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The Blind Man and the Gay Couple

March 29, 2014

John 9:1-41

I want to take you back for a moment to your childhood. How is it that children go about deciding who to bully? [take answers] They find some distinguishing characteristic that makes someone stand out as different. It may be that the child has red hair. It may be they are overweight or have a health problem. It may be that it is a boy who acts like a girl. It doesn’t really matter what the distinguishing characteristic is. The kids don’t sit around and try and justify their decision with questions like ‘who sinned that this girl was born a ginger… or gay… or whatever’. Kid’s just go ahead and start talking about the person rather than to them. They just start calling them names or, in all sorts of little ways teasing or ganging up on someone. They group together and find unity in the way they relate to the child who is different

Who sinned that this man was born blind? is the opening question for today’s reading. Somehow this person abandoned to the roadside to beg must be to blame for his situation… if not him then his parents.

John’s gospel says to us today: Let’s talk about sin. It begins and ends with the theme of sin.

John is like that. He takes a story from the life of Jesus and tells it to us as a reflection on a theological theme. Today’s theme is sin. Sin, says John, is not being born with a particular condition that makes you stand out from the crowd – like blindness. Sin is not breaking the rules – like working on the Sabbath. Sin is crucifying people.

Let’s look at how the story demonstrates this conclusion.
Jesus begins quite directly. Neither this man nor his parents sinned. You are simply wrong! This man’s situation is not about sin at all. It is simply an opportunity for God to continue to create the world afresh.

So Jesus in a very symbolic act, reminiscent of the story of the creation of Adam from Mud (adamah) goes ahead and heals the man’s eyes with mud. He says that in doing this he is demonstrating the work of God… and he does it on the Sabbath, the day of rest, not work. Challenging the very heart of their religion. As he is recorded as saying in chapter 5 when accused of working on the Sabbath ‘My Father is still working and I also am working’. The work of creating the world, according to Jesus, is unfinished. Creation is an unfinished symphony.

Where the Pharisees and the Disciples see in a man’s condition an occasion for exclusion – a chance to put him outside the human circle as a ‘sinner’. Jesus sees an occasion to celebrate the fact that God continues to work on all of us. All of us are God’s works in progress. This is the Sabbath in which we live. So Jesus doesn’t just break their Sabbath rule, he challenges their whole understanding of Sabbath.

Jesus is like a bomb in their marketplace. He comes out of nowhere, fits into no formula… and brings this kingdom of God, this Abba-experience of God alongside sinners… alongside those the society is busy bullying. Jesus is messing up the playground.

Which simply means that he is about to become, himself, the focus of their bullying. And it’s fascinating how it happens. At first the Pharisees are divided. Some say. “These miracles must be from God” and others say. “No way! Breaking the Sabbath rule, can’t come from God”.

They need to solve this problem of division in their ranks so they go to the ex-blind man and then they go to his parents and then they go back to the man himself, desperately hoping that it’s all a mistake, perhaps the man wasn’t really blind? As the story progresses the Pharisees get more and more serious and the blind man gets more and more confident. The man who was once a nobody finds his voice.

So they come to him with the phrase you use when you about to begin a public hearing in a courtroom ‘Give glory to God’ they say, ‘We know that this man is a sinner’… and before they can complete their judgement he replies with delightful courage ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner or not. One thing I do know, that though I was blind now I see.’ He is not interested in their bullying game. He has no comment on their exercise in dividing the world up into goodies and baddies. But they press him… “But how did he open your eyes? Then the blind man really lets rip.

“I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

But the blind man is on a roll and nothing will shut him up now, so he continues:

“Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

The bullying process is in place again… he is an outsider again. The Pharisees are now united. Problem solved. The ex-blind man may not be literally crucified… but the truth is they have excluded him from the circle of the human. They have socially and symbolically killed the man.

You might remember two Sunday’s ago we read the story of Jesus conversation with Nicodemus – also from John’s gospel – where Jesus is talking about the fascinating story of the ‘serpent on the pole’ and likens his own death on a cross to that story. What is on the pole is a symbol of what is killing the people. In looking at what is on the pole they see the truth about their own affliction. In seeing Jesus on the cross we see the truth about our own sin, that the essence of our sin lies in the process that lead to crucifixion.

As Jesus is summing up… we read that some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind are we?’

That’s the other great line in this story. Modern people understand that line… because we pride our self in our knowledge of our self. We think we know ourselves better than others do. The events unfolding in this story demonstrate that the participants are unaware of the processes going on in themselves and in their group which lead to crucifixion. They need the serpent on the pole, God on the cross, to learn to see clearly.

Jesus concludes, ‘If you were blind (like the blind man) you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘we see’, your sin remains.

Jesus has re-defined sin for them:… as the processes whereby we exclude others from life and community, banishing them to death, and manage at the same time to turn a blind eye to it.

What does this text say to us today?

Who sinned that this couple were born gay… and now want to marry… like normal people marry. What would Jesus say, do you think?

Would he also say, no one sinned neither these men nor their parents?

Would he also see a Sabbath opportunity? Would the same man who said ‘Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath’ also say ‘marriage is made for man and not man for marriage’?

Is marriage a sabbath opportunity for the God who continues to work on the sabbath. Is it an institution in which we are given space to learn the discipline of loving one another as Christ loves the church. What do you think the God who continues to create Adam would say to Adam and Steve?


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