A couple of early thoughts:
First, the blind man (or, "the man formerly known as blind", for pop-culture fans) is very astute in responding to the arguments of the Pharisees. It makes me wonder if his role as a street beggar and his blindness enabled him to pick up on the nuances of the Pharisees' argument against Jesus.
Second, his response to the Pharisees is very wise. We know that he has faith, yet he declares that he doesn't know if Jesus is a sinner -- all he knows is that he was blind, and now he can see. By stating the obvious, he puts the discussion back in their court and doesn't get himself in trouble for expounding on his belief in Jesus as prophet and Lord. What good would this new sight be if he got himself killed? And yet he didn't betray Jesus either.......he only stated the truth as he understood it.
I haven't yet decided where I'm going with this story. Instead of reading this long passage, I'm going to tell it in story form without notes, with the portable mike rather than the pulpit. It seems to me the narrative has to be brought to us in a slightly different way this week.
More later, SueCan
Predestination vs. freewill observation:
I am still digging on the first part of the text. Jesus was explaining that "(the man) was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him." Which I see it as He knew the miracle would happen. Yet, when He performed the miracle, He chose the indirect way: instead of an instant healing, He let the blind man participate in the miracle. Thus the blind man has a choice to disobey and to remain blind. But Jesus already knew the miracle would happen, then why would He let the blind man chooses? Is the blind man's choice had any real value at all?
It's just something that I am wrestling with. CoHo.
From my wrestling above during the last few days, this is what I pick up:
As the man was born blind, a lot of us find ourselves in harsh circumstances, sometimes we don't have control over what had happened to us, sometimes we do. Wrestling with the "Whys" of circumstances and we tangled ourselves in more questions, but the answer had always been too simple, and perhaps too abstract: "Our circumstances intended for the Glory of God".
But God's intention for our circumstances hinged solely on our response. Make the wrong choice, turn God down by disobedience and we will never get to see God's intention become reality in our life. And the choice God requires is neither trivial or obvious. Instead of the the broadway, he wants the narrow path that hard to find. Instead of a revolution, he seeked a cruxificion. Instead of balm, he used mud. Instead of taking the blind by the hand, he sent the a handicap through the crowded alleys of Jerusalem seeking for Siloam by himself.
But made the wrong choice, and we will not see his good and glorious intention materializes in our lives.
Perhaps we analyze too much with the "Whys" of life and trust the Life Giver too little. Perhaps we fail to see the "irrelevant" choices for us when God offer them to us. Perhaps we disobey the "little details" in life. And perhaps, that is why we have not seen the works of God through us.
What do you think? Now, I can move on to the next part of the text. CoHo.
I find verses 39 through 41 rather eye-opening... Here we have Jesus stating un-equivocally that He came into this world for judgement, and He states clearly that some of the Pharisees remain in their state of sin, even though they claim to see.
Might we occasionally, in addition to expressing God's love, a love that saves us from sin and its consequences, preach about the judgement. Not judgment exclusively, not hell and damnation alone, but balancing the message of God's love with the message of the consequences of rejecting His love?
And how do the universalists ignore these verses?
Curious, but hoping...
Rick in Va
I had a parishioner ask me this week for the psalm that says that God knows all our days before we are formed. (I think he meant 139) He is wrestling with predestination. His search led me to pondering.
I don't have "the answer", but I am not particularly troubled by the idea that God knows what will happen. The way that I conceptualize it, I live "in" time, and have free will "in" time, but God lives "beyond" time, and knows my heart better than I know it myself. I am free to choose, but God knows what I will choose because for him past, present and future are concurrent.
It is not that our choices are less meaningful, or less willful, because of predestination. They are just more predictable by the one who knows and loves us so well.
As for judgment... It appears to me that Jesus is judging those who are so confident that they know God, that they refuse to accept evidence of his grace. They cannot see God's love even when it is as clear as the blind man looking right into their eyes.
Jesus brings judgment, but I am unclear as to how that judgment sways anyone to faithfulness. I have no need to confirm the hardness of human hearts. I am more inclined to invite those who listen into a deeper relationship with God if I lift up God's love rather than beating them with condemnation.
Don't get me wrong, I preach about sin. I just don't think it is productive to stop before we get to grace. SS in PA
Jesus healed the man who was blind twice, didn't he? First he is healed of his blindness and then, after he was thrown out of the synagogue Jesus found him (that means went looking for him) and provided a new faith connection. Jesus doesn't heal any of us once, does he? Don't you think we keep seeing more and more on our faith journeys because Jesus keeps finding us and healing us again and again? I think it's key that the man was sent to wash off the mud. Doesn't Jesus heal us through the responses we make to his directions?
John 9:35-38 -- Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him.
Such a simple, honest and basic question that we often try to answer with a lot of extra stuff that is on OUR minds and hearts at the moment, but not necessarily on the minds and hearts of the seeker. But the question is simple: "Tell me, just tell me who he is so that I may believe. I don't need to hear YOUR stuff right now. Just tell me who JESUS is so that I may believe in HIM."
ml in pa
Several "hard for me" thoughts: 1. Could Exodus 4:10-12 apply here? If so what's that say about God? 2. Was the "indirect approach" to this healing the act of the Creator forming what the blind man lacked (working eyes) from the dust/ a la Genesis? 3. Did the religious people believe they were serving God by "grilling" this man & his parents? Were they later convinced they served God through participation in the crucifiction? Were they serving God here without knowing it by adding to our understanding through their failure?
HELP!?!?!?!?!?! JP in NC
To CoHo ans SS in PA: Regarding predestination comments, please do not think predestination means God knows what we will choose. In Calvin's predestination God does the choosing, and we have no part in choosing. It is predestination, not preknowledge. After two years of being a free will Methodist in a predestination Presbyterian seminary I had to make some choices. I chose to believe God does not want us preaching pure predestination, because then all evangelical zeal and necessity of evangelical missionary work is worthless. Nor does God want us preaching pure free choice, because then God has no work in a person choosing salvation, it is all up to us to accomplish. People get so bad in that case they are going to grab someone by the lapels and personally force someone to receive Christ. A balance of the two, God preparing and us helping people make the choice seems to be most effective. Yes, the blind man could have chosen not to wash off the mud, but Jesus encouraged him to do so. Yes, people can choose to reject repentance, but we should encourage them to do so in God's time, not our own. revup
I am going to call this sermon "How To Get Thrown Out of Church" -- I don't know exactly where I am going with this, but I was thinking how sometimes the church (re: pharisees) gets to depending on its doctrines so much that they reject "the truth" -- I was "kicked out of church" many years ago when my experience did not match the teaching or the doctrine of the denomination I was in. Actually, it turned out to be a promotion and the best thing that could have happened to me. Do even we reject the Messiah when he challenges our own preconceived ideas, doctrines and theologies? There are none so blind as those who will not see. Just doing some Monday pondering. RevKK
True, theology began right at the beginning of the Church, with Paul explaianing the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ and what is entailed in our salvation and even a theology of what is the Church. Then John elaborating on the identification of Jesus Christ.
Later when the Christological "heresies" about rhe nature of Christ started, the "orthodox" Church leaders had to develop a "theology" of Christ in order to identify the heresies and refute them.
Then when Pelagius naievely preached that God's grace isn't always necesaary, that forced Augustine to develop his theology of grace and salvation, which was accepted by Church leaders right on through to Calvin and the modern "evangelicals."
