Ephesians 5:8-14 • John 9:1-41
Do you wonder if this blind man ever found himself wishing he had never been healed? It certainly does seem that his healing created for him a heap of trouble. We might conclude that his healing is not the end, but the beginning of his problems.
Consider the evidence: Up to this point he’s been a part of a community, if an invisible member. People seem to have known him, even though they may not have paid him much attention—certainly not enough to positively ID him. Or did they prefer to feign ignorance? Best case scenario, he was tolerated. He belonged. If not privileged, at least he had a place.
But once he is healed and sees things for what they are, the world seems to turn against him. He faces resistance. He is thrown out of his church. In fact, Biblical scholars are pretty sure the man is a type for the kind of experience of many early Christians who were rejected for their turn toward Jesus. He was like many who, seeing the shortcomings of institutional religion that had lost its way, was punished rather than welcomed as a voice of reform and new life.
You would think it would drive him nuts. You would expect him to fall apart. But the striking thing is that he seems to do just the opposite. Things do get crazy—I mean, nutty. It is a silly story, the way people seem to be losing their heads around him. But in the midst of it all, this one who was sent to the pool called “sent” by the one who was sent by God, is the calm in the eye of a storm.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, are falling apart. We might give them the benefit of the doubt early on in the story. They are divided as they try to parse a contradiction—a healing on the one day that it seems a healing shouldn’t be allowed—the Sabbath. So it can’t be from God because it’s against the rules, but it has to be from God, because it’s a good thing.
So a committee meeting is called, then a consultation, then a task force is formed, and finally a hearing is held. And while the man who was once blind is indicted, it is the judges who are exposed for what they truly are—frauds less concerned with what is true and good than what is personally beneficial. And the storm rages.
And in the middle of it, not one, but two quiet people, meet each other, and the salvation and well-being and hope that God offers in the questions and the search and the humble offering of self to the one who is sent to heal and make whole.
Make no mistake. There is no promise of a painless path for this settled man who now sees, nor for the one who made him see. It leads to a cross. What an ironic thing! The man is made well, and for it, he is rejected. For it, he suffers. And so does the one who makes him and us well.
Did you notice how quickly the questions evolve, how difficult it is to keep track of the real issue? At the beginning blindness was an indication of sin. By the end—and this is surely ironic!—the man’s seeing was presumed to be sin. And yet, in spite of this theater of the absurd, he grows stronger. He, along with his healer, are the only ones who are not losing their heads. If there is a promise in this story, this is surely it. This, John tells us, is the result of an encounter with the dying and rising one. This is what discipleship looks like. This may be what you are searching for here this morning.
The healed one becomes more active and more settled as the story goes on. By reporting what happened, he becomes a teacher to the teachers—and they resent him for it. He becomes a truth teller to the ones who claim to own the truth, and they reject him for it. He becomes a disciple to the one who healed, and they banish him for it. And yet, John seems to be telling us that in the midst of the craziness, he finds his true home. He is not only healed, he is made whole. He finds his way, through his baptism, into a new life in which the truth sets him free, in which the light of the world shepherds him to life.
There is a promise to this story that is important for all to hear today who seek faith, knowledge, and reassurance—whether you are new, or whether you’ve been along this road for some time now. Give yourself to it, body and soul, and you will have trouble. You will encounter resistance. You will see people losing their heads all about you. But there is more.
Give yourself to it, body and soul, and you will encounter the calm in the midst of the storm. You will find the one who is searching for you. You will find a way that leads to life.
This is where the healing God, who restores the soul of lost sheep dwells. This is where your cup can overflow, even in the presence of your enemies. It is precisely in this search, and the craziness of it all, and the well-intentioned resistance, and the misunderstanding and anxiety, that God’s Spirit quietly comes to you. To you!—and says do you believe in the Son of Man? Do you believe?
Do you give yourself to it? Give your life away. Give yourself to him, and be well. Give yourself to it, and find your true home.
St. Andrew Sermons