Who Can See? – John 9.1-41

March 30, 2014 – 4th Sunday in Lent

Most Sundays we have two readings. This morning, we’ll have one reading from the gospel and the psalm will be sung by the choir as the anthem.

The gospel reading comes again this Sunday in Lent from the gospel of John. It is an expertly crafted story with the hallmarks of the writer of John. Watch and listen for who can truly see and who is unknowingly blind. The story contrasts physical sight and spiritual sight and it’s not always what the characters in the story expect. Just like in the story about Jesus and Nicodemus and Jesus and the Woman at the Well, Jesus is often talking about one reality while the other person thinks Jesus is talking about something else. Pay attention to the ways in this story that people are confused and scared and limited in their ability to see. Notice also where the truth begins to emerge and how it finds its way through the story.

This is John 9.1-41. Listen for the Word of God. [dramatic reading with six voices]


On Friday night, we went to see “The Christians” at Actors Theatre. I saw a number of Presbyterians there. The play is about how we Christians know what is true. Or what we believe to be true. And what happens when what we believe to be true changes because we believe God has told us something new.

It’s the story that’s we’ve seen played out in the news a number of times in recent years when a pastor has a transforming experience and that person’s mind is changed about what is true and what God thinks about the world and the dividing lines that we Christians have typically kept in place. Dividing lines that we’ve believed were God’s intention and God’s will.

The play does a good job of highlighting the intense consequences that follow when a religious leader comes to believe something different than what they have believed–and proclaimed to their congregation–in the past. Not just the consequences of people leaving the congregation, taking their money and energy elsewhere. But also the relationship consequences. People begin to mistrust each other. They feel betrayed. They fear the spiritual consequences of one another’s beliefs.

In the play at Actors, the belief in question is whether a person has to believe Jesus is the Son of God in order to be with God eternally and if there is a hell where all the people go who haven’t believed in Jesus.

But the play could be about any number of theological or social or political issues about which Christians disagree. The play could have just as easily been about a new person in town who has power to heal people. Many people are drawn to him. The newspaper has been running stories about a man who claims he was physically healed. Many of the established pastors in town believe the new guy is a charlatan and don’t like the way he is distracting their church members.

This story in John’s gospel alongside “The Christians” at Actors Theatre invites us to think about how we know what we know. And what happens to us and to those around us when we believe God has revealed–has told us–something different. And what happens when what we believe God has told us to be true is in direct opposition to what someone else believes God has told them–especially someone else whom we love and who loves us.

And you don’t have to be a religious leader to have experienced this kind of change and disruption. I know that many of you have gone through this with family and friends, neighbors and other congregations.

How do we know we’re right? How do we know what we believe is true? Can any of us know?

If we believe we’ve been given light–in the form of truth–by God, how do we use that light? To shine in someone’s eyes (and blind them by our light)? Or to illuminate an area–perhaps a path–around ourselves and others?

Can we be open to something we don’t yet know? Something that will change us in ways we can’t anticipate? What if that new truth–that we believe is revealed by God–means we will find ourselves alone? That our family and friends and community will leave us? That’s what happens to the man in John’s story and to the pastor in the play.

In the play, this is where it ends. The pastor is alone with only the hope that the answers will be made known at some future time.

In John 9, the man is found by Jesus. And Jesus reveals himself to the man. The man does not discover a text with all the answers or go to school to learn how to refute his critics. The man is found by a person. By the presence of God made known through Jesus. Jesus: the One “who bridges the distance between heaven and earth.”[1]

“Jesus,” writes seminary professor Deborah Kapp, “is the only one the man can trust…It is Jesus who transforms. It is Jesus who heals. It is Jesus who stands with the man in his final isolation.” And whatever our experience of isolation may be, “he stands with us too.”[2]

* * *

[1] Gail R. O’Day, “The Gospel of John,” New Interpreters Bible, vol. IX, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995), 532.
[2] Deborah J. Kapp, “Pastoral Perspective – John 9.1-41” Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 2, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), p120.


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