THE MAN BORN BLIND
Jesus is walking through the streets of Jerusalem with his disciples. They come across a blind man by the side of the road. Let’s hear what happens beginning with John 9:1-2 (NIV)
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Chances are this blind man doing what most disabled people did back then, begging by the side of the road in order to do something to earn his keep with whatever relative he happens to be living with because that’s what they did back then.
But then in verse 2 the disciples ask Jesus an interesting question that we may find a little bit odd: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” We hear that question and wonder where it comes from because that’s just not the way that we think anymore. We don’t see blindness as a punishment for sin. We see it as a medical issue. If someone is born blind then something must have happened during the development of the baby before birth to cause the blindness. Connecting blindness to sin just doesn’t cross our minds.
But that’s not how the people of Jesus’ day see things. They believe that physical disabilities are the direct result of sin. It comes from Old Testament passages like Numbers 14:18 (NIV) where Moses said, “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet, he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” So, it isn’t just the parents who suffer for their sin. It is also their children and their children’s children. So. there has to be for a reason for the man’s blindness. Someone must have sinned.
Let’s listen to Jesus’ response in John 9:3 (NIV):
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
What is Jesus doing here? He’s encouraging the disciples to see this situation not as a chance to cast blame but rather as an opportunity to glorify God.
Jesus is clearly saying that there is no one to blame. Just take this situation for what it is. The man is blind but God can work miracles through the blindness. It reminds me of a verse I’ve quoted to you often from Romans 8:28 (NIV): “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” What that tells us is that God can take situations that we find so disheartening – like this man’s blindness – and use them for good. In this case, as we shall see in a few minutes, God will use this man’s blindness to point even more people towards Jesus. By opening this man’s eyes Jesus will also open the eyes of others to the truth of his gospel.
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Let’s continue with John 9:4-5 (NIV):
As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
What Jesus is saying in these verses is that life will not always be sunny and bright. Jesus said, “as long as it is day.” He did not say that the day would last forever. Darkness will come. You can count on it. Individuals will have dark nights of their souls. They will face sickness, heart ache, unemployment and death. We will all face hardships. No one gets to live a life unscathed by suffering. It’s part of the fallen world in which we live – like the man’s blindness.
If I asked everyone here this morning to name one time when the darkness crept in and life became difficult, I’m pretty sure that you could all name at least one time. In fact, I’m pretty sure that you could name three or four or more. And for some of you, one of the reasons you’re here today is because you’re going through one of those times right now. And if that’s where you are then I pray that something you hear this morning will give you a reason to hope and carry on even though you may feel yourself surrounded by darkness.
I remember being in pitch black darkness. Have you ever been in the forest on a cloudy night? There’s not a star in the sky. There is no moon to light your way. You can barely make out anything and trip over branches and roots on the ground. You walk into trees and wonder where all the spooky sounds are coming from. It is so dark. But it gets darker when you in an underground mine tunnel 1,000 meters belong ground. When the lights go out down there, you literally can’t see your hand in front of your face. There is not a spot of light anywhere and you are totally disoriented.
Jesus said that we will face darkness but he also said is that the darkness will not last. Why? Because he is the light of the world. Remember that cloudless night in the forest when you trip over everything? What happens when there is a break in the clouds and suddenly a full moon appears overhead. It lights up the world like you would not believe. That’s because the full moon offers a great deal of light on a dark night. Or what about that pitch dark underground tunnel. All it takes is for one person to turn on a flashlight and he darkness vanishes.
As Jesus said in Luke 8:16 (NIV): “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” You don’t light a lamp or a candle and hide it under a covering. Rather you put it on a table so that it lights up the whole room. That’s what Jesus does. He is the light in our darkness. He lights up the room and the house and our lives so that the darkness will not prevail.
Here’s something else to think about. Have you ever noticed how natural it is to be drawn to the light? If a light appears in the darkness we are naturally turn to look at it. It draws us, it invites us in the same way that Jesus does. When the darkness comes, it is to Jesus that we should look because he can take away the darkness just as in the story he eventually takes away the man’s blindness so that he can open his eyes and see.
