Sunday, April 03, 2011

John 9:1-41 - “A Different Man”

Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year A - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Sunday, April 3, 2011

Last week I told the story of the woman at the well, how Jesus offered her living water, water of eternal life, the water of forgiveness and life that comes through Him. Today’s Gospel reading from John gives us another story, another story of someone coming to believe in Jesus. I want to tell you that story today from that man’s perspective. And again, I don’t mean it’s a story as in fable or fiction; this is a story of an event that really took place. I’ve expanded the story with details to help us understand this man and see ourselves in this story.

Oh, that’s it. That’s why they’re questioning me. They’re stuck on the fact that Jesus made mud and put it on my eyes, he spit into the dirt and mixed it up to make mud, he kneaded the dirt to turn it into mud that he smeared on my eyes, and that kneading, that action of kneading, well, they’re sure that this broke the Sabbath laws. Jesus broke the Sabbath rest by kneading mud for my eyes.

Here Jesus does this incredible thing, something no one has ever heard of, no one has ever heard of a man born blind who then receives his sight again, Jesus has just done this incredible thing for me and for everyone to see, and now the Pharisees are just concerned about whether Jesus kneaded, worked the mud or not.

Well, there’s no reason to deny what Jesus did; I already told them the story. Surely the Pharisees will realize that the Sabbath rules shouldn’t prohibit such an action, a good action, an action of giving me sight, giving me new life. Are they really going to say that doing good on the Sabbath breaks the law of God? Are they really going to say that Jesus isn’t from God, that Jesus is a sinner, that Jesus is somehow evil for what He has done? That doesn’t seem to make any sense.

But sure enough, that’s what they’re arguing about, they’re arguing whether Jesus is from God or not. I’m just trying to stand off to the side, waiting to see if they’re done with me, while they argue back and forth. Some of them are so sure that Jesus couldn’t be from God, couldn’t be from God because he did this thing on the Sabbath. Others, well, I like them; they’re realizing that only a man from God could do what was done today. They’re right, How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs? I’m hoping the whole group listens to that kind of thinking, because I’m very sure that I just experienced something only God could do.

But now, what’s this? They’re coming back to me, they’re asking me, “What have you to say about Him?” Well, I guess I’m kind of emotional about this thing, I’m not sure if it’s the smartest move to go against the Pharisees, but come on, it seems pretty clear. “He is a prophet.” That’s what I say, although I’m wondering what they’re going to do to me for making such a bold statement.

But what do you know, they’re not going to do anything to me right now, except to make me wait right here while they get my parents. I’m a grown man, but still they won’t believe that I was born blind so they are fetching my parents to vouch for me. This is absurd. Can’t they see that an incredible, miraculous thing has taken place? Can’t they see that we could all be praising God together, singing songs, and glorifying God for what He has done? But no, we’re waiting for my parents to come and say that I’m their son and I was blind from birth. I want to go and find Jesus, I want to go see this prophet, but I better wait here until the Pharisees tell me I can go. No telling what they’d do to me if I just hightailed it out of here.

Well, good, now my parents are here. Surely this will clear everything up. Yep, they agree, I’m their son, and I was born blind. But. . .oh, I forgot that my mom and dad would be afraid of the Pharisees. I can see that they’re overjoyed for me, they’re wondering how it is that I can see, they want to rejoice with me, but I can also see that being in front of the Pharisees has made them very, very afraid. They quickly figured out that if they say anything positive about me receiving sight, if they say anything remotely positive about Jesus, that the Pharisees will bar them from the synagogue. I know they’re probably torn apart inside, but still it’s tough to see them not take a stand. It’s tough to have them just leave me here to answer the questions myself. It’s tough to see, because I’m feeling pretty alone right now. And it’s tough to see, because I really want my parents to know Jesus, to know that He’s a prophet, to know that Jesus is able to do great things through God’s power.

But now my parents are gone, and the Pharisees are back to questioning me. And what a funny way of going at it. They say, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” Give glory to God? I’m supposed to give glory to God that Jesus is a sinner. I’m supposed to reject this man who gave me sight and gave me new life. I guess they can say what they want, but I can’t bring myself to say it with them. I can’t reject Jesus. I mean, I didn’t really know much about Him before today, but I’m telling you, that man didn’t do something evil when give me sight.

