February 28, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 9:13-17, a continuation of the story of the blind man.
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eye on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” [But] others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
Barclay points out that Jesus broke the Sabbath laws in three ways: he made clay, he healed, and he used spittle to apply to the man’s eyes. It’s hard for me to understand. The Jews’ purpose for all these laws was to honor God and be faithful in observing His commands. It seems they had reached a point of absurdity and instead of drawing people closer to God, they erected barriers. So many of our churches continue to do the same today. They are often exclusionary rather than inclusive, creating thresholds for membership instead of opening doors to all who want to know, love, and serve God. As Barclay writes, “The Pharisees are typical of the people in every generation who condemn anyone whose idea of religion is not theirs. They thought that theirs was the only way of serving God.” Intolerance supplants acceptance and hate voids love.
The blind man didn’t shy away from the controversy and the possible harmful consequences of telling the truth as he saw it. The only conclusion he could draw was that Jesus was a prophet, a man of God whose power stemmed from his relationship to God. Just as he had unquestioningly followed Jesus’ instructions to wash in the Pool of Siloam, so he unquestioningly accepted the fact of his healing whether it violated the Sabbath laws or not. It was the compassion of God through this man Jesus that was of importance, not the jots and titles of the scribal laws. There’s the message of this passage for me. Compassion and love are paramount in our relations with one another because they are from God. I need to tear down the barriers I have erected, the barriers of prejudice and judgment. They only thwart God’s desire for me and for all of us and keep the kingdom of God at bay. Jesus is a prophet; he is the Son of God; he is the light of the world; he is living water; he is the love and compassion of God.
Thank you for this Mike. I think you are right on about the message to us, compassion and caring, not intolerance and exclusion.