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Jesus makes the physically blind see and the physically seeing spiritually blind
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2023
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13, Psalm 22 (23), Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41

Scripture quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth, and his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ And as he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a bigger, said ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘It is he’; others said, ‘No, but he is like him.’ He said, ‘I am the man.’ They said to him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’ He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash”; so I went and washed and received my sight.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know’” (John 9:1-12).



Today Jesus opens the eyes of a man born blind. This involved Jesus in a conflict with the Pharisees, because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus made clay out of spittle and dust and anointed the man’s eyes, and he saw. The Pharisees interpreted this as work forbidden on the Sabbath. Therefore they did not consider Jesus to be a man of God, but a sinner who does not keep the Sabbath. They said, “‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’” (John 9:16).



The law simply says that you are not to work on the Sabbath. It did not say that the Messiah cannot miraculously heal people on the Sabbath. Jesus’ Sabbath healings did not break the Sabbath. The Pharisees did not correctly interpret the meaning of the Sabbath in accusing he Jesus of breaking it with his miracles.



The Pharisees continue to question this man who was born blind but now sees. They continue to call Jesus a sinner because he breaks the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath. They say to the former blind man, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from” (John 9:28-29).



Then this simple uneducated blind man puts the highly educated Pharisees to shame and publicly refutes their arguments, saying that it is obvious where Jesus comes from, for he has cured a man who was born blind. Only the power of God working in him can do such a thing. Therefore he is a man of God.



He mocks the Pharisees for saying that they do not were know where he comes from, when it is obvious where he comes from to anyone who simply sees all the miracles that he has performed and listens to his excellent preaching and sees the good works that he is doing. He tells them that they are blind in a spiritual sense for closing their eyes to all this evidence and saying that they do not know where Jesus comes from.



See how this uneducated man – because he has faith in Christ and sees that Jesus is the Christ – refutes all these educated lawyers and Pharisees, making them look like fools. He says, “Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he [Jesus] comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if any one is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing” (John 6:30-33).



The Pharisees felt thoroughly insulted by this statement and angrily threw him out of the temple, probably meaning that they excommunicated him from the synagogue, that is, from Judaism. “They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out” (John 6:34).



Earlier we were told that the Pharisees called in the man’s parents to ask if he really was born blind, and they said that he was. But they did not say that they knew how he sees or that Jesus cured him, “for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be the Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age, ask him’” (John 6:22-23).



Not only did the Pharisees throw him out the temple and probably out of the synagogue, but they agreed to excommunicate any Jew who should confess that Jesus is the Christ.



Not only did they close their eyes to all the evidence that God gave them through Jesus’ miracles that he was the Messiah whom Judaism had been created by God to prepare for, but they shut out of the synagogue anyone else who put their faith in him. Their hearts were completely closed to their own Messiah who was standing in their midst, the one whom their own religion was created to prepare the way for.



We can ask ourselves who is blind in this account, and who sees. It is obvious that the Pharisees are blind to the deeper things, which is the acknowledgment of Jesus as the Messiah, and the blind man who now sees is the one who sees the deeper things. So the Pharisees are blind and the blind man sees.



But what happened to this poor blind man. He now sees; but because he acknowledges Jesus as a man sent by God, he is expelled from the temple and presumably excommunicated from Judaism, from his faith community. This is a very sad thing, but Jesus consoles him. When Jesus heard that he had been cast out, he went and found him. He consoles him and asks him if he really believes in him, the Son of man. The man asked who the Son of man is that he might believe in him, and Jesus tells them that he himself who is speaking to him is the Son of man, and he said, “‘Lord, I believe’; and he worshiped him” (John 9:38).



This blind man was greatly consoled. He now can see because of Jesus and furthermore Jesus gives him spiritual sight by asking him to believe in the Son of man, and when he finds out who the Son of man is, namely Jesus, he prostrates himself on the ground and worships him, saying, “Lord, I believe” (John 9:38).



Jesus then says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind” (John 9:39). Those who do not see are those who have not known Christ and have not believed in him. But Jesus came that they may not remain unseeing, but seeing. One sees in the deeper sense by believing in Jesus – that he is the Christ.



Jesus has also come that those who think they see and know and are wise might become blind. We see that here with the Pharisees. They are the wise men of Israel, the most educated, those who most faithfully follow all the commandments of God’s law. These wise seeing men become blind when they reject their Messiah after all the evidence that Jesus has given them. He would give them true spiritual sight through faith, but when he comes and the wise seeing people of Israel, the Pharisees, reject him and also prevent everyone else from acknowledging him as the Messiah by threatening to throw them out of the synagogue, they become blind.



The Pharisees are the truly blind men, while the poor blind man who can now see is the truly seeing man. This is why Jesus came – so that those who put their faith in him might gain true spiritual sight by acknowledging Jesus as the Christ.



What does all this mean for us today? Jesus came not only to open the eyes of a few who are physically blind, but to open the eyes of all who are spiritually blind. Those who acknowledge him as the Christ and worship and follow him and become his disciples will have their spiritual eyes opened so that they are no longer spiritually blind, but see the truth and live in it.



The blind man was thrown out of the synagogue for confessing that Jesus was the Christ. This happens to us also as followers of Christ. We can find ourselves misjudged, and hurt thereby, but we know the truth and have the consolation of knowing that Christ is on our side consoling us, because he loves the truth and consoles those who live in the truth.



“No sooner was this poor blind man cast out of the Jewish Church than Jesus finds him and speaks words of comfort. He knew full well how heavy an affliction excommunication was to an Israelite, and at once cheered him with kind words” (JC Ryle, 1816-1900).



“The time when men forsake us is often the very time when Christ draws near, saying, ‘Fear not, for I am with you – be not dismayed, for I am your God – I will strengthen you – yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness’ (Isaiah 41:10)” (JC Ryle).

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