Still, I don't like theology. I agree with St. Thomas that we can only speak or God and the things of God "by way of analogy." What do we really know of God...and salvation? Very presumptious of us to even make a faltering statement.
When I hear preachers talk about "predestination" and all the other components of salvation, I sometimes wonder, "What about the mystery of God." How can we be so exact about the procedure of salvation: "First admit that you are a sinner. Then admit that you need God to save you. Then accept Christ as your personal Savior. Then find a "Bible" church for fellowship. All you guys that are saved stand over on that side and all you guys that ain't saved yet, stand over on this side." Sounds like a program from Alcoholics Anonymous; it doesn't sound much like the "great mystery of God."
I know this belongs in the theology section of DPS, but I mention it here because St. John in this beautiful passage about the man born blind is trying to share with us some of the great mystery of conversation and salvation. Let's take it just as it is. Let's not "theologize" it to death...who is saved and who isn't... Are they predestined or aren't they. (Let's let John Calavin sleep in peace...and Augustine.) Did they perform all the acts leading up to salvation? Who knows???. You can't deal with the mystery of salvation in these terms! This remarkable gift / passage from St.John needs not much preaching. Just a response of meditation and awe. Joe from Maine
Correction "The great mystery of CONVERSION (not conversation) and salvation." Sorry --Joe from Maine
I am doing this Lenten series, "When In our Music God is Glorified" looking at the Lenten Psalm passages each week. This week's Psalm passage is an old familiar one, Psalms 23. The title is "God guides us." Along with the imagery from that Psalm, I possibly will look at the incidents with the blind man and Jesus, to show how the Lord guides us as we are freed by the Lord from our blindness.
". . . he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him."
This is the phrase that has jumped out at me. I guess I am willing to live in the tension of predestination v. free will. I struggle more with the question, "Am I cooperating with God, so that his works might be revealed in me?"
OOPS! I left out my "signature" above.
Chris in NY and PA
Thanks for those of you who responsed to my Predestination's wrestling. Sometimes, the things that you wrestle with are personal wrestle, and therefore I am not going to bring that into the talk. I will balance it as "God Initiates, Man Responses".
More interesting observations: 1) It's a considerable down-hill distance from the temple (where Jesus was at the end of Chapter 8) to pool Siloam for the blind man to travel. 2) My mother works with a Ministry for the Blinds her entire life. From her experience, a man born blind is easier to be contented in his condition that a man who lost his sight later on in life. I am thinking of people who have never experienced God, they are in the same boat, they may hear about great things people the Christian told them about, but personally, they would not know what they miss since they never had it. It take more risks and more faith for them to make it to the pool of Siloam.
About preaching on judgement: Last year's end I was doing an evaluation with a few Gen-Xers leaders. When asked, "What's the most common misconception young people had today about God?" They all agreed that young people generally think of God is Love, and therefore will put up with whatever they are doing. Based on that feedback, I will try to make sure that our studies will balance a bit more so that we won't "customize God into our own perference."
Point to Ponder:
JESUS USED MUD TO PUT ON THE BLIND MAN, AND USED THE BLIND MAN AS MUD TO PUT ON THE PHARISEES. ONE RECEIVED SIGHT, THE OTHERS REMAIN SIGHTLESS. WHY?
When this text came up three years ago, I began by singing the first verse of "Amazing Grace". I then talked about it's author, John Newton. Newton was converted to a very evangelical form of Christianity while he was the captain of a slave ship in the middle of the 18th century. Later he left sailing to study divinity in Liverpool, and, despite eventually a bishop ordained in the Church of England. In one of his early charges he began writing hymns, which were published later as "Olney Hymns" or something like that. One of them was Amazing Grace. Later he was appointed to a parish in London, where he became very influential with a group of Evangelicals, one of whom was William Wilberforce. Wilberforce is known in the UK and throughout the former British Empire as the "Great Emancipator", as for years in the UK parliament he campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade, and the use of the British Navy to prevent it being plied by other nations.
John Milton was someone who once was blind, but came to see. While he was converted to a very personal form of faith, he came to see that it had implications for the world - such as the freedom of slaves, and the active work against it. In his influence on Wilberforce and others, the gospel moved from being simply a matter of salvation, but a re-creative force in his society - a matter of the incarnation.
Well, that's what I preached about three years ago. Now what do I do?
Bruce on Pender Island, BC
In my last post, in the second paragraph, read "John Newton" for "John Milton". The latter was indeed blind, but he isn't the man I wanted to refer to!
Bruce on Pender Island, BC
Rick, I have responded to your question about the universalist reaction on the discussion site... Rev D in BG
Just found the site a few weeks ago. Thanks for the location for a dialogue. Sometimes I think I think too much on this stuff. For example, it seems to be that the disciples wanted Jesus to enter into the ongoing theological discourse of the day in the same way that I can become so intrigued with the nuances of free will and predestination. '
However once again, doesn't Jesus just cut through this and go for the mud. [3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.] Why does this mean more than "Look! Why can't you understand? Reality is reality, he's blind. He's him and you are you. All of creation is here for the same reason, so that God's work can be revealed." Therefore he go to work and used the most practical, earthy process possible, a little spit and mud. MNDell
Congrats for lasting 2 years as a free will Methodist in a predestination Presbyterian seminary -- I only lasted one year! But I came out at about the same place you did.
I've never been thrown out of church for my theological positions (at least overtly). The last church I was thrown out of was because I wasn't "yuppie" enough. Being a minister, we couldn't belong to the Country Club, Junior League, etc. There are all sorts of reasons people join church and include or exclude others like or unlike them. Very rarely do the PEOPLE consider the theology of a church they join. Willimon seems to think this passage is more for us clergy than our laypeople.
Thanks, CoHo, for the delightful insight into the Omniscience of God vs. Freewill of Creation debate. I really think you may have hit it right on the nose. I also appreciate the contribution about "time and space" contributed by another. I really think that insight coupled with CoHo's in consistent with the scriptural witness.
Also, like you, CoHo, I have also found many GenXers wanting me to learn more about the consequences of sin, both before and after salvation. The kids I know (at my age they're all kids to me) feel like they've been misled by hearing too much emphasis on a God that doesn't love His people enough to keep them away from things that hurt. When I was that age I cannot imagine being mature enough to recognize the need for life-style discipline. These kids are WAY, WAY ahead of where we were back then, making promises to the whole world that we later turned our backs on and walked away from. We thought we were so smart back then.
God bless you, email@example.com
"wanting me to learn more..." I'm sorry for that. I edited "wanting me to teach them more" intending to substitute "wanting to learn more." Looks like the "me" wouldn't get out of the way. The sentence should read "wanting to learn more..."
It's the first time I participate in posting. Usually do we post our outline here for peer review as well? Or is it robbing people of digging through the text for themselves?
This is my first submission to this site. I have been "lurking" as they say on my conference's listserve.
One of the most striking points within this text, at least for me, is Jesus' persistence. He doesn't perform a "drive-by" or shall I say "walk-by" healing. When Jesus heard that they had driven the healed man out of their presence, Jesus "found him" (9:35)
Today in a confirmation class I teach, I asked a group of 25 sixth graders how they would demonstrate holiness if someone offered them drugs. One of them said, "I'd 'just say no,' and then walk away." We talked about that for a moment, and then I asked: "Is 'just saying no' and then walking away the 'right' thing to do?" And another sixth grader said, "Well, no, because when you 'just say no' and walk away, then you pass up a chance to say something that might make a difference in that person's life."
