Can You See?

Today’s Gospel reading is chapter 9 of John: the cure of the man born blind. This, so typical of John is a meaty story, filled with fruitful teaching. There are layers and circles of wisdom to be gleaned from it.

At the beginning, the issue is framed:  Who sinned, the man or his parents? For in that society, one who is deformed or physically at odds with the norm, is by definition a sinner. God causes such affliction and it is only to be determined who is at fault, the parents or the man himself.

Jesus, of course, sets them all straight at the outset. Neither have sinned, God has created him thus for a purpose and of course the purpose is now coming forth.

As a “defined sinner” the blind man was reduced to begging for alms. He was barred from the Temple, there was no way he could be ritually cleansed. He was therefore, probably largely untaught, illiterate, and without any standing whatsoever in his community. He depended on the charity of passersby.

Yet, after his sight is returned through the actions of Jesus, a phenomenal thing happens. He is brought before the Pharisees and questioned. When he relates Jesus’ actions, they refuse to believe it, summoning his parents, who can only corroborate that he is indeed their formerly blind from birth son.

They question the man again. And he realizes that they are being stubborn as they begin to abuse him when he will not retract his explanations. The blind man discourses:

That is just what is so amazing! You don’t know where he comes from and he has opened my eyes!  We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to people who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of someone born blind; if this man were not from God, he wouldn’t have been able to do anything.

And they retort in anger:

“Are you trying to teach us, and you a sinner through and through ever since you were born!” And they ejected him.

Indeed. The illiterate, shunned man teaches the great students of the Torah! Indeed God chooses who will speak for him, and he chooses the most unlikely of people.

This makes it clear why the reading from Samuel is included in this day’s scriptural array. [1Samuel 16:6-13] Samuel goes in search of the one whom God has chosen to rule over Israel. When Samuel thinks that Eliab would be a fine ruler, God says:

“Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him; God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances but Yahweh looks at the heart.” [1Sam 16: 6-7]

And Paul informs the congregation in Ephesus that they too, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are “children of light”, for like the man born blind, they are now capable of goodness and uprightness and truth. [Eph 5:8-9]

The grace of the Spirit, offered graciously by our God, enables us to speak with truth. We need not be of great estate, of great learning. We need only be willing to open our hearts and minds to the indwelling God and allow him to use us as the instruments of his love.

Can you see?



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Apr 03, 2011 @ 20:36:24

    Sherry, your gifts of distillation often take my breath away, as they do here! Another dense story and you sharpen our eyes to see it so clearly.

    In a story overloaded with irony, the biggest of all for me–which gets buried in my blather on the text–is nobody, not even the man’s parents seems the least bit excited or happy for the man after he’s cured! I marvel at his patience with them. I would have lost it on the first go-’round.

    Thank you for such insight (no pun intended) on a text that bears revisiting often.



    • Sherry
      Apr 04, 2011 @ 13:29:37

      Gosh Tim, I never thought of that! Nobody was jumping for joy! lol…you would have expected his parents to be ecstatic…maybe he could help out at home! lol..Thanks for you kind words as always. Blessings,


      • Tim
        Apr 04, 2011 @ 21:33:32

        The parents got special attention in yesterday’s sermon–and it wasn’t kind. We were reminded they voice no joy over their son’s healing, they’ve let him beg for a living, and when the time comes to defend him, they wiggle their way out of it! “The Temple connection is too important to them,” we were told. “They’ve treated him no differently than the rest of the community.” And my heart broke!

      • Sherry
        Apr 05, 2011 @ 14:14:52

        Yes, they were afraid of being put out of the Temple…and you are so right–I have glossed over that part of the story every time I’ve read it. Thank you for pointing it out, and reminding me how rich is the gospel when we share it with each other…It is meant to be a community into which each of us offers to each other…Thank you dear friend.

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