The Fourth Sunday in Lent; Year A (3/30/2014)

Texts: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. 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 began 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.” 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.” 37Jesus 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. 39Jesus 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.” 40Some 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.

That Those Who Do Not See May See

This week’s Gospel lesson continues our journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem, the cross and his Passion. Now, along the way, we meet a man who has been blind since birth. Jesus’ disciples assume he is blind either because he or his parents sinned. We don’t learn why they think he might have sinned before being born (Do they imagine him sinning in the womb? In a previous life?); only that they consider blindness to be the consequence of a person’s misdeeds.

Jesus rejects this notion entirely, declaring that this man’s blindness provides an opportunity for “God’s works [to] be revealed in him.” This is the sixth of seven signs in St. John’s Gospel, each of them a Theophany — an occasion for God to be revealed in Jesus to those who can see.

The revelation of God proves to be the heart of this story, as some who can see perfectly well with their eyes are unable to see who Jesus is, while this man, who at first can see nothing with his eyes, is eventually able to see that he has been touched by: “the man called Jesus” (v.11), “a prophet”  (v.17), “a man… from God” (v.33), “Lord” (v.38), and by implication, “the Son of Man” (v.35).

Keeping in mind the purpose of St. John’s Gospel (“that you might come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God“ — 20:30-31), it is perhaps the question of the Pharisees in verse 40 that draws the reader into this story: “Surely we are not blind, are we?” The Pharisees are quite convinced about the truth of what they have come to believe and practice. So convinced, that they are unable to see in Jesus the new thing that God is doing before their very eyes. They are, in fact, blind; at least those of them who are unable to see that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of God.”

We too read this story with our own assortment of beliefs, assumptions, biases and traditions. As we read, are we able to see beyond our own vision to what God is seeking to reveal to us in Jesus?  Are we able to see how God is present, and being revealed to us today? Those are some important “season of Lent” questions — and we do well to grapple with them honestly.

May we, like the man born blind, be among those who are able to see. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why are the Pharisees, who are trained in religious matters, unable to see?
  2. What causes the man born blind to see who Jesus actually is?
  3. Who is changed by Jesus in this story, and who is not?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What beliefs, traditions or customs prevent me from “seeing” Jesus as the Messiah — my savior?
  2. How might I take this story seriously, in a way that can open me up to the presence of God?
  3. What other Biblical stories have shaped my understanding of God?