Fr Mike's Message - 3/19/23
The Gospel: John 9:1-41
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; he was born blind so 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 Jews 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 Jews; for the Jews 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.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: English is an interesting language, isn't it? I have to say I am very glad that I grew up in a country where we spoke a version of English. I admire so much those who learn English later in life. It can be very confusing.
Then I have to say that as we traveled around the world we often found ourselves flummoxed by what was said to us and by the reaction of others to what we said to them. We were both speaking our version of English but we were unfamiliar with the use of the words or phrases in the order or the context of how those words were used.
Sometimes it came down to particular words. Often in English, we use one word which has several different meanings or uses.
I am sure that we are all familiar with the teaching around the word love. In English, we use that one word with a broad range of understandings and meanings. The best comparison, of course, is with ancient Greek, where they have six different words with specific meanings for the variations of love.
They used Philia, for deep friendship, Ludus for playful love, Agape for love for everyone (or God's special love), Eros for sexual passion, Pragma for longstanding love, and Philautia for love of the self.
In the Gospel passage from John this morning the key or central word is: "see." All the way through the passage the word see is used. It was a long reading this morning and I hope I can keep my comments on it concise. But I believe it will help us understand the challenge of the passage for us if we spend some time considering the word: see. Or perhaps how it is being used to convey different meanings.
The story is about a blind man, an outcast, who encounters Jesus. Jesus sees him, Jesus heals him, and the man's sight is restored so that he can see. Then the man encounters the Pharisees who challenge and question him about his healing and his ability to see. In the end, they cast him out. Jesus finds him reassures and affirms him.
You all heard the story so I don't need to revisit the whole thing. But the whole story revolves around seeing.
This leads me to my discussion about how the word see is used in this passage. There is the obvious use of see, in that the man's eyes allow him to see things. But I want to suggest that in English we also use the word see to mean "to understand or comprehend." This is an intellectual or mental ability that we have as human beings to see things. To see means that we can comprehend and understand things not just with our eyes but with our minds.
Often, when we say something like "ah, I see" we don't mean that we actually see that thing, but what we are saying is that we intellectually comprehend or understand something. We are responding by saying: "I get the concept that you are sharing." "I comprehend what you are talking about." Or perhaps another way to look at it is to say: "I understand what has happened, I grasp what you are telling me took place." I see.
So, with all that in mind, let us look at the passage from John this morning. The difficulty that the man who has been healed, his parents, and the Pharisees have, doesn't have to do with their physical ability to see. It has to do with their intellectual capacity to comprehend and accept what has happened. They can't see.
Actually, it has to do with their spiritual ability to see. They are spiritually blind to what has happened. They cannot comprehend or understand what has happened. Then they hold on to that spiritual blindness and drive the man out.
They become the epitome of what Jesus says at the end of the passage from John: 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.”
The blind man gains his physical sight, and eventually, after further conversation with Jesus receives his spiritual sight. The Pharisees never lose their physical sight but they become spiritually blind.
As we reflect on this passage this morning can we see any application for ourselves? What do we comprehend or understand this passage is saying to us? What might the passage be challenging us about in our spiritual lives?
It brings to mind the words of Paul writing to the Ephesians in Ephesians 1: 15-20:
"I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may perceive what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places"
"so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may perceive what is the hope to which he has called you"
If I could roughly paraphrase that this morning: "so that, with the eyes of your heart might see, that you may see the hope to which he has called you"
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Bishops & Father Mike