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Sermon blog: Was blind but now I see…

April 18, 2016

 

John 9

http://lightandlife.co.uk/liskeard/multimedia-archive/i-see-said-the-blind-man/

Stormbringer

When Jesus meets with you, it can hit you like a whirlwind.

Your life will never be the same. But it won’t necessarily all be good. It can be very uncomfortable.

We pick up today in John’s biography of Jesus, at a time when Jesus’ words are making him enemies. He has his followers, but in the previous chapter the people have tried to stone him. At the end of a heated discussion he has claimed – “Before Abraham was, I AM”. He has claimed to be God.

Thus the angry attempt to get rid of him.

However, he managed to slip away to stay out of trouble.

And it is immediately after this, as he walks along, that his attention falls on one man.

Born this way

A man blind from birth.

The sight of this man raises some questions among Jesus’ followers.

“Who has sinned? Who is to blame? What has he done to deserve this?”

Some of the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, had a saying: “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity”.

In other words, there has to be a reason for everything that happens.

If good things happen to you it must be a reward from God.

If bad things happen to you, you must have done something to make God angry.

These are questions we might ask ourselves when we suffer. “Why has God allowed this to happen to me?! Is it because of something I have done?

But hold on, how could this possibly be the man’s fault? He was born like it! Did he sin in the womb? Or was this even a punishment for the sins of his parents?

Jesus takes that teaching and dismisses it with one word. “Neither”. This is not some sort of punishment for this man and his family.

We might want to compare Luke 13 where similar questions are anticipated by Jesus. He refers to two incidents. Just the sort of things we are often distressed and bemused by.

An act of terrorism. Many Jews slaughtered by the Roman governor-to-be Pilate.  A workplace accident with 18 men killed by the collapsing Tower of Siloam.

Were these people worse sinners? Were they more guilty? Did they get what they deserved? Jesus’ answer. “No!”

But these incidents were, he said, reminders that life is fragile.

Instant karma

Illness and suffering is not always, maybe very rarely, the result of our own bad behaviour. It is not a question of fault.

Of course there will be situations where there is blame. If we drive like a lunatic, if we pick a fight, if we build without appropriate care, if we mess with drugs…

But it seems Jesus’ general principle, when illness strikes, when the train crashes, when the earthquake strikes in Ecuador, the victims are not to be blamed. Bad things come to good and bad alike. Christians are far from immune to suffering.

While there may be those who teach that good health is a Christian’s right, we know many Christians who suffer gravely, and it is not for us, like the friends of Job, who had lost everything in the Old Testament, to heap guilt on the one who suffers.

Don’t be in a rush to burden your friend who suffers with a sense of guilt.

If you are going through an illness or a struggle don’t be too ready to accept that you may in some way be to blame.

In the case of those disasters, they act, for Jesus, as we said,  as a reminder to all of us that life is fragile.

People get ready

In the case of the blind man, there is another reason.  God is going to do something amazing in this man’s life.

It was for Jesus and his followers to do the work of God. Jesus the Light of the World was about to step into the dark world of this man.

Unlike many other of his healing miracles, the writer John does not record that the man was coming to find Jesus, or that there was any conversation. Jesus saw him and decided to act.

With a combination of spit, mud and water, the blind man, was healed. He was obedient to the simple instructions. His eyes were opened and all his lights came on.

The other thing that we learn of the man, was something that was true of a number of blind men in the Bible. He was a beggar. That was pretty much the only way of supporting himself that was open to him.

That’s me!
There then follows a rather comic scene, like something out of a Pantomime. Many people are amazed that this man who can see is the blind beggar that they knew, but they see it with their own eyes. There’s another part of the crowd though who yell back “Oh no he’s not! He just looks a bit like him”.

The man must have been perplexed by this and he speaks up. “I am that man”. He gives Jesus the credit and recounts what had happened, when they quiz him how this can be.

Everyone’s a winner!

He cannot though tell them where Jesus is now. But never mind. It’s a happy ending.

The man is healed and everyone is happy. The ex-blind man stops begging and gets a career.  His family are thrilled. The religious leaders are delighted because there is one more man attending synagogue and the collections go up. To quote Delboy “Everyone’s a winner. Lovely jubbly!”

No.

The dark side of the moon

The next scene sees the man being taken to the Pharisees. These people regarded Jesus as public enemy number one. If we are told that Jesus is the light of the world, the Pharisees are the ones whose job seemed to be to go around like ARP Warden Hodges in Dad’s Army, yelling “Put that light out!”

Why take him to the Pharisees? We are not told.

But there is one piece of information we are told as the clouds start to gather, and an unsuspecting man finds himself in the middle of a storm.

You see the day all this had happened was the Sabbath, the Jewish holy day. The day of rest. The Pharisees had so many rules about what could and couldn’t be done on the Sabbath. And on many occasions they were ready to pick Jesus up for not keeping to their manmade rules.

In their eyes, to heal someone was to do work. In their fussiness, even Jesus’ act of making mud would have been regarded as labour. By healing a man born blind, Jesus had broken their Sabbath. There were numerous confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees surrounding Sabbath keeping. Following another healing Jesus  challenged them. “To do good on the Sabbath is always okay”.

Your calling as a Christian is to live Jesus’ way. God gives us rules to live by. But he calls us to love. If what you believe is right prevents you from showing the love of God to those who need it, then you seriously need to question whether you have understood God’s law!

So what would they make of it this time?

What’s the story – morning glory

First the man is interviewed, required to explain again what had happened. It’s a great story!

A blind man can see! Praise God? Celebrate with him? No chance.

This Jesus cannot possibly be from God because he works on the Sabbath day!

Others though looked at the evidence before them and asked “How could a sinner do great miracles like this?

Those who see the miracle against those who will not see the miracle!