How many times do we think we've done all we need to do for others as we go about the task of ministry, both as pastors and as laity? You send a letter to that person. You speak a kind word to another person. And yet, the healing is not complete. In John's text for this week, we see in Jesus one who never gave up on anyone.
Jerry in TX
Rev D in BG: THANKS (do you hear a sigh of relief sweeping the planet?) for moving that one to the Discussion Site!
CoHo, CA: If you post your sermon outline under the sermon review, please mention it here. Thanks!
I will try to post at Sermon Review a Readers Theater piece I wrote telling this text with five readers. Drama Ministry just sent me their sample packet with an excellent "Bonus Christmas Issue" explaining how to do Readers Theater (1-800-98-DRAMA; www.DramaMinistry.com; firstname.lastname@example.org) Anne in Providence
To Jerry in TX,
I agree with you. From reading the passage, you have the sense that Jesus was always watching the guy from afar, even as he was facing the intimidation from the Pharisees all by himself. Then when he got thrown out, Jesus seek him out and be there when he needed Him most. It's like the parents let go of the little child who was taking the first few steps. The kid needs to learn to walk by himself. But the parents always there, especially when he stumbles and falls.
You asked "How many times do we think we've done all we need to do for others as we go about the task of ministry, both as pastors and as laity?"
I am still regreting today for not doing what I was supposed to do. Three years ago, a highschooler in my youth group got pregnant. I heard about it through the senior pastor, who she came and talked to. The kid went on and had an abortion, then both side of the families organized the wedding at their home. I was invited, but couldn't attend due to some other engagements. I bought her a card. But busy things slip it through my fingers. The card was never sent. And until today I still regret for not follow through when she need it most by not sending her that wedding card.
Anne in Providence: Thanks for the reader theater stuff in the Sermon Review section. Can I pass that along to my worship leader? I am just starting on the sermon, but I think I will post the outline I had so far.
Here's Mud in Your Eye,
True to form, Jesus creates another scandal.
So far in Lent, we have Jesus working with wind, water and mud, not to mention a closet disciple??, a woman, and a blind guy. We have moved from confusion to confession, and the support offered by Christ is not ever in direct proportion to the capacity of the individual.
I like the idea of "How to get kicked out of the church"!
Doc in OK
What is your source from Willimon?
Doc in OK
Why did Jesus use mud to heal the blind man's eyes? It is because of Who He is. In Genesis 2 God forms man "out of the dust of the earth." Christ, the creator is RE-CREATING the man's eyes.
We are all born spiritually blind. We cannot come to faith on our own. In order for us to have faith, God must RE-CREATE our spiritual vision, just as he RE-CREATED the blind man's sight.
I myself am legally blind, and here are some interesting things about being blind:
Blindness is thought of as punishment. Oedipus Rex blinded himself as punishment for marrying his mother. Samson was blinded in jail. Psychiatric patients talk about becoming blind as punishment for their sins. In literature there is also a connection between blindness and weakness and blindness and perversion.
The public afraid of Blind people. If somebody is carrying a white cane on a bus, most people will choose to sit with somebody else.
People don't want to associate with blind people. During World War Two, many blind persons were employed in factories. However, when the war ended, and the troops returned, the blind were by and large asked to leave the workforce (because employees felt uncomfortable working with blind people), and unemployment among the blind has remained very high--about seventy percent, since then. The ADA hasn't made much of a difference.
I hope that this might give some background.
Karl T. Dalager email@example.com
In her book "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," Annie Dillard writes: "I chanced on a wonderful book by Marius von Senden, called 'Space and Sight.' When Western surgeons discovered how to perform safe cataract operations, they ranged across Europe and America operating on dozens of men and women of all ages who had been blinded by cataracts since birth. Von Senden collected accounts of such cases; the histories are fascinating."
Here's a sampling of those histories:
"For the newly sighted, vision is pure sensation unencumbered by meaning: 'The girl went through the experience that we all go through and forget, the moment we are born. She saw, but it did not mean anything but a lot of different kinds of brightness.'
"In general the newly sighted see the world as a dazzle of color-patches. They are pleased by the sensation of color, and learn quickly to name the colors, but the rest of seeing is tormentingly difficult."
So tormentingly difficult, in fact, that "a disheartening number of them refuse to use their new vision....Of a twenty-one-year old girl, the doctor relates, 'Her unfortunate father, who had hoped for so much from this operation, wrote that his daughter carefully shuts her eyes whenever she wishes to go about the house, especially when she comes to a staircase, and that she is never happier or more at ease than when, by closing her eyes, she relapses into her former state of total blindness."
"On the other hand, many newly sighted people speak well of the world, and teach us how dull is our own vision....A twenty-two-year old girl was dazzled by the world's brightness and kept her eyes shut for two weeks. When at the end of that time she opened her eyes again, she did not recognize any objects, but, 'the more she now directed her gaze upon everything about her, the more it could be seen how an expression of gratification and astonishment overspread her features; she repeatedly exclaimed: "Oh God! How beautiful!"'"
--Annie Dillard, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," pp. 26-31 (hope I got all the proper quotation marks in the proper places!).
Doug in Riverside
Karl & Doug, Thanks for the excellent INSIGHTS on blindness.
CoHo, (Yes, certainly use the Readers Theater piece.) Thanks for posting your outline, which is getting me off to a great start! So good to see that you sometimes end your service with ministry time at the altar.
Anne in Providence (Trinity375@aol.com)
I have a question about the blind man and the Sabbath. Jesus walked by this man - so obviously the man was out on the street. We also know from v. 8 that he made his living as a beggar. My question, while not central to my sermon, is; Was it lawful to beg for money on the Sabbath? If not, why was the man out on the street? (Could be to just enjoy the day and the crowds that had come for the Feast of Tabernacles.) Anyway, does anybody have any idea about begging on the Sabbath??
Erik in WI
It seems to me that this is a pretty clear reference to baptism. That the man was sent to wash in a pool, the literal translation of which is(if I am remembering my exegetical class correctly) "the Sent One." In John's gospel Jesus is the Sent One. The man who was born blind washed, was healed, and from that point on, already seeing and blessed with that gift, grew in faith until, at the end of the story, he befomes the first person in John's gospel who worships Jesus.
I know that this is just one strand of many, and this is an initial thought, and the place where I am beginning.
Dave in Iowa
What does it say mean when a former blind street urchin ends up "seeing" Jesus more clearly than devoted, faithful church going religious people ?
Which kind of "blindness" is harder to heal? The Pharisees question near the end is a great foil: Is He talking about "us"? What is there about good faithful upstanding religious church going people that makes them spiritually blind? What is there about challenged poor homeless folks that make them more able to see Jesus for all He is? I am not sure where this is going...but I can't resist playing around with the question: Hey..You think he is talking about "us"? VWL in NC
I will not be preaching this Sunday: we're on vestry retreat so the good brothers of the Order of the Holy Cross will share their liturgy with us. However, I was intrigued by Rick from VA's question of "balancing the message of God's love with the message of the consequences of rejecting His love?" It seems to me that one of the surest ways to reject God's infinte love is to limit it to our finite ability to apprehend it. Again and again I hear Jesus saying "But wait -- there's more!" (Sort of like a first century ginsu knife commerical on late night TV.) Yes, the blind could see; the lame could walk; the oppressed were offered liberation and even unclean women were welcome at the table. Jesus did indeed come to save sinners. But wait: there's more! He also came conquer SIN for all time -- to remove that which separates us from the love of God, and to offer us the opportunity to participate with Him in the process of the redemption of creation. And that's how I believe we claim, rather than reject God's love: allow the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to give us the courage to confront the "principalities and powers" of systemic evil and redeem them in the name of Jesus. (PS - I love the "Here's Mud In Your Eye" title. And to Doug in Riverside: my now 17 year-old son was very chuffed to see his "Jesus and the Whale" story in someone's sermon other than his Mom's!) Blessings, Susan in SanPedro
I asked a medical doctor friend of mine for the most popular cause of blindness from birth and this is what she wrote back:
"The #1 cause of blindness in the world is when the mother has Chlamydia (an STD) and during childbirth, the baby goes thru the birth canal and gets infected in the eyes by Chlamydia and becomes blind. Infections by other viruses, bacteria, or fungi in the birth canal cause this too. So most common cause of blindness is by the baby being infected a some bug the mother has when going thru the birth canal.
