John 9:1-41 As he walked along, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night 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 this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him." He kept saying, "I am the man." But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, `Go to Siloam and wash.' Then I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see." 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. So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened." He said, "He is a prophet."
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner." He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see." They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" Then they reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?" And they drove him out.
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. Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, `We see,' your sin remains.”
Reflection Humanity is blind from birth. This is our human condition. We don’t know who and whose we are. It is no wonder we do not know who God is until God spits onto dirt and smears mud on our well scrubbed faces. For a few of us one turn with mud on our jowls opens our eyes. For most of us, we need more than one slap of mud in the face before we recognize, we are blind.
I believe this is the point of John’s story about the man born blind. Gaining or regaining sight takes place over time in a series of steps or stages that are rather like having mud in the face. Even if we are one of the few who have a mind shattering religious or healing experience (like the man born blind who was made to see) it takes time for us to understand and integrate the consequences of that experience.
The man born blind encountered Jesus, followed his instructions and for the first time in his life he could see. All he knew was a series of facts; “A man called Jesus made mud, spread it on (his) eyes…” and told him to, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Which he did and “received (his) sight.” The man had no idea where Jesus came from or how this happened.
From physical blindness the once blind man moved by stages to a well reasoned and compelling explanation of who Jesus is concluding, “If this man were not from God he could do nothing.” But Jesus wants more than physical healing or even clever argument for the once blind man. Jesus wants the man to experience spiritual transformation and that will require the once blind man to experience Jesus as the revelation of God’s presence on earth. So Jesus asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
Again the once blind man admits he doesn’t understand. (More mud on the face.) “Who is the Son of Man?” Then, just as Jesus did with the Samarian woman at the well in last Sunday’s gospel text, Jesus admits his identity, “ “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.” The once blind man immediately believed and worshipped Jesus. His physical sight, his cognitive insight and his spiritual eyes were all opened. Not only could he see the physical presence of Jesus, because of his personal experience with Jesus he could grasp the truth of divinity revealed in humanity.
At every step along the way the man admitted his “not knowing,” rather like having mud in the face. It was into his “not knowing” that Jesus reached and invited the once blind man to deeper and more expansive sightedness. Like the blind man, each of us has our own blind spots. But this is not bad news. It is in fact the upside down kind of good news that Jesus offers. Jesus turns our way of seeing upside down by showing us the places where we are most likely to encounter God; our weakness, our blemishes, our flaws and our “not knowing.” We encounter God in our inabilities, our disabilities and our vulnerabilities because this is precisely where God does God’s work.
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