Sermon: Sent

Bible talk by Steve Millay

September 12th, 2013 4:55 pm     A+ | a-
Reading John 9

A new baby boy came into the world. The proud parents could hardly contain themselves. As the father took in the excitement of that moment, he thought ahead to all the things he and his new son would do. He would teach him to hunt, to fish and to play catch. He would teach him his trade; they would work side by side together. The son would grow up and follow in his footsteps.
But as the weeks passed the parents became concerned. The child did not seem right. He was not responding the way other children responded. And soon the parents realized that the child was born blind. How difficult it must have been to tell friends and family. They would feel like people were whispering behind their backs. They felt less for not having a normal son like everyone else.
And although a parent’s love goes very deep, raising the child was frustrating. He required a lot of attention. He did not attend the school the other kids went to, he did not play with the other kids, and he usually just sat by himself. He could not hunt, he could not fish, and he could not play catch with his dad. He could not work side by side with him. He would not learn the trade and he would not follow in the footsteps of his father. All those dreams were lost the day they realized the child was blind.
As the boy got older, he would still struggle to take care of himself. He always needed to have someone guide him. Even with the most personal things. Not able to see, he could not take care of his appearance and he stayed dirty and smelled unclean most of the time. Not able to work, most of his time was spent begging.
It seemed as if life left him out of the picture. He felt invisible sometimes. No one really seemed to care or want to do things with him, and he just felt alone. This was his life and he felt that it was all worthless. He didn’t want to be a burden on anyone, but he felt like he was just living to beg.
And now it was just another normal day. Not able to see anything he sat down at what seemed to be a good spot. He was close to a well traveled path and he would be able to plead with people walking by to take pity on him. Most people who saw him sitting there, walked quickly by. He looked appalling. Some would curse at him, saying he must have done something really bad to be in the state he was. Kids would come up and poke at him. They knew they could get away with it and thought it was fun that he could not see them. They would steal his things, they would throw things at him, and they would laugh at him. He was just a reject of life, worthless and never going to amount to anything.
A group of men were now passing and he heard them talking. They appeared to be astonished at his appearance. Someone asked whose sin it was that caused this man to be born blind. Some put the blame on him. He must have done something horrible in a prior life. Some blamed the parents; they must be evil in some way. The blind man listened for the answer.
The response puzzled him. The man said that he didn’t sin nor did his parents sin. While the whole world had condemned the blind man, here was someone who didn’t. Here was someone who did not blame the blind man for his problems. Who was this person? He felt the man come closer to him. And he heard him spit on the ground next to him. What was he doing? The people with him had stopped and were looking at him. Then he felt something cool like clay being applied to his eyes. The man told him “go and wash in the pool of Siloam”. John tells us that Siloam means Sent.
And then the man who put clay in his eyes was gone, and the crowd moved on with him. The blind man was left sitting there alone again. He felt at the clay in his eyes and he thought about what the man asked him to do. Could this be the man he had heard so much talk about? The one they were seeking to kill. Could this be the one that some felt was a prophet of God? Could this be the man they called Jesus? Could this be the savior?
Then the man felt something that he had never felt before. For the first time in his life, he felt….hope. Being blind had trapped him in a pitiful life. He felt so alone. But now, the man who had put clay in his eyes had given him something that no one else had ever given him. Hope.
So he knew what he needed to do and he stood up and turned the way towards Siloam. It would not be easy for him. He walked ahead with his arms outstretched in front of him trying to feel his way along the familiar streets. His excitement would probably cause him to trip several times and he fell face down into the dirt. The path down to the pool of Siloam was steep. At one point he may have felt frustrated and questioned if he were just being a foolish blind person being sent on a hopeless journey. But he would get up again when he fell and he would continue the journey because he really had nothing left in this life. He really had nothing at all, but this hope inside. This was all that mattered at that moment in time.
Finally he reached the pool and entered the water. How cool and refreshing the water felt and he washed the clay from his eyes. Suddenly there was an image and light burst into his head almost painfully. He looked again and could see a face. He knew it was a face because he had felt faces with his hands all his life. Having been born blind he learned to make things out with his hands. The eyes were where they should be and the nose and the mouth… but the face was waving about and shimmering and changing shape. He was puzzled at what he was looking at. Then suddenly, he realized he was looking in the water of the pool and….it was his own face he saw being reflected in the water. Unable to speak, he closed his eyes again and lifted himself from the pool. He turned around, slowly and cautiously, his legs trembled with fear and anticipation. He opened his eyes again and saw a dazzling display of gold and silver flashing from the temple mount above the pool. It was so beautiful. His heart pounded as his eyes passed from one thing to another.
