Meditation on John 9 (selected verses)
March 15, 2020
The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton, OH
As he walked 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 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “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.” …
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” …
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. …
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 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.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him… “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
Even with all the talk about the spread of the corona virus and schools closing for weeks, I didn’t think for a minute that we might actually cancel worship. Until Friday afternoon, when I learned that people were calling the church to see if we were canceling worship. And that Methodist Churches, including our near neighbor Grace, were closing by order of the bishop. So, I called our elders and our general presbyter. It was a difficult decision and truly heartbreaking for us all. But it was a decision made for love—to care for and protect one another.
I am here today to remind you that you are loved—by the Lord, your pastor, and your congregation—and that we are Christ’s new creation. We are a People of Hope and Faith. The Redeemed! The Holy Spirit still lives within us, is working among us and unites us as Christ’s Body. We have not been abandoned. Oh, no!
This fear that we are experiencing… It doesn’t come from the Lord. Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:7, “God does not give us a spirit of fear, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” And as to the confusing reports and general disorder around us, listen to Hebrews 13:9, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” And 1 Cor. 14:3, “God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”
Our loving Lord hasn’t sent a virus to punish us. Illness and disease are in this world because we live in frail, mortal bodies in a fallen creation. Christ never promises we won’t suffer. He says, “Pick up your crosses and follow me.” And that he will strengthen us until the end—when he comes again.
Here in the gospel of John chapter 9, we have proof that Christ desires to heal and make us whole. This is one of many healing stories in the New Testament. Here, a man was born blind, and what do Christ’s own disciples, along with the religious leaders, believe? His blindness is a punishment from God! They want to know, was it the man or his parents who sinned? Jesus sets them straight. “Neither…he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Blindness, from ancient times, was linked to poverty. If one was blind, one was limited in their ability to work and earn money and the stigma of blindness would separate them from polite, pious society. But also, blindness could be caused by living in poverty, without adequate shelter, care, and nutrition. This is truly a marginalized man, a despised outcast, who has no choice but to ask people to give him food and money to survive. And this is the one whom Christ chooses to bring to the center of the Jewish community’s attention—and reveal God’s glory.
Everyone is talking about what happened to this man and what it says about who Jesus is. This man’s worldly insignificance is emphasized by his not being identified by name. He is merely “a man blind since birth” and after he is healed, he is “the man who had formerly been blind.” And some don’t believe he is the same person! They disregard the miracle in front of their very eyes! Do we do that sometimes, my friends? Do we choose to be unhappy and ungrateful, rather than see the miracle of blessings every day?
In this story, the lowly, oppressed, and hungry are exalted by the Lord, while the wealthy and proud are brought down—as Mary predicts in her song after learning she will give birth to a holy child, son of the Most High. “For nothing,” the angel declares, “will be impossible with God.”
And how does the Light of the World bring healing to a man blind since birth? This is important—his blindness since birth and the method of his healing, like a rebirth! Just as God drew the first human, adam, close to him when he formed him from the dust of the ground, adamah, and breathed life into him, Jesus, the one through whom all things were created, spits on the ground, mixes his saliva with the adamah and touches the man’s eyes, spreading the mud and saliva on him. Then he tells him to “wash in the pool of Siloam, which means sent.” This word of Hebrew origin reminds me of the Greek word apostolos or apostle, as we translate in English. It means, “the one being sent with a message, messenger.” In John 7:37-38, it was to the Siloam water that the Lord points and says in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and let the one who believes in me drink.” And, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
Washing in the pool, the man accepts Christ’s invitation to be one who is sent with a message, without knowing what it will mean. Everything the man used to be—poor, marginalized, outcast, isolated, unidentified, and despised, walking in literal darkness—is washed away. History. Gone, like yesterday!
The despised sinner enthusiastically receives the gift of faith with his healing. The one whose own parents turn their backs on him, fearing they will be rejected by their community, says, “One thing I do know, though I was blind, now I see…” Then, as he is driven out from the place where he has lived his entire life up to now, Christ finds him—just as he always comes to find us, wherever we are. And invites all of us to become, like this man, one who is sent to bear witness to the Light, the one in whom is Life, and declare, “Lord, I believe.”
Friends, the Light of the World can help us see what is happening today in a different way. We no longer walk in darkness! We are The Redeemed! Resist the temptation to be fearful in this health crisis. Let us see with the eyes of eternity what is an opportunity for ministry. For it is in our prayer, “Open our eyes, Lord, that we may see,” that we will find our own strength and healing. Our joy will be restored! Do you need your joy restored?? Say, “Amen!”
It’s up to us to reveal the glory of the Lord. We can choose love! Everything we do, every healing word and prayer we say, every encouraging card we write, caring phone call we make. Every act of charity, especially now, will make a difference, not just in one life, but in many lives. One act of goodness will lead to another. And another. And another.
Every act of faith will lead to more. Until we are all transformed.
It’s like Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers said after the terrorist attacks of 911. “No matter what our particular job, especially in our world today,” said the star of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, “we all are called to be “tikkun olam, repairers of creation.” The Hebrew words “tikkun olam” refer to actions taken to improve society, including caring for others. “Thank you for whatever you do,” he said, “wherever you are, to bring joy and light and hope and faith and pardon and love to your neighbor and yourself.”
This was good advice for a devastated nation in 2001 and good advice for us today as we struggle with uncertainties, hoping and praying for God’s protection and healing for all. And with our acts of love for God and neighbor, we declare the good news of God’s salvation and say to the Lord, “I believe.”
Let us pray. Holy One, thank you for sending the Light of the World so that we may be your redeemed. Open our eyes, Lord, we pray, so that we might see as you see, hope as you hope, love as you love, live as you want us to live and believe as you call us to believe. Forgive us for our fears and selfish inclinations during this time of crisis. Give wisdom and all the necessary resources to the medical community to help and heal the sick. Protect caregivers and first responders, Lord. Grant wisdom to leadership in our churches, communities, and countries around the world. Be with all who are feeling isolated, lonely and afraid. Give us all the gifts of the Spirit—peace, patience, kindness, faith, endurance, and self-control, and, most of all, love that transforms darkness into Light, until all humanity hear the good news of your salvation and respond, “Lord, I believe.”