March 26, 2017 - The Man Blind from Birth

As Jesus passed by he 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 he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day.
Night is coming when no one can work.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
When he had said this, 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."
So they said to him, "How were your eyes opened?"
He replied,
"The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes
and told me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.'
So I went there and washed and was able to see."
And they said to him, "Where is he?"
He said, "I don't know."

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."

Now the Jews did not believe
that he had been blind and gained his sight
until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
They asked them,
"Is this your son, who you say was born blind?
How does he now see?"
His parents answered and said,
"We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now,
nor do we know who opened his eyes.
Ask him, he is of age;
he can speak for himself."
His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews,
for the Jews had already agreed
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue.
For this reason his parents said,
"He is of age; question him."

So a second time they called the man who had been blind
and said to him, "Give God the praise!
We know that this man is a sinner."
He replied,
"If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see."
So they said to him,
"What did he do to you?
How did he open your eyes?"
He answered them,
"I told you already and you did not listen.
Why do you want to hear it again?
Do you want to become his disciples, too?"
They ridiculed him and said,
"You are that man's disciple;
we are disciples of Moses!
We know that God spoke to Moses,
but we do not know where this one is from."
The man answered and said to them,
"This is what is so amazing,
that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
We know that God does not listen to sinners,
but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
If this man were not from God,
he would not be able to do anything."
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,
the one speaking with you is he."
He said,
"I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him.

John 9:1-41

I have generally led an extremely lucky and privileged life, but in at least a couple of instances, I have been decidedly unlucky.  On one occasion, someone stood at the foot of my hospital bed and told me with a raised voice and a wagging finger that I brought my misfortune upon myself.  On another, it came later. They meant to be helpful, but they laid responsibility for my bad luck squarely at my feet.  People don't like to think bad things can happen randomly. They'll make any adjustment to the narrative they need to in order to assess blame for every misfortune.  

The Beatitudes (“Blessed are the poor, blessed are the sick…”) are often thought of as a statement about how Christians should live – a description of what our morality should be.  We should bless the poor or strive to be poor ourselves.  But this is clearly wrong.  The Beatitudes are a description of how God chooses to live – a description of God’s morality.  He does not dole our blessings for good behavior and curses for the bad, as we so reflexively assume to this day.  It is when we are at our lowest, in terms of wealth, health, social station, and even morality, that God cleaves to us the closest.  Among academics, a close cousin of this way of reading Scripture is often called "post-liberal theology", but I think we need to go a step further to something I'll call, "post-moral theology" - the acknowledgment that not everything in Scripture is a moral directive and, in fact, most of it simply describes God's morality. And God's morality is characterized by absolute mercy. 

This passage is perhaps the most beautiful and most illuminating in all of Scripture.  The story is about a man blind from birth.  Jesus’s disciples (his disciples!) assume either the man is responsible for his bad luck or his parents.  They ask him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  There is no other option in their world view. Bad luck doesn’t exist – just bad karma.  The man's parents hedge under pressure. The Pharisees insist that his responsibility is obvious.  They say, "‘You were altogether born in sin, and do you teach us?’ Then they threw him out.”   

Who is his only defender?  Who alone affirms that God loves him just as much as anyone else? Who alone contradicts every cultural expectation in his time and ours to defend him?  Who insists that blessed are the sick, blessed are the poor?

Jesus Christ.

Reason enough to be Christian.  

Lord, I believe.