There is no way to cure this currently. But it's very preventable. About a week b4 the expected birth date, the mom is given antibiotics so she won't infect the baby."
Interesting reason for the disciple to ask if the parents were sinning or not huh?
A couple of observations. 1. Many states require the professional person (obstetrician, midwife, etc.) to put drops of medecine in the eyes of the newborn to combat the effects of gonorrhea. 2. Anne Dillard is describing the experience of people blind since birth, who have been given sight. Some will go further and commit suicide, because they cannot live in this new world, for which they had not been prepared. These reactions are quite different from those of people who had been sighted, then lost it, and then regained it. But in John, it is a man blind since birth. R.J. in ND
It seems like Jesus's presence itself brings judgement. Reveals the mind and hearts of the characters in this story. When we get the actual mention of judgement, at the end of the story, it is the cerain Pharisees in question here that prounounce their own judgement on themselves (.v41). And, let's keep the word judgement in it's context: "I came into this world for judgement so that..." (.v 39).
How come when Jesus judges, or brings judgement to a situation in the gospels, it is ALWAYS good religious people like me who are receiving it? And NEVER the kinds of folks good religious people like me are prone to be judging?
Or am I forgetting some passage that may put me at ease again? Tell me if so.
pHil, You're right on the money. All anyone needs to do is read Paul to see even among the newly founded church the tension between grace and gratitude constantly led the leaders of the church (especially Corinth) to one extreme or the other.
God bless you, firstname.lastname@example.org
One insight I've had on this passage is a question of who was really blind: The disciples? the neighbors? the Phrisees? And then you ask, "what had blinded them?" For the pharisees they had been blinded by law and tradition. As for the others, I'm still meditating on this. Robert in WNC
"When Christians assume tht they are more righteous than other people, Christians increase the sin of self-righteousness and make Christianity a tool of human pride" (Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, 1:201). Jealousy and pride can easily masquerade as morality and righteousness. Is this what Jesus tells us in vv. 39-41? We're all blind to something. May we open our eyes and see more clearly: not to judge others, but to realize our own shortcomigs. Mark in Va.
Thank you VWL from NC. For me the key question is, "Who is really blind?" We have the blind man who truly sees Jesus and the sighted Pharisees who are blind to who He is. The blind man sees and the sighted ones are blind. It's an obvious and old interpretation but still relevant. My theme is that the ones who think they can see in our society (politicians, media, academics etc) are often blind to what is really happening whereas the blind (the poor, the addicted, the oppressed) are the ones who really see. Who does Jesus constantly turn to when revealing much of his truth? - the ones who can really see eg. the woman at the well (last week), the Roman soldier, Mary Magdalene, the leper etc. My question: Do we have sight yet are blind or are we blind but can truly see? NE, Sydney, Australia.
My thesis: All of us are born in the image of God, but we are progressing to Christlikeness. Whatever handicapps we have, whether they be physical, mental or emotional, as we journey through life as God's sheep, the Good Shepherd guides us. The Blind man is one example of that experience of Guidance. Once he is found by Jesus, he follows each step of the way. In the episode of John 9, the other characters will not be analyzed, they exhibit the roadmaps and stumbling blocks for the blind man. Our part is to follow Christ direct instructions, and occasionally to look back and see how God has brought us along the way.
Not all Pharisees are blinded, verse 16: "SOME of the Pharisees said, 'This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.' But OTHERS said, 'How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And THEY WERE DIVIDED."
It seems like the blind man testimony had some effects on some Pharisees as well. I guess a minority began to see some light about Jesus as well.
To pHil: There are still some hope to the "good religious folks". Nicodemus and Paul came to know and commit to Christ from the Pharisees.
Shoes. It was a ten-dollar pair of shoes that I took to her. Certainly they could not have cost more than that. More, I hadnt even purchased them. Perhaps if I had bought them, I would have felt more inclined to bask in her appreciation. But they were a gift from friends who had also been to this place, this place of non-being, this place of people with no names. And so, it was with more than a small amount of embarrassment that I accepted her gratitude.
We were playing American football with the children when she came charging out of the rundown barracks, the makeshift home designed to hold no more than a few dozen soldiers, barracks which now housed 350 people. A rambunctious game of American football, teaching Bosnian children who were well adept at soccer but who could not quite grasp the basic concept of this bizarre new game. Each time the oblong ball hit the ground they would begin kicking it all over the place. And of course, it didnt matter. No boundaries could contain the enthusiasm of these children, children who had seen so much destruction, children who were too small for lack of proteins and a proper diet, children who were usually too quiet and too sad. Through the happy chaos she barged, Izlika, coming to express her joy of new shoes, being slowed only by the scampering children as she made her way directly to me.
I then found myself being towed toward the barracks, pulled so intently by the hand that I had no choice but to go, reluctantly following Izlika like some puppy being unhappily jerked toward the house after it had spent not nearly enough time in the yard. The children made the noise of disappointment but she would not be dissuaded. So I went. What else could I do?
As I entered her small, dark room, the room which was barely adequate for one person, the room which she shared with her daughter and four other people from another family, I noticed that she had set a small table at the foot of her bed. There on the table was a small pastry, just one, and two small cups of strong Bosnian coffee. Izlika waved toward the edge of the bed motioning that she wanted me to sit in front of the place with the pastry, indicating that the pastry was for me. I sat and she situated herself on the floor at the opposite side of the small table. She smiled.
We sat in silence, sipping our coffee and me munching my pastry, not being able to converse, each being unable to speak the others language with any sense of comprehensibility. So, we just sat and sipped for awhile, each lost in our own thoughts, each feeling the presence of the other, growing comfortable in the silence.
After she refilled our cups, she began searching under her bed and after some moments she pulled out a small, photo album. It was dirty and the cover was frayed from being handled too many times, opened and closed, opened and closed, the relentless and never ending remembrance of the past. She came and sat on the bed beside me and slowly we walked through that album together. Her story unfolded before me. A story of family and friends. A story of other children, children whom she would never see again, children who were most likely destroyed by this war. Her two adult sons had been taken away by Serbian soldiers and she had been separated from her adult daughter in the mad flight for refuge. Gone they were gone. We sat on that bed, we sat so close that we could hear one another breathing, we sat and together we cried.
