Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A

March 19, 2023

1 Samuel 16:1-13                            Psalm 23                              Ephesians 5:8-14                             John 9:1-41

          That was a long Gospel reading!  I remember my first Lent after ordination.  I quickly discovered that the gospel readings keep getting longer and longer the closer we get to Holy Week.  Perhaps, I thought, it is to prepare us for the reading of the Passion Narratives read on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.  Perhaps, but not because of the length of our readings, but their content. Last week and again today, John shows us some of the reasons some Pharisees want to rid themselves of Jesus.  Jesus disregards their traditions by spending time with Samaritans and sinners.  And in today’s gospel, Jesus heals a man on the sabbath.  Some of the Pharisees say, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” 

          Others, however, say, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?”  The Pharisees are divided.  Looking ahead we know which arguments will win and which Pharisees will control the fate of Jesus.  Jesus will be taken, beaten, forced to carry his own cross, and then nailed to it.  Jesus will die for “not following the rules,” and for challenging the teachings of those in authority.

          But I’m getting ahead, Jesus has a lot more to do and teach us before all of this happens.  In this story, Jesus walks upon a man blind from birth and is asked by his disciples, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” His answer is yet another example of how Jesus is teaching the people to see the world differently.  They have been taught that bad things happen to bad people – as punishment for sin.  They have been taught, that the Lord is a jealous God, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation. . ..”  Here, the disciples are asking Jesus if this is true.  Jesus answers, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. . ..”     

          So, no, the man’s blindness is not punishment for anyone’s sin.  What, though, do we make of the rest of what Jesus says?  “He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”  Elsewhere in the scriptures Jeremiah says, “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.”  Blindness, in this story represents the Pharisees’ inability to see God’s faithfulness.  God speaks to the people through the prophet Jeremiah and God reveals through the man who was once blind – a person who others have judged to be worthless. 

In this period of time, Jewish law does not permit anyone with a disability to enter into the temple.  But Jesus came to heal the world.  Blindness in today’s gospel may represent the limitations we place upon ourselves that prevents us from knowing God as the true source of life.  My take away for today’s gospel is that God’s love can be revealed through anyone of us. 

In today’s lesson from 1st Samuel, Samuel has been sent by God to anoint the next king of Israel.  He is sent to Jesse and told the one he is to anoint is one of Jesse’s sons.  One by one, Jesse’s sons are brought to Samuel and rejected.  The Lord says, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  It is what is in our hearts – and it is what is in the heart of the man who is blind that reveals the truth to us.

To the Pharisees that do not believe that Jesus has come from God, the man whose sight has been restored says, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where [Jesus] 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.”  This man, who was once blind, not only sees what the Pharisees cannot, he shares his vision with others. 

The Pharisees may reject his message – but his message of God’s love for creation is alive and has been told today.  His story and his understanding of who Jesus is, is read and celebrated here and now.   Jesus has come to heal us, to open our eyes that we might see and experience God’s love for us. 

In one of the prayers at the closing prayers of Morning Prayer, we pray, “Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting.”  In this prayer we not only ask that our prayers may be answered as in best for us, we ask for God’s truth to be revealed to us.  In Matthew, Jesus says to his disciples, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.”  He says this to his disciples who have come to him seeking, seeking an understanding of the parables Jesus has just told to a crowd.  In order to see the truth, we, too must seek to understand. Knowledge of God’s love and presence comes through prayer, study, and through acts of charity. 

Let us pray.  

          Lord, open our eyes as you did for the man who had been blind since birth, that your love for us might be revealed.  Help to have an awareness of your presence and knowledge of your truth that we might share your love with others.  We offer our prayers in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.