Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sixth Sunday in Great Lent (Samiyo/ The Blind Man)

Sermon / Homily on John 9:1-41

"The Work We Are Sent to Do"

by The Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr., New York City

Gospel: St. John 9:1-41

Greetings, brothers and sisters. It is my joy to have the privilege to share this time with you today, a time in which we get a chance to think about some issues which concern all of us who are people of faith.

One day near the end of Jesus' public ministry, he passed a man who was blind from birth. What happened that day speaks directly to our leadership responsibilities in our time. The account of an unusual healing is recorded in John's Gospel, Chapter 9, verses 1 through 7. I invite you to join Jesus and his disciples as they go about doing the work of God, and the text says:

"As Jesus walked along, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, '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. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.'

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him, 'Go. Wash in the pool of Siloam, which means 'Sent.' ' Then he went and washed and came back able to see."

This experience of Jesus healing the blind man speaks to us because it says that the work of Jesus the Christ is a work of taking people where they are and leading them to a place of healing. Now the particular episode I read about had a beginning earlier in that day. Early in the morning on that very same day, Jesus was in the temple teaching. When he was instructing the people, his session was interrupted by some religious authorities. They cast a woman before Jesus saying, "Teacher, we caught this woman in the very act of committing adultery. Now Moses in the law says that such a woman should be stoned. What do you say about it?"

Now, Jesus was aware that they were attempting to trap him, so he stooped down and began to write on the ground with his finger. We are not told exactly what Jesus was saying as he wrote on the ground, but a preacher can hardly resist the temptation to try to give the interpretation of what his writing was trying to suggest. Perhaps he was writing the Seventh Commandment, as a way of saying to those who had gathered, "I know my commandments." Maybe that's it, or perhaps he was writing his own great commandment about needing to love the Lord our God with all our heart, our mind, our soul, our strength--and our neighbors as ourselves. Or could it be that Jesus was taking dictation from the Righteous Judge, the holy one? And could Jesus have been writing from the mouth of God, "I know your sins and they are many, but I am the Lord your God who forgives all iniquities."? Too bad the man who was with the woman had managed to escape and also too bad that when Jesus says, "You who are without sin, cast the first stone at her," had all gone because perhaps all of them could have received forgiveness that day.

Well, after this moment, Jesus started teaching again and as he taught he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows with me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life." And yet as Jesus was teaching again, some of the people believed in him and he said to them, "If you continue in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed. You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free." But then an argument broke out with some people who didn't like the idea of suggesting that they were yet in bondage. In fact, so intense was the argument that the people actually picked up stones and were preparing to stone Jesus. He had to hide in the temple until the coast was clear, then he got back on the road again.

Whew, what a day! And yet our text in Chapter 9 tells us that there was more to follow! Jesus, now on the road passes by and sees a man who was blind from birth. Jesus must have been into deep concentration about this man. He must have had such an intensive gaze that the disciples assumed that Jesus was looking straight through to the very bottom of this man's soul. Since the disciples saw how deeply Jesus was looking at the man, they thought he must have been searching for something about the man, something deep inside of the man so they wanted to get deep too.

Now, they weren't just concerned as I was a few minutes ago about what was Jesus writing. They were concerned about what Jesus was thinking as he gazed at the man so intently. So they asked, "Rabbi, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Now Jesus was upset with that question they were asking him. How disappointing the question was. Had the disciples not heard earlier in the day how Jesus was eager to silence the sin patrollers who had brought that woman just to judge her? Had he not condemned the judgmental spirit about holding traditional understandings so tightly that they are more important than mercy and compassion? Hadn't Jesus told the people, "Don't be so zealous for righteousness that you are willing to condemn everybody who is different from yourself." So can you feel Jesus' disappointment? "Not my own disciples, the ones who have been learning from me these years." How could they now be like the canine crew at the controls for customs on the conveyer belt where the dogs are sniffing frantically trying to find some contraband? Could it be that Jesus' advocates are as blind as his adversaries regarding what Jesus stands for and why he had been sent into the world?

So Jesus' answer to their question, "Who did sin?" is really a rebuke. I can almost see him with his hand on hips, saying to them, "You asked about who sinned? Neither the man nor his parents. That is not the point." What is the point? The point is this: the man was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. As a matter of fact that is why all of us are born; all of us are given life that the works of God might be revealed in us. The blind man presented an opportunity to manifest God's work of bringing the light of life. So maybe Jesus was saying, "It was not sin I was thinking about. I was thinking about how we must work the work of the One that sent me while it is day. Night comes when no one can work. I was thinking about the fact that we have passed and offered alms to this man many, many times, but I feel the shadow of the cross advancing over me. I was thinking I may not pass this way again and if I don't do something now, it might be an opportunity lost for eternity. If I don't do something now, it just might be too late.'"

He went on to say to them, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. I have come in order that I might bring life and light, peace, forgiveness, power to release potential that has been held up, to create new opportunities where there has been barrenness and devastation."

And then He says, "Not just me, we must work the work of the One that sent me." Now who was he talking about when he said, "We? We, who?" I think he must have meant we, all of us. Everything God has made must be enlisted to work the work of the God who made us, strangers and family, churched and unchurched, my race and the class of all humankind. We all must work the work of the One that sent us, and then Jesus says, "It's time to stop talking. It is time to be through." So he stooped down, gathered up the dust, spat on the ground, made mud, put it on the man's eyes and said, "Go, wash at the pool of Siloam."

The man went and washed and came back seeing. What has this got to say about our life? Namely, don't worry about the spit and the dust. That's about what we are. We are all spit and dust touched by the grace of God. What we must be aware of is that the blind man, if he was to receive his sight, needed not only what Jesus did [for him, but also what the disciples did.] The disciples, I suspect, understood they had to help [--to join in Jesus' work--] by taking the man to the pool of Siloam. When the man came back, he could see.

This is the message I want to leave with you today. The work that Jesus did, we're called upon to join, and the power of the Spirit at work in Jesus--the power that was at the work of the beginning of creation--is also in us and if we will work with Him in the opportunities we find, we will discover why the whole world seems to enjoy the song Amazing Grace.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost but now I'm found,
Was blind but now I see.

Amen.

About The Author:

The Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr. is Senior Minister of the historic Riverside Church in New York City and one of America's best known preachers. Born in North Carolina, Dr. Forbes served parishes in Virginia and North Carolina for thirteen years, and in 1976 was appointed Associate Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In 1985 he became Union's first Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching, a position he held until his call to Riverside Church in 1989.

See Also:

Blindness - Physical and Spiritual
by Edward F. Markquart, Seattle, WA

A Blind Man - A sermon Based on John 9:1- 41
by John Jewell

Seeing Again for the Very First Time
by John Jewell

What the Christian Community Can Offer a Polarized Society
by V. Rev. Nathan D. Baxter, Dean, Washington National Cathedral

Devotional Thoughts for Sixth Sunday of the Holy Lent - Blind Man's Sunday
by HG Yohanon Mor Policarpos

Devotional Thoughts for Sixth Sunday of the Great Lent (Blind man's Sunday)
by Jose Kurian Puliyeril

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for 6th Sunday in Great Lent (Samiyo/ The Blind Man)

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