The Sunday Sermon: The Healing of the Man Born Blind-Gospel with Sermon Commentary

Penelope M. Bridges,
March 19 2023

Narrator                      The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to John.

People                         Glory to you, Lord Christ.

Narrator                      As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth.  And his disciples asked him,

Disciples                     “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Narrator                      Jesus answered,

Jesus                            “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.”   

Preacher                      What did the disciples see, when they looked at the blind beggar at the Temple gates? They saw a category, an example, an image shaped by their own narrow minds. Affliction, to the disciples, was a punishment from God. Someone must be to blame. If not the man himself, then his parents must have done something to deserve this blindness. What did Jesus see, when he looked at the man born blind? He saw a child of God, a man in need; he saw an opportunity for God’s love, compassion and glory to be made known. The disciples are trapped in the past, demanding explanation for sin; Jesus looks into a bright future, filled with possibilities. In our Hebrew scripture, when the prophet Samuel looked at the bright-eyed, ruddy-cheeked shepherd boy, he saw an overlooked younger brother. But God saw the future of Israel in that boy, a king in the making.
When we look at the person sleeping on the sidewalk, what do we see? Do we see a strange, unattractive creature who somehow threatens our own well-being, or do we see a neighbor, and an opportunity to share God’s love? Do we imagine that this hardship is somehow deserved? God is not concerned with our past, what has already happened to us; God is concerned with our future and what, through grace, we will make of it.

Narrator                      Jesus said,

Jesus                            “We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Preacher                      Jesus makes eight “I am” statements in John’s Gospel. “I am the light of the world.” This I AM statement introduces the sixth great sign, the turning of the blind man’s darkness into light. It demonstrates that he is indeed the earthly incarnation of the great I AM, the one who sent Moses, who called Samuel, who loved David. The light shines in the darkness. The light reveals who God is; the light allows us to see what is really happening while the characters in the story are in the dark. Only the healed man steps fully into the light. Only the man born blind will truly see.

Jesus                            “I am the light of the world.”

Narrator                      As Jesus said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him,

Jesus                            “Go, wash in the pool of Silo’am”

Narrator                      (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Preacher                      Three simple phrases: he went, he washed, he came back seeing. The simplicity of the language almost obscures the miraculous action. The simple actions and words of the man born blind stand in stark contrast to the confusion and complications raised by everyone else in this story. He simply does what he is told by Jesus, he goes where he is sent, and he is healed. Can it really be that simple?

Narrator                      The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said,

Neighbor 1                  “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?”

Narrator                      Some said,

Neighbor 2                  “It is he”;

Narrator                      others said,

Neighbor 3                  “No, but he is like him.”

Narrator                      He said,

Man born blind           “I am the man.”

Narrator                      They said to him,

Neighbor 1                  “Then how were your eyes opened?”

Narrator                      He answered,

Man born blind           “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, `Go to Silo’am and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.”

Narrator                      They said to him,

Neighbor 2                  “Where is he?”

Narrator                      He said,

Man born blind           “I do not know.”

Preacher                      Before, all the neighbors saw was a blind beggar. They didn’t see him as another neighbor, their brother. They probably didn’t even look at his face; it would make them too uncomfortable. Now they are unwilling to accept the transformation. And he is transformed; now he speaks up for himself. He is no longer passive, begging. He is in fact an evangelist, sharing the good news with clarity and confidence.

Narrator                      They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.  Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.  The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them,

Man born blind           “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

Narrator                      Some of the Pharisees said,

Pharisee 1                   “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.”

Narrator                      But others said,

Pharisee 2                   “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”

Narrator                      There was a division among them.  So they again said to the blind man,

Pharisee 1                   “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?”

Narrator                      He said,

Man born blind           “He is a prophet.”

Preacher                      The Pharisees are blind to God’s presence among them; they are trapped in the darkness of their own minds. This cannot be the work of God because it’s against our rules. What rules cloud our perception of God’s love? How far outside our boundaries will we dare to go for the sake of the Gospel? The Holy Spirit often operates outside of our rules. It makes the Pharisees deeply uncomfortable. It might make us uncomfortable too. The Pharisees ask, How can a sinner receive such a blessing? What has he done to deserve it? What have we done to deserve the healing God offers us?

Narrator                      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,

Pharisee 2                   “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”

Narrator                      His parents answered,

Parent                          “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.”

Narrator                      His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said,

Parent                          “He is of age, ask him.”

Preacher                      To be blind is to be isolated in one way; to be healed miraculously, or even to acknowledge the miracle, is to risk isolation in another way. The man’s parents are so afraid of the power that has been manifested in their son, that they practically disown him. They turn away, afraid that they too will be bullied. They don’t have the courage to admit their confidence in their son and to accept the good news. They too are blind to the light shining in their midst.

Narrator                      So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him,

Pharisee 1                   “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.”

Narrator                      He answered,

Man born blind           “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Narrator                      They said to him,

Pharisee 2                   “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

Narrator                      He answered them,

Man born blind           “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples?”

Narrator                      And they reviled him, saying,

Pharisee 1                   “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.”

Narrator                      The man answered,

Man born blind           “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.  Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

Narrator                      They answered him,

Pharisee 2                   “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?”

Narrator                      And they cast him out. 

Preacher                      Only the healed man has the courage to call the Pharisees on their blindness, a courage given to him by God in his healing. His encounter with Jesus has given his life meaning, a reason to be courageous. He has met the Truth, and so he must tell the truth. The truth has set him free. But freedom can come at a cost. This man has lost his community; he has paid the price of faithful discipleship.

Narrator                      Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said,

Jesus                            “Do you believe in the Son of man?”

Narrator                      He answered,

Man born blind           “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Narrator                      Jesus said to him,

Jesus                            “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.”

Narrator                      He said,

Man born blind           “Lord, I believe”;

Narrator                      and he worshiped him.   Jesus said,

Jesus                            “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

Narrator                      Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him,

Pharisee 1                   “Surely we are not blind, are we?”

Narrator                      Jesus said to them,

Jesus                            “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘we see’, your sin remains.”

Preacher                      Jesus seeks out the outcast; he invites the sinner to follow him. He offers a new community, a community of healed sinners, of those who don’t fit into man-made rules, of those who stand in the light and see clearly the awesome power of God in the world. Jesus invites us too into his new community, this community of those who have been healed and restored, rescued from spiritual blindness and imprisonment. Jesus offers us a new creation, a new way of life, way of courage and freedom. Will we be like the blind man, committed and ready to believe and to follow, or will we be like the others in this story, blind to the possibility of transformation, trapped in our own darkness? Once we were in darkness, Paul writes, but now in the Lord we are called into the light. We can walk as children of light. This is the good news that Jesus, the light of the world, offers us. Be like the man born blind: believe, and worship.

Narrator                      The Gospel of the Lord.

People                         Praise to you, Lord Christ.

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