After long moments we arose and Izlika slowly made her way across the small room. There on the wall was a beautiful drawing of a mosque, a drawing which had been meticulously and painstakingly rendered. On a nail above the drawing hung two strings of prayer beads. With great care she took one of the strings into her hands and turned back toward me. With sweeping motions she then indicated that this picture was a drawing of her mosque, the place where she would go and worship. With a pursing of her lips, she made the sound of an explosion the sound of destruction which seems to be the same in any language the sound which occurred when the shells fired from Christian guns slammed into this once beautiful mosque. Tears once again began to cascade down her face.
And then, and then, Izlika slowly walked back over to me, this battered Muslim woman, this woman who had lost so much. She stood in front of me me a person whom she knew claimed the same faith as those that had brought her so much pain. She stood in front of me and gently and lovingly draped her Islamic prayer beads over my head.
As the mud was wiped away from my eyes, it was clear who was standing before me it was the Christ. It was Jesus, now enveloped in the body of this damaged Muslim woman who had lost so much, this damaged woman who still chose to love.
And he said, I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind. Yet, those who were so sure of their sight, who were so sure of their vision of the world said, Surely we are not blind, are we? And he said to them, if you would but be broken, you would see. But since you are so sure of your righteousness, your heart doesnt break and your blindness your sin remains.
Shalom my friends,
Nail-Bender in NC
An interesting thought came to me concerning the perspectives of the different ones involved. The Pharisees were concerned about right and wrong in the legalistic sense, ie., "Who sinned this man or his parents?", "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath." This is their issue, not one for the man born blind. They need to understand the difference between academic theology on one hand and relationship to God on the other.
It is interesting to note, as one writer alluded to earlier, that the newly sighted man does not "bite the bait". His concern was his physical (and spiritual) problem with seeing. He was not concerned about this law or that. In the end, he sees what Jesus offers him, and confesses accordingly. The Pharisees' issue is not his, and he responds accordingly.
Perhaps, we get too caught up in wanting others to take on our issues, instead of facing them ourselves. It is much easier to wish that such and such person is hearing the message...they really need to hear it. We don't want to wrestle with our issues but make them somebody else's. Then they are the one with the problem, not me.
I have a niece, who is unwed, preganant, and about ready to deliver. She has made the decision to have the child adopted, and is beginning to deal with the consequences of her actions, in what I perceive is genuine sincerity.
Her parents and grandparents continue to be worried about "how they might look", "what a problem child she has been", "she is so rebellious, she need's to repent before God." "Don't show her too much loving attention or people will think you condone her actions".
My niece moved away from these pressures to an aunt's house where she could face the issues of her behavior, ie., the preganancy and the future of the child. She has recognized the reality of her situation and the difficulty it has brought into her life. She has faced her issue, knowing full well that she must live with the decisions of her consequences (the sexual sin and the giving of her child up for adoption).
Who allowed this young woman freedom to face up to her issue before Christ? The aunt who verbally admits the sin yet still sheltered her and advised her and helped her struggle with the issues? Her parents and grandparents who know the law well, but seem to have no clue what it means to be in relationship with another human being?
It appears to me that when we exclusively allow ourselves to be raised up in righteousness above others then we think we have the right to judge others and their issues. Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, does not need human beings to convict others of their sin. While it is true we are to hold others accountable, that accountability must happen in the context of community and relationship. If this does not happen, then we are merely denying our responsibility for community and our responsibility to provide for others the pathway to wholeness.
The blind man lived in community with the Pharisees. All knew him and that he was blind from birth. But there was no relationship there. True community was not happening for him; people were just dropping him a few coins to ease their conscious and their responsibility. Jesus, though, comes and befriends him, (despite his being blind and a sinner like all others) and out of love provides him an opportunity to see, move toward wholeness.
For my niece, her flesh and blood family "need" her to be the black sheep of the family. It allows them to take attention off their issues. They love dealing with tasks and works righteousness type of living which help them to avoid emotional (and I believe, spiritual) issues. While they understand themselves to be loving, the niece and others have perceived their actions to be inconsistent with what they preach. For the good news they preach is unattainable for the niece, only available for those who are lily white. I have questioned, "will any amount of repentance ever be enough?".
I cannot understand from my experience in both "conservative" and "liberal" camps throughout my faith journey, how we can "throw stones" at those whom we have not full heartedly covenanted with in community. As a pastor, my first accountability is with my relationship to God. When I work through that, in the midst of community, then those who are in my church respect my words of accountability. (Some may wish to use the word judgment instead of accountability but, due to semantics, judgment takes on a finality which I think belongs to God alone.) And, then as my church and I are accountable with one another, that preaches mightily to those in the larger community.
The Pharisees wish to hold others accountable without first holding themselves accountable. That is their sin, and, quite often, ours.
So, I come before you today, (and prayerfully everday hereafter) to confess my blindness. What are my issues? Despite what my niece faces, and her parents and grandparents, and the open armed aunt, what is God trying to tell me? Despite the Pharisees issue and the blind man's issue, what is God trying to tell me?
The issue for me is not the right and wrong answer of theological discussion. The issue is for me is to continue to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Opening myself to be touched in a new way by Christ. Theological discussions are wonderful and I enjoy them, but they are only fruitful in that they serve as vehicles for building Christ-like community, not tearing it down.
I think I have a wonderful "case" to prove the parents and grandparents wrong. Afterall, this woman is like the woman of Samaria that Christ comes to. But then, am I faithful to my daily calling to follow Christ.
It is in the midst of the Christ-filled community that accountability and blindness can be rightfully addressed. And if we are not willing to stand the pressures of ministering from within a particular community (be it our congregation, conservative or liberal, or a web site) then should we make it our perogative to lambast others? The power that God gives us is not for elevating ourselves nor knocking down others, but to preach with our lives a lifestyle consistent with our sermons.
I confess that I feel a kindred spirit with some of you more so than with others. But for those of you whom I don't readily associate, know that I am still blinded, seeking more of the light of God, from whomever my Lord wishes to shine it. In both my conservative and libereral days, I wished I could hold all the special revelation from God, but I don't think it works out that way.
Scott from NY (Reformed and ever-Reforming, one who is a liberal to conservatives, a conservative to liberals, a moderate who cannot ditch either law or grace for simplicity and, last but not least, one who sees wonderful humor that God called even me.)
My thoughts on this passage had me wondering how we are blind. The disciples only saw a blind man and wondered why he was blind. Jesus saw the same man and saw ministry and a way to glorify God.
Are we so blinded by our religious understanding and traditions that we miss opportunities for ministry? Is that why we can be called "blind guides"? These are my thoughts for this Sunday.
What is this darkness / blindness which prevents me from seeing myself? What is this blindness which causes me to accuse the other for their problems? Why can't I look deeply into myself? Why must I find fault with others? Why is it easier for Jesus to take away the blindness of the man born blind, than it is to remove the darkness from the harden hearts of pharisees? Does one have to have a certain amount of self-knowledge, before God can act?
tom in ga
10 MAR 99 Won't check in w/ Calvin or Pelagious but it seems to me that, according to Ephesians 1, God's will has always been to adopt us as God's children. Perhaps you could call that our "destiny...according to God." Of course, that won't happen without our cooperation; neither are our actions "preDETERMINED." That's a distinction that makes sense to me. On the matter of this man born blind, see how many times the text poses the question: "Is this the man?" At the end of verse 9 the chap himself insists "I AM the man." For any golf fans out there, we have an expression: "You the man!" It refers to a good swack of the ball by the golfer and is exclaimed as contact is made and the ball is knocked toward a fitting destination. Now, what makes this once-blind man, "the MAN"? As he tells the story of his healing, he matures (accelerated, no doubt) as a believer/follower disciple. To have the sermon title "You the man!" my inquisitive parishioners might logically conclude that I'm heading to Jesus. But this other man occupies most of the text. He is transformed--healed twice, as someone said--and becomes both a bold believer and would be-evangelist. (see eg. vs. 26). Blessings to you all this week. Peter in CA
In a book entitled "Is Forgiveness Humanly Possible" (whose author I cannot remember now) the best lesson I learned from that book was this: People, who have to be right, have to be right, because of their lack of need to be forgiven.
