Summary: This is one of many healings recorded in the gospels but it is different in many ways to the otheres.
This is week three of Old School Sunday School. And we sometimes think of Sunday School as a fairly recent phenomena, something that became a part of our churches in the fifties, when the parents of the boomers were filling churches with their growing families.
But the first Sunday schools were set up in the 1780s to provide education to working children on their one day off from the factory.
The concept of a “Sunday” school was proposed by Robert Raikes, who raised the possibility in the Gloucester Journal. His idea was supported by many clergy of the day, it aimed to teach the youngsters reading, writing and cyphering and a knowledge of the Bible.
It was another 90 years before children would be able to attend school during the week. Within five years of the birth of Sunday School we are told there were over a quarter of a million English Children attending classes, that’s pretty impressive.
But most of us are more familiar with the Sunday School of our childhood with opening sessions, games, contests, learning memory verses, singing choruses and learning our bible stories via the ever present Flannel Graph”
This morning’s story is one of those Jesus stories that kids learned back in the day. (Tell the flannelgraph story about the blind man)
This is another one of those stories that make you go hmmmm. Not because Jesus healed a blind man, he healed all kinds of blind people in the gospels and he healed them by themselves, and in pairs and in groups. But this story was different, different in the way it was initiated, different in the way that Jesus approached the blind man and different in the way he healed the blind man.
John 9:1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.
The Meeting was Different If you are familiar with most of the healings that Jesus is credited with in the New Testament you know that they were initiated by either the person who needed to be healed or by someone close to them, a relative or a friend. Either someone came to Jesus themselves asking to be healed or approached him as he passed by or they were brought to Jesus. But in most of these cases it was a conscious effort by someone. The man with the demon possessed son, the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment when he was in the crowd, or blind Bartimaeus who began crying out to Jesus when he heard he was near. But this isn’t what happened in this story.
We are told that Jesus and his disciples were walking along the street in Jerusalem when they saw a blind man who we are told had been blind from birth. Now I don’t know what the blind man was doing, but I would suspect that he was begging, because the reality of the situation is that was all he would have been expected to do two thousand years ago. And before I began teaching in West Africa I really didn’t grasp the enormity of what it is like to have a major handicap in the developing world. We live in a society that is protected by a huge safety net and where people are encouraged to move beyond whatever physical challenges might limit them. And so while there are certainly some job opportunities that might be off limits for someone with no vision, there are opportunities out there. Not so in Jesus day, if you could not see and if there was no one to support you, then your only recourse would be to rely on the kindness of strangers.