A while back my wife Lindsay and I were boarding a plane in
I didn’t mention the man looked vaguely familiar, and we figured out why. His name is Ricky Estrada...he was Panch, a
I’m sure you’ve done this before...you know, spent time replaying encounters in your head and coming up with all the things you wish you would have said.Well, in our text today, we are going to meet a man who was a master of the zinger...he had just the right thing to say.
This man’s story is in John chapter 9 so feel free to turn there.
At the beginning of this chapter Jesus and his disciples are walking along, and they see a man who has been blind from birth. After a little lesson, Jesus spits on the ground and makes mud and then rubs it on the guys eye sockets and then tells him to go wash up. Amazingly, he does this and he is healed.The people who used to see him begging see him walking around and are confused...Is this really the man who was blind? After asking him what happened they take the man to the Pharisees and I want to read this part, starting in vs 14.
14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I see." 16 Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.
The Pharisees are split – some are saying “He broke the Sabbath, he’s a sinner” and others are saying “He healed this man, he’s a saint”. Then someone suggests that maybe the man wasn’t really healed, that he’s just making it up, so they call in his parents and ask if he was really born blind. His parents confirm that he was born blind. The Pharisees are at a dead end with them, so they bring in the man again and tell him to confess his lie. I want to read this, starting in verse 24.
24A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God,[b]" they said. "We know this man is a sinner." 25He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" 26Then they asked him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?" 27He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?" 28Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from." 30The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." 34To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.I hope you can see what I mean about how this blind man had some brilliant come-backs. “Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” I can imagine that must have had the crowd roaring. And then, when they say they don’t know if Jesus is from God, he takes his theatrics to another level. “It’s a miracle!” he says. “You are the most educated among us and you’re blind to the simplest truth...that only God’s friend could heal a blind man!” Then, nailing the final nail in their own coffins, the Pharisees say “What do you know? You were born in sins!” This is one of those misfired comebacks. By saying he was “born in sins” they were actually admitting that he was born blind. And if he was born blind, but now can see, then obviously he has been healed and their whole line of reasoning crumbles.
I love this story. I always have a good laugh at the expense of Pharisees. But, I have two questions I want to ask. First, Where did the Pharissees go wrong? How could they possibly have been so blind to the presence of the God? And second how did the blind man get it right?
Where did the Pharisees go wrong?
Certainly, the Pharisees were wrong about what it meant to keep the Sabbath.
Mixing mud and applying spittle were not violations of God’s Sabbath law as they believed.
The Pharisees went astray by having a flawed interpretation of what it meant to obey God’s will. Luckily for us, Presbyterian interpretations are always flawless.
The fact of the matter is that we all have less than perfect understandings of God’s will. And I don’t think we can fix that – even if we were all to pursue Ph.D’s in exegesis, this wouldn’t change because it’s just not a problem of education, it’s a problem of human finitude.
The Pharisees were wrong about the Sabbath, and we are like the Pharisees, because we never get it completely right. But we don’t have to despair because the Sabbath issue is not what really blinded the Pharisees to God.What blinded the Pharisees was their second error, one which I pray we can avoid. They didn’t start with the miracle. Remember vs. 16: “Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” They were divided about whether to start with the miracle, or start with the apparent breach of Sabbath. They had to choose. If they started from the miracle, they would conclude that Jesus was from God. But if they started from the Sabbath breach, Jesus would look like a miracle-worker leading people away from Yahweh. Duet 13 had warned of this, saying that those with supernatural powers who lead people away from God should be executed. The Pharisees decided that they knew one thing -- “We know he is a sinner!” they said. The blind man knew one thing too. He said, “I don’t know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” The blind man started with the miracle...and he saw Jesus for who he was. Starting with the miracle transformed the blind man into the only one who could truly see. When I was a student at Wheaton College, the Democrat students joked about how Wheaton was so devoutly Republican. When election time would come around they would say...“If Jesus were to run for President on the Democratic ticket, Wheaton College wouldn’t vote for him.”
You know, it’s not that hard to miss the time of God’s coming – all we have to do is start with anything other than the miracle.
The Pharisees had God in human flesh, walking, teaching and healing among them...and they could not see him. They were blind because they were so confident they could see.
We, too, have God present and active among us.
How’s your vision?
(this is a revised sermon preached in 2006 in a Preaching Practicum class).