And now comes the healing in John 9:6-7 (NIV):
After saying this, [Jesus] spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.
“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
Jesus does something that we find a little bit disgusting. He spits on the ground, makes some mud and places it on the man’s eyes. Why does Jesus do this? The first reason is because it’s what the people believed back then. What we have forgotten in our culture is that many traditional societies see great healing powers in muds, especially clay mud. The first evidence of this appears in Mesopotamia thousands of years before Jesus’ birth. But it has been a common theme throughout the world until the advent of modern medicine. The truth is that this is not all superstition. Depending upon where you dig it up, clay contains all kinds of natural chemicals and bacteria that can improve healing. In fact, if you go home today and Google “healing mud” you can order some for yourself and try it out.
But there is more to it than this. Jesus wants to do something to show this man that he is going to open his eyes. Putting mud on his eyes is a sign to the man that Jesus is serious. He wants to heal him. He wants to enable him to see for the first time in his life and Jesus’ actions of making the mud and putting it on his eyes are a clear indicator that something special is going to happen. Did Jesus have to use mud? No, he just has to say the word and the healing will happen. But the man doesn’t know that so Jesus does something to show that he is going to open his eyes and enable him to see.
RESPONDING IN FAITH
What does the man do? He does what Jesus tells him to do. He goes and washes in the Pool of Siloam. Again, this is something that on the surface does not make any sense to us so let me try to explain. The Pool of Siloam is a water source for the old city of Jerusalem. It actually was a marvel of architecture built by King Hezekiah in the 8th century B.C. to ensure a fresh water supply to the city in times of siege. He had a conduit 1,780 feet long cut out of solid rock which opened up into a large and deep pit within the city walls. Over the years, various pools were thought to be the Pool of Siloam but the real one was not uncovered until 2004 when a maintenance crew doing road repairs accidently stumbled on it. What was discovered was a man made cut in the rock roughly a rectangle 225 feet long by 15 feet wide at a depth of about three storeys. There are stone steps going down from the street level to the water level.
When Jesus tells the blind man to go in the Pool of Siloam, he is asking him to do something that will tested him because it is a difficult thing to do especially for a blind man. He may have to find someone who will guide him there. Then he will have to make his way down the steep stone steps which were probably wet and slippery from others going up and down. There is no railing to prevent him from falling over the edge and onto the stones below. Once at the bottom he will have to find a place to wash in the pool and get the mud out of his eyes.
But he does what Jesus tells him to do and after he has washed, he goes home able to see. But the point is that Jesus doesn’t just say some magic words that heal the man. He could do that but he doesn’t. Instead he insists that the man respond in faith in some way in order to complete the healing that opens his eyes.
This is something that we need to remember. Jesus can open our eyes but sometimes he asks us to make an effort. Sometimes he wants us to respond in faith to what he has done for us.
What does that look like? Maybe today, it looks like having our eyes opened. All of us are blind to certain things. Things happen around us that we just don’t see because we’re not conditioned to see them. What does Jesus want you to see?
Maybe your blindness is that you don’t understand what it’s like to be hungry. To be healed of that, you might want to volunteer at Gleaners some morning. That might open your eyes. Or maybe, like most middle class people in Cottam, you’re blind to what it’s like to be poor. Head over to the Downtown Mission some day and help prepare or serve a meal. That might open your eyes to the effects of poverty. Or maybe you’re blind to the suffering of the refugees who have come to this country to escape persecution and violence. Maybe to be healed of that, you could offer to help get refugees settled. There are a number of organizations in Windsor-Essex that do that work and I suspect that they might open your eyes to the needs of these displaced families. There is no better way to heal our blindness than to look at the real issues and get involved in seeking real solutions. That will open your eyes.
The story ends with John 9:8-12 (NIV):
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
1“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
“Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
We read that the man goes home able to see. His neighbours, of course, are shocked. How could this be that he’s walking around and not bumping into things? He was blind this morning. It only makes sense that he’s still blind this afternoon. Some of the people even think that he is a different man, that he only looks like the blind man who begs by the side of the road. But the man responds by assuring them that he is indeed the man.