Climbing back up the hill to the streets of the city the man who had been blind now looked about in amazement. He saw the faces of voices he had heard for years. He could not contain himself as he jumped about touching things. Like a little child he ran from one thing to another, laughing jumping. He was very happy.
The people around him began to take notice and soon a crowd of people had gathered around him. He excitedly told them that he could see…that he could see! Some of them recognized him as the pitiful blind man who had sat begging for years. But he looked so much different today. Others said he looked like the man but they weren’t quite sure if it was him. He tried to tell them. It is me, it is me.
At first the crowd of people seemed happy for the man. They felt good for him because they could see that he was very happy and they shared in his excitement. The man who was blind was delighted that so many people were as excited as he was, and more people kept gathering around to see what was going on. But then the man began to see some faces in the crowd who did not look happy at all. They looked quite concern. Some of them approached him and very sternly started asking him about this man named Jesus who healed him. They asked him where Jesus was. Now it seemed like the whole crowd just started pressing in on him and he began to feel a little scared. They said to him we need to go talk to the Pharisees. He felt he had no choice but to go along. Inside he just wanted to run and see things and he really could not understand how such a miracle could now be a problem. Once again, he didn’t do anything wrong – but people were looking at him like it was his fault and he was to blame. His excitement died down. Once again no one was really seeing him. He felt invisible all over again.
Now he was in a room of men. The men did not look very happy and were quite concerned over this blind man. They asked him how it was he received his sight. He simply replied that Jesus put clay on his eyes and then he washed and now he sees.
The men seemed outraged. In that time it was okay for a man to spit on the Sabbath day as long as they spat in the grass or on a plant. But it was against the law for someone to spit on the ground on the Sabbath because it would make clay. It was like mixing water with dirt to make mortar. And that reminded the Jews of the bondage and work they had in Egypt. They didn’t care that a blind man could now see; they did not care that since the beginning of world it was not heard that a man could open the eyes of the blind. All they seem to care about was that this man Jesus was breaking their laws. They were outraged that he would heal on the Sabbath day. They felt that Jesus had spit in their faces and they were not going to stand for it. They had already threatened to dis-fellowship anyone who was a disciple of Jesus. So they asked the man who once was blind what he thought of Jesus. They were hoping to intimidate him into saying something against Jesus. But the man who once was blind wasn’t afraid of them. He simply answered that he felt Jesus was a prophet.
The Pharisees needed to prove that the healing was a fraud. So they called in the parents of the man who once was blind. The parents were brought in and they ask them if this was their son and how is it he now sees. The parents were very afraid, because they knew how powerful these men were. It had been so hard for them to feel accepted by the synagogue. They needed that acceptance and they were afraid now of losing it. This was difficult for them. They were happy for their son, but they needed to take care of their own needs first. So they said, “Yes he is our son and he was born blind. We don’t know how he was made to see, he is old enough to answer for himself – ask him.”
The Pharisees realized that they could not make progress with the parents. They needed some way to prove that Jesus was an evil man. The healing of the blind man was not a good thing. So they ask the man who once was blind to swear by an oath. They said to him “we know that Jesus is a sinner, therefore give God the praise and tell all the people in this room that Jesus is a sinner.
No one knows how long the man who once was blind took before he answered them. But for that moment all eyes were on him. He could feel the tension in the room. He knew what they wanted him to do and if he would just give in to them then he would have a place to go and people to fellowship with. He would be accepted and liked. They would offer him work and food. Fellowship can be a very special thing, fellowship is something this man had never had, and all he needed to do is to say that Jesus was a sinner and he could have the friends he so badly longed for.
But regardless of how much pressure he felt to give into them, he knew that Jesus did not deserve that. It was Jesus who had made him whole. It was Jesus who gave him sight. None of these men could do that, and all these men had ignored him all these years as he sat begging on the street outside. So he instead told the truth. “I don’t know if he is a sinner, but one thing I do know is that I was blind but now I see.”
