Lectio Divina - Sunday, March 26th, 2017
Sunday, March 26th, 2017
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Reading from John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38 (alternative: John 9:1–41)
Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
1As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind.2His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents' sin?”
3Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents' sins. He is blind so that God's power might be seen at work in him.4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work.5 While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.”
6After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man's eyes7and told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.
8His neighbors, then, and the people who had seen him begging before this, asked, “Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?”
9Some said, “He is the one,” but others said, “No he isn't; he just looks like him.”
So the man himself said, “I am the man.”
10“How is it that you can now see?” they asked him.
11He answered, “The man called Jesus made some mud, rubbed it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash my face. So I went, and as soon as I washed, I could see.”
12“Where is he?” they asked.
“I don't know,” he answered.
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13Then they took to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.14The day that Jesus made the mud and cured him of his blindness was a Sabbath.15The Pharisees, then, asked the man again how he had received his sight. He told them, “He put some mud on my eyes; I washed my face, and now I can see.”
16Some of the Pharisees said, “The man who did this cannot be from God, for he does not obey the Sabbath law.”
Others, however, said, “How could a man who is a sinner perform such miracles as these?” And there was a division among them.
17So the Pharisees asked the man once more, “You say he cured you of your blindness—well, what do you say about him?”
“He is a prophet,” the man answered.
18The Jewish authorities, however, were not willing to believe that he had been blind and could now see, until they called his parents19and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind; how is it, then, that he can now see?”
20His parents answered, “We know that he is our son, and we know that he was born blind.21But we do not know how it is that he is now able to see, nor do we know who cured him of his blindness. Ask him; he is old enough, and he can answer for himself!”22His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, who had already agreed that anyone who said he believed that Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue.23That is why his parents said, “He is old enough; ask him!”
24A second time they called back the man who had been born blind, and said to him, “Promise before God that you will tell the truth! We know that this man who cured you is a sinner.”
25“I do not know if he is a sinner or not,” the man replied. “One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see.”
26“What did he do to you?” they asked. “How did he cure you of your blindness?”
27“I have already told you,” he answered, “and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Maybe you, too, would like to be his disciples?”
28They insulted him and said, “You are that fellow's disciple; but we are Moses' disciples.29We know that God spoke to Moses; as for that fellow, however, we do not even know where he comes from!”
30The man answered, “What a strange thing that is! You do not know where he comes from, but he cured me of my blindness!31We know that God does not listen to sinners; he does listen to people who respect him and do what he wants them to do.32Since the beginning of the world nobody has ever heard of anyone giving sight to a person born blind.33Unless this man came from God, he would not be able to do a thing.”
34They answered, “You were born and brought up in sin—and you are trying to teach us?” And they expelled him from the synagogue.
35When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36The man answered, “Tell me who he is, sir, so that I can believe in him!”
37Jesus said to him, “You have already seen him, and he is the one who is talking with you now.”
38“I believe, Lord!” the man said, and knelt down before Jesus.
39Jesus said, “I came to this world to judge, so that the blind should see and those who see should become blind.”
40Some Pharisees who were there with him heard him say this and asked him, “Surely you don't mean that we are blind, too?”
41Jesus answered, “If you were blind, then you would not be guilty; but since you claim that you can see, this means that you are still guilty.”
1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a, Ephesians 5:8-14
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him,
“Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”—which means Sent—.
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said,
“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is,”
but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
He said, “I am.”
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath.
So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.
He said to them,
“He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
So some of the Pharisees said,
“This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the sabbath.”
But others said,
“How can a sinful man do such signs?”
And there was a division among them.
So they said to the blind man again,
“What do you have to say about him,
since he opened your eyes?”
He said, “He is a prophet.”
They answered and said to him,
“You were born totally in sin,
and are you trying to teach us?”
Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him, and
the one speaking with you is he.”
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
Who sinned? This man or his parents? He appears in the Gospel blind from birth, seated at the southern steps, the busiest entrance to the Temple Mount. This is the perfect place to solicit alms from the pilgrims who flock through this point of access to the Temple above. As Jews, they are duty-bound to pray, fast, and give alms. God will have to provide the almsworthy recipient, and no one could be more worthy than a man blind from birth. He was delivered daily to this familiar location—a local fixture, an almsworthy recipient (not a beggar) who would be recognized by many but who would not know anyone by sight. This is the person through whom Jesus chooses to display the mighty acts of God in this sign.