RM in GA
Peter in CA, Word of warning: If you are Black, "You the man!" will work fine. If you're not, it will feel like mockery of Black folk. Anne in Providence
To futher complicate the length factor of the scripture, i would suggest next weeks scripture also fits the theme of the 23rd Psalm, this Gospel revelation today, and the "Awake Thou that Sleepest and Arise from the Dead and Christ shall give thee Light"! Perhaps there is a relationship between the mystic miracle of our eyes being "opened", our being raised from the "sickness unto death", and the identity affirmations of Jesus as the Christ, i.e., his "I-AM's", particularly his "I am the resurrection and the life". Do we remember "eyes to see but do not", and if so, do we identify with the man blind from birth? In what way has the psycho-linguistic inheritance built within the cultural worldview frame to which we have been socialized affected our "not seeing" the sacred mystical Presence of God's "I-AM-NESS" in our common place or in scripture's sacred stories? Do the "meanings" we shape in word grasp and witness the Eternal I-AM or do they project our idolterous illusion in which there is "sickness unto death" cutting us off from any "new being/becoming" with an authentic future? The frame of reference out of which we "see", create meaning, and especially "witness the word" must be born out of a critical reflection grounded in "faith development" that transcends the attempt to "bind-up" God in a book filled up with frozen "I-It" interpretation of meaning while ignoring the dynamics in the "I-Thou" mystery of the sacred presence who draws near to us in the common place. Even at the gate of suffering the thrown-away humanity of the blind receive his presence, the mystical "I-AM", and "see". Those suffering from the meaninglessness of the "sickness unto death" are called forth from their "despair" to hope, and life, and new being called resurrection. "Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee light!" Disciples participate in resurrection of the dead today as surely as they did at the tomb of Lazarus when they rolled the stone away and unwrapped the bindings entrapping him in the sickness unto death. The power of faith in proclaiming Jesus as the Christ surely enables the Gospel messengers of today to be about the Kingdom Come's business at the gate of "throw-aways" where those "blind from birth" are discarded as useless waste. We need to be careful to avoid religiousity's "future of an illusion", which is no future but "sickness unto death", and to nurture the "faith development that leads ultimately to "education to reality". In this work the healing of blindness is critical! PaideiaSCO in swampland LA
This week's discussion has been so very helpful. When we approach this text from the perspective of our own blindness it takes on new meaning. None of us want to be the pharisee but often we are. When I read this text I am reminded of Jesus as he read in the temple from Isaiah.....I have come to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind...I understand this passage to refer to those who are spiritually blind as well as those who are physically blind. My sermon will focus on perspectives. How we view others, through the lens of Christlike love? or not? and also how we veiw ourselves. It seems to me those pharisees who saw Jesus as a sinner- were unable to see God work in new and different ways. When we think we have all the answers, as did the pharisees there is no reason to look for new and exciting revelations of God. I am often amazed in the congregations that I have served how there are always a few who apply the message to others rather than themselves. (I am sure I am included in that group from time to time) The comments from the man who had observed the effects of newly obtained sight on those previously blind, helped me to understand and articulate that seeing is often painful and wonderful at the same time. Please forgive the ramblings of this preacher but I will add that I was deeply blessed by the comments of Nail Bender and Scott. tsm
A tragedy? Maybe so.
Richard Lischer writes (Christian Century, March 3):
"...this story reflects the historic parting of the ways between the synagogue and the Jews who believed in Jesus. We were once so close. Just how close we still are can be seen in those moments when we acknowledge our dependence on God, and place no limits on who and how God saves in Jesus Christ. If we read this story as an ironic comedy and nothing more, we miss the loneliness of its final scene in which Jesus and the man converse outside the synagogue. But if we catch its underlying pathos, we will see this story for the tragedy it really is and wait upon God to write a new ending."
But who's at fault in this tragedy? The Pharisees, because of their own kind of blindness? Jesus, for healing an undeserving person? The gospel writer (John), because of the anti-Jewish polemic and rhetoric posed by his situation--being rejected by his own people?
Waiting upon God...not very fashionable in this hi-tech, hi-speed, hi-def world of ours. Especially when we need all the answers before venturing into a faith relationship, or want to judge and qualify another person's faith.
The blind man had an experience of God through healing. And it did not measure up to the terms set by the Pharisees. They were "Phari-seeing", through their own Mosaic lens.
And by every legitimate standard of their time, they were right. These weren't bad people, but good people, trying to serve God the best they knew how, meeting all of God's requirements as they understood them. They were righteous, and holy, and probably kind and decent people. Then comes this once-blind man, who must've deserved his blindness (or else his parents certainly did) because the prevailing mindset of the time was: God rewards good people with wealth, health, and power, and punishes bad people with poverty, sickness, and rejection. Hence the dilemma of why God would heal him, and their persistent questioning. There was a rush to judgement, looking through their familiar "lens of reality" -- they were Phari-seeing. Jesus, however, brings anew way of seeing, NOT based on the old system of righteousness, but based on the immediacy and immanance of God's love and the Spirit.
So the judgement here is not so much about who's good or bad; seems to me it's about who's willing to "acknowledge" God's power and not limit it, who's willing to wait on God and HOLD OFF on seeing the usual way...because maybe God has a new and different way for us to perceive. Maybe we do need to "blind" ourselves, figuratively of course, so that new sight can be given.
Can we do this today? When we look to other faiths, especially our Mosaic and Abrahamic cousins, must we limit God's power yet again, to our way, one way, of seeing? Will we choose to Phari-see? We will continue the tragedy? Or wait on passing our judgements for God to "write a different ending?"
Barry in OH
It is interesting that in verse 9 (look at the Greek) there is the only instance of the words "I AM" on any other one than Jesus. Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I AM." Does this mean that the blind0-seeing man is now mystically one with God, one with Jesus even as Jesus and the Father are one?
Revup, thanks. You are right, I was thinking fuzzy. Clearly omniscience is not the same as predestination. My parishioner was wrestling with the fact that God knows what will happen before it does, Not whether God has determined our choices. (Although that may be next!) Thanks for getting my words back in line with my thoughts.
The insights have been great. I especially appreciate the observations about those who have been blind from birth and have regained their sight. We are overwhelmed when we don't have any filters to help us decide where to pay attention, but when we filter out the big picture we can miss the most important things of all.
Thanks for the dialogue! SS in PA
The title for my sermon slammed into my head this morning while I was trying to think of a good title. A couple of hours ago, I had read about Stanley Kubrick's new movie that is coming out and now it seems to be the perfect title for the sermon: "Eyes Wide Shut."
