The Fourth Sunday in Lent (April 3, 2011)

Lessons:1st Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5:8-14 St. John 9:1-41

Prayer of the Day: Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us. By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

9:1 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.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

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.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 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.”

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. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

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, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered 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.

St. John 9:1-41, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A Man Born Blind

I can’t help but love this text. Jesus happens upon a blind man, and gives him sight for the first time in his life. Everybody in the whole town is stunned and amazed. They drop to their knees in wonder and appreciation for who Jesus is and what he is able to accomplish. They acknowledge that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, and they vow to follow him wherever he will lead them. The Christian movement is begun. Right? Wrong!

Remember, instead, how the story goes: The man’s neighbors suspect that someone has pulled a switch, spiriting away their blind neighbor and replacing him with a look-alike whose vision is just fine. The Pharisees focus on “how” Jesus gives him his sight, noting that kneading (the Greek word used for making mud from spit and dust) and spreading are prohibited on the Sabbath – so they accuse him of being a sinner, and working against the will of God. His parents are so afraid of the religious authorities that they will confirm their son was born blind, but they will admit to nothing more. “Go ask him,” they say. “We want nothing to do with this thing.”

How interesting it is that a person’s perspective can sometimes prevent the truth from being seen. The neighbors; the Pharisees; even, to a point, the man’s parents: they all are so determined to live within the expectations and the norms of their own lives and their own experiences that they can’t see or believe what has happened before their very eyes. Jesus has accomplished an incredible miracle! He has done something that, at least according to this now-seeing man (in verse 32), has never been accomplished before in the history of the world. By the power of Jesus, someone who was born without the ability to see is given the gift of sight. It is a transforming experience for the one who receives sight. And it might have been a transforming gift for those who are witnesses to this sign. But they won’t allow themselves to believe in it. They prefer the world the way it is. Predictable. Understandable. Normal.

Yet predictable, understandable and normal won’t be the benchmarks of Jesus’ ministry. To someone schooled in the structure of Sacred Jewish Law, he is unpredictable. To someone accustomed to the way people teach in the school and in the synagogues, he is incomprehensible. To someone dedicated to the laws of science known in the first century, he is far from normal. That, perhaps, is what makes his ministry so remarkable. That, perhaps, is why people begin to suspect he is more than “the latest rabbi to hit Jerusalem.” That, perhaps, is why the religious leaders of the day are so threatened by him. He has the capacity to turn things upside down. Witness the man’s reaction: “I don’t know who he is. I don’t understand his relationship with God. I don’t know how he was able to accomplish it, but I do know that although I was blind, now I see.”

Beyond our ability to predict it, understand it, or place it within the bounds of what we consider normal, Jesus comes to us to turn our world upside down and our hearts inside out, and to grace us with the ability to follow him. May this year’s Lenten journey draw us a bit farther down that road. May the presence of Christ in our lives open our eyes to what God would do, to us and through us, that the whole world might know God’s love.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why did it bother the religious authorities that Jesus gave sight to a blind man on the Sabbath?
  2. Why did the neighbors respond with such suspicion, and his parents with such fear?
  3. How was the man’s life changed?
  4. What sort blindness (singular or plural…) did Jesus heal?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What strong convictions do I hold, that I am reluctant to reconsider?
  2. When have I discovered that I was blind to a truth I wouldn’t allow myself to see?
  3. What growing edge is God involved with in my life right now?
  4. How is my faith seeking to expand my vision?