Sunday: (March 22): Jesus frees us from spiritual blindness and sin
Gospel Reading: John 9:1-41
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.” 10 They said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, `Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” There was a division among them. 17 So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 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, 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 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.” 22 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. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age, ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “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?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 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. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, `We see,’ your guilt remains.
Old Testament Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13
1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me him whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
Meditation: Do you recognize the light of God’s truth and power in your life? God wants to remove every obstacle that might hinder us from recognizing the light of his truth and wisdom for our lives. Saul, the first king of Israel, failed to recognize God’s light and power to save him from his enemies. God replaced Saul with David, the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons (1 Samuel 16). God saw something in David which Jesse and his other sons did not recognize – a man after God’s own heart who delighted in doing what was pleasing to the Lord (1 Samuel 13:14). David was a man of courage and vision who defeated his enemies and united his people. His strength and success came not from himself but from God who anointed him with the power and wisdom of his own Spirit.
What can keep us from the light of God’s truth, wisdom, and strength for our lives? Sin blinds us and causes us to stumble and fall – unable to rise on our own or to walk in the freedom of God’s love and truth. Sin clouds the mind in moral confusion, and it grows in darkness and resists the light of God’s truth. Only God’s light can uncover the darkness of sin and free us to walk in the path of holiness and peace with God.
The light of the world When the disciples saw a man who had been blind from birth, they asked Jesus what kind of sin had caused this blindness. The Jews had understood that many infirmities were the result of human folly and sin. While sin can lead to physical, mental, and spiritual infirmities, not all sickness is the direct result of sin. Sickness can befall us for a variety of reasons. Jesus answered that God had allowed this infirmity for a greater purpose which God wanted to demonstrate as a sign of his presence and power. Jesus then made a claim which only God could rightfully make. Jesus stated unequivocally, I am the light of the world (John 9:5). In so many words Jesus was saying that he is the one true source of power and light which sustains life and overcomes the darkness of sin, confusion, and spiritual blindness. Jesus’ mighty works – his miraculous signs – confirmed the truth of his message and claim to divine authority and equality with his Father in heaven. One of his greatest signs was the healing of a man who had been blind from birth.
Healing of man born blind When Jesus approached the blind man he first awakened hope in him – the hope which God offers those who seek his help. Jesus then did something quite remarkable for the blind man, both to identify with this man’s misery and to draw expectant faith in him as well. Jesus touched the man’s eyes with his own spittle mixed with dirt and bid him to wash in the Pool of Siloam which was close to the Temple. This pool of fresh flowing water was one of the landmarks of the city of Jerusalem. It’s source came from the Gihon spring located in the valley outside the walls of Jerusalem. This pool was likely used as a ceremonial bath of purification for people who were going up to the Temple to worship. On the yearly feast of Tabernacles, one of the priests brought a golden pitcher of water from this pool and poured it out over the altar in the temple while reciting from the verse, “You will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). What is the significance of the healing of the blind man at the Pool of Siloam? It is certainly more than just a miraculous event. It is a “sign” that points to the source of the miraculous life-giving water which Jesus offers through the gift and work of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38). Do you want the Holy Spirit to pour out on you his renewing power of faith, vision, and healing love?
The Pharisees were upset with Jesus’ miracle on two counts. First, he healed the blind man on the Sabbath, which they considered a serious violation of the command to rest on the Sabbath. Second, how could a “sinner” and a “sabbath-breaker” do such a marvelous work of God! The man who claimed to have been healed by Jesus must not have really been blind to begin with! Contrary to this false charge, the fact of this man’s blindness was well known to many people, including the parents who testified under oath that he had indeed been blind since birth. The prejudice of the religious leaders made them blind to God’s intention for the Sabbath (to do good rather than evil) and to Jesus’ claim to be the One sent from the Father in heaven to bring freedom and light to his people. The Jewish leaders tried to intimidate both this cured man and his parents by threatening to exclude them from membership in the synagogue – the local congregation of the worshiping community of Jews. This man was shunned by the religious authorities because he believed that Jesus healed him and was the Messiah.
Freedom from spiritual blindness John Chrysostom, commenting on this passage, remarked: “The Jews (the Pharisees) cast him out of the Temple; the Lord of the Temple found him.” If our witness of Jesus and his redeeming work in our lives causes friends or foes to reject us, it nonetheless draws us nearer to the Lord Jesus himself. Paul the Apostles warns us to avoid the darkness of sin that we might walk more clearly in the light of Christ (Ephesians 5:8-12). Do you allow any blind-spots to blur your vision of what God is offering you and asking of you?
The Lord Jesus is ever ready to heal us and to free us from the darkness of sin and deception. There is no sickness, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual that the Lord Jesus does not identify with. Isaiah prophesied that the “Suffering Servant” would be bruised for our iniquities and by his stripes we would be healed (Isaiah 53:5). The Lord offers us freedom from spiritual blindness due to sin and he restores us to wholeness of body, mind, soul, and heart. Augustine of Hippo, in his commentary on this Gospel passage, remarks: “If we reflect on the meaning of this miracle, we will see that the blind man is the human race …You already know, of course, who the “One Sent” is. Unless he had been sent, none of us would have been freed from sin.”
“Jesus, in your name the blind see, the lame walk, and the dead are raised to life. Come into our lives and heal the wounds of our broken hearts. Give us eyes of faith to see your glory and hearts of courage to bring you glory in all we say and do.”
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want; 2 he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
A Daily Quote for Lent: The unchangeable Light, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
“I entered into my inmost self with You, Lord, as my guide – And this I was able to do because You were my helper. I entered in and saw with the eye of my soul, the unchangeable Light, very different from earthly lights. It was above my mind but not the way oil is above water or heaven above the earth. It was superior because it made me, and I inferior because I was made by it. Those who know the truth know this light, and those who know it know eternity – It is charity that knows it.” (excerpt from Confessions 7,10)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.