“The blind teaches us to see”
John 9: 1-41
March 30, 2014
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
A Husband said to his wife: “Why did you give so much money to the beggar who was pretending to be blind?” “Didn’t you hear his good words to me?” The Wife replied. The husband curiously asked: “NO, what did he say?” The wife boasted: “He said that I was so kind, so pretty, and so young.” To which the husband submitted: O”h, I see, He’s really blind.”
Blindness can be physical as well as spiritual. These are what indeed we can learn from the Gospel this morning.
“As he walked along, Jesus saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'”.
It is important for us to remember that in Jesus’ day, most believed that all sickness and body deformities were the results of sin. The problem with this understanding is that it didn’t account for the sickness and suffering of the innocent, specially those who were born disabled or sick. What did they do to deserve this punishment? And to make their understanding fit reality they reasoned that birth defects were the result of the parent’s sin, or it was the result of some sin committed by the person in the womb. Imagine how people in history were killed, hanged and stoned because the religious people thought they have evil spirits in them? Do you know of a country today who still practice this understanding? Do you know of any group or individual who still believe that such deformities were results of sin? How many people hide and are afraid of being known to have such kind of diseases or feeling they are incomplete and less perfect? How many religious groups condemn them because of who and what they are? They speak of others but not of their own insufficiencies.
It would be a different situation If a mother takes drugs or drinks during pregnancy then her irresponsible acts may cause birth defects. But it is painfully clear that most illness or birth defects are not the result of sin. It would be inconceivable for God to make an infant blind because of some Irresponsible acts by the parents. And the idea that an unborn baby can sin is obviously ridiculous.
Jesus’ response to this question is one that every physically challenged person and every not yet physically challenged person needs to hear. Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.”(John 9:3) Then Jesus spit on the ground and made some mud from the dust of the earth and the water from his mouth. Next he took this mud and covered the man’s eyes with it. And he told the man to go to the pool and wash his eyes out. When the man had done that, he could see for the first time in his life. Now when you first read that, did you wonder why Jesus put spit in the man’s eyes? In essence that is what he did. The symbolic nature of that act is significant. In the beginning God had taken the dust of the earth and with the Divine breath breathed life into the first human. In the same way the Son of God took the dust of the earth and repeated this act of God to bring sight to a blind man.
Today’s Gospel however is really about spiritual blindness. The man’s physical blindness becomes an opportunity for God to help people see spiritually. Not only where his physical eyes made to see but our spiritual eyes are made to see because of him. The reality of Spiritual blindness remained however. The Pharisees are proof of that. The man’s physical blindness may not have been the result of sin, but the Pharisees spiritual blindness and our spiritual blindness is the result of sin.
If we come to think about it, the man born blind is a model for us to learn from. The blind man teaches us to see across and deeper than the superficial. Our adversities, our trials, our illnesses are not always punishment for sin. Occasionally they are. We need to be honest with ourselves when we bring trouble upon ourselves and confess those sins. I would argue that in the vast majority of cases our troubles are not the result of our sins. Rather these troubles are opportunities for God to be manifest, made known through us.
I had a patient who was born blind. You could just imagine how terrible it is to live without even seeing the beauty of creation and those who are around you. But such blindness did not prohibit this person to live a life that is joyous and worth living. I find her singing at times and enjoying listening to her favorite music. No amount of discouragement or depression will even take the joy away from her. What more to us who can see and have all our senses?
God works where He takes our incompleteness and turns them into advantages. He takes the negatives in our lives and turns them into positives. God takes our disabilities and turns them into opportunities. God takes our blindness and uses it to help us see thing much more important than sundown.
And so, the next time you see a man born blind, or a woman with no arms, or a boy with scoliosis, or a girl with Down’s Syndrome: don’t ask, “What did they do to deserve that?” If any human deserves punishment, we all do, because we have all sinned. Instead remember what Jesus said to his disciples; “It is not for sin but that God may be manifest.” And look at that person as a person, and allow God to open your eyes to wonderful truths you have always been blind to.
The next time you come face to face with your own disability, your own pain, your own sickness, or when your hair is vanishing: Don’t ask yourself, “What did I do to deserve this?” Odds are you are not being punished. Just lift your deformities and ills to the one who came to bring sight to the blind. He may cure you, like he did the man born blind, or he may let you stay as you are. But either way he will take your lack of abilities and lack of strength, and turn them into spiritual blessing for yourself and others.
Our health and wellness volunteers will be joining our Bishop Committee at a retreat on April 5. Part of their conversation is on how, we as a community, could be instruments of God in this vineyard? We are all called by God in this place for a purpose, and that purpose is to offer a space where hope and love is freely shared to all especially the poor, the physically and mentally challenged in this community. At the same time being able to forgive those who oppress others and let love lead us to where God wants us to be.
I ask you all to discern on what you can give to make a difference in our effort to bring light for all to see. Let me tell you that there’s more for us to learn and benefit than those whom we offer our services. For they become our own inspirations in life.
Jesus came to bring sight to the blind. He still works miracles and makes the physically blind see. But he knows that often the state of our souls is more important than the condition of our bodies. So sometimes he leaves us in a physically disabled condition to give us a much greater Spiritual ability. Come to Christ with all your physical and spiritual pain and let him recreate you just as he recreated that blind man’s eyes. Amen.