Last week our Gospel story was about Jesus and the Samaritan woman. The image which fills that story is the image of water, dark, still water in the well of Jacob and the bright gushing water of eternal life.
Today our image is about light and darkness, blindness and seeing. The disciples asked Jesus a question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Today some people have been asking, “Were the Japanese people so sinful that God sent a tsunami to wash them away?”
Jesus said to his disciples, “Neither this man or his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” God is not cruel or stupid and did not make the man blind so that Jesus could perform an impressive miracle. Blindness is a disaster and the healing shows God’s work shining like light in darkness. In the same way Jesus might answer, “Neither the Japanese or anyone else sinned, God did not send the tsunami. The tsunami is the dark background which reveals God’s works.”
And so the story of the man who was born blind is continued; Jesus makes a mud with spittle and smears it on the man’s eyes; the man washes in the pool of Siloam and came back able to see. This is the first part of the drama – the glory of God’s works is revealed in the man’s new sight.
The second part of the drama unfolds when the Pharisees refused to see God at work. First of all they say, “This is not the man who was blind!” Then they refused to believe that Jesus could possibly have healed him. “This man Jesus is a sinner! How could a sinner do such things?”
Next they decided that the man had never been blind and the so-called healing was all a trick. So they called his parents who declared that he had in fact been born blind.
Still the Pharisees refused to see that Jesus was the Messiah who had healed the blind man by the power of God. The man whose eyes had been cleansed then gave his testimony. ‘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.’
Still the Pharisees refused to see what was happening right before their eyes. They refused to see that the man had born blind; they refused to see that his parents were telling the truth and they refused to see the wonderful work of God.
No wonder they wanted to get the man out of their sight, and they drove the man out of the synagogue.
This is a story about blindness; but not the blindness of someone who cannot see because their eyes are damaged. If you like, you can compare the blind man to a sighted person who has never seen the light of Christ. After meeting Jesus, washing in the pool of Siloam can be compared to baptism, and his witness to the Pharisees is this man’s testimony. We could compare the man’s story with our own.
But when we come to the Pharisees, their blindness is the blindness of people who refuse to see. They are religious people and they could see if they wanted to, but they refuse to see. Some people call this spiritual blindness.
Spiritual blindness is really serious, because the people who are spiritually blind often think that they can see clearly.
The Pharisees who spoke to Jesus were puzzled. “Surely we are not blind, are we?” And Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin.” That is, if your eyes were damaged and you could not see, then who could blame you for not seeing the wonderful works of God? Then he said, “But now that you say, “we see”, your sin remains.” In other words, “If you claim to be able to see God at work, and you refuse to see what has been done right before you, then that is wilful and wicked.”
Take a little look at the picture after the gospel. This is a modern illustration of the gospel. On the left is a rich man in a smart suit wearing trendy sunglasses. Behind him is a beggar, thin ragged and starving. If he wanted to, the rich man could turn around and look at the beggar.
He could see the rags, he could see the hunger and the pain. He could see the need of the poor man and he could, if he wanted to, show us one of the mighty works of God. If he gave the beggar food and clothing, even if he turned and spoke to him, even if he treated him like a fellow human being. Even such a small thing as that would be a mighty work of God. But our rich man in his trendy sunglasses sees nothing but a beggar.
When he says, “Yep, there’s a beggar all right!” he shows his spiritual blindness and he remains selfish and hardhearted, as sinful as ever.
Now, Christians are children of the light, as St Paul told the Ephesians, they have their eyes wide open and they are always looking for a revelation of the wonderful works of God. Blindness and earthquakes are two of the works of darkness, and against them the works of light shone out clearly. Christians have their eyes open to human need and the ways in which God works in the world.
Let me give two examples of the fruit of the light, which Paul says is found in all that is good and right and true. One is the Fred Hollows Foundation which, through a simple operation costing about $30, quite literally opens the eyes of the blind. The second example is the courage and devotion of the nuclear power plant workers who, regardless of their own safety, are working to secure the Japanese power plants to make them safe for countless others.
Not everyone who donates to the Fred Hollows Foundation is a Christian, and I doubt if any of the nuclear power plant workers are Christian, but surely what they are doing is pleasing to the Lord, as St Paul says.
How much more then, should we, as professing Christians, be aware of the light of Christ which shines in our hearts. Let us pray that our eyes of our spirit may be open to see where light is needed, even in the smallest work of God’s love and mercy.
Let us be ready to see the light in all that is good and right and true and to live in that light, to the glory of God. Amen