March 19th, 2023: Jesus heals a many blind from birth
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
In our Gospel reading this morning we hear the story of the healing of the man who was born blind. This is the 6th sign in John’s Gospel. John never uses the term miracle. For John these are signs of who Jesus is. Signs because they point to something more.
Jesus heals a man who has been born blind. A man who never asks to be healed! Jesus heals with mud a spit and then tells the man to go and wash. And he does! His sight is restored and then the troubles start. Part of the problem is that the healing occurred on the Sabbath. He must now deal with the questions from the Synagogue officials. Are the Pharisees just trying to understand what happened or are they up to something more?
The actions of the religious leaders seem to suggest that they want to control the narrative. They question the man who was healed. They are divided, does Jesus come from God or not? Is Jesus a sinner?
They do not want to hear or believe the man’s story because it opposes the story that they want to tell. They want Jesus to be a sinner - after all he healed on the Sabbath - an action that could get you thrown out of the Synagogue. They do not want Jesus to be the hero of the story. They want an explanation that leaves them in control of all the religious goods and services. Will recognition of Jesus lead to their complete loss of control? How terrifying for them it must have been.
I like this man who has been healed. He sticks to what he knows. He refuses to back down. He is like the stubborn 3 year old who insists that she knows everything. But in this case the man makes no attempt to explain what happened. The Pharisees want to know what happened and they ask over and over again. The people in the Synagogue want to know. Even the man’s parents are asked what happened. And they abandon him, they deflect the question. They say ask him yourself - he is of age. The fear of being thrown out of the Synagogue - the centre of community drives their behaviour.
How devastating to be abandoned by your parents for a refusal to fall in line with the wishes of the religious authorities.
The man who was healed sticks to his story. He is stubborn and truthful. I don’t know what happened. All I know is that I was blind and now I see. He refuses to say that Jesus is a sinner. All I know is that I was blind and now I see. He is tenacious in his refusal. All I know is that I was blind and now I see. And for his honesty, for his confession he is driven out of the Synagogue. Driven out of community. He is alone. Except he is not alone.
After his expulsion Jesus seeks him out. Jesus asks him - do you believe in the son of man? Jesus identifies himself. The man has come to faith and belief. He makes his confession - Lord, I believe. He has had a direct experience with the divine and with healing.
Lord, I believe. His confession of faith is everything.
What is the miracle or the sign here? Is it the action of Jesus manipulating mud and spit - is it the washing that has done the trick?
Some things can never be explained. Some things like the healing of the man who was born blind can never be explained, they can only be described. The man who was born blind cannot explain his conversion to anyone’s satisfaction. But he can tell the difference that it makes.
He tells the authorities I was blind and now I see. Nothing shakes him from this. For this man being able to see was enough.
He cannot explain what happened to him, he can only describe it. We cannot explain what happened to him, all we can say is that we believe that Jesus healed this man. There is no proof that he or we could offer that would explain how or why this happened. Nothing that can be said would be convincing proof.
The man who was blind from birth and received his sight in such a strange and inexplicable manner points us to confess as he did. Lord, I believe. We cannot explain Jesus, we can only confess him as our Saviour.