A Variety of Lessons
The text his week is John 9: 1-41. This is the tale of a man given his sight by Jesus and his reaction and the reaction to this of the religious authorities. There are multiple lessons that can be drawn from this lengthy passage and discussed. There is the fact that it is not this man’s fault or his parents fault that he is blind, and what that means for us. We could go into some depth into how Jesus healed the man with spit, and what that is all about. Either of these would require more space than I have here. Instead I will focus on one aspect of the events described; the reactions to it all, and what this means.
The Response to the Gift
One of the most relevant parts of this tale is the response of the man who was given his sight by Jesus. It is not clear to the man who Jesus is until the end of the passage. He simply relays the truth of the matter; that he was formerly blind and now because of Jesus he can see. At the end of the passage the man, now fully understanding who Jesus is, worships Him. Initially, though, it is enough that the man simply told the truth, Jesus gave him his sight. He repeats this simple truth to all who ask, no matter who it is that is asking, nor how many times they ask. This response is important because it comes at a cost to this man, yet he will not give up his witness.
The Response to the Response
The healing of Jesus and the man’s reaction to it are troubling to the religious authorities. They want to know about who did this and thereby threatened their hold on religious power. They deride Jesus as “not from God” and as being a “sinner”. They interrogate the parents of the newly sighted man, and they claim only kinship with the man but clearly back away from any knowledge or connection to Jesus. The Gospel author makes it clear that anyone confessing Jesus as Messiah will be banished from the synagogue.
The Pharisees then interrogate the man again, and demand that he claim Jesus is a sinner. They openly revile the man, and so put the man’s status in the community at risk. They accuse the man of being Jesus’s disciple, while they remain loyal disciples of Moses. What is amazing is the man’s responses get sterner. He tells the truth, that he does not know where Jesus comes from or whether he is a sinner, he simply does not have this information.
However, he then turns the tables on the authorities by stating “‘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.’ (Verses 30-33). The response is all too predictable, the Pharisees drive him out. It is at this point that Jesus hears about the man’s sacrifice due to his witness that Jesus speaks with the man and fully reveals Himself as Messiah.
The point of all this is that there is no cheap grace available to those who would follow Jesus. The adage applies, “we all have our crosses to bear”. This is a truism that has sadly been perverted in the history of the church. It has come to mean for many that we are to bear burdens and awfulness in our lives that have nothing to do with being a follower of Christ. For instance, many abused spouses have been told to stay in their marriage, this is their cross to bear.
This is not what is meant by this idea. What is meant is that in the cause of giving public, visible witness to Jesus as Lord and Savior, we will bear a cross, we will pay a price. This cost may be family members that distance themselves from you, as the man’s parents did in this passage. It may be that your current community becomes your former community as happened to the man by being banished from the synagogue. There are instances in Scripture, and in our current world, where the cost is martyrdom. The point is that no one, least of all Jesus, is claiming it is easy to be His follower.
None of this is easy, it is just eternally life affirming, and a claim to a fully human life. This story should give us courage and hope, that no matter the cost, we can bear the cost in response to the One who has made us to see, and given us everything else. That is we have the ability, like the newly sighted man in this story to believe and obey.
Praise Be to God