17 March 2013

posted 14 Mar 2013, 20:48 by C S Paul

17 March 2013

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6 th. Sunday of the Great Lent  (Samiyo/ The Blind Man)

Gospel Reading for this Sunday

John 9:1-41  New King James Version (NKJV)

A Man Born Blind Receives Sight

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 

And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. 

must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; thenight is coming when no one can work. 

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. 

And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.

Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind[b] said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”

Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.”[c]

He said, “I am he.

10 Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”

11 He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of[d] Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.”

12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?”

He said, “I do not know.”

The Pharisees Excommunicate the Healed Man

13 They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.

14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 

15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

16 Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.”

Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.

17 They said to the blind man again, “What do you say about Him because He opened your eyes?”

He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight. 

19 And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

20 His parents answered them and said, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 

21 but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” 

22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that Hewas Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. 

23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”

25 He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”

26 Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”

27 He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”

28 Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 

29 We know that God spoke to Moses;as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”

30 The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 

31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 

32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 

33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

34 They answered and said to him, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.

True Vision and True Blindness

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”[e]

36 He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”

37 And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”

38 Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him.

39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”

41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

First Thoughts on John 9:1-41 

by William Loader, Murdoch University, Australia

It is a refreshing reminder to hear again Jesus’ rejection of a necessary causal link between disability and sin. While it is clearly outrageous to think otherwise, it often appears to inform attitudes and has been given broad application. So we will hear that people for whom life does not go well are at fault, whether that is about a disability, unemployment or sickness. Its corollary usually holds such an attitude in place: people who prosper are blessed; people blessed are good people. Other people are bad people! Biblical texts can be cited to support the claim.

In the drama which John unfolds here for his congregations the rime and reason for the disability was a matter of promoting the importance of Jesus. Whether the historical Jesus would have seen the needy as opportunities for promotion is doubtful. We need not have an explanation of others’ ills in terms of God’s benefit. God more likely weeps at others’ ills than sees an opportunity for enhancing reputation. But then as now people found many ways of detracting from the dignity of others.

Coming through the narrative is the strength of its source which doubtless portrayed the deed as an act of Christ’s compassion. John’s story lifts our eyes to a wider perspective. Jesus is not just a healer, but light for the world’s darkness, which was another language for saying: God so loved the world! The response of Jesus in 9:4-5 also reminds the hearers that even Jesus would fail. That, too, would not mean he is bad!

Perhaps the old tradition John used contained the details about how the healing took place. It is not unlike techniques used by others in the ancient world (see also Mark 8:23). John cannot help lifting our attention again to the symbolic level when he translates Siloam. The scene which follows in 9:8-12 playfully repeats the story of the healing and ends with a typically Johannine ambiguity: the healed man does not know where Jesus is. It reminds us of the saying about the wind/spirit in 3:8. Finding Jesus is much more than finding his location.

There are doubtless deliberate echoes of the healing in John 5, also linked to a pool, when John 9 tells us that a deed of healing by a Jerusalem pool took place on a the sabbath and that this upset the Pharisees. The to-ing and fro-ing of the drama in 9:13-17 and 9:18-23 expose the Pharisees as obsessive about their laws. 9:22 mentions the parents’ fear that becoming off side with the Pharisees could lead to expulsion from the synagogue - probably a real experience for many in John’s congregations.

The drama heightens in 9:24-34 as the Pharisees urge that glory be given to God. It had been Jesus’ intention all along according to 9:3 to glorify God’s works (see also 11:4). The Pharisees profile themselves as righteous and Jesus as a sinner, but in the process further expose their obsession. Hearers of the gospel thus far would know that rather than remaining faithful to Moses and the Law these Pharisees betray it. Its sole function now was to point to Christ’s validity. The former blind man makes simple responses which unmask the critics. For that he is expelled. All it needs is for Jesus to find him and tell him the truth about himself as the Son of Man (9:35-38). The drama is nearly over.

Jesus’ final words are about judgement, which probably explains why he referred to himself as the Son of Man in speaking with the blind man. In a different way Matthew shows the two are closely linked: the Son of Man will be the judge. It is then scarcely subtle when the Pharisees ask: ‘We are not blind are we?’ Answer: a resounding: yes! They are the sinners! The situation has been reversed.

This carefully crafted piece would have reassured John’s hearers who had experienced the pain of being forced out of the synagogue communities. Their claims about Jesus had gone too far. They had in effect set aside the biblical Law or, better, redefined its role as now to function only as a witness to the Messiah. They now attributed to him claims once made of the Law: that he was the (in fact the only, the true) light, life, truth, word and bread.

It is not difficult to see the passage mirroring the experiences of John’s community. Here were Jews in conflict with Jews. Like many passages in John the images, loosed from their Jewish moorings, can sail off to join the armada of anti-Semitism. The Pharisees, like Nicodemus in John 3, are stereotypes. Once we see this, other doors open and we recognise conflicts of our own day - also within Christianity. Wherever rules matter most and people take second place, we have darkness, even if they are divinely warranted in scripture.

Obsession with observance is a characteristic of religion which makes it very dangerous, as many forms of fundamentalism have shown, not least the recent most violent. Such rigidity at the expense of people is not, however, limited to certain widely acknowledged types, but can flourish on both the left wing and the right, among the biblicists and among those serving other ideologies. It is also at home where people read John and the Bible as vehicles for propaganda for their Jesus and their God, to ‘win’, instead of as testimony to divine compassion which puts people first. As the blind man might have said: ‘Well I don’t understand much about all of that, but I know when I see people getting helped and I’ll run with that!’