The Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 2, 2008
I Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23
Wow, another long lesson today! Except for Good Friday, I think this is one of the longest lessons in the lectionary. True last weeks lesson gave us a close run for our money, but this one is 4 verses longer. There must be something very important going on to convince those who love to shorten or edit our lectionary reading to allow this entire pericope to remain unscathed by the editors pen.
Darkness and light are recurring themes in the Gospel of John and we see that again in the lesson for today. The man born blind from birth is well acquainted with darkness. He has actually never seen the light. Darkness has been his constant companion for as long as he can remember. He can feel the warmth of the sun on his skin at sunrise, but in his darkness he cannot enjoy the force of its light. He can feel the touch of cold water, but cannot enjoy its sparkle in a stream. He has had what can only be described as a tough life.
The blind man is not the only blind person in the lesson for today. There are others much more blinded than he. There is more than one kind of blindness in the lesson from John today. We have the physical blindness of the man born blind from birth, and we also have the spiritual blindness of most of the rest of the people in this story. And while it is very easy and tempting to focus on the blindness of the Pharisees in the lesson for today, they are also not the only ones blind.
First we have the blindness of Jesus disciples. Jesus disciples were convinced that there could only be one cause for the man’s blindness. That cause is sin. Either he or his parents must have sinned. And the disciples were probably not alone in this assumption. This man had not only lived with his own physical blindness, he had also lived with the spiritual blindness of those around him who would so willingly place the blame for his predicament on himself or his parents.
So in addition to the heavy burden of being blind in that society, his man also carried the burden of the accusations of society, so clearly summed up by Jesus disciples.
The disciples and the Pharisees lived in a world of cause and effect that was controlled by God. If this man was blind the cause had to be for punishment for sin, either his own, or his parents. They were blind to other possibilities.
And in fact, some people in the world today suffer from this very same blindness. Natural disasters are attributed to God’s divine judgment against people for their sins. So while we might prefer to consign this particular type of blindness to the dustbin of history and ignorance it remains with us to this very day, but supposedly educated Christians who have a twisted and blind view of God in the world.
Some of you, like me, may find it downright embarrassing to be associated with this blindness, but if we do not speak up against it, as Christians we are tarred by the very same brush of blindness. I truly believe that this kind of blindness is not created by cruelty but rather by ignorance, ignorance of an understanding of the person Jesus.
In this story, the man does not even ask for his sight. He seems to be an object lesson picked out by the disciples to make a point. He is almost accosted by Jesus to be healed. In fact, I can imagine that I might very well be tempted to say, keep your spitty mud to yourself thank you!
And true, the Pharisees themselves also evidenced a particular blindness to the power of God so clearly at work before them. They were so worried about the observance of the Law that they failed to see God in their midst. Now that is blindness. It is also the blindness of failing to see who Jesus was in their midst.
Most of you have probably heard that expression: “there are none so blind as those who will not see.” It speaks of a particularly difficult kind of blindness to cure. It speaks actually of a blindness that plain does not want to be cured.
We believe in a God who specializes in giving sight to the blind. And God does not restrict herself only to curing physical blindness. I am hopeful that some spiritual blindness was healed that day as well. God also works on curing the spiritual blindness found in the world today.
We could all let ourselves off the hook pretty easy today simply by focusing on the spiritual blindness of the characters in the story today. Particularly if we choose to focus on the blindness of the Pharisees, always good targets to move the bulls-eye off of ourselves and center it elsewhere.
But that would be missing the most important lesson which the read has for us today. The hard work that God is calling for us to do is to see the spiritual blindness in our own lives. That is what this Lent is all about. God calls us to careful self examination in our lives. We need to ask ourselves if we are seeing the world around us through the eyes of Jesus.
Last week Jesus eyes saw a woman who needed living water and new life, when the disciples and her neighbors saw someone worthless and unredeemable. This week Jesus saw a life ready to be transformed by the light, while the disciples saw someone beaten down by the burden of unforgivable sin.
Too often we choose to see the worst in someone rather than the best. We see their failures rather than their potential. This is not seeing with the eyes of Jesus.