As [Jesus] walked along, 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 this man nor his parents sinned. In order 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 [Jewish leaders] 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 [Jewish leaders]; for [they]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.
Pastor Marc's sermon on the Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 22, 2020) on John 9:1-42. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below.
So right now, the most spoken word in my house is “what?” Now I don’t live in a large home. It’s a one story ranch, all on the same level, and the walls and doors are not very thick. Nothing in my house is soundproof. Which, on most days, is fine. But when everyone is home - including two adults who are working, two kids in school, and a 14 month old who loves yelling at people as they walk by on the street - we’re constantly saying “what?” to each other. The combined noise of conference calls, computers, online meetings, and educational games on the iPad means we’re always looking for different ways to cut through the noise and get each other’s attention.
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Now I know for some of you, this is what your new normal looks like. But even though the state of New Jersey is now under lockdown, some of us are still going to work or are living isolated from our family, friends, and neighbors. You might not be living in a loud house right now - but there could be a different kind of noise clouding and interfering with your world. Every day, we learn about the many additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus that are in our neighborhoods. And many of us can’t visit family or live the way we want to. Each one of us is trying to adjust to this new reality that is overwhelming. And since we don’t know when this virus will dissipate, our new habit of gathering together online feels like it might last forever. Learning how to cut through the noise of news, fears, and anxiety is really hard. And you might find yourself constantly saying “what?” as you try to figure out how to live your life in a new, safe, and sometimes loud kind of way.
Our story today from the gospel according to John is full of people asking “what?” And they do this even though it might seem as if they’re really asking why. When the disciples first noticed the person born blind, they began with a “why” but they assumed they already knew the answer to their question. They wanted Jesus to certify that they knew how God and the world already operated. This type of reasoning is why, I think, the religious leaders threw a fit because Jesus healed on the wrong day. They, like the disciples, were focused on the what. And what they saw was Jesus doing work. He spat on the ground, made mud, and asked the person born blind to do work too. Now on any other day of the week, that might have been fine. But Jesus chose to do this work on the sabbath, on the one day of the week when all of creation was invited by God to rest. Jesus interfered with that rest by asking the person born blind to get up, go, and wash. The what of the healing - the process of how it was done - became what the religious leaders focused on. The parents, likewise, were also focused on the what. When confronted about the identity of their son, they focused on that question rather than asking why he was healed in the first place. And when we step back and look at what the man born blind’s life was like before Jesus saw him, he see that he was beggar. We shouldn’t assume that he was, in some ways, ill or that his blindness caused him to be less of a person. Rather, he lived the way he could live and in the ancient world, that meant he had to beg. No one asked why he begged; they just assumed that begging was the only thing a person born blind could do. When we listen to the questions being asked by all the different kinds of people in this passage, everyone is focused on the what - hoping that their answer to that question could somehow cut through the noise of what Jesus was doing. Their assumptions and expectations of how God operated in the world were challenged by this Jesus who happened to see a person born blind. Jesus, I think, wasn’t interested in “the what.” Instead, he was focused on “the who.” And when he saw that the person born blind wanted to see - which we notice by the fact that he chose to go to the pool and wash - Jesus responded with a loving act that did not care about their what. Jesus, in this moment, just loved. And when the people around him failed to understand what Jesus was doing, he returned to the person who once was blind - and connected them to a community where they would be allowed to become exactly who God was calling them to be.
So I want you to think about your personal faith story. When was Jesus real to you? Now over the last few weeks, we’ve been using that moment in our life as the source for the story we’re going to tell. And we’re using a storytelling method from Pixar to teach us how to share that story with others. We set the stage for our story by finishing this sentence: “Once upon a time there was…” And since Jesus showed up in our lives as they already were, we add to our faith story by finishing this sentence: “And every day . . .” Yet when Jesus showed up, your everyday changed. So we add to our faith story by being specific and finishing this sentence: “Until one day…” Now, it’s possible that this moment didn’t, at first, cause us to see the world in a new way. We, like the person born blind, might have tried many different things to figure out what this Jesus thing meant. And that part of our story might have been hard, filled with anxious times and unexpected challenges. Or we might have needed to live a lot of life before we looked back and noticed how Jesus was always with us. God’s promise of presence, love, and hope belongs to you even in those moments when your what, your who, and your why are all mixed up. Because your faith and your baptism are the sign that Jesus will never give up on you. Jesus, even now, has already found you. And he promised that he will keep returning to you - leading you into a new reality where you are defined not by what you have done or what you think happened in your life. But instead by the fact that, even now, Jesus is already part of your story. So as you think about the next part of your faith story, I want you to finish and repeat/reuse the following sentence as many times as you need: “And because of that…”