The truth is so simple. It seems so clear. But the Pharisees didn’t want it to be that clear and they were bound and determine to stop people from following after Jesus. And they would not let anyone get in their way, especially a man who a short while ago no one even cared about. He was just a blind beggar on the corner of the street. So they decided they needed to discredit the man who once was blind. They would therefore make him talk more and then try to trip him up in his words. So they asked him to tell them again the story about how he was healed.
The man who once was blind knew their tactics. After years of listening, he knew that he was being set up for a trap. He had listened in the past to the way they treated people who stood in their way, he knew how cruel they could be. So he responded boldly by saying “I have already told you and if you did not hear the first time, what makes you think you will hear this time.” Some would accuse him of talking disrespectful to these men. Some would feel that it would have been better for him just to play their game. But the man who once was blind simply told it the way it was. He knew that they were just not listening. They didn’t really care about how he was healed; they just wanted him to condemn Jesus.
And it was at that moment that those men, who had so much hatred for Jesus, showed the same hatred towards the blind man. They looked on him with disgust and began to condemn him by saying “You are his Disciple, but we are Moses Disciples. We are better than you. We know that God spake to Moses, but we don’t know who this Jesus is.”
The insult was meant to hurt. The insult was meant to silence the man who was once blind. And perhaps it did hurt, but the blind man felt that something needed to be said. He responded by saying “That is a pretty remarkable thing that you don’t know who he is because he opened my eyes. If Jesus were not from God he could not heal.”
This was an argument that the Pharisees just could not answer. In their world they had made everything so black and white. This miracle just did not fit into that world. And they refused to see it for what it was. And they degraded the man by saying “You were born in sins you filthy man, how dare you try to teach us”. And then they kicked him out.
So the man who was blind left the room. As he walked out he looked in the eyes of those around him. He was amazed on how their eyes were opened, they were looking at him, but they just could not see. They had treated him poorly when he was blind and now they were treating him even worse.
He now was an outcast in his own town; the man wandered the streets wondering what to do. The amazement of being able to see again was replaced with the frustration of seeing too much. A man approached him. He did not recognize the man, but the man seems to recognize him. He came up to him and looked into his eyes. He asked the man: “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
The man who was blind looked up into the eyes of this stranger and asked “Who is he?” The stranger looked back at him and said “I am he”. The man that once was blind did not even hesitate. He said “Lord I believe”.
This is an event that touches on the lives of many people that were alive in that day. But that day isn’t much different than today, and in many ways each of us are similar to this man who once was blind.
In fact, we all are born with blindness. We have clay blocking our sight. We sometimes can’t see beyond this clay. This clay is our own humanity. It’s being stuck on the things of the flesh. It is being caught up in the mortality of life so that we just can’t see that we are all in the same position of the poor blind man – just condemned to a life of sitting in the dirt trying to fill our bellies with the lust of the flesh.
And then something happens. One day we are given something that we had never been given before. Hope.
At that point we begin to notice the clay in front of our eyes. We are told to go and wash.
Many reject this calling, many refuse to go and wash. Instead they become content with a life in the dirt. Not really believing that there could ever be anything better for them. Some don’t want to make the effort to walk to the pool of Siloam. The pool represents the one that was sent by God.  That one is Christ. By being baptized into him, we are immediately healed.
But once cleansed, it doesn’t end there. Because even though we have new insight, even though we may see things that we never even saw before, even though we are excited and dancing with joy. That joy will diminish as we become frustrated by the way people around us react. Some will not see anything different in us, some will not recognize us, and some will reject us and cast us out. We will still long to be accepted by men, to have the pleasures of fellowship together with them. But some of those men will try to get us to deny Christ.
And only after we go through trial, only after we confess our faith, only after we stand up against the pressures of life, only after we hold onto to our beliefs. Only then will we see a man that we have never seen before. He will approach us. He will come up to us and look at us as if he already knows us. He will ask of us one thing: He will ask: “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
This morning by partaking of the emblems we remember a man who we have not yet seen with our eyes. And just as the man who was blind, we followed the instruction to go in wash in the one sent. But the man who was blind did not see Jesus when he was healed. He knew Jesus had healed him but it wasn’t till after his trial was over that he finally saw Jesus face to face. In the same way our trial continues and it won’t be until the end that trial that the faithful meet face to face with the man who healed us.
So even if we are cast out of into the street, and even if every one in the world rejects us, and even if we feel the pain of loneliness, one day Jesus will come and find us and welcome us into the Kingdom of his Father. 

Steve Millay
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