So I say, “I do not know if he is a sinner. I know one thing: I was blind and now I see.” All I can do is tell them what I have experienced. All I can do is keep telling them what I know to be true. Nothing in me makes me think that I shouldn’t be rejoicing over what Jesus has done for me. Nothing in me makes me think I should reject Jesus. In fact, everything in me wants to find Jesus, to see Jesus, to follow Jesus, to be His disciple, to know how it is that He was able to give me sight.

Ah, but now the Pharisees are at it again, asking again and again about how Jesus did this thing. I’m starting to lose patience here. I know I shouldn’t. The Pharisees are in charge, they’re the authorities, I could be in a lot of trouble if I don’t watch it, but it’s exasperating how they keep asking again and again. Is it really about the kneading, about working the mud, about breaking the Sabbath? Is that why they’re asking or is there something different going on?

I guess I’ll just be blunt: “I have told you already and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”

Oh, my! Now I’ve done it. They’re blind with rage now. According to them, I am definitely a disciple of Jesus, sure to be kicked out of the synagogue now. They, well, they’re sticking to being disciples of Moses—as if Jesus doesn’t follow Moses. They’re saying that they know God spoke to Moses, but they don’t know where Jesus comes from, where Jesus gets His power and authority.

Well, no sense in backing down now: “I find this surprising. You do not know where Jesus comes from; yet He has opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone worships God and does his will, he listens to them. No one has ever heard of anyone who opened the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”

Right now, this moment feels like an eternity. My heart is beating so fast, I am dripping with sweat, and I’m shaking, but my vision is clear, my eyes are focused on their eyes, I can see that I’ve said something that has struck them right between their eyes. This is a moment of clarity—they’re against Jesus in a vehement, ugly, jealous, sinful way. They’re against Jesus so much, they’re so blind to who He is, that they can’t even see what I see. This is a moment of clarity—I am a disciple of Jesus, I will find Him, I will follow Him, I will know who He is, I will see God working in Him.

My moment of clarity is now rudely interrupted. The Pharisees are yelling at me, all sorts of things, things like, “You were born in sin! You can’t be seriously trying to teach us?” They’re yelling and kicking me out into the street.

I walk a few paces down the street, the yelling fades into the background, the dust settles, the crowd stares at me in disbelief wondering what just happened with the Pharisees and me, but you know what. . .I still have that clarity. I still have that clarity! The Pharisees are vehemently opposed to Jesus, and it’s ugly, it’s sinful, it’s prideful, it’s downright evil the way they’re rejecting Him. You see, I still have that clarity! They can kick me out of the synagogue, but that’s alright. I’m going to find Jesus, follow Him, and be His disciple. I’m going to see what God is going to do through Jesus. That’s the clarity. That’s the clarity of faith that I still have—no matter what the Pharisees just did to me.

Well, it seems I’ve wandered around for a while now, caught up in this clarity and euphoria and excitement of having sight and knowing about the prophet Jesus. But then, what’s this? Someone tapping me on the shoulder who says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

Hmm, Son of Man, that’s a curious title, but I think I know what this guy means. Do I believe in the man, the man that healed me? Well, that’s exactly what I’m hoping to do—find Jesus and believe in Him. “And who is he, sir, that I might believe in Him?”

And this guy says: “He is the person talking to you.”

Overjoyed, still in that moment of clarity, I fall down before Jesus. “Lord, I believe.” I worship Him by bending low to the earth and by saying words of praise. I have found the One who will give us truth and light and sight into things that are holy and righteous. I have found the One whom God has sent to save His people. Lord, I believe.

Say what you want, but that’s my experience and that’s what I see. Say what you want, and the Pharisees certainly say some cruel and misguided things about Jesus. Perhaps you’ve heard those things, too—things that say Jesus isn’t who He says He is. Perhaps you’ve heard people say that Jesus is nothing more than a good teacher. But say what you want, I know what I believe. I see a prophet, the Son of Man, the Lord who made my blind eyes see, who made my blind heart believe. Say what you want about Jesus, but I tell you, He’s the Savior, He’s the Messiah, He’s the Lord’s Anointed One, He’s been set aside for the work of God, the incredible work of salvation.

Say what you want about Jesus, but I’m hoping you’re saying you believe. I’m hoping you say that you follow Him and are His disciple. I’m hoping you’ll see Him as I see Him, see Him as the prophet, the Son of Man, the Lord, your Savior.