URC Daily Devotion 1st November

John 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him,

‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

Jesus answered,

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’  

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him,

‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent).

Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask,

‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’  

Some were saying,

‘It is he.’

Others were saying,

‘No, but it is someone like him.’

He kept saying,

‘I am the man.’  

But they kept asking him,

‘Then how were your eyes opened?’  

He answered,

‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’  

They said to him,

‘Where is he?’

He said,

‘I do not know.’

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.  Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them,

‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’

Some of the Pharisees said,

‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’

But others said,

‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’

And they were divided.

So they said again to the blind man,

‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’

He said,

‘He is a prophet.’

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,

‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’

His parents answered,

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

His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said,

‘He is of age; ask him.’

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

‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’

He answered,

‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’

They said to him,

‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’

He answered them,

‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’

Then they reviled him, saying,

‘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.’

The man answered,

‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’

They answered him,

‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’

And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said,

‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’

He answered,

‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’

Jesus said to him,

‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’

He said,

‘Lord, I believe.’

And he worshipped him.  Jesus said,

‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’

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

‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’

Jesus said to them,

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

Reflection

This passage of scripture throw up profound issues.  Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem and the passage begins almost casually: “As he walked along…”  And yet it is as if Jesus expected to meet this man.  Clearly he and his disciples know something of him, because they knew that this man was born blind, therefore they must have met him before; Jerusalem was after all a very small city.   The disciples here show that they share with all of their generation the superstitious belief that anyone with disability must have sinned to be that way and if their disability was inherited, then it must have been his or her parents who sinned against God.  Tragically there are still those in the church who hold this superstitious view.  The disciples were certain of this which is why they ask the question of Jesus ” Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The answer they expect is a clear and simple “Parents or him”.  Jesus’ reply demonstrates that whilst he was very much rooted in first century Palestine, he was also a man out of his time.   His reply reminds me of what he said about those who died in the disaster of the Tower of Siloam ( same place name as the pool, interestingly).   Jesus’s reply in one sense is altogether modern: “ Neither his parents nor he sinned…..” Yet Jesus takes it beyond busting superstitious nonsense and sees in this moment a Kairos moment, God’s moment.  Not only is this man innocent of the charges laid against him and his parents but also he has a key part to play in God’s purposes.  His healing not only reveals that Jesus is sent from God, but also that it is so often the case that the blind can truly see and the sighted are often blind.   

The reaction of the religious authorities here is what we’d expect.  As an aside where we read the word “Jews” here, let us be clear.   The author of John’s gospel means the Jewish leaders and authorities, not all Jews.  Passages like this have been used to justify anti-semitism quite wrongly and quite wickedly.  So the religious authorities do not like what has happened.  They cannot see the good news because they cannot see past their interpretation of the law of Moses nor their right to interpret it.  This imposter, Jesus of Nazareth, is usurping their God given role in society and it won’t do!   Isn’t it awful, even frightening what legalism and pride can do?  Both can blind us to what God is doing.  Here both lay people, the Pharisees, and ordained people , “the Jews” ( at least in my interpretation) are guilty of this.   The man’s poor parents are grilled and are terrified, but the healed man is then found and he tells what he knows.   He becomes a teller of the good news himself!

So, let us always treat those with special needs with great compassion and more than that, let us listen for what God is saying to us through them for these sisters and brothers can often be more “sighted” than those whose bodies work as they ought.   Let us also not fall into the trap of the Pharisees and the Jewish Leaders, in other words let us be attentive to what God is already doing amongst us and where God wants to lead us.  Let us never write something off because “ It’s not the way we do things here!”   Too many churches have been killed by such legalism and close mindedness!

 

Prayer

Praying in the tradition of Stephen and Origen:

Lord Jesus, thank you for the love you showed to the man born blind.  Thank you that you took him seriously and treated him as fully beloved of God.  Thank you too for the risk you took to yourself in healing him on a sabbath day and in doing so, revealing your Father’s glory.  We pray today for all who have special needs, that our society will cherish them and that they and we together may see more and more of your love at work in our lives.   For those who are harshly judged in church and out of church we pray.  Lord Jesus help us to see with eyes of compassion and not the eyes of the legalist.  In and through even us ,may your glory be revealed that many more people may come to know you and know they are loved by you.  We pray too for the churches we belong to, that our churches may be ever open to the leading of God and never dismiss works of God amongst us, even when they are surprising and not what we are used to.  Amen

Today’s Writer

The Rev’d Peter Meek is the Moderator of the East Midlands Synod.

Bible Version

 

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