Thanks to all who started me on the route to the idea of our blindness to our need of God's grace just as others have the need. It seems that more keeps coming to me as I ponder this subject. This morning, I read these words by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (what writings it came from, I don't know because I read it in a Lenten meditation book, "No Greater Love"):
"One must consider oneself the greatest of sinners. This arouses all the resistance of the natural man, but also that of the self-confident Christian. It sounds like an exaggeration, like an untruth. Yet even Paul said of himself that he was the foremost of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He said this specifically at the point where he was speaking of his service as an apostle. There can be no genuine acknowledgment of sin that does not lead to this extremity. If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all. My sin is of necessity the worst, the most grievous, the most reprehensible. Brotherly love will find any number of extenuations for the sins of others; only for my sin is there no apology whatsoever. Therefore, my sin is the worst. Those who would serve others in the fellowship must sink all the way down to these depths of humility. How can I possibly serve others in unfeigned humility if I seriously regard their sinfulness as worse than my own? Would I not be putting myself above them; could I have any hope for them? No, such service would be hypocritical."
More pondering caused me to remember something from William H. Willimon's book, "On a Wild and Windy Mountain." It is a meditation on Matthew 2:1-12 (the story of the Magi).
"The Chosen People (read, "church") pour over our Scriptures, debate fine points of theology, doing it all so decently and in order, checking one another out on correct doctrine, keeping our religion middle-of-the-road, balanced, respectable. In our wait, we miss the whole thing. Balanced, articulate, sophisticated, we know all the answers. The appearance of the star-gazers from the East is deeply troubling to our urbane religious Establishment. Is it time? Must we stop talking and start committing? Must we leave home too? What have these magicians, these religious fanatics, to teach us?
Matthew knows that these Gentiles, deprived of the Scriptures, lack explicit revelation. It is through the inadequate vehicle of nature that they must get what truth they can (Rom. 1:19-20; 2:14-15). For these magi, revelation comes as a star. The star is imperfect revelation because, while it tells these outsiders that something is happening, it does not tell them where they are to find the Child. That secret is locked in the Scriptures which only the Chosen can open.
And therein lies the paradox of Matthew's tale: These Gentiles--simple-minded, naive, credulous, star-gazers and fortune-tellers--come to worship, forfeiting their gold and myrrh. Those who have the Scriptures and who can see plainly what the prophets have said, are unwilling to bend the knee and worship. We are off at the temple, pleasing the Establishment, cooperating with Caesar, yawning in church. To us, the divine epiphany is more annoying intrusion than revelation. Let us work with the govenment to put an end to the commotion.
Those who have the Scriptures cannot see what the Scriptures show. Matthew says that the shocking thing is that these outsiders, knowing no more than what they can see in the star; these outsiders relinquish their gifts, turn over all they have, fall down at the manger and worship, wonder-struck by this undeserved epiphany.
Naive, untutored, unbalanced, tuned into PTL, clutching an autographed photo of Pat Robertson, searching, infatuated with foolish speculation and all sorts of weird religious notions--you have to hand it to them, says Matthew, at least they are searching and at least they are willing to risk once they see something.
But those of us among the Chosen, the Insiders, the Enlightened, the Mainliners, the Establishment, we plod on in our flattened, balanced, sophisticated ruts. As for the crazy old magi, they get to go home another way."
I'm jsut overwhelmed with all that is coming to me.
But before I sign off, I like to offer this call to worship I found in Peggy A. Haymes' book, "Be Thou Present":
L: Come, let us worship the Lord our God.
P: FOR GREAT IS THE LORD, AND GREATLY TO BE PRAISED.
L: In our worship, may our eyes be opened this day
P: THAT WE MIGHT SEE THE BEAUTY AND BOUNTY OF GOD'S GIFTS.
L: May our eyes be opened this day
P: THAT WE MIGHT SEE OUR NEED FOR GOD'S GRACE.
L: May our eyes be opened this day
P: THAT WE MIGHT SEE THOSE WHO ARE IN NEED.
L: May our eyes be opened this day
P: THAT WE MIGHT WORSHIP GOD IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH, AND HAVING WORSHIPED, THAT WE MIGHT SERVE GOD WITH FAITH AND COMPASSION.
L: Come, let us worship the Lord our God.
I thought this call to worship fits in nicely with today's Scripture reading and last week's reading. If people were paying atttention last week, they may catch that last part "THAT WE MIGHT WORHSIP GOD IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH."
May we preach so that God may open their eyes!
Brandon in CA
Been lurking for a long while, using my wife's Internet connection. Now I have my own!
I serve a congregation of Deaf people. Ordinarily I do not preach about Deafness; it is simply our condition. This Sunday's topic has great relevance because of the "plantation mentality" so prevalent in Alabama.
There are no Deaf people in administrative positions in any agency serving Deaf people in this state. There's a very real "glass ceiling."
In the gospel text, the Pharisees were outraged that this man, whom they had comfortably pegged as a permanent beggar, was no longer in their "peg-hole."
Notice in the first part of the lesson that the disciples were talking ABOUT this man; likewise the neighbors "and those who had seen him before as a beggar." They didn't ask the blind man; they made decisions ABOUT him.
Then they haul him off to the "experts," the Pharisees. All sorts of diagnoses and opinions are offered, but at least they ask the blind man some questions--and are skeptical of his replies.
They even go to his parents, because even though the Man Formerly Known as Blind is an adult, he is not believed. Imagine the embarrassment of relying on one's parents. (But this is a very common thing to happen with people with disabilities.)
The parents were afraid of being kicked out of the synagogue unless they gave answers pleasing to the "experts." But they replied, "He is of age. Ask him."
When the blind man replies a second time in praise of Jesus, he is even more bitterly reviled, and the Pharisees say, "as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." As if that mattered!
The "experts" even claim that the blind man was born "in utter sin," that it was the parents' fault. I still see such attitudes today.
At the end of the pericope the Man Formerly Blind says, in effect, "To hell with them all" and worships Jesus.
Eleven years, March 6, 1988, ago the students at Gallaudet University, Washington DC) rejected the "expert" Board members' choice for president--a hearing person with no previous background in Deafness. They shut down the university until the Board appointed a Deaf person for this responsibility. On Sunday, March 13, 1988 I. King Jordan was chosen as president.
By the way, the reading for that Sunday morning was--you guessed it--Jesus kicking the money-changers out of the temple! And that same evening the students began their protest.
And thank you for your posting...........I am planning to re-tell the story during the sermon time, making many of the same points you have noted. However, I've noticed that in trying to tell the story, it's awkward to constantly refer to the man as "the man born blind" or as you say, the "Man Formerly Blind". I want to assign a name to him for the sake of the narrative, but I think I will have to point out that the reason he has no name in the gospel is that no one but Jesus would have cared what his name was. The man wasn't given enough respect in the community for anyone to care what is name was. Given the significance placed on naming in his cultural milieu, this is really a low blow. The Greek word for "blind" is (transliterated) "tuphlos". I thought about using that as his name, but then it doesn't work after he is healed........
Any ideas??? Is it appropriate to give him a name in the story?
