Summary: In a world where so many people know so much, its good to be reminded of what is most important to know. This is summarized in John 9 by the words of the beggar who was healed: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
The Gospel of John is a wonderful book. Its 21 chapters are organized a little differently than the others. He tends to group themes together in order to that the reader can see the theological connections between events, and places, and the teachings of Christ. I have to admit that for as much as I enjoy John, I had never spent much time with the passage (the whole of chapter 9) that we have this morning. And I don’t know why!
Obviously something very important is going on here. Not that John divided up his Gospel into chapters when he wrote it (scholars did that much later), but there is something to be said for the fact that in a book of 21 chapters which summarizes the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Christ, a WHOLE chapter is devoted to this one event.
It is also just a delight to read. When you are aware of the constant struggle that Jesus had with the Pharisees in his earthly ministry, and Jesus mission and purpose for coming into the world, this account really come alive. And this account is also just full of life, and humor, challenge, all the while being very poignant. So I thought we might do something a little different this morning. Seeing as we have a lot of verses to cover, I think that we’ll just go over these verses and enjoy them together.
As we start our reading, understand that Jesus has just been confronted by the Pharisees (the spiritual leaders and law if they did actually listen to the words, they would have understood that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of God. This did not go over well as we read in the last verse of Chapter 8, “At this they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”
So we start in with our verses, “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” This question gives us a lot of insight into the religious thinking of the day. It was a pretty basic premise, if you are good, then good things will happen to you. If you are bad, watch out. So if that is true, then the reverse must be also, right? If I see that something good happens to you, I can conclude that you are doing well with your faith and life. And if I see something bad happen to you, you must be hiding something, or falling down in your faith in some major way.
This way of thinking isn’t exactly confined to Jesus day is it? All the way back to the book of Job we see how his friends are convinced he had done SOMETHING to deserve all the pain and misery heaped upon him. If you turn on your TV to a religious channel, you won’t have to look too hard to see some blowhard excitedly proclaiming that if you only give money to him, God will unleash a flood of cash upon you!
In some ways it would be great if it were so simple! But you know, many of you better than me, it just doesn’t work that way. I think of so many people in our little congregation, faithful, God fearing, forgiven and redeemed sinners, who have suffered so much. Losing loved ones, facing unemployment, terrible diseases. These aren’t the direct result of some sin, but indeed the sinful and fallen condition of life in this world in which we live. There aren’t simple answers! The Teacher of Ecclesiastes knows this well, “The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” Ecc. 9:11.
So Jesus does not entertain the question in the way the disciples would expect. “Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed 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.” Then Jesus immediately sets about displaying the work of The Light of the World in this man. “Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.”
With simple means (spit, dirt, water from a pool) Jesus sent him away to wash and came back seeing! This is more than a medical miracle. This was a life transformation like we can’t imagine. Soon after he was born, this man’s parents (whom we will meet in just a bit) would have been so heartbroken to learn that their son would be disabled. There were no therapists, or seeing-eye dog programs, or government programs available to help him. He would be destined to be a beggar, to eek out a subsistence living for the remainder of his life. On top of all this, instead of first being compassionate, people would question what he, or his parents had done to deserve this terrible fate. Can you imagine!