Broad Brook Congregational Church
March 30, 2014
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Seeing is Believing
Many of us have heard the saying “seeing is believing.” It is listed as an American proverb, yet there is no history as to who coined it or when it was introduced into our vocabulary. My personal opinion, for what it’s worth, Is that it originates from the Bible. There is doubting Thomas, Who must see the wounds of Jesus before he believes. And then there is our blind man in today’s story.
Our passage this morning is all about seeing… Physical seeing and spiritual seeing. It is also about blindness… Physical blindness and spiritual blindness. Our cast of characters include: A blind man, The Pharisees, Jesus, The blind man’s parents, His neighbors, And the Jews (this term is referring to the Pharisees).
While this narrative is about Jesus, He is absent through most of it. Jesus departs from the story right after he heals the man and does not return until verse 35 where he comes looking for the man.
Today’s story reveals yet another individual Who struggles to understand who Jesus is and grow his faith. Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the blind man show a progression of faith. Nicodemus questions Jesus but remains somewhat in the dark. The Samaritan woman questions Jesus and appears to see the light through means of a theological dialogue.
In our story today it is Jesus who seeks out the blind man. The blind man does not ask to be healed But becomes a catalyst for the revelation of God’s works.
“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; I’d is coming when no one can work.”
Jesus is warning that time is growing short…The time for “fishing for men” must be the number 1 agenda for the disciples, while Jesus, the Light of the World, is still present in the world.
Jesus makes a paste from Clay and saliva And spreads it on the man’s eyes telling him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man went and washed and came back able to see.
When he returned from having washed, the neighbors are confused. Some say it is the same man; while others say it is only someone who looks like him. His “seeing” has caused an outward change in him. The neighbors grill him with questions Especially about the who and the how of it.
Who did it?
How was it done?
The man names Jesus as his healer and simply repeats what Jesus did.
The neighbors take the man to the Pharisees, ostensibly to get answers to their questions. The Pharisees have questions of their own. The man answers them just as he did with his neighbors. Like the neighbors the Pharisees are divided over who Jesus is.
Some say sinner for healing on the Sabbath. Some say from God, for no one else could do such signs.
When asked who he thinks Jesus is the man answers, “He is a prophet.”
The Pharisees conclude the man must not have been blind from birth. They interrogate his parents. They are in fear of being ousted from the synagogue And sidestep answering the questions.
“He is our son but he is an adult. He can speak for himself. Go ask him if you want to know.”
And so the Pharisees question the man a second time. The man says, Look, I have already told you everything “and yet you did not listen.” Why should I waste my breath. Wait a minute…Do you ask all these questions because you want to “become his disciples?”
You can just hear the Pharisees sputtering. Indignant, they claim to be disciples of Moses.
‘We have no idea where this Jesus came from.” “We know God spoke to Moses.” “We know nothing of this Jesus.”
The man fires back. “Here is an astonishing thing!” “You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.” “If this man is not from God how could he have healed my sight?”
By now the Pharisees are livid. “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” They expelled the man from the synagogue.
It is at this juncture that Jesus returns to the narrative. Jesus asks the man if he believes in the Son of Man? “Who is he,” the man asks.
“The Son of Man is the one you have seen
and the one to whom you are now speaking,” Jesus replies.
The man said, “Lord, I believe.”
Then the man worshiped Jesus. I once was blind but now I see (Amazing Grace). Seeing is believing.
Jesus continues:” I came into the world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who see may becomes blind.”
Now some Pharisees were nearby and overheard this.
“Surely we are not blind, are we?” they argued.
Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see.’ Your sin remains.
Their sin is not believing in Jesus. They are unable to see the truth. The Pharisees are the ones who are blind.
From the hymn Amazing Grace, we find a key to our narrative.
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.”
God’s amazing grace, through the work of Jesus, was poured out on the man born blind. The man’s acceptance of God’s gift of grace cured the man’s blindness. The man believed in Jesus, in God incarnate. The man’s eyes were opened to the truth.
Jesus is the Light of the World!
Believing is seeing!
The prideful Pharisees thought they knew the truth, thought they saw the truth. Jesus was not from God…not the Messiah. They were not open to God’s amazing grace, therefore they remained in sin…in blindness.
The question for the church universal and us is: “who do we identify with in the story?” The tendency is to link ourselves to the blind man who now sees. If we are honest with ourselves though the Pharisees’ blindness finds its way into us.
Are we holding so tightly to our modern ritual purity that we are blind to what really matters. Does our use of exclusive male language for God make God inaccessible to those who have been abused by men? Does our need to explain everything through the lens of science Limit God’s grace, mercy, and power?
Do we think we see things so clearly that we judge others by our standards and thereby miss the grace of God in a person? Things are not always as they seem. Judging by outward appearances blinds us to the inner light.
When our priorities are upside down and Jesus takes a back seat we miss opportunities for transformation. How often do we let fear blind us to new possibilities, new paths, new faith?
These questions apply just as much to our church life as they do to our lives outside these sacred and safe walls. The questions are deserving of having time spent with them.
Do we carve out time to encounter Jesus in the outside world?
Do we go looking for those in need of God’s love?
We are recipients of God’s amazing grace. The washing of the man’s eyes in the pool is reminiscent of our own baptism, being welcomed into the family of God. We are a new creation, forgiven, loved, and redeemed through the Holy Spirit’s work in Communion. We rest in hope that Jesus will come looking for us just as he came looking for the man who now sees. We trust that whether we are sighted or blind he will find us no matter who or where we are. Just as he found the man who was born blind.
I don’t know how the man was healed, but of one thing I am sure, God’s amazing grace is free to all.
What is the one thing you know for certain?
“I once was blind but now I see.”
“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved.
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
The Conductor: Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see. (The Polar Express)
These are my thoughts on the miracle of seeing. I offer them to you in the greatest of hope.