A recent Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary was John 9:1-41. Jesus and the disciples met a blind man—blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Their question represents old wisdom: poverty or illness as a sign that somebody has sinned. Blame the victim! Jesus contradicts that wisdom: “It’s not the victim’s fault. It’s not anybody’s ‘fault’. But God can be glorified in and through any situation.”
And, Jesus heals him. Note: It was on the Sabbath.
The neighbors were amazed! “Isn’t this the guy that used to sit and beg?” “No! It can’t be! It’s just somebody that looks like him!” When they confronted him, they didn’t like his answers; so, they took him to the Pharisees, who immediately said, “Well, the healer can’t be from God, because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”
Maybe you’ve noticed: sometimes our ideologies—our beliefs and doctrines, both religious and political—get in the way of what’s right.
The Pharisees decided the man hadn’t been healed. It was a sham; so, they called his parents, who said, “Ask him; he’s of age.” (They were afraid of the Pharisees. Hmmm. Imagine: being afraid of religious leaders!)
So, the Pharisees called the man back in, and played the intimidation card: “Change your testimony! We know this man is a sinner; so, don’t say he healed you. Say God healed you!”
His response was simple: “One thing I do know, I was blind, now I see.”
So, they asked again, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
He replied, “I told you already, and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again?” [Starting to seem like a Senate investigation hearing, isn’t it?]
They said, “You were born entirely in ignorance, and you’re trying to teach us?” And they kicked him out in the street.
There are several layers here: nobody in this story “gets it”! I wonder what I don't get. I wonder what we don't get.
I guess I’ve been thinking that the principle of an ideological system taking precedence over human need is a relatively new thing. Obviously, I was wrong. “The healer can’t be from God because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath?” Great Honk!
A human need has been met! A man has been healed! He once was blind, but now he can see! Why isn’t that the primary focus? Why isn’t it celebrated? “…he doesn’t keep the Sabbath? [Later, this healer who can’t be from God would ask the same Pharisees, “Is it right to do good on the Sabbath?”]
All these people were looking for—were longing for—the kingdom of God; and all the while, the healer who can’t be from God has been saying, “The Kingdom is here!” “This is it!”
They couldn’t see it, because it didn’t fit their expectations. It didn’t fit in their system.
A primary message of the Gospels is that this healer who can’t be from God is the very one who is bringing in the Kingdom of God; but he hasn’t come to restore the old kingdom of their creedal system; he’s come to bring a New Kingdom! The old kingdom was based on law and sacrifice; the new kingdom will be based on love and grace.
People whose lives are based on rules find it hard to understand and accept love and grace. “You don’t work, you don’t eat.” That’s law. “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.” (Matthew 25:35 NIV) That’s grace. It’s easier to respond, “Get a job!” or, “I don’t want to encourage their dependence.”
The Gospel readings in the Lectionary are preparing us and moving us toward the Easter celebration. Sunday-after-next will be Palm Sunday. Remember: many of those who cried “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday, cried, “Crucify him!” Friday morning, because he didn’t live up to their locked-in belief system. So, they judged him unqualified.
They didn’t get it. Had I been there, I wonder if I’d have “gotten it.” Do I really “get it”, even today? Is my own ideology—my doctrine—so rigid that I don’t recognize the movement of God unless it fits into what I already think I know? What don’t I get?
That’s the essence of walking by faith, not by sight.
That’s the way I see it through the Flawed Glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,