Good discussion. The reference to Oedipus Rex reminded me that the play is about a man who believes he is in control, that he can "see" what is going on about him and that he can therefore effect the future through his own decisive actions. Brief synopsis: When Oedipus is born it is predicted that he will kill his father and marry his mother. His parents and later Oedipus do what they can to protect him from this fate, but the man Oedipus believes to be his father is not and the woman Oedipus believes to be his mother is not. So, he goes in the opposite direction and ends up doing exactly what he wanted to avoid. Horrified to discover he has committed these crimes, he blinds himself. What Oedipus discovers is that every attempt he has made to control his world and his future were based on the erroneous notion that he knows what's going on. In fact, no one really understands all the forces that effect us. We are all born blind and sight only comes when you know this to be true. From that insight to John's text comes the added sense that sight is not in our seeing exactly how things are, but in our trusting that God sees and that is enough. At some point in my education I became aware of a "post-scientific" way of viewing the world (I mean something broader than "post-modern.") it was the infamous "paradigm shift." I was also aware that my parents, bright and thoughtful people, were not going to get this. At least not without a lot of theoretical discussion that wasn't/isn't likely to happen at this stage of their lives. Then I realized that someday my daughter will look at the world with insights that probably will not be available to me. She will see the world in a particular way and will know, also, that her dad and I won't "get it." Oh well. Life is like this. None of us sees as God sees, or even as the other person sees. The tragedy is NOT in our blindness - our inability to understand all these ways of seeing - seeing the world, seeing God, seeing faith, seeing theology, seeing each other. The tragedy is when we cannot accept that limited vision - blindness - is part of life as given to us by God. We are left knowing only that God gives us what sight we do have - as in the story of the man who could see but knew he still did not know everything. He could see some new truths - that any sight would be a gift from God and not from sin - even if the source of the gift isn't exactly an orthodox agent. And he was grateful for what sight he had without claiming more for it than what it was. An example: I believe people receive insights into scripture, into relationships, and into life. I believe that these insights are gifts from God to people at particular points in time. The difficulty comes when anyone of make the insights given to them and insist that they are applicable to all people for all time. We take the dynamic gifts of God and freeze them into absolutes. We take the particular and make it universal. In so doing we destroy the giftedness of the sight we are given. Somehow the truth of what we do know makes us believe that we know all necessary truth. Bad assumption. It is the result perhaps of the conviction that our sight is somehow the same as God's and our unwillingness to be only a human and to be, therefore, limited in sight. AJM in PA
Good discussion, helpful insights, stories, etc. Karl Dalager's reference to Oedipus Rex which reminded me that the play is about a man who believes he is in control, that he can "see" what is going on about him and that he can therefore effect the future through his own decisive actions. Brief synopsis: When Oedipus is born it is predicted that he will kill his father and marry his mother. His parents and later Oedipus do what they can to protect him from this fate, but the man Oedipus believes to be his father is not and the woman Oedipus believes to be his mother is not. So, he goes in the opposite direction and ends up doing exactly what he wanted to avoid. Horrified to discover he has committed these crimes, he blinds himself. What Oedipus discovers is that every attempt he has made to control his world and his future were based on the erroneous notion that he knows what's going on. In fact, no one really understands all the forces that effect us. We are all born blind and sight only comes when you know this to be true. From that insight to John's text comes the added sense that sight is not in our seeing exactly how things are, but in our trusting that God sees and that is enough. At some point in my education I became aware of a "post-scientific" way of viewing the world (I mean something broader than "post-modern.") it was the infamous "paradigm shift." I was also aware that my parents, bright and thoughtful people, were not going to get this. At least not without a lot of theoretical discussion that wasn't/isn't likely to happen at this stage of their lives. Then I realized that someday my daughter will look at the world with insights that probably will not be available to me. She will see the world in a particular way and will know, also, that her dad and I won't "get it." Oh well. Life is like this. None of us sees as God sees, or even as the other person sees. The tragedy is NOT in our blindness - our inability to understand all these ways of seeing - seeing the world, seeing God, seeing faith, seeing theology, seeing each other. The tragedy is when we cannot accept that limited vision - blindness - is part of life as given to us by God. We are left knowing only that God gives us what sight we do have - as in the story of the man who could see but knew he still did not know everything. He could see some new truths - that any sight would be a gift from God and not from sin - even if the source of the gift isn't exactly an orthodox agent. And he was grateful for what sight he had without claiming more for it than what it was. An example: I believe people receive insights into scripture, into relationships, and into life. I believe that these insights are gifts from God to people at particular points in time. The difficulty comes when anyone of make the insights given to them and insist that they are applicable to all people for all time. We take the dynamic gifts of God and freeze them into absolutes. We take the particular and make it universal. In so doing we destroy the giftedness of the sight we are given. Somehow the truth of what we do know makes us believe that we know all necessary truth. Bad assumption. It is the result perhaps of the conviction that our sight is somehow the same as God's and our unwillingness to be only a human and to be, therefore, limited in sight. AJM in PA
Please, AJM! God invented paragraphs for a purpose!
A solid block of print isn't easy on the eyeballs--especially as this topic is about vision problems.
tuphlos followed seems to be a derivative of opaque, or foggy. You might name him "Foggy."
Doc in OK
Any Greek scholars out there?
RE: verse 3, "...he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him."
I recall vaguely that the word translated here as "so that" can also mean "with the result that". True? If so, the focus seems to change from "predestination" to "opportunity"...
Thanks. pathckr in CO.
I don't see why you can't name the blind man in your retelling. In fact, if you could find a good one, it might represent something. I made up a story for my sermon once and I named the character, Manuel. There was a reason for that and many people in the congregation caught on during the story that the character was representive of Jesus Christ or "Emmanuel."
I was thinking you could use a name of a well know blind man or someone who is seeking something. Oh, I don't know. I'm trying to think but my mind doesn't want to cooperate. Says it is too late to think.
Brandon in CA
Thank you AJM in PA for geat insight into the application/praxis/action of this sacred story! I believe if I/we tap into the dynamics/processes/application of the Word you witnessed, we will actually "live" the dramatic story in John we are reading about. Thus, a consciousness intervention will occur raising us out of "blindness" to new "vision"......SueCan, perhaps as Abram is transformed to Abraham, and Saul to Paul then your name of the narrative character could reflect not only "Foggy" but "Focused". PaideiaSco
It's interesting to me that those who receive judgment are those who refuse to give mercy. Should we take note?
Yes rachel, we should take notice. In fact, that is where I'm going with my sermon. Warning us to be careful lest we become judgmental of others who may be changing because of God touching their lives, but not in the way we expect.
I'm thinking, for example, people who think everyone should worship the same way they do. I can't tell you the number of times I've had members ask me, "Why can't they just come to our worship?" everytime I suggest another worship service.
Maybe judgmental is too harsh a word. But how many times do Christians put down how others come to Christ just because it's not a way they are comfortable with? How many Christians refuse to allow contemporary music or guitars because they're not traditional? How many Christians are uncomfortable around "rough" Christians because they don't fit in with them?
I'm going on this line of thinking because next week I will be going to the Administrative Council to ask for their support in planning another worship service which would be contemporary. We may even do it on a different day than Sunday! But I'm convinced that this may be one of the way to reached unchuched people. This scripture passage seems to be telling me don't judge how people come to Christ cause they're coming. And we may end up the losers if we're too busy trying to figure out if the worship service or the people coming are really Christian.
Still working on it.
Brandon in CA
Brandon: 1. Remember there is only One Way! (Of course it is my way!) ;-) Jesus had 12 disciples and each comes by a somewhat different path, and he responds to them personally and individually. 2. Before you go to the AdCouncil, you might go over the congregation's membership list, noting who works as a hospital nurse, attendant in a nursing home, as a fireman, a policeman, or any of the other tasks so necessary to keeping the community healthy and going, that they cannot be in church on Sunday at the regular worship hour. They need, and are worthy of the ministry of the church just as much as those whose job-employment situations allow them to be in church on Sunday morning. Just a thought.
Sorry, that last post was from R.J. in ND
Yeah, you could always call your blind man, "Bill."