Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Today’s Gospel reading is about sight, especially about seeing as a metaphor for believing. Words pertaining to seeing appear 24 times in this 41 verse story. But seeing isn’t just a metaphor. The man born blind really can’t see. And when he regains his sight; his life is literally transformed. Today, I’m doing things a little differently. The following are comments and questions for you to ponder as you read through the Gospel lesson. Please write down the ones that especially speak to you as you read through the lesson.
1. Many scholars see in this story the historical experience of the community to which the Gospel of John is addressed. That is, John’s community may very well have been expelled from the synagogue for confessing Jesus as the Messiah and this narrative tells their powerful story. With everything that has been shut down because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, including our worship services, it feels like we too are expelled from our “synagogue.” Questions: How do you think this passage addressed these feelings of isolation or abandonment in John’s community? How might they address our feelings when we feel left out of alone?
2. The passage works to undermine simplistic understandings of sin. When the disciples voice a common view of the day–disability or hardship is the result of sin–Jesus disagrees. Similarly, when the Pharisees assert that the knowledge of the law automatically grants righteousness, Jesus counters by saying, that precisely because they deny their sin and claim to “see” they are in fact sinning. If they were able to admit their blindness, they would not be sinning and receive sight. In John’s Gospel “sin” at its most basic is not recognizing Jesus as God’s Messiah, the person through whom God is at work to save the world. Questions: How do we typically define “sin”? How does this story broaden our understanding fo both sin and grace?
3. The turning point of the story may be when the man born blind receives his sight. It may also be, however, when he confesses his faith as a result of he new found sight. Many Christians since–including John Newton the slave-trader turned abolitionist and composer of “Amazing Grace”–have been inspired by the man’s confession, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” Questions: When have we felt blind in our lives? When ahve we experienced a sense of new sight, new life, a new chance to be the persons we have been called to be? And now the Gospel reading.
The Holy Gospel according to John the 9th chapter.
Gospel Reading: As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might 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.” 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, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar bagan to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 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.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had receied his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a nam who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
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 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 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.” 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. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
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.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 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?” Then they reviled him, saying, “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 answered, “Here is an astonding thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners but he 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.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him, 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.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Prayers for March 22, 2020:
We pray for the church, the world and for all those in need.
Compassionate God, support and strengthen all those who reach out in love, concern, and prayer for the sick and distressed, especially Kim, Audrey, Arlene, Loren, Karen, Harlan, Daryl, Nathan, Madelon, those infected with COVD-19, our church family in isolation, and those we name in our hearts. In their acts of compassion, may they know that they are your instruments. In their concerns and fears, may they know your peace. In their faithful serving, may they know your steadfast love. May they not grow weary or faint-hearted, for your mercy’s sake. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray to you almighty God in this time of pandemic. You are our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Do not let us fail in the face of these events. Uphold us with your love, and give us the strength we need. Help us in our confusion, and guide our actions. Heal the hurt, console the bereaved and afflicted, protect the innocent and helpless, and deliver any who are still in peril; for the sake of your great mercy in Jesus Christ our Lord. We ask you to watch over our church family and this week we lift up to you: Stephan, Emma and Maci Basness; Beatriz, Genaro, William, Jesse, Ryan, Ian and Eddie Cardenas; John Christianson; Madelon Collette; James Decker; Marilyn Helleck; Amanda Herdina; Brent, Jennifer, and Ayren Ingvalson; Joyce Peterson; and Marvin Peterson. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We lift up these prayers to you knowing that you hear these and the unspoken prayers of our hearts, through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.