Seeing is Believing PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pat Ireland   
Sunday, 30 March 2014 12:04

First Presbyterian Church, Cottonwood Falls, KS

Seeing is Believing: John 9:1-41, 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Rev. Pat Ireland, Pastor

March 30, 2014

1 Samuel 16:1-13

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found my next king among his sons.”

2 “How can I do that?” Samuel asked. “When Saul hears of it he’ll kill me!”

“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say, ‘I have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will make clear to you what you should do. You will anoint for me the person I point out to you.”

4 Samuel did what the Lord instructed. When he came to Bethlehem, the city elders came to meet him. They were shaking with fear. “Do you come in peace?” they asked.

5 “Yes,” Samuel answered. “I’ve come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Now make yourselves holy, then come with me to the sacrifice.” Samuel made Jesse and his sons holy and invited them to the sacrifice as well.

6 When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, That must be the Lord’s anointed right in front.

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

8 Next Jesse called for Abinadab, who presented himself to Samuel, but he said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen this one either.” 9 So Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen this one.” 10 Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord hasn’t picked any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Is that all of your boys?”

“There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”

“Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”

12 So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.

Then Samuel left and went to Ramah.

 

John 9:1-41

1 As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”

3 Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. 4 While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me.  Night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. 7 Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent).  So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.

8 The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”

9 Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.”

But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!”

10 So they asked him, “How are you now able to see?”

11 He answered, “The man they call Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes, and said, ‘Go to the Pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 They asked, “Where is this man?”

He replied, “I don’t know.”

13 Then they led the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now Jesus made the mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes on a Sabbath day. 15 So Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.

The man told them, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some Pharisees said, “This man isn’t from God, because he breaks the Sabbath law.” Others said, “How can a sinner do miraculous signs like these?” So they were divided. 17 Some of the Pharisees questioned the man who had been born blind again: “What do you have to say about him, since he healed your eyes?”

He replied, “He’s a prophet.”

18 The Jewish leaders didn’t believe the man had been blind and received his sight until they called for his parents. 19 The Jewish leaders asked them, “Is this your son? Are you saying he was born blind? How can he now see?”

20 His parents answered, “We know he is our son. We know he was born blind. 21 But we don’t know how he now sees, and we don’t know who healed his eyes.  Ask him.  He’s old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they feared the Jewish authorities. This is because the Jewish authorities had already decided that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That’s why his parents said, “He’s old enough. Ask him.”

24 Therefore, they called a second time for the man who had been born blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.”

25 The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.”

26 They questioned him: “What did he do to you?  How did he heal your eyes?”

27 He replied, “I already told you, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 They insulted him: “You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man is from.”

30 The man answered, “This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will.  32 No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man wasn’t from God, he couldn’t do this.”

34 They responded, “You were born completely in sin! How is it that you dare to teach us?” Then they expelled him.

35 Jesus heard they had expelled the man born blind. Finding him, Jesus said, “Do you believe in the Human One?”

36 He answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have seen him. In fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped Jesus.

39 Jesus said, “I have come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don’t see can see and those who see will become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard what he said and asked, “Surely we aren’t blind, are we?”

41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

 

You have just heard TWO of the Bible’s best stories and I am torn as to how to proceed!  There is so much we could glean from either much less both!   But I am cognizant that you did not come for a full day class and some of you may have lunch cooking or other things waiting for you today.  So I think I’ll offer some things to think about as we continue our Journey to the cross.  Perhaps by the time we work through we will see a common thread.

 

Let us Pray:  Holy Spirit guide the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts that we might find our place in the story of your faithful followers.   Amen

The anointing of David is a favorite story for children and all of us who feel small and unlikely partners in God’s work.   David is the kid brother, in a large family of powerful people.  An important priest has come to make sacrifice but he is the one left out in the fields.  Think of Cinderella, if you will.  It is no wonder that we teach this story to our children when they are young and feeling insignificant in the work of God.  But we know how important their presence is to this congregation and I thank you all for enabling them to see themselves as beloved of God.

My question is, can you see yourself and chosen and used by God who prompted you to get here this morning to participate in this family tradition?

Like David, the man born blind had been marginalized.  David is out in the field and this man is begging in the streets.  As the story is told, the disciples notice him first; but they see him as a puzzle, a theological question.  They ask, “Who sinned?   What caused him to get into this terrible situation, to be reduced to this lowly state?”

