Fourth Sunday of Lent

“As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.” This man never saw a sunrise. Couldn’t tell purple from pink. The disciples fault the family tree. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”
Neither, Jesus replies. The reason the man was born sightless? So “the works of God might be displayed in him.” Selected to suffer. Who wants to be blind for God’s glory? Which is tougher—the condition, or to discover it was God’s idea?
Jesus spat on the ground. The cure proved to be as surprising as the cause.
The world abounds with paintings of the Christ: in the arms of Mary, in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the Upper Room, in the darkened tomb. Jesus touching. Jesus weeping, laughing, teaching…but I’ve never seen a painting of Jesus spitting.
He places a finger-full in his palm, and then, as calmly as a painter spackles a hole in the wall, Jesus streaks mud on the blind man’s eyes. “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.”
The result is the first chapter of Genesis, just for him. Light where there was darkness.
But look at the reaction of the neighbors. “’Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?’ Others were saying, ‘This is he,’ still others were saying, ‘No, but this is like him.’
He kept saying, “I am the one.” These folks don’t celebrate, they debate! You’d think they would rejoice. But they don’t. They march him down to the church where the Pharisees ask for an explanation. “He applied clay to my eyes and I washed, and I see.”
Again, no celebration. Apparently, Jesus failed to consult the healing handbook. “Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes…the Pharisees were saying, ‘This man is not from God because he does not keep the Sabbath.”
Will no one rejoice with this man? The neighbors didn’t. The preachers didn’t. And the reaction of the former blind man’s parents was even worse.
How can they do this? Granted, to be put out of the synagogue is serious. But isn’t refusing to help your child even more so?
No one saw him. Who was really blind that day? The neighbors didn’t see the man; they saw a novelty. The church leaders didn’t see the man; they saw a technicality. The parents didn’t see their son, they saw a social difficulty. In the end, no one saw him. “So they put him out.”
Even the disciples asked Jesus: “Teacher, whose sin caused this man to be born blind—his own sin or his parents’ sin?”
Never mind that the man is a beggar in need of help. Never mind that the man has spent his life in a dark cave. Let’s talk about his sin.
How could they be so harsh? So insensitive? So blind?
The answer? It’s easier to talk about a person than to help a person. It’s easier to debate homosexuality than to be a friend to a gay person. It’s easier to discuss divorce than to help the divorced. It’s easier to argue abortion than to support a single mother. It’s easier to complain about the welfare system than to help the poor.
It’s easier to label than to love.
The fellow has to be bewildered. Born blind only to be healed. Healed only to be kicked out. Kicked out only to be left alone. How would that feel?
You may know all too well. If so, Jesus knows. He knows how they feel and he knows where they are. “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out and went and found him.”
If there be any doubt regarding God’s full devotion, he does things like this. He tracks down a troubled pauper. The beggar lifts his eyes to look into the face of the one who started all this. Is he going to criticize Christ? Complain to Christ? You can’t blame him for doing both. After all, he didn’t volunteer for the disease or the deliverance. But he does neither. “He worshipped him.”
And when you see him, you will, too. Just as he came for the blind man, Jesus is coming for you. The hand that touched the blind man’s shoulder will touch your cheeks. The face that changed his life will change yours.

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