This week’s gospel lesson is about Jesus healing a blind man. The story starts out with Jesus out walking with his disciples. They saw the blind man and the followers asked Jesus why the man was born blind. There was a common belief at that time (and with some religious people today) that any illness or disability was punishment for sin. They asked if he was born blind because of his own sin or that of his parents. (Seems puzzling to me—how could he have sinned before he was even born?)
Jesus said it wasn’t sin. He said he was born blind to show what great things God can do. Then he said, “While it is daytime, we must continue doing the work of the one who sent me. The night is coming, and no one can work at night. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Then Jesus spat in the dirt, made some mud, and put it on the man’s eyes. Hardcore Jesus moment here. He told the man to go wash in Siloam pool. The man did and was healed.
People noticed he was no longer blind. Some people doubted it was even the same man, but the man said, “I am that same man.”
So they asked what happened for him to be able to see and he answered, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. Then he told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went there and washed. And then I could see.”
There is more to the story including a very long interlude of the Pharisees questioning the man and even his parents, but I’ve described what seem to be the most important parts.
The story as we have it here is fairly simple, except for the weird question about who sinned that this man is blind. It’s a harsh thought that some people at that time had that belief that sin caused illness, whereas we know people can get sick or be blind because of many reasons not related to their behavior. But at that time they didn’t have the kind of scientific knowledge people have today—though like I said there are still people in the world who think that way. (I was once in a church in Missouri when a guy said he struggled with the temptation to give his daughter Tylenol when she had a headache because he felt he should heal her with his faith—I quit going to that church after that). As usual, Jesus turns beliefs on their head and tells the disciples that they are wrong about the idea that he is blind because of sin. He says he’s blind because it gives a chance to show what great things God can do and then Jesus heals him.
I think the most important part of the story is that here was this man and while Jesus’ followers were just pointing him out as an object lesson on sin, Jesus saw someone in need of God’s touch. Others probably passed him by every day, but Jesus saw him, stopped, and changed his life forever. Another key point is that Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” You’ve got to know he was the light of the world to that blind man, who had seen no light before. Jesus brought light into his world in a very real way. Later in the scripture (past where we are reading) the man says, “I was blind, and now I can see”—just like the song “Amazing Grace.”
I particularly liked this viewpoint from this website with a church school teaching curriculum:
It is very easy to see a need in someone’s life without doing anything about it. We can look at someone’s needs and think they are in that situation because of some sin or bad judgment. Excuses help us avoid responsibility when it comes to helping others, but Jesus knew this man needed a touch from God. When Jesus looked at him, He saw his need and earnestly met it. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
Jesus saw this man and felt compassion and healed him whereas others might pass him by. How often do we see people around us when others may not—other people who are overlooked? How can we show compassion to others in need of it?