Meeting Jesus: The Man Born Blind

 

Meeting Jesus: The Man Blind from Birth
A Message on John 9:1-12
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
July 28, 2019
By Doug Wintermute
dwinterm@yahoo.com

John 9:1-12 (NRSV)

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 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, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 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?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 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.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

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Today we continue our sermon series “Meeting Jesus,” about people whose lives were changed by meeting Jesus, by looking at a scripture from the gospel of John about Jesus healing a man who had been blind from birth.

It’s an unusual scripture and unique in a couple of ways. The Bible tells us Jesus heals quite a few people who were blind, but to my knowledge (and I reserve the right to be wrong) this is the only instance where we are told that the person was born blind.

Now the reason for this becomes evident when we look at the overall message that Jesus is making in the scripture we read today.

One of the beliefs that was common back then was that if a baby was born with some sort of deformity or mental or physical challenge, then the parents must have sinned and this was God’s way of punishing them.

Now we don’t believe that today, and indeed it is not true at all, but back then it was a different story. So if a baby was born blind, for example, then the parents must have committed some horrible sin.

Part of the reasoning for that thought pattern came from the scriptures. For example, in Exodus 20 we find this scripture:

“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” –Exodus 20:5-6

Now that sounds pretty harsh, and with a quick reading of that you could see why people might think that if a baby is born blind that the parents must have sinned.

But let’s back up and read the sentence before that. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”

That’s one of the 10 commandments. Number two, as a matter of fact. It’s about idol worship. So if you read it in that context, you can see that when it says, “You shall not bow down to them or worship them,” it’s talking about idols.

Ironically there are other scriptures in the Old Testament that deal with children being punished because of the sins of the parents, and these paint a different picture.

For example: “Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for their own crimes may persons be put to death.” — Deuteronomy 24:16

Or how about this one: “The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.” — Ezekiel 18:20

As humans there is a dark part of us that somehow revels in the suffering of others. That’s why we slow down to rubberneck when we pass by an auto accident. That’s why murders, riots, and scandals make the news headlines. And that’s why some people enjoy watching The Bachelorette. (Okay, maybe not that last one.)

Deep down a part of us likes to feel like we’re better than others, that when others fall it somehow lifts us up higher. When others sin, we feel more superior than the sinners. (Even though we are also sinners.)

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Hmmmmmm.

Have you ever been going through something difficult in you life and wondered if it was a punishment from God for something you did?

I know I have. I still do, sometimes. We even go so far as to blame God for what is happening. We think that God caused our struggle in order to teach us some sort of lesson or to punish us for some sin we committed.

But is that true? Does God cause bad things to happen? Did God cause the man in the scripture we read today to be blind from birth?

The answer is no.

God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. Now he has the power, there’s no doubt about that. God has the power and the ability to do anything and everything. We should always remember that.

But God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. He just doesn’t.

In 1 John we read, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” — 1 John 1:5

And in James we read, “No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.” — James 1:13

Even in the book of Job we see that God does not cause the bad things that happen to Job. He allows it to happen, but he doesn’t cause it. Satan does.

“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.

Max Lucado, in his book It’s Not About Me: Rescue From the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy (which is a great book) shares a story of a friend of his who was in the hospital battling cancer. His friends told him he needed more faith to be healed. Max told him this:

“‘It’s not about you… Your hospital room is a showcase for your Maker. Your faith in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of God’s song.’ …Seeing his sickness in the scope of God’s sovereign plan gave his condition a sense of dignity. He accepted his cancer as an assignment from heaven: a missionary to the cancer ward. A week later I saw him again. ‘I reflected God,’ he said, smiling through a thin face, ‘to the nurses, the doctors, my friends. Who knows who needed to see God, but I did my best to make him seen.’

Psalm 50:15 tells us about the glorification of\ God as well: “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Like the blind man, we are to glorify God through our suffering.

Another thing I think is important to remember about today’s scripture of Jesus healing a man blind from birth: the man had to do something to receive the miracle.

