Day 291 “A Sojourner” John 9:1 – 10:42
October 19, 2021, 9:05 PM

Day 291 “A Sojourner” John 9:1 – 10:42

[Quick note—school is going to be tough for the next few weeks, through the beginning of November. I lost the last two days of blogging to school work, for example.  So here’s my deal—I’d rather write something than nothing. So my ‘somethings’ may be pretty simple, and it may be short. But I would rather stick with the program and reflect on even a small piece of what we are reading. Just wanted you to know.]

Today I am taken by the blind man, as I am sure we all are. The whole chapter really focuses on this event because it makes the Pharisees so angry, angry enough to try and kill Jesus. Do we realize how many times Jesus could have been killed before the crucifixion? But he knew that this was not the way he had to die. His death had to involve everyone from the Jews who had welcomed him into Jerusalem and then turned against him, right up to the highest political figures including Pilate and Herod. Being stoned to death on the street is not how Jesus dies. His death touches the lives of many more people on the way to Calvary.

Today Jesus heals, he teaches, he has mercy, and he is clear about who he is and why he came.

But that blind man…he keeps staying with me. Jesus isn’t just healing a man; he’s healing a whole fractured, punitive system of belief about illness or disability. Remember our friend Job, from waaaayyyyy back in the Old Testament? Some of us are reading selections from Job in church on Sundays right now, so it may be fresh in your minds. Did Job do anything to deserve his suffering? No. He did not. People around him kept trying to convince him that he did, but he knew better. He had done nothing to deserve his suffering. But that attitude persisted, and still persists today.

Quick aside: deserving suffering is different than suffering consequences for our choices. My mother, sadly, was a life-long smoker of non-filter cigarettes, and she died of lung cancer. She didn’t deserve to die; her death was a direct consequence of a habit she had acquired. Does that make sense to you?

Back to our blind man. The disciples themselves carried the idea that the blind man or his parents must have done something terrible for him to be born blind, and they ask Jesus about this. Jesus’s answer doesn’t necessarily make me feel any better, to be honest. He says that the man is born blind “so that God’s works might be revealed in him,” (9:3). Now, this man was healed, which clearly revealed God’s works, but what if he hadn’t been healed? Are all disabled people to be thought of as particular ways that God’s work is revealed? Actually I like that. That challenges me/us to think very differently about disabled people. We are used to thinking that natural beauty or perfection are marks of God’s power or work. People stand at the top of mountains all the time and think “Ah ha! The glory of God’s great work!” How often do we stand in the parking lot at the bottom of the trail, with all the leftover Clif bar wrappers and empty water bottles left behind by hikers (theoretically) and say the same thing?

How often do we look at brokenness and ask ourselves “What does God want me to know?” As a person with poor vision that will deteriorate even more as I age, I remember someone saying to me “God is teaching you about what he wants you to see with your poor vision (or despite my poor vision).” I thought “Oh blah blah blah! One more Christian person trying to get me to love being so nearsighted that I’ve never seen the Big E on the chart! Easy for him to say!” But he was not wrong. I have learned to ‘see’ in other ways, and I treasure the vision I have while I have it.

One other example—we have a young man who comes to church in a scooter because he has cerebral palsy. He drives his scooter down the street a few blocks to get there. But bad weather is coming and he needs a ride to church, someone who can physically lift the wheel chair to get it in their car, help him get in the car, help him out, and yes, help him get to the restroom if he needs to. We are having a hard time finding anyone who can get him and bring him to church. Heartbreak for me. Frustrating for him. His brokenness/disability interferes with our lives and our plans. But you and I are no different, are we? Our brokenness is simply more deeply hidden and no one needs to pick us up to get to church, if we are even willing to show up there.

I’ve gone on long enough about that. No one deserves suffering, and all of us endure some measure of it in our lives. Even Jesus had to endure suffering on our behalf. He certainly didn’t deserve it.

I also received a question about the mud and spit combination and have thought about it for awhile. The easy answer is readily available—to spit and then to make a mud ball or mud paste constituted work on the Sabbath. Jesus was purposely ‘spitting in the eyes’ of the Pharisees in this double-work-whammy. And then the healing. Jesus was being ultra clear about what he was doing. Jesus chose healing and new life over rigid, confining traditions.

I had another thought though. Perhaps the man was not simply blind, but his face/eyes were changed by his blindness. Have you met people who are blind from birth? They often wear sunglasses even during the day because their eyes wander or they have a film over their eyes that is uncomfortable for others to see. Maybe Jesus wanted to cover up that disfigurement in some way as part of the healing. When he was healed, his own neighbors were not sure that it was the same man. I sense a little glimmer of resurrection in this story because the man’s appearance had changed in some way as well as his ability to navigate the world.

But the man was ostracized, kicked out of his own synagogue—imagine that! I wonder how his parents ultimately received him once that happened. Did they disown him too so that they could remain in the good graces of the ruling party of the synagogue? I’m not blaming them. This is a sad consequence of legalistic thinking. I once went to a dinner put on by a Christian organization and the pastor who spoke to us proudly told the story about how he disowned his daughter when she told him she was gay, and he had not seen her or spoken to her in years.  I should have picked up my fancy purse and marched right out of there in my high heels at that moment. The horror of that moment, and it was horror, stays with me. His behavior constituted a deep judgmental brokenness. We may disagree, but we need to be very careful before we disown. What if God did that to us every time we did something God disagreed with? How else was it possible that Jesus called tax collectors to be disciples, and forgave a woman caught in adultery. Of course he told her to sin no more. Of course she did. We all do. The blind man who now sees will be blind in other ways, but now he knows who to turn to when he needs to be healed the next time. He now knows there is hope.

Well, today was not one of the short writing days. I just love this too much, I guess.

Be blessed, my friends, and be a blessing to others,



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