Now we don’t claim that kind of thinking in the 21st century.  However, we do attempt to understand cause and effect, especially when we are confronted with the marginalized.  Why is that one is so poor or in such bad health?  We want to blame something, someone.  Lung cancer comes from smoking, heart disease from genetics or over eating, or over work. Poverty comes from laziness or stupidity.  Stupidity comes from attitude, lack of discipline, prenatal factors.   Do you see what I mean?  We are not so far as removed from those superstitious disciples we’d like to think!

Jesus, however sees a teaching opportunity and makes one of those Johannine “I AM” statements: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” 9:5   that reminds us of John’s prologue;  “What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people.” 1:3b-4

That grand theological claim is worthless without the response that illustrates it. “After Jesus said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes.  Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam…” v6-7 and then we get this little comment for the reader:  (this word means sent).

John was written at the time when followers of Jesus, and especially their leaders were called Apostles – those who were sent out to witness.   Perhaps this story tells us that, once chosen, the more we share our faith, the more that faith grows in us.  Or perhaps it simply reminds us that we have to participate in our own healing!  “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for God is already at work in you.”  Phil. 2:12

This is a good time to remind you that the Gospel of John is the last of the canonized gospels to be written and it reflects the theology of John’s community some 60 years after Jesus.  John’s story is told in such a way that it also reflects the situation of the community of faith.  This particular story is structured in 3 scenes like a Greek play:  scene one the conversation with the disciples concluding with “I am the light of the World”; scene 2 the mud and sending; and scene 3 the controversy.   This scene helps us date the gospel and gives us great insight into the struggle of those first followers who wanted to be a reform movement within the Jewish faith.

Again and again the blind man is asked to explain, justify and even condemn Jesus as a lawbreaker.  He tells and retells the story and each time he gets a little bolder.  Finally confronting the Pharisees themselves he says: “This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will.  No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. If this man wasn’t from God, he couldn’t do this.” v30-33

For this bold statement he gets expelled from the synagogue, the very action his parents feared and dodged.   Now we know from other sources that the Jesus followers were expelled from the synagogue around the time of the fall of the temple in 90 AD.   That’s why most scholars conclude that John was written after that date.

Did you notice the absence of Jesus from the story all the way from verses 8 through 34?  That’s the longest absence of Jesus in the whole book.  It is emphasized in the neighbor asking; “Where is this man?” v12 and the response, “I don’t know.”  This story was written for 2nd & 3rd generation followers, who like us, never met the incarnate Jesus and must occasionally wonder where he is.

So if the story is written for us, what does it teach?   Perhaps it is in the postscript to the story:  “Jesus said, “I have come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don’t see can see and those who see will become blind.”   Some Pharisees who were with him heard what he said and asked, “Surely we aren’t blind, are we?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” v39-41

That prompts me to wonder if it is it when we claim to understand the will/mind of God that you are most vulnerable to sin.   I just saw a Lenten series on the Seven Deadly Sins.  Pride is one of ‘em!   When we claim to be blameless, ‘our sin remains.’  That’s another reason why we begin worship with confession and why the older I remind myself to “walk humbly” with God.  The prophet’s words echo:  “He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

But I am still asking myself how does this relate to David’s call?  I am struck not only that both were outsiders but that neither asked for divine attention. I think many of us are like that, not really sure we really want God to notice, lest we too be changed and/or sent.

Second the road from that first divine encounter and full revelation was not easy.  The nameless man born blind was kicked out of the synagogue before Jesus returned and it was only then that he came to a mature faith.

Similarly, David’s journey from the pasture to the throne was very convoluted and even upon arrival there were still problems.  Remember Bathsheba and David’s son Absalom’s rebellion against him?   Just because God calls us and sends us does not mean that path will be smooth.

Matthew Henry, 17th Century English Presbyterian minister who wrote a whole Bible commentary that is still consulted, wrote: The blind man could not see Christ, but Christ saw him.  If we know or understand anything of Christ, it is because we were first known of him."

In both stories the initiative was God’s.  I think our Methodist friends call the prevenient grace.  We simply call it grace and remember that we Love because God first loved us.  And we give thanks and praise to God that even when we are lost and blind, the Holy Spirit continues to beckon and call to us, and walks with us through good times and bad until that day when we know as surely as we are known and can declare with all the saints: “I was blind and now I see.”

 

 

Seeing is Believing: John 9:1-41, 1 Samuel 16:1-13

 

 
Home Worship Sermons Seeing is Believing