John 9 is one of my favorite passages in all of the Bible and will be the chapter we look at for the First Sunday in Lent as we talk about Sensing Jesus. In John 9, Jesus heals a blind man. I realize that we can find a lot of these instances in the Gospels, but this one is very different. It includes a conversation challenging a flawed theology of what caused the man’s blindness, an intense conflict between the healed man and the Pharisees, and a realization that the authorities who placed themselves as the judge of others bring judgment on themselves. We also watch the amazing development of the blind man in his knowledge of Jesus move from, “I do not know him” to proclaiming him Lord and worshiping him…quite a transformation.
Today, on Ash Wednesday, I want to focus on the first of many lessons I glean from this passage. In Jesus, God is revealed as the giver of life, not as a rules-maker and rules-enforcer (take a moment to look at his healings on the Sabbath as a primary example). Early in this story, Jesus radically reorients how his disciples (we) see and think about God. The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” This question reflected the theological belief of the day among Jews – that someone did something wrong for him to be born blind. It was cause and effect. That’s how God works because God is a God of rules they believed. Jesus challenged that.
It is very important to recognize that how we see God impacts how we live life, how we see ourselves, and how we see others.
If you see God as the divine rule-maker and rule-enforcer, they you will see yourself and others in those same terms (well, mostly others). If that is who God is then we will find ourselves constantly judging others by how well they are following codes of behavior.
If you see God as a giver of life, you will participate in sharing that life in yourself and with others. You will participate in healing, reconciling, and loving.
How we SEE God directly impacts how we live, move, and have our being. The beginning of John 9 and this question of the disciples before the actual sign (miracle) doesn’t seem to have the impact of the rest of the story, but I think how the chapter starts is critical…because it challenges us and calls us to examine how we understand sin and its effects. Once we wrestle with this opening section, the rest of the chapter will make a lot more sense. John 9 is about how we all begin our journey through life in blindness. Our spiritual life hinges on our willingness to allow Jesus to transform our capacity to see everything.
This is the first step on the first day of Lent…recognizing that we all begin our journey in blindness.