Sunday, March 22 – Fourth Sunday in Lent

Reader:The man went and washed”

Response: and came back seeing!”

Scripture: John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.

Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!”

But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?”

The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.”

“You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”

“You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”

“Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.

Reader: The word of the Lord.

Response: Thanks be to God.

Some thoughts:
We mentioned yesterday Jesus’ many references to images of light in various ways in his interaction with people. Here is a classic example. Again, a little context is helpful. In previous chapters (7-8), Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles. One of the central themes of that festival is the lighting of the menorah and many more lamps creating great light in the Temple reminding the people of God’s presence, the Shekinah glory present in the wilderness Tabernacle and at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. This particular festival also had messianic implications in its anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. Jesus had very recently told the people that he was, in fact, the Light of the world which created a great stir among the Jewish leaders. Then we have this account which again claims to be the Light of the world. In this context, he encounters the blind man and heals him. (darkness to light) The leaders refused to believe what they saw, particularly since they knew this person had been blind all his life. (They remained in the dark.) The facts didn’t fit their mindset so they sought in various ways to explain away reality. The Pharisees questioned the formerly blind man to no avail. Some of the Jewish leaders were rational and wondered how an ordinary sinner (which Jesus wasn’t) could do such a miracle. There was clear division and confusion among the Jewish leaders. Their solution was to throw the blind man out of the synagogue. Jesus found the man and asked him if he believed in the Son of Man. For Jews that was a loaded question because “Son of Man” had clear and direct implications to the Messiah (book of Daniel). This interaction is very similar to Jesus’ concluding conversation with the woman at the well in John 4. The formerly blind man believed and worshiped Jesus on the spot. The great irony in this account is that a man who was born blind both physically and spiritually gained physical sight (light) and spiritual sight (light). In a way, he is symbolic of all humanity. Everyone needs the illumination of Christ, the Light of the world. Note also that in giving the blind man sight, Jesus uses a mixture of clay and saliva in restoring sight to this man much as he used the dust of the earth to create a human being in the Garden of Eden (Irenaeus’ observation). This man is the only blind person Jesus healed who was born blind from birth. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were so convinced and set in their ways, that they were willing to deny the reality in front of them in order to maintain their beliefs. What they saw didn’t fit with what they believed, so they rejected what they saw and remained in the dark spiritually though they claimed to be in the light! Their faith in Moses was not a living faith, for Moses had affirmed Jesus’ mission at the Mount of Transfiguration, though the Pharisees were unaware of that encounter. Yaraslav Pelican commented, “Traditionalism is the dead faith of living people and tradition is the living faith of dead people.” How true! The legalistic faith of the Pharisees died with Moses on Mt. Pisgah. But the grace of Moses’ faith clearly crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land and from there encouraged the Savior on his “exodus.” May we not be so locked in what we “know,” that we miss the work of the Savior among us. He often works outside of what we “know.”

Music: “Breathe on Me Breath of God”  NAK Chor Kapstadt Glorious. Watch to the end.

Give me grace, O my Father, to be utterly ashamed of my own reluctance. Rouse me from sloth and coldness, and make me desire you with my whole heart. May my faith not be set in legalized stones but in living stones next to the Cornerstone. Teach me to love meditation, sacred reading, particularly Thy word, and a living life of prayer. Teach me to love that which must engage my mind for all eternity.  Amen. 

― John Henry Newman, Prayers for Easter, p.22, adapted D.S.