Weekly Gospel Reflection—30 March 2014
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”
Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.
The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.”
But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!”
So they asked him, “How are you now able to see?”
He answered, “The man they call Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes, and said, ‘Go to the Pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
They asked, “Where is this man?”
He replied, “I don’t know.”
Then they led the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus made the mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes on a Sabbath day. So Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
The man told them, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.”
Some Pharisees said, “This man isn’t from God, because he breaks the Sabbath law.” Others said, “How can a sinner do miraculous signs like these?” So they were divided. Some of the Pharisees questioned the man who had been born blind again: “What do you have to say about him, since he healed your eyes?”
He replied, “He’s a prophet.”
The Jewish leaders didn’t believe the man had been blind and received his sight until they called for his parents. The Jewish leaders asked them, “Is this your son? Are you saying he was born blind? How can he now see?”
His parents answered, “We know he is our son. We know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he now sees, and we don’t know who healed his eyes. Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.” His parents said this because they feared the Jewish authorities. This is because the Jewish authorities had already decided that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be expelled from the synagogue. That’s why his parents said, “He’s old enough. Ask him.”
Therefore, they called a second time for the man who had been born blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.”
The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.”
They questioned him: “What did he do to you? How did he heal your eyes?”
He replied, “I already told you, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
They insulted him: “You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man is from.”
The man answered, “This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. If this man wasn’t from God, he couldn’t do this.”
They responded, “You were born completely in sin! How is it that you dare to teach us?” Then they expelled him.
Jesus heard they had expelled the man born blind. Finding him, Jesus said, “Do you believe in the Human One?”
He answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You have seen him. In fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped Jesus.
Jesus said, “I have come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don’t see can see and those who see will become blind.”
Some Pharisees who were with him heard what he said and asked, “Surely we aren’t blind, are we?”
Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
Light and dark. One of the main elements in John’s story of Jesus. And here, it’s used in a couple of ways. First, Jesus plainly states that he’s the “light of the world” (verse 5; cf. John 8.12). He warns that “night is coming” (verse 4), i.e., his “light” will be put out; he will be killed. So, while he’s alive, he and those with him must do the work of the One who sent him. And what is that work? Ah! That’s the question, isn’t it?
Too often, people give a simple answer of performing miracles. Of course, the follow up question for that is why aren’t the followers of Jesus still doing that work?
Another simple answer is that the work Jesus set out to do was die for our sins. Again, the follow up question for that answer is how was/is that done by Jesus’ followers?
The “work” that Jesus and his followers set out to do was bring G‑d’s Realm “on earth as in heaven.” He said that was his mission statement, “The time has come at last — the kingdom of God has arrived” (Mark 1.15; Phillips). Luke’s take on this is a little more elaborate:
He eventually came to His hometown, Nazareth, and did there what He had done elsewhere in Galilee — entered the synagogue and stood up to read from the Hebrew Scriptures.
The synagogue attendant gave Him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and Jesus unrolled it to the place where Isaiah had written these words:
The Spirit of the Lord the Eternal One is on Me.
Why? Because the Eternal designated Me
to be His representative to the poor, to preach good news to them.
He sent Me to tell those who are held captive
that they can now be set free,
and to tell the blind that they can now see.
He sent Me to liberate those held down by oppression.
In short, the Spirit is upon Me to proclaim that now is the time;
this is the jubilee season of the Eternal One’s grace.
Jesus rolled up the scroll and returned it to the synagogue attendant. Then He sat down, as a teacher would do, and all in the synagogue focused their attention on Jesus, waiting for Him to speak. He told them that these words from the Hebrew Scriptures were being fulfilled then and there, in their hearing (Luke 4.16-21; VOICE).
This is what John meant by “light.” This is the “work” that Jesus and his followers went about doing. It is the “work” we must continue to do today.
The second way John uses “light” and “dark” is the healing of the blind man. One of the things that John does so well is his use of signs. Tom Wright once pointed out that the miracles (or “signs” as John calls them) are usually not the things themselves but they point beyond themselves to something Jesus has said or taught. In this story we can see that quite clearly. Jesus said he’s the “light of the world,” meaning the world is in darkness. This was especially true of the blind man. After Jesus healed him, however, light flooded his life and, quite literally, he could see.
But, as John tells the story (and the other gospel writers point this out in their own ways, too), the Religious Elite were also blind — they couldn’t see what Yahweh was doing in their midst because it didn’t fit within their worldview. They were walking around in darkness — blind.
When the blind man tries to tell them what happened to him, that he was given sight, they stated that he was “born completely in sin! How is it that [he] dare to teach [them]?” Can you imagine? People who thinks they’re beyond learning because they’re the ones with the degrees, the letters behind their names. They’re the priests and scholars and theologians of the day. Their proclamation shows the depth of their darkness; of their blindness. They assume that they don’t need to be taught at all since they’ve already arrived — especially from a “lay person.”
This scenario is rather telling. How many times has G‑d tried to show us something, to teach us something, but, since it didn’t come from “conventional means” (i.e., through the “accepted” channels), we ignore it or worse still, claim that it’s not from G‑d? To me, since I hold that the Realm of G‑d was established through Jesus in the first century and that it continues to grow and expand today, all people from all different walks of life can be used to teach me about what G‑d’s doing here and now.
And that’s an important point. Yes, it would be “dark” when Jesus was crucified. But, the light would shine once more when he was raised from the dead. John makes this clear. His eighth “sign” was the resurrection. John states that this happened “early in the morning of the first day of the week” — that is, on the eighth day, the first day of the New Creation (John 20.1). From then until now, the Realm of G‑d has been continuing to spread, to shine out into the darkness and dispels it. Now all people from all walks of life, from all corners of the world, can be part of G‑d’s New Creation.
In fact, they already are — they just don’t know it yet. That’s what the good news, the gospel, is all about.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC