Sermon: “Who Is the Blind?” (John 9:1-9, 35-41) on March 19, 2023

Date: March 19, 2023 (Fourth Sunday in Lent)

Scripture: John 9:1-9, 35-41

Scripture Reader: Betsey Driscoll

Sermon Title: “Who Is the Blind?”

You can also listen on Podcast from iTunes and Spotify. Search for “Podcasting from Rev. Bob Jon.”

Several years ago, I attended the Annual Conference. I usually do not enjoy going to the Annual Conference as it tends to be so much about business, resolution, and reports. But one of the things I enjoy is meeting with other colleagues and sharing stories with one another. As I went to lunch with my family, I was excited to see my pastor friend, who was also having lunch there with her young children. As we were talking about our children, she told me about her concern for her daughter. As someone who came from another country, she felt ashamed of speaking English with an accent. Of course, her ethnicity already made her look like a foreigner in this society. But she blamed her accent as a social factor that worsened the discrimination against her as a human being. 

So, when her daughter was born, she did not want her to learn English from her. Instead, she had her daughter watch TV for several hours everyday so that she could learn English by watching cartoons and other TV shows. When her daughter was later diagnosed with autism, my friend blamed herself for bad parenting, thinking that too much TV made her daughter autistic. She said that she felt a little better only after her pediatric doctor told her that it was not her parenting. But it was probably a genetic factor that caused her daughter to be autistic. With many therapy sessions and support, her daughter was doing so much better. But she and her husband were still concerned and brokenhearted, maybe thinking, “Why isn’t our child like other children?” 

As human beings, that is what we do. We are concerned because we care. We care, so we are concerned. However, we also often blame others or even ourselves for the misery, pain, or brokenness in them or in us. We try to make sense of what happened by analyzing the cause of the problem. And here in our reading from the Gospel of John, the disciples saw a man who was blind from birth. I have a picture that my wife took almost nine years ago. It is a picture of me holding Daniel in my arms only a day after he was born. He is looking at me and I am looking at him. For 9 months, we wondered what he would look like. And holding him in my arms, meeting our eyes, and saying “hi” to your first child, there is no feeling that can describe that precious moment. 

But this man was born blind from his birth. He never knew what his mother looked like. He had never known what his father looked like. He had never seen a tree, flower, or mountain that his neighbors were talking about. When his friends were talking about the wonderful vacation they went on with their families, he had to only imagine something he had never seen. As he grew older, his friends were finding their jobs and pursuing their careers. In their time, they were often trained by their fathers to continue their family business. But being born blind, this man could find nothing he could do. Naturally, he had to sit at the city gate, where many people walked by. He begged for mercy, saying “Thank You” to anyone who dropped a coin in his jar. 

When the disciples saw this man, they asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” To be fair to the disciples, the Bible has some conflicting views on this. In Exodus, God warns the Israelites not to bow down to the idols or serve them because God is a jealous God and will punish children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who reject God. (Exodus 20:5). Meanwhile, in Ezekiel, God says that all lives belong to God. The life of the parent as well as the life of children belong to God. So, the children would not suffer on the account of their parent. (Ezekiel 18:4) But as people, it is our human nature that we often blame the victim or their families for their misery and suffering, just like my friend for her parenting. 

And Jesus answers, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him” (9:3). Michael Lindvall, a Presbyterian minister in New York, comments that when he counsels people with some loss or tragedy, he encourages them to avoid asking the “why” question and rather asking the “how” question. Instead of asking “Why a death has come too early,” Lindvall says that we can ask “How we may find a way through the pain to more meaningful life.” Helen Keller once said, “I thank God for my handicaps. For through them I have found myself, my work, and my God.” In the same way, Jesus also says that it is not necessarily someone’s fault that led to his man’s blindness. But God can still be glorified through what Jesus can do for us and with us. 

Jesus says, “We must work the works of God 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.” Jesus does not say, “I will be the light of the world.” But he says, “I AM the light of the world.” Jesus is the light who can show us who God is, what God is like, because Jesus is the Son of God. Later, Philip, a disciple of Jesus, asked him, “Lord, please show us God, and we will be happy.” And Jesus answered, “Philip, I have been with you all this time and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Don’t you know that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” In other words, it is not necessarily our physical condition that makes us a blind. But not seeing Jesus as the Son of God is what makes us blind. 

After Jesus told his disciples that he is the light of the world, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on this blind man’s eyes. Jesus then said, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.” This man followed what he was told. When he went to the water and washed his eyes, he was able to see for the first time in his life. When Nicolly Pereira, two-year-old child, was born in rural Brazil, she knew her mother’s love only through her touch. Nicolly was born deaf and blind because she suffered a pediatric glaucoma. She had seven surgeries, but they were unsuccessful. When her mother posted their story on Facebook, people noticed and offered help by raising $17,000. Thankfully, this little girl was able to receive a surgery in Miami. After the surgery, Nicolly looks at her mother for the first time and smiles. She looks at her mother as if she is filled with awe while her mother is in tears. 

Just imagine the joy of this man, as he opened his eye for the first time in his life and was able to see everything. His neighbors could have gathered to celebrate with this man that a miracle happened. But no. People gather around him and doubt that he is the same person who was begging on the street. He is even brought to the Pharisees who grumble that this healing took place on the Sabbath. Jesus worked to make the mud and opened his eyes. Since he violated the Sabbath, the Pharisees wanted to charge Jesus saying that he is a sinner who disregards the law. They tell this formerly blind man, “Give glory to God! We know that this Jesus is a sinner.” In other words, “Hey, buddy, you should consider yourself lucky.” But the man says, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 

When I was still a seminarian back in 2005, I was doing my internship at a predominantly black church in Boston. At that church, the pastor, Rev. Martin McLee, always finished his sermon by inviting anyone who was looking for a new church home or rededicating themselves to God to come forward. He would say, “The church door is open.” One Sunday, as he said, “The church door is open,” two men, John and Mike, came forward and gave their hands to the pastor and leaders. When Rev. McLee gave them a microphone, John said, “We are gays. We visited some churches because we love God and we wanted to worship. But every time we tried to join them, we were rejected because of who we are. But you, you have welcomed and embraced us as we are. And we are here to say that we want to be your family.” As soon as he finished, an elderly woman named Hilda came forward and gave them a hug, followed by everyone in the church, young and old, who stood in line. 

I assume that when they tried to join a church, the other churches considered their identity and their lifestyle as sinful. They were trying to make sense why this was happening to them, a gay couple that wants to join their church. Instead of celebrating in welcoming them as beloved children of God, they were grumbling in their hearts that unless they confess their sinfulness and change who they are, they could not belong to their church. Maybe they thought that this gay couple were blind who needed the light of Christ to change them. But the question the Gospel of John is challenging us to answer is this, “You might have your way of saying someone was blind, broken, or sick. But in the eyes of God, who is the real blind?” 

For three years, I worshipped, worked as an intern, and was nurtured at this black church in Boston. I was graduating from the school and moving to another state to pursue another academic degree. On my last Sunday with the church, Rev. McLee asked me to stand in the middle so that people could come forward and I could say farewell to them. The young and old stood in line, giving me a hug and wishing me a blessing. This gay couple also came forward. They almost never missed the worship service. They always sat toward the front of the church. You know I also come from and was nurtured in somehow conservative Christianity. But worshipping together, sharing food together, and serving together brought us as a new family. And they gave me such a big heart, praying for me.  

Later, Jesus spoke with the man whom he healed in his blindness. He says, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see may see and those who do see may become blind.” And the Pharisees who were listening to their conversation asked among themselves, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” We gather this morning because we confess Jesus as our Lord. We follow the way of Christ as our light who taught us and shown what it means to love God and love our neighbors. And we are also called to be the light in this world as Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

God is still on move today, working God’s redemptive plan to heal the people, forgive them, and call them to follow the way of Christ. From time to time, we may be blinded by our own ego, our ideology, our greed, or our short-sightedness. However, God who so loved the world that God sent God’s only Son Christ to die for us and save us will never let us go. God will continue to open our eyes and ears, calling us to do the same in this world. 


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