“But how did this happen?” they ask. And he tells them about Jesus and what he did and said. He can’t explain how it is that he is no longer blind. All he knows is that he can see.
Here’s something to think about. When Jesus opens our eyes and allows us to see things that we may not have seen before, what we can do is tell others what he did for us. It’s great stuff to go and offer to help out with the poor or the hungry or the immigrants. But it’s also important to let people know why you are doing it. Otherwise, all you are is a generous person doing some good deeds. And don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a generous person doing good deeds. It’s commendable.
And maybe you’re doing things because you too are a generous person doing good things. But you’re also there for another reason; because Jesus has opened your eyes to a need in your community that you can help to meet. There are many reasons to do good things. For Christians, one of the main reasons is because Jesus calls us to do them.
Sometimes we’re shy about telling people that bit of information but we really shouldn’t be. We don’t need to be shy about Jesus. Like I said last week, we don’t need to be ashamed of him. We don’t need to be embarrassed to talk about him and what he had done for us because he has done a great deal. The fact that you are all here this morning speaks to how much he has touched your life and will continue to do so.
If accepting Christ into your life has been such a valuable thing for you, then why wouldn’t you want to share him with others so that they also can have what you have. And maybe if you are able to do that, the Jesus can open up the eyes of someone else too.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, you are in our world. You are in our communities. You are in our lives. You are in our hearts. You are with us every moment of every day and for your constant presence we give you thanks and praise. You are with us in the laughter. You comfort us in our tears. You lift us up in times of pain and offer us the healing protection of your enfolding wings. You come to us in love. We return to you in love.
Although we have received our salvation by faith and not by works, it is a comfort to know that you care about the things that we do for others. Enable us to always do all that we can for others, taking full advantage of every opportunity to be an example of your love and character. Thank you for your unconditional love and unfailing promises.
We pray for our country as we seek an end to this pandemic which seems to have gone on for so long. We pray for wisdom and understanding. We pray for patience and peace. We pray that those who see things from different perspectives may have their eyes opened to the real concerns of other. We pray for compassion and healing.
We lift up in prayer those who have been sick at home or in hospital this week. We remember, especially, Carol, Mark, Rachel, Ron and Mary. Bless them as you have blessed us all with your Healing and Holy Spirit.
God, you are our Heavenly Father, the one who nurtures and supports us through all of life. It is our desire that we be always willing to follow your leadership and instructions regardless of how it may appear to others. Help us to have courage and strength to go anywhere and do anything that you ask of us. May we go without hesitation or reservation, confident that all things will happen according to your great purpose.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
February 6, 2022 / Epiphany 5
Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 138; Luke 5:1-11 ; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: Give thanks to God with all your hearts;
ALL: Let us sing praises to God.
ONE: God answers when we call;
ALL: Let us worship God with gladness.
ONE: The love of God is eternal;
ALL: Complete in us, O God, the work that you have begun.
We enter your presence, God of Grace, and bow down within your Holy Temple. Your love and your faithfulness rise through the ages. Your name is supreme among all names. Answer us as we call upon you, O God of Creation. You are faithful to fulfill the promises that you have made and, so, we lift up our voices in praise to give you glory, honour and blessing. Come down from your heights and care for us. Redeem us in your love.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Earth and Ocean, you have called to us but we have not always been faithful to answer. Sometimes we are timid. Sometimes we are shy. Often we hesitate to cast our nets into the waters of life for fear that they will come up empty and we will be disappointed. Forgive us, again, for our doubts and uncertainties. Enable us to see beyond our narrow vision and to follow Jesus where he leads.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
When Jesus calls, he leads. When he makes demands, he provides. When he promises forgiveness, he redeems. Walk in the light and stand in awe of the One who gave his life as a ransom for all that we might be freed from our sins to live and answer the call of God.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
For all of your goodness, God, we give you thanks. How can we respond but by giving back a portion to you for your work? We send these gifts in Jesus’ name as signs of love and faith to answer your call to mission and ministry.
Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John, to becomes fishers of humanity.
We, too, are called to reach out to those to whom God has sent us.
Go, in Jesus’ name, to cast the net of salvation into the waters of our community.