Jesus is the light of the world and he will restore light to this man’s eyes. The poor man did not ask to be healed. If asked, he might even have said no. God has ordained his infirmity. It is a source of income for his extended family, the way he made a living. In another case, Jesus asks two blind men of Jericho if they want to have their sight restored before he accommodates them and they can see (Matthew 20:29-34). But in today’s story Jesus takes matters into his own hands and restores the sight of this man without his permission. His eyes are covered with a paste of clay and saliva and he is told to wash in the pool of Siloam. He washes away the mud and he can see!
Jesus performs this miracle on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are brought in and a juridical assembly is convened, because while you are permitted to act to save a life on the Sabbath, it is forbidden to heal. This man’s blindness was not life-threatening. This Sabbath healing is an affront to the law! They need to know who did this and why. The man’s parents are called to testify but they are hesitant to do so. They fear reprisal. They might be excluded from the synagogue. Let the man speak for himself. It was his sight that was restored.
The Pharisees question him not once but twice. He is challenged to “give glory to God”—a biblical way to demand that you tell the truth, or else! He relates the details of his healing once, and then again, and then challenges the Pharisees by asking them why they want to hear the story a second time. Is it because they want to become disciples of the man who restored his sight? Repetition is the core of all Jewish education. Disciples of rabbis hear their teachings recited time and time again. The Pharisees respond that they are disciples of Moses. He doesn’t back down, instead firing right back with the reminder that the writings of Moses have not one recorded story of a man, born blind, having his sight restored. It’s the last straw. The Pharisees are beside themselves and accuse him of being steeped in sin from the time of his conception. They drive him out of the gathering.
Sin, biblically defined, is a condition of alienation and separation from God that is evidenced in the things that we do. Our sinful actions reveal the degree to which we are alienated and separated from the Almighty. We can think of that alienation in categorical terms. Are we alienated from God by our actions a little, a little more, a lot? We can refer to these categories of sin simple, serious, and mortal. Sin always distorts our judgement. Left unchecked, it will always get bigger, eventually leading to death.
This is the concept of sin that we encounter in this healing story in John 9. The disciples imagine that this man’s blindness is the result of his sin before birth or his parents sin before his conception. Jesus challenges their cause-and-effect theology about the nature of sin. The current condition of this man and his blindness has a larger purpose. His restoration will reveal the power of God.
This restored man becomes an unlikely evangelist. Like the woman at the well in John 4 he shares his story about his encounter with Jesus. He knows what he knows. He is called before a hostile religious tribunal and holds his own. He is not intimidated at all.
Jesus will find him later. Where? Probably at his customary post at the entrance to the Temple Mount on the same southern steps where he had been collecting alms all his life. Jesus asks him if he believes in the Son of Man. Since the time of the prophet Daniel, this has been a Jewish title for the Messiah. In a vision Daniel sees a figure “like a son of man” who is coming to the Ancient One (God) riding on a cloud (Daniel 7:13-14). This figure is given authority and an eternal throne. Our blind man asks Jesus, “Who is this Son of Man, sir, that I may believe?” The answer completes his journey of faith.
“Who is he that I may believe?” Not a bad question to ask Jesus even today.
Isaiah wrote about men and women who have eyes but cannot see. God “has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and [repent]—and I would heal them” (Isaiah 6:10, quoted in John 12:40 NRSV). Jesus comes and opens the eyes of the blind and they see for the first time, and believe.
Lord, give me the gift of sight. I know that I am blind, at times, and I need to see more clearly. My eyes are the lamp of my body. Make them bright and clear so that I can see you and give glory to God in my life.
Jesus often challenges conventional wisdom on standard theological concepts. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Kosher restrictions. The correct way to wash your hands. Sabbath restrictions about healing and harvest. In this exchange he challenges some poor theology about sin as only cause and effect. He teaches that sometimes people are just born blind, or mute, or otherwise infirm. As God’s agent of restoration and healing, Jesus will use this man’s condition to reveal the glory of his Father.
Every aspect of our lives, the good and the bad, can bring glory to God if we are open to grace. We might not have been born blind but we are all in need of some sort of healing. When we’re healed, will we be as willing to tell our story to any who will listen? This is how evangelization works. We share our personal experience with Jesus and lives are changed. God uses us as his witnesses in the world just like he used this blind man in the Gospel. We believe and worship Jesus too.