Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, September 18, 2020
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Light & Sound

John 9:1-41
One of the ways the Gospel of John is different from the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, is that John tends to tell less stories about Jesus, but the ones he does tell are much longer. These stories are used to teach great truths in a “narrative format,” rather than in parables or sermons.
In John 9, Jesus is in Jerusalem. We think this happens on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, because that’s the occasion of John 7, and this all seems to be part of the same visit. The last day of Tabernacles is significant because on that day the city was lit up with torches, and water from the Pool of Siloam was used ceremonially. Light and water are both important to this story.
Jesus is leaving the Temple, and he encounters a man who had been blind from birth. A blind person had no job prospects other than begging. And the Temple would be the best place for that in Jerusalem, since it was the “center of activity,” and because people going to the Temple would be more likely to be generous.
But the disciples are more curious about the cause of his blindness. Was it his sin or his parent’s sin? According to a common belief of the day, which we call the “theology of retribution,” the righteous prosper and the wicked suffer. Therefore, if you suffer, it means you’re wicked. And if you’re prosperous, you are a righteous person. So someone must have sinned for him to have been born blind. Since he was blind from birth, perhaps it was his parents.
But Jesus refutes this belief and instead asserts, “This is so the power of God can be revealed. We must all do the work God has assigned to us while we have the time, and my work is to be the light of the world.”
Light is used symbolically for truth, primarily, and also for goodness. Think about the connections made in Ephesians 5 between light and good behavior and dark and sin. Sight is connected with light here, and darkness with blindness.
Jesus makes mud, applies it to his eyes, and sends him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. Siloam meant “sent,” so he is sent to the Pool of Sent. Jesus does the miracle, but in such a way the man does not see Jesus. This sets up another part of the story, which is that as the man gains physical sight, he also gains spiritual insight into Jesus. We see that throughout the story.
Those who know him are amazed, so much so they can’t even believe it’s the same man. “Who did this?” He answers, “The man called Jesus.” They take him to the Pharisees, the religious experts, in the hopes they can answer how this miracle occurred.
Some of the Pharisees are offended that Jesus did this on the Sabbath. According to the Sabbath Law, there were 39 kinds of work forbidden on the Sabbath, including kneading, even kneading dirt into mud, and healing. They are so prejudiced against Jesus they can’t even appreciate the miracle. But others are not so sure. “How could a sinner do such a miracle?” According to their beliefs, only God could open eyes that had been born blind. No doctor or healer could do that.
“Who is he?” they ask the man. “Well, I suppose he must be a prophet.” His insight into Jesus is growing.
But the Pharisees still won’t believe. They call in his parents, suspecting a hoax. The parents want to stay out of this situation, for fear of excommunication from the synagogue. Excommunication was a serious punishment, since being shut out of the synagogue and the Temple also meant being shut off from the presence of God, by their thinking. Some of the first Jewish readers of John’s Gospel had already been cut off from the synagogue for their faith in Jesus.
“Give glory to God.” This was an oath formula, demanding a truthful response. “We know Jesus is a sinner.”
“I don’t know if he’s a sinner. All I know is I was blind but now I see.” Having faith in Christ doesn’t mean that we have all the answers. But we know that we’ve experienced blessing in him. We are all experts in what we ourselves have experienced.
“How?” they demand again. And I have to think he’s getting tired of all this because his answer seems a little snarky. “Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
“We’re disciples of Moses. We don’t even know where this Jesus guy came from!” The religious authorities would often investigate “false teachers” to find out if they were illegitimate children, since that would make them easy to ignore or discredit, according to their way of thinking.
Verses 30 to 33 are the crux of the story. The man answers with a syllogism. A syllogism is a conclusion drawn from two accepted facts. Fact number one: God doesn’t listen to sinners. Fact number two: Only God could open the eyes of a man born blind. So the conclusion is, Jesus must be of God, or he couldn’t do such a miracle.
Well, when you lose an argument, you insult the person you’ve lost to: “You were born in sin,” and they throw him out.
Jesus finds him, and his faith is made complete. He calls Jesus, “Lord.”
Jesus says, “I have come to give sight to the blind.” Who are the blind? They are those who acknowledge their need of grace. The blind know they don’t have it all together. They know they need help from God.
Back in December, we had John and Christine Zimmerman here and they did a training with our Discipleship & Family Ministry Team. They talked about being in ministry with the poor. Who are the poor? They answer is we are all poor. We are all in need. But those who presume they are rich cannot receive grace because they can’t bring themselves to seek grace.
The Pharisees, or at least most of them, presumed they were rich, presumed they could see. So they could not receive the grace Jesus offered.
Jesus is light. He is truth and reveals goodness. He gives sight. He opens our eyes to the realities of God. But some are unable to receive what he offers. Not because God would withhold any good thing from them, but because they can’t see a need for anything from God. Sad but true that many cut themselves off from what God offers freely.

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