So as they disagree they put the microphone back on the healed man. “What have you got to say about all this? You’re the one who was healed”.

He is surely the star witness.

His answer “this man is a prophet” is seemingly ignored.

Family man

So they call for his parents! The investigation continues.

They fire questions.

“Is this your son?”

“Was he blind?”

“How come he can see now?”

Only one thing they are clear on. “This is our son alright”. But as for the rest of their questions “Pass! We don’t know. He’s an adult. He can speak for himself”.

Which of course makes good sense, but we are told there was another reason why they did not want to get involved in the controversy.

 

 

 

Face the music

The religious leaders had made up their minds that any people who accepted the claims of Jesus about himself, should be excluded from the Synagogue worship. That in itself of course was a bad thing, but to be banned from the Synagogue could have further repercussions. The synagogue was the centre of Jewish life so to be excluded could result in being shunned by the whole community and friends, jobs and livelihood could be lost.

For the parents that was too high a price to pay. They ducked the issue.

“…was blind, but now I see”.

And so the man is dragged back. What a day he’s having!

The questions come harder. “Give glory to God. We know this Jesus is a sinner”. Are they trying to get him to admit that the whole thing is a sham?

“I don’t know! The only thing I know is that I was blind, and now I can see – that’s what matters to me!”

The man has just written “Amazing grace”!

Again they ask him how the healing occurred and he’s starting to lose it now!

“I’ve told you. If I tell you again, will you become followers of Jesus too?”

Now he’s gone too far. They hurl insults at him. And as for this Jesus, “we have no idea where he came from”.

But seriously

The healed man finally goes into orbit. “You have got to be joking! You cannot be serious! How can you not know who this man is? I was blind. And now because of him I can see. For the first time. Ever.”

“What this man has done for me tells me who he is. I can read the signs. This healer can only be from God”

Good reasoning from the healed man. And biblical too! Isaiah 35:5 is just one of the Old Testament prophecies about Messiah.  “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened”.

He’s won the argument. But unlike this man the Pharisees do not see the logic or the biblical truth shown by the healing of a man born blind. They show the same ignorance shown by the disciples at the start. “”You were a sinner from the moment you were born”.

They grab him and they throw him out.

Go now!

What a day! This morning had been just another day. Begging at the side of road. Small change for a sandwich.

A stranger gives him his sight. He’s just getting used to the shapes and the colours and the sunlight. He’s looking out for a pair of sunglasses. And then he’s pushed around, yelled at and man handled, and insulted.

When it says he was thrown out that almost certainly means that he received the fate that his parents had feared. He was excommunicated.

This morning he was blind. He could not be part of the religious or business community. His only way of surviving was to beg.

Suddenly God changed him and he could be part of that fully. Now there was an opportunity to get a life together, be part of a community of worshipping the God who he had so much to praise for, and find meaningful work.

And now for telling what Jesus had done for him, he had lost it all over again!

Increasingly it is a difficult thing for Christians to tell others what Jesus has done for them. To stand up and share their faith. In some countries just to do that can cost your life.

In this country there seem to be more and more cases of people facing discipline in the work places or prosecution through the courts for seeking to live out and speak out their Christian faith.

All because of Jesus!

As followers of Jesus do you sometimes hesitate to own up to it? Do our actions sometimes deny that we follow him?

This man must have wondered whether to laugh or cry!

A whole new world had been opened to him now but he must have felt a fog of confusion descending on him.

Who could he turn to?

I’m a believer

Jesus. The one who had changed him.

He was not deserted. Jesus looks him out and asks him “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who’s that?”

“Me”.

Oh yes he believed in Jesus! How could he not?!

And so the man worships. Not with all the religious people in the synagogue. But alone in the presence of Jesus.

In one sense he did not need the synagogue. His saviour was in front of him.

What causes you to worship Jesus? How often do you see with eyes wide open what Jesus has done for you? That he loves you. Enough to die for you.

One way or another

Jesus then pronounces that he is the judge. All people are answerable to him.

That’s how it goes with Jesus. He divides people. Some people may sit on the fence with him but generally opinion is divided. Among work colleagues or in families. Those who believe and those who do not. Those who accept him and those who do not.

He will make blind people see. And those who can see? Well, they will be blind, he says.  The ones who see him and recognise him for who he is and recognise his work in their lives. They will be fully alive.

You won’t see me

Of course even then there were some Pharisees hanging around earwigging.

Indignant they say “Who are you calling blind?”

Jesus challenges them. “You’re not blind. You know God. You know his law. You have read his prophets. You have seen and heard me. Those who are blind are not to be blamed because they can’t see. But you see it all. You know it all. And you refuse to see. You are the guilty ones.”

The ones who are supposed to be leading others are not fit to do so. Elsewhere Jesus calls these men “Blind guides”.

And the argument rumbles on well into chapter 10 and on until finally these religious leaders condemn this healer from God to death. Unable or unwilling to see what was under their noses. What all their learning should have shown them.

And you and I?

2,000 years ago a man called Jesus healed a man born blind. What is that to you?

Your situation is not the same.

But Jesus wants to meet with all of us. He wants our lives to be different.

He wants to enter our darkness, and fill our lives with his glorious light.

Will you let him do that? Will you ask him to do that?

If you are already a follower of Jesus, are you ready to give others the reason for the hope you have? To tell others how Jesus has changed you?

Or could it even be that your religious life prevents you from seeing who Jesus really is? You refuse to look at the evidence? Today, drop your guard, and open yourself to him.

It was a tough start for this man, but if you asked him I am sure, that for all the hassle he had, he wouldn’t want to change the fact that Jesus had healed him.

If he could he’d sing at the top of his voice:

“I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see!”

That could be your experience and your song too!

 

 

 

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