Summary: March 10, 2002 -- FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 You have anointed my head with oil. (Ps. 23:5) Ephesians 5:8-14 John 9:1-41 Color: Purple John 9:1-41
March 10, 2002 -- FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT
You have anointed my head with oil. (Ps. 23:5)
Title: “A keen sense of humor is not just a side advantage Christians receive at Baptism.”
Jesus gives sight to a man sightless from birth.
In chapter seven, we are told that Jesus goes to Jerusalem at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, not “openly but, as it were, in secret.” Jesus seems to have used the Jewish practice of lighting four huge golden lamps in the courtyard of the women on the first night of Tabernacles, a “level one” action, level one is the physical world as we experience it, to indicate that he, on level two, level two is the spiritual dimension we experience with our faith eyes or the supernatural, is the light of the world. In chapter nine he gives his light to a blind man. What happens to the man on level one, the natural level, is an indication, a sign, of what happens to anyone who accepts Christ on level two, the supernatural or spiritual level. Light used as a sign of enlightenment became a major teaching on the meaning of Christian baptism, second only to being submerged in water and rising from it as a sign of the dying and rising of Christ in the Christian. Johannine irony is evident in this story. The roles are reversed. The man sees with complete clarity as the Pharisees show by their hardness of heart, that they are the blind ones.
The story is a model of conversion. The cured man is the spokesperson for all converts to Christ. The Samaritan woman exemplified the need to overcome divisions and prejudices, cultural and religious, and admit sin and thus the need for a savior- before Baptism. This story exemplifies what comes after, the trials one must undergo, particularly rejection, and how they actually contribute to more fully understanding the consequences of Christian faith.
There are six scenes in this story: First in verses one to seven, Jesus gives sight to the man born blind; Second, in verses eight to twelve, he is questioned by his neighbors; Third, in verses thirteen to seventeen, he is interrogated by the Pharisees; Fourth in verses eighteen to twenty-three, his parents are questioned; Fifth, in verses twenty-four to thirty-four, he is interrogated again by the “Jews;” and Sixth, in verses thirty-five to fourty-one, Jesus brings him to spiritual sight, even as the Pharisees become more spiritually blind. John has taken a miracle story, from the Synoptic tradition, but not from any of the Synoptics themselves, and shaped it into an excellent tool of Christian apologetics, answering Jewish objections to Christianity, and, at the same time, an excellent instruction for those about to be baptized. The “interrogatories,” of this story have become the “scrutinizes,” of the Rite of Christian Initiation.
In verses one to seven, Jesus gives sight to the man born blind in scene one. In verse one, a man born blind: This is the only mention in either the Old Testament or New Testament of a man born blind. In the Synoptics Jesus restored lost sight, but never gave sight to a person who never had it in the first place. John’s intention is to present this healing, not as an act of restoration, but as one of creation, a creative act by him who is the light of the world. The association between “Let there be light,” spoken as the first act of creation in Genesis 1:3 and Jesus bestowing the light of sight is meant to swim in the readers head. Also, that the man was blind “from birth,” Greek ek genetes, instead of the Hebraic expression “from his mother’s womb,” would associate his state of being in the readers’ minds, those who knew their Bible in Greek, with the “Let there be…” Greek genetheto) and “So it came to be…” Greek egeneto, of the Genesis passage on creation.
In verse two, who sinned?: Many Jews, certainly many Pharisees, believed that a person’s sin was the direct cause of their suffering, this despite the revelation to the contrary in the Book of Job. Jesus does not deny the causal relationship. A person’s attitudes and behavior can be the cause of his or her own suffering, and that of others. Yet, it is not always a direct one-to-one link. Over time the negative consequences of sin build up and cause suffering in people who had no direct part to play. Such was the case for this blind man. He did not cause his blindness by any sin. After all, he was born that way. The legalistic mindset reasoned otherwise. The man could be being punished for his parents’ sin. They caused it and his blindness is their fault, despite what Ezekiel says in 18: 20, which reads, “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” Some legalists went so far as to claim that a baby could commit sin in the womb. They gave as an example a pregnant woman committing idolatry and thereby involving the child in her womb in the act of bending in worship! This poor man either committed some such sin in his mother’s womb or one or both parents did something so wrong that God punished them by blinding their child. Jesus is asked to decide which it was. Whether the disciples believed the conventional wisdom is left open. The author may be putting words in their mouth for the sake of the story. Who asks the question seems to be irrelevant to the point.