1 As Jesus 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 the one 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 Jesus 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.”
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 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.” 16 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. 17 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.”
18 The Judeans 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 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 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.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Judeans; who had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 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.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 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?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this person, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but does listen to anyone who is devout and obeys God’s will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this person were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son-of-Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and he is the one speaking with you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Jesus. 39 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.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near Jesus heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
Please pray with me this morning, church:
Calm our restless spirits during this extraordinary time.
Draw us near to you,
And help us to connect though we are physically distant.
Heal this hurting world.
Immanuel—be with us.
One of my seminary professors is a brilliant preacher and homiletics professor. He’s now the Bishop of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod of the ELCA. He’s also legally blind and has never seen “normally”, in his words.
He hates this story from the gospel of John.
Like, hates it, hates it.
He says something to the effect of, “I’ve never seen in a way that folks would call ‘normal’ so I don’t know what that means. My inability to see is part of me, it’s who I am. And so, in the great resurrection of all things, when all things are finally reconciled back to God in their fullness, will I still be blind? I should certainly hope so! If the resurrection of the body means that our bodies become most fully themselves in their most perfect forms, I should think that my most perfect form is some perfect form of me with my blindness. My inability to see is just as much a part of me as my hands or my feet or the fact that I’m a pastor or my identity as a baptized and beloved child of God. I don’t believe God’s desire is to ‘cure’ me of my blindness.”
Bishop Satterlee says, “Heaven isn’t a place where I can see. Heaven is a place where it doesn’t matter that I can’t.”
It’s certainly a different take on our gospel story this morning and one that has forever changed how I hear this encounter between Jesus and the man born blind.
Because so often I think we hear this story as a story of healing, a story about Jesus the miracle worker…but I don’t think the recovery of sight is the most compelling part of this story.
See, I think the mud…is the most important part of our gospel this morning.
I wonder at what point in our lives did mud stop being something to play in and something to enjoy. When did mud become something to avoid, something not desirable, maybe even something to be feared? Mud is sticky. It clings to clothes and skin. Mud obscures. It covers up and hides. But in this case, mud is healing. Mud is used as a vessel for new life.
And by the way, I don’t think the CDC would have approved of Jesus’ methods here. Like, there is absolutely nothing about rubbing your spit on someone else’s eyes that falls within best practices during a pandemic. To say nothing of the fact that Jesus and the man were certainly not at least 6 feet apart from each other. But anyway…
The thing is, I think we can relate to this muddy situation. I think over the past few weeks, if you’re like me, the COVID-19 outbreak and this pandemic have felt like mud layering on top of mud…as if you’re being dragged down and covered up with sticky, dirty, thick, obscuring mud. With rules and regulations and guidelines piling up, gatherings being restricted further and further, trying to figure out what working from home even looks like, suddenly finding yourself thrown headfirst into a new vocation as a homeschool teacher… Do we have enough food? What about our prescriptions? What if I actually need toilet paper? How can I even think about work when the only thing my mind keeps coming back to is how can I keep my family and myself safe…?
Church, Jesus doesn’t leave this man with mud on his eyes.
Remember what I said…the mud is a vessel for new life. The grit and grime and muck are the medium through which sight is restored and new life is brought forth. Jesus tells this man to go wash off in the pool of Siloam and then his sight is restored. We are not left in the mud. Muck and grime…anxiety, worry, doubt, and fear…that is not where we are left, by God. The Gospel truth is that the mucky, grimy, worrisome, doubtful, and fearful places are where we are found…but through grace and love, God does not leave us there.
The Psalmist reminds us, it is the Lord who is our shepherd. Contrary to everything you’ve ever heard about bootstraps, we don’t get ourselves out of the muck. It is the Lord that makes you to lie down in green pastures and who leads you beside still waters. Even though you walk through the darkest valley, even the valley of the shadow of death…even the valley and the wilderness of a pandemic that is frightening…even and especially there, God is with you.
God is with you, God leads you when you are in the midst of that valley…when it feels like the mud has never been thicker…when it feels like you might never be able to open your eyes again…
The good news, church, is that we cannot lead ourselves out of the wilderness places in which we find ourselves…even this wilderness…God leads us…God shepherds us…
Jesus’ disciples, at the very beginning of this story, ask him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” And Jesus’ response to them is, “Neither…neither this man nor his parents sinned…this man was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Church, how are God’s works being revealed through you during this time?
How are you showing up to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ in this extraordinary moment?
I truly want to hear from you. After washing the mud off his eyes, this man kept saying over and over and over again, to anyone and everyone who would listen, and even those that wouldn’t, he kept telling his story, that it was Jesus who did this, Jesus did this extraordinary thing. This man witnessed to what he experienced in the love and mercy of Jesus. This man told his story.
What’s your story, church?
Tell me, tell us…tell your story. Comment on Facebook or YouTube…send me an email, send me a text…this is a time for sharing and telling our stories.
How are you showing God’s love during this pandemic? Are you sewing hospital masks for our underresourced medical facilities? Are you running errands for your immuno-compromised neighbor? Are you making beautiful art or music? Are you gardening?
Tell us your story.
How are you helping to wipe away some of the mud from this grimy, gritty, mucky time?
How are you being a vessel for healing and new life?
Where do you see God showing up?
Peace be yours this week, church.
I keep holding all of you in my prayers.
Keep lifting one another up. Pray for each other. Help each other.
Stay connected in these times of physical separation.
God knows we need it.