4th Sunday of Lent
"How were your eyes opened?” (Jn. 9:1-41)
In John’s Gospel, this encounter with a man born blind happened shortly after Jesus was just threatened to be stoned to death for blasphemy. It is apparent that the threat of death had not swayed or deterred Jesus from doing works of mercy.
The disciples appeared to be more interested in the theological question of the reason for suffering. Either they knew about this man being blind from birth or perhaps the blind man was calling out that he had been blind from birth as his reason for begging on the street. In any case, Jesus was more focused on relieving suffering, than discussing the reason for suffering.
When we see people begging on the corner or in parking lots of grocery stores, do we immediately speculate on the origin of the person’s condition? Instead, is our immediate impulse one that compels us to relieve the suffering, regardless of the reasons for the person’s condition? As a society, do we still cling to ancient beliefs about suffering being an outward sign of the sin a person has committed? Do some of us still believe that the effects of the sins of our ancestors can cause illness and suffering for generations?
This man was born with a birth defect. Yes, some birth defects are because of the behaviors and choices of the parents, especially the mother (smoking, drinking, vaping, drug use, etc.) Many birth defects are not caused by any behavior of the parents, but because of the general condition of humankind, humanity’s fallen condition in general.
Jesus showed us that no matter the condition in which we are born, the glory of God can be made visible through that condition. The glory of God can shine through us, even in our brokenness. The works of God can be revealed through our disabilities, our frailties, our foibles, our weaknesses.
Think of all the stories you have read or have known of people who have physical challenges, illnesses, catastrophic circumstances and still go on, in perseverance, to do extraordinary things. We are especially moved and see the glory of God when a person overcomes hardship and lacks bitterness, is filled with joy and gives God the credit for their victory.
Jesus kneels down on the ground, makes clay out of dirt and his own spittle and applies it to the blind man’s eyes. This reminds me of God creating humankind out of the clay of Earth, shaping us in God’s own image. Jesus then tells the blind man to go wash in the pool of Siloam. (Siloam means, sent.) The man showed faith by doing what Jesus instructed him to do.
Jesus was continually having difficulty with the religious leaders, surely he must have known healing this blind man on the Sabbath would have negative consequences. Yet, Jesus is always ready to relieve us of our suffering right now, every minute of every hour regardless of the day of the week. With this act, Jesus is saying to me, “Healing someone is definitely keeping the Sabbath holy!”
This was the first time in the Word of God that someone had healed a person who was born blind. Isaiah 35:5 prophesied that the Messiah would open the eyes of the blind.
When Jesus opened the eyes of this blind man, he also opened the eyes of the community that had gone blind to this man’s condition and struggle. Have we grown so accustomed to seeing the poor and the unhoused on the streets that we no longer see them? Has their presence become like white noise, so we no longer see them or feel a need to immediately address their condition?
This man was put on trial, persecuted, rejected and expelled from the synagogue all because Jesus healed this blind man on the Sabbath. Yet, even with all the abuse, this man took at the hands of the religious leaders, he would not deny his experience with Jesus. This he knew for a fact, “Once I was blind and now I see because of what Jesus did for me.”
When Jesus found out this man, who could now see, had been expelled from the synagogue, Jesus goes out searching for him. Jesus asked the man if he believed in the Son of God. When Jesus revealed who he was to this formerly blind man, the man worshipped Jesus.
Throughout the day, in our daily activities, how often does Jesus reveal himself to us through experiences we have, people or things we encounter, things we hear? Do we pause briefly and give glory to God? Are our eyes open to see God’s presence revealed to us throughout our day?
Loving God, during the course of our day, open our eyes to see you in the face of the poor and needy. Open our ears to the voice of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding us; teaching us all things. Open our hearts to share your love with everyone we encounter. May we praise you in words and deeds and glorify you by how we live our lives. Amen.
Author: ValLimar Jansen, Transformational Speaker, Recording Artist & Author
Click the link for the video titled Nosy Neighbor, the story of the Blind man from John's Gospel.