What would it be like to be born blind – and suddenly receive your sight?
Would it be like this: like coming into a familiar place and seeing it as for the first time?
Would it be like coming back into health after a long illness?
Would it be like – discovering a new faith & embracing it & then coming home?
How would your family react? What would the neighbors say? The priests & politicians?
This man was blind from birth: and the question posed to Jesus was, which sinned, him or his parents, that this is his condition? It had to be one or the other, right? But Jesus shows them the way out of this false dilemma. Neither one: he has been born blind in order that God’s truth might be revealed in the world. But they still don’t see it. And so, Jesus goes to work: he makes mud, he who made the world, and he takes this primordial ooze and he spreads it across the man’s eyes.
And then the man returns. Not all of them do. But this one does. And he can see. And his family and his neighbors can see that he can see.
Not a very comfortable moment. For him, for them. Can it be that this man had not sinned? That he was not being punished for some ancient fault? Can this be right? Is it a valid miracle if you do something like this?
So they take him to the experts – the Pharisees. The purest of the pure. They deserve sight, surely.
And oh dear – he says something unfortunate. He tells them the truth. What he has experienced: “I once was blind but now I see.”
And just how did that happen? “Jesus put mud on my eyes, then I washed, and now I see.”
And what do you say about him? “He is a prophet.”
This really upsets the apple cart. If sin is not the result of your fault, if sight is not the gift of the privileged few who – somehow – have not sinned, then what is the world coming to?
Grace. It is coming to grace. And truth, and light, and life, in the revelation of God’s glory in Jesus Christ.
Dangerous, dangerous words.
“One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
They cannot believe it; they cannot accept it. And so they drive him out.
Jesus finds him, and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Do you trust him?
And the man once blind begins his new life in the light of Christ.
“I came into this world,” says Jesus, “for judgment – for a dividing of the truth – so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
The experts are revealed in their blindness, their willful folly, their failure, their refusal, to see – it is much more comfortable in the dark with your eyes shut. So they pretend.
The man was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent Jesus while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as Jesus is in the world, he is the light of the world.
And he heals us. And then:
Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. This is what’s next.
The apostle Paul tells us what we are to do with this new life, this new light: Live as children of the light.
“Though you once were darkness, now as Christians you are light. Prove yourselves at home in the light, for where light is, there is a harvest of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Learn to judge for yourselves what is pleasing to the Lord; take no part in the barren deeds of darkness, but show them up for what they are. It would be shameful even to mention what is done in secret. But everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light. That is why it is said:
‘Awake, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you.’” (Eph 5.8-14 REB)
It takes a while to get used to this new sight. It takes a while to get used to this new light. To be restored to wholeness, when we are used to brokenness, and even more to be made a new creation – this is the promise of Christ Jesus. In him we find a new identity, a new community, new selves and relations. This is proud and painful. The man once blind now has a new life to live. Blinking in the sun, he emerges into the morning. It is a new day.
It is the new day of the Lord. The light of the world is shining. This is the day that the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Sources & Resources:
Lent IV, Year A
1 Samuel 16:1-13, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41, Psalm 23
Frederick Niedner, "Living by The Word: Reflections on the Lectionary", The Christian Century, February 26, 2008, Vol. 125, No. 4, p. 20-21.
Barbara Crafton, "The Almost Daily eMo: AN ASTONISHING THING. FUNNY, TOO. / STILL HEALING THE BLIND", March 1, 2008, The Geranium Farm, http://www.geraniumfarm.org