Summary: The tremendous thing about Jesus Christ is the more we know Him, the greater He becomes. The more we know Jesus, the greater the wonder becomes.
I ONCE WAS BLIND BUT NOW I SEE…
God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.
This was true in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it is as true, if not more so, in the 21st century.
Richard Rohr once wrote, “There will always be a need for religion… it gets us started on the spiritual path, and keeps prodding us with relevant question along the way. It creates the container, keeps the edges hot, offers the invitation and creates satisfying rituals and boundary setting commandments. It lures many people onto an initial spiritual path. It is very good and even necessary.”
However, there are few things that are as conducive to personal and spiritual stagnation as religion, or at least the misuse of it. When we become overly focused on the religion of Christianity, we will be stifled in our search for God. Again, Rohr writes, “We confuse the maintenance for this container with the contents themselves. We confuse the rituals with the realities that they point to.” This is becoming more and more evident in Churches all over the world, and it is for this reason, I believe, that God has called us to look again, in a fresh way, at our faith and the way in which we experience and express our faith in God.
One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I’ll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept shouting: "Jump! I’ll catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can’t see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that’s all that matters."
This is often the kind of faith that we are called to have, and it is this kind of faith that I would like us to look at this evening. Our passage is one that sheds much light on this in that the blind man - like the boy – was unable to see Jesus, but Jesus – like the dad – was able to see him, and that’s all that mattered.
We would do well to sketch some background to this passage in order to help us understand it better. The first thing that would strike us is the peculiar means by which Jesus healed the man, the method of the miracle, as William Barclay once put it.
There are two miracles in which Jesus is said to have used spit to effect a cure. The other is the miracle of the deaf stammerer in Mark 7. Now, to the modern reader, the use of spit would seem strange, repulsive and even unhygienic; but in the ancient world this was not the case. Spit, and especially that of a distinguished person, was thought to have certain curative qualities.
The Greek historian, Tacitus, tells of how two diseased men, one blind and the other with a cripple hand, came to see the Emperor Vespasian in request for him to heal them with his spittle. Vespasian was very unwilling to do so but was eventually persuaded by the visitors’ desperation. Tacitus writes, “The hand immediately recovered its power and the blind man saw once more.”
Pliny, the famous Roman collector of scientific information, has a whole chapter on the use of spittle in curing such ailments as leprous spots, epilepsy and, wait for it… loss of sight!
See friends, this was no strange act, Jesus took the methods and the customs of his time and applied them to the situation. William Barclay suggests that, in this case, Jesus was a wise physician, gaining the confidence of his patient by doing what the blind man would have expected a doctor to do.
After moistening the mans eyes with clay made from spittle, Jesus sent him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam. The passage tells us that the man obeyed Jesus and the result was that he saw.
Now this is where the trouble comes in, or, as the proverbial saying goes, “where the paw-paw strikes the fan!”. It was the Sabbath day, and so Jesus broke the law. In fact, as the Scribes had worked it out, Jesus was guilty of breaking no less than three laws.
I. By making clay Jesus was guilty of work – yes, ridiculous as this might sound, making clay with spittle was regarded as work! To do even the simplest tasks on the Sabbath was to be guilty of doing work. Here are is but one example of those things forbidden by the law; “A man may not go out on the Sabbath with sandals shod with nails.” As the nails would be of enough weight to constitute a burden. A person was not even allowed to cut their finger nails on the Sabbath. Obviously, in the eyes of such a law, to make clay was to work.