Jesus tells him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. Now this was a freshwater pool that was semi-retangular in shape and about 225 feet wide. The water came from the Gihon spring via an underground aqueduct system created to bring water to it. It was the closest pool to the Temple.

But the coolest thing about this public pool is it’s name. The scriptures tell us Siloam it means “sent.” Jesus “sent” the blind man to the pool called “Sent.” Jesus is “sent” by God, and as his disciples we are “sent” out into the world to make disciples.

The blind man was sent on a mission: go wash in the pool. He had to do something in order to complete the miracle and glorify God. It required action on his part.

Another interesting thing about the scripture today. Why in the world did Jesus use spit to make mud? Why not just a little water?

The theories are all over the place. One I read theorized that Jesus did so as a representation of “spitting in the eye” of the religious leaders who wanted to kill him. Hmmmm. I don’t know about that.

Others say that spit was considered by the Jewish culture considered spit to have healing properties.

One time Pam and I went on vacation and Pam got stung several times by a red wasp. I had an old, small tin of Garrett snuff that I kept in the pickup truck for just such emergencies. I put some of that powdered snuff in my hand, bent over it and spit. And snuff went all over the place! I choked and coughed and sputtered and wiped my eyes. (By the way, I eventually got the task done and it did help Pam’s stings.)

While the healing properties of spit is a popular theory for why Jesus used it to make mud to heal the blind man, I kind of question it. I read an interesting article that was based on a thesis written in 1999 by Sarah Bourgeois that pretty much blows this theory clear out of the water, pointing out that it was NOT a first century belief that saliva had healing properties. The evidence this article gives is pretty convincing. I’ll put the link in the sermon on Facebook and on our web site so you can peruse it at your leisure. [https://faithalone.org/journal-articles/jesus-use-of-spittle-in-mark-822-26/

I have my own theory. I believe it has to do more with the saliva being a metaphor.

In Matthew 4:4 when Jesus is being tempted in the desert by Satan and Satan encourages a starving Jesus to turn rocks into bread, Jesus replies with a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The third chapter of James utilizes the tongue as a metaphor for how powerful our speech is, that if we can control our speech then we can control our actions.

In Matthew 15 we read where Jesus points out that holiness is more about what we say than what foods we eat, saying, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. — Matthew 15: 17-18 (NIV)

And of course in Revelation the Son of Man is described like this: “…coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.” — Revelation 1:16

I think that Jesus’ words contain all the healing the world needs.

Regardless of the literal or figurative meaning of the spittle in the scripture from John’s gospel, we do know that Jesus performed a miracle and that a man who had never been able to see was healed and was given his sight.

So what can we learn from this that we can apply to our lives today?

First I think is that God works in unusual ways. There is an old poem that says God works in mysterious ways. (No, that’s not scripture.) God does indeed work in mysterious ways, in ways that we are not creative enough to come up with and which our minds may have trouble comprehending. What human could would have thought to bring life to all humankind through the death of one innocent person/God?

We need to trust in God because he knows what he is doing. Now that’s hard for us to do because we want to know and understand everything. We want the details. We want to know ahead of time how things are going to work out. Instead, we need to, as the old hymn says, “trust and obey.” Trust God, especially in those difficult times. He’s got this. And he doesn’t cause bad things to happen. Ever.

Another thing I think we can learn is that what comes out of Jesus’ mouth is pretty important. Now I’m not talking about saliva, but his words. It is a double edged sword at times, but it is holy and we should treat it as such.

Another thing I think we can apply to our lives is that just as the blind man we are sent. Following Christ is about reaching others. John Wesley once said that “You have one business on earth–to save souls.” In loving God it is a requirement that we love others. It’s not an option. Christianity is not about securing our own salvation and then selfishly ignoring everyone else. It’s about being so filled with love that we can’t help but share it with others, so that others can come to know the peace and comfort we have. As Max Lucado’s book points out, “It’s not about me.”

So my challenge to you this week is threefold: 1. Trust in God. 2. Trust the Bible (and READ the Bible). 3. Share with others what God has done in your life.

This world can blind us to the truth. Thankfully Jesus can restore our vision.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

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