Seeing Is Believing
Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 19, 2023

Today, the stories continue on Jesus’ journey with the disciples toward Easter, and like the last two we have considered over the last two Sundays, this one does not disappoint.  The scripture in the bulletin begins after the miracle of the story performed by Jesus as he and his disciples happened upon a man born blind.  The disciples inquire of Jesus, who has sinned in this case, the blind man or his parents.   Jesus responds by informing the disciples that it is neither the sin of the man born blind nor his parents, and the reason the man was born blind is so that God’s work might be revealed in him.  Jesus continues to use everyday events to shine his light in the world so that God’s work can be revealed.  God’s grace and love is revealed.  It is important to recognize that there is no relationship with the man’s blindness and his sinfulness.  God does not make people sick in order to punish them for wrongdoing. 


Jesus takes a part of himself, his salvia, and mixes with the earth, the same dust from which God made man, and makes a paste to place on the blind man’s eyes.  Then Jesus has a conversation with the blind man.  He’s not talking “to” him, but having a conversation “with” him.  Others are there, the disciples and onlookers, but Jesus is having a personal conversation with this blind man, just an example of how our relationship with Jesus can also be personal.  Jesus gives him instruction, telling him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, which scripture tells us means Sent.  Jesus, with the man listening, has sent him to follow the instruction. 


The man could have been furious that this mud had been placed on his eyes, he could have been indifferent and brushed it off, but he chooses to follow the instruction of Jesus, go to the pool and wash, go be cleansed.  Because he obeys Jesus, and follows the instructions given to him, he is healed and he can see the light.  He has sight for the first time in his life, and lives no longer in darkness, either physically or spiritually.  Let’s not lose sight that this healing required the man take action himself, and follow instruction to be healed.


Like communities do, they gossip.  Is it the blind beggar?  Some say yes, and others say no because they do not recognize this man, this beggar, that they have walked by day after day.  Do the ones that say no it’s not him do so because they have not previously really taken the time to look at him there on the street?   If people were to acknowledge his change, they would have to accept this man into their community, which they cannot bring themselves to do.


Then, choosing not to understand what really happened, choosing not see God’s work revealed in this miracle, the people take him to the Pharisees for better understanding, their religious leaders who they have allowed to control their lives.  The Pharisees, being so wise that they remain blind to the Son of Man, the one prophesied by the prophets that was to come.  They confer with the blind man’s parents to see if the man was truly blind from birth, and confirming that he was, they can’t call Jesus a fraud, so instead they criticize Jesus for working on the Sabbath.


The Pharisees are like a dog with a bone, and they feel very threatened by Jesus.  So much so, that rather than recognize the signs that Jesus is the Son of Man, the Messiah that was told by the prophets would come, they ignore all that Jesus is so that they may hold on to the power they possess over the people.  They want to direct the narrative so they can control the people.


So out of fear, the community, and the Pharisees, and even the parents of the blind man, fail to rejoice in the healing of this man.  Because of fear of being thrown from the synagogue, they succumb to peer pressure.  They miss the joy and gratitude that we have read about this week in our daily Lenten Devotions.  They miss the joy on their life’s journey.


It’s always easier to succumb to the bullies so we don’t get beat up in life, but we do that when we forget that there is one that is greater than the bully.  There is one that shows us compassion, and that is Jesus.


When the blind man is questioned by the Pharisees again, I see God at work through this man that can now see.  When they press the once blind man about what happened to him for the second time, they label Jesus as a sinner.  They are so tied to their own belief in the Law of Moses that they are blind to their own sin of not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah they have been waiting to see.  But the blind man answers them, “I do not know whether he is a sinner; I do know that I was blind but now I see.”  Here the man chooses not to do what the Pharisees do, and that is judge someone that is different from them.  Jesus’ was different from the Pharisees because he was teaching love and grace and mercy.  Jesus was actively healing and choosing to heal people that the community and the Pharisees overlooked day after day.


God at work….the once blind man says to the Pharisees, “Do you also want to become his disciples?”  Unlike the blind man, the Pharisees did not take action.  The Pharisees did not listen, they refused to believe, and they refused to see all that was happening around them because it meant they would have to give up their power over community.  They may have known the Law of Moses, but they forgot about the love of God and that which had been prophesied.


I think about this sometimes in what has gone on in our history of churches and what is going on now with congregations splitting, even in our own communities today.  Are we listening to Jesus today?  Are we seeing Jesus in our midst, or are we too busy judging other people?  Are we looking for people and places to do work where God can be revealed, or are we walking by them?


In his poem, Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, gives us reason to ponder:

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

When referring to this Gospel story and Amichai’s poem, Debie Thomas writes, ‘Though this is a miracle story, the Gospel writer doesn’t spend too long on the healing itself.  The focus is on the religious community’s response, both to the man’s blindness, and to his restored sight.  The poem of Amichai’s resonates, speaking powerfully to the challenges of our own time and place.  “From the place where we are right,” the poet says, “flowers will never grow in the spring.”  In other words, one of the most barren and desolate places we can occupy as Christians is a place of smugness.  Of rightness.  Of certainty.  The more convinced we are that we have full insight, comprehension, and knowledge, the less we will see and experience of God.’


Like the Pharisees, we tend to want to hang on to what we know, what is old, and don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to hold on to, but not to the point that it makes us blind to where God is working.  Sadly, I’ve found myself in situations where I felt I had to be right and someone else had to be wrong, but we don’t live in a world of where everything is so definitely right and wrong.  We do, however, live in a world where Jesus is alive, and through the Holy Spirit we can discern the right path forward, if we just take the time to be in God’s presence so that we can allow ourselves the time to hear the direction God is sending us.


When community, full of their rightness, tramples over others, Jesus is there to pick up the person, the outcast, the overlooked, and shows compassion, just like he did when he healed this blind man.  This man could see, and Jesus helps him further by asking him if he believed in the Son of Man.  The man asks, “Who is he sir?  Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”  This takes us back the Romans scripture that I talked about last week, “how are they to know unless they are told?”


Jesus replies, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he,” and the man replies addressing him as Lord, “Lord, I believe.”  And not only did he believe, he worshipped him.


Jesus becomes the only person in the story the man can trust.  The same is true for us.  When others fail us, we can always trust in Jesus who never fails.  He seeks us out in love and compassion to remind us we are not of this world.  We are a part of something much greater than anything this world can ever give us.  It is Jesus who transforms and heals, and he is with us when we are isolated and alone.


Jesus came so that all may see, and that they may become blind to the old law because Jesus came with grace and forgiveness.  Jesus brings the good news of something as simple as forgiveness and love that we as communities make so complicated.  We don’t have to be right to love someone where they are, even when we don’t agree with how they live, how they look, or even what they say.  We don’t have to be right, in order for God’s work to be revealed, we just have to love them and share with them who Jesus is in the world.  Seeing is indeed believing.


Come, walk with me on this journey in the light, a journey filled with love and compassion.  A journey filled with grace and forgiveness.  Let’s not be blinded by the light, let’s embrace it with all the joy and goodness it brings.


*Cover Art by Stushie; used with subscription