people?
Jesus, light of the world, shine on us so that we see you today in everything.