Read John 9: 1–41
Friday was Comic Relief Day. I wonder if you saw any of the TV antics! We all enjoy a good laugh every now and then.
Today’s reading is a long one, but it’s a story that would have had John’s First Century listeners and readers rolling in the aisles as they heard about the events of that day. This story of blindness and seeing is a rich mixture of both slapstick and menace.
Jesus had declared himself to be the ‘light of the world’ in the previous chapter and he reiterates it here, and this wonderful story illustrates just how.
It starts with the disciples debating an abstract theology about the consequences of sin and it ends with Jesus spelling out that our fate is truly in our hands. In between, John weaves a laugh-out-loud tale of both accidental and wilful blindness.
The man who was healed perhaps perceived that Jesus was able to bring light to the deepest darkness, but he didn’t physically see Jesus, until he had washed the mud (the most basic ‘stuff’ of the earth) from his eyes.
Then he was subjected to an interrogation from those who could not see (understand) who Jesus was – though they could see him physically. Their churlish response to this miraculous happening was to rob the formerly blind man of his identity as a member of the synagogue.
Even the man’s parents have a cameo role in this drama, pointing out to the Pharisees the things they do know; that their son was blind but now he can see, and the things they don’t know, namely how it is that their blind son is now able to see! They present a mixture of pride and fear: proud of their son, who is ‘of age’ so can speak for himself; and fearful of what the authorities will do to them as a consequence of Jesus’ action. Verse 22 tells us that the Pharisees have already decreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.
The result for the man is that he is maligned by the very authorities who should have rejoiced that this sign took place among them. They could not see beyond the fact that Jesus performed this wonderful healing work on the sabbath. As far as they were concerned that made Jesus a sinner. And they told the formerly blind man as much. He answered that, sinner or not, Jesus had opened his eyes, and whoever heard of that happening before? By this time, you can imagine John’s audience falling about laughing.
But the social consequence for this hapless individual was to be robbed of his identity, driven out by the authorities like a refugee – jobless, homeless, rootless.
So, Jesus found him, and helped him to see even more clearly. Now he would see who Jesus is: ‘the Son of Man’. And the formerly blind man worshipped Jesus, while Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for being wilfully blind.
It’s easy for us to criticise, but we all tend to judge by appearances, and we can all fail to see even what’s right in front of our eyes – we sometimes just can’t see the wood for the trees.
Jesus showed a blind man who he was, while those who should have recognised him – the religious leaders – were the ones who proved to be blind, they looked on from a spiritual, theological and legislative distance and their sight was obscured.
The healed man and the Pharisees have the same evidence of Jesus’ divinity and face the same choice of whether or not to believe in him. The difference between them is how they respond. The Pharisees cannot accept that Jesus might be the Messiah. But the man believes in Jesus and worships him, despite being thrown out of the synagogue for such faith.
I wonder, how do you respond? Do you respond to close encounters with Jesus like one who was blind but now sees and worships and acts upon what has been demonstrated by Jesus; or like seeing people who still turn a blind eye and refuse to believe the evidence and the spiritual truth we’ve witnessed.
The truth is that once we’ve met Jesus, we are to become light and we’re asked and enabled to point the way for others to find Jesus and see him, copy his example and worship him too.
A Prayer for the World for Mothering Sunday
Loving, Creator God, you mothered and fathered the world and all its people into being.
On this Mothering Sunday, we give you thanks for mothers and all those who have mothered us,
and we pray for those who find today a difficult day,
those who’ve had difficult experiences of their mother, or those whose family life is full of conflict, brokenness, bitterness and recrimination. Help us to reassure them that your love is different.
We pray for new mothers overwhelmed by the demands of small babies,
those lacking sleep, or suffering from post-natal depression,
those whose children are ill, parents who spend their days beside a bed, waiting for signs of hope.
We pray for parents who have lost children, those whose grief is still raw, especially on days like today and for parents estranged from their children, those who don’t know where their children are, or what’s become of them.
We pray for those who find Mothering Sunday difficult because they are unable to have much-wanted children, and children who have lost their mother.
We pray for all who struggle to bring up children alone,
and also for those who grieve the loss of their mother or father.
We pray for the countless mothers worldwide, women full of human potential and love
scratching a living and dehumanised by poverty, oppression or violence.
Help us to care with your Kingdom values rather than the world’s values, help us to work for a just and fair sharing of the earth’s rich resources.
Enable us to be living signs of your great love for the world and all its people.
Revd Janine Atkinson