Sunday, March 2, 2014

Transfiguraiton Sunday: Blinded by the Light

John 9:1 - 16  As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  

Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."  

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.  

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?"  Some were saying, "It is he." Others were saying, "No, but it is someone like him."

He kept saying, "I am the man."  

But they kept asking him, "Then how were your eyes opened?"  

He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' Then I went and washed and received my sight."  

They said to him, "Where is he?"

He said, "I do not know."  

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.  Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.  Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight.

He said to them, "He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see."  

Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And they were divided.  

John doesn’t have a transfiguration story - John’s gospel is a transfiguration story

According to the Webster Dictionary “transfiguration” means “a change in appearance.”

John’s gospel starts with transfiguration , a change in appearance.  In the magnificent words of John 1 “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God… the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

The divine became human – transfiguration.

There’s no mountaintop experience in the gospel of John- instead Jesus is revealed through a series of everyday ordinary encounters made extraordinary because of the incarnation.

It’s a series of signs, invitations, and I am statements

The signs:
       Changing water into wine (John 2:1-11)
       Healing the official’s son  (John 4:46-54
       Healing the paralytic at Bethesda (John 5:1-18)
       Feeding the 5000 (John 6:5-14)
       Walking on water (John 6:16-24)
       Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-41)
       Raising Lazarus (John 11:1-45)

The I am statements:

I am the living bread (John 6:51)
I am the light of the world (John 8:12 and again in 9:5)
I am the door/gate (John 10:9)
I am the good shepherd (John 10:11)
I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
I am the true vine (John 15:1)

Jesus invites those first few disciples to come and see (John 1:35-51), and they in turn invite their family and friends also to come and see.  Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night, but he can’t truly see in the dark (John 3).  The Samaritan woman at the well sees so clearly in the light, that she brings the whole town to come and see Jesus (John 4).

The Pharisees who brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus for him to judge her, saw Jesus writing in the sand, and didn’t like what they saw.  The woman saw compassion in Jesus’ eyes as he said, “I do not condemn you, go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)

Now we have a story about a blind man who sees and the religious leaders who are truly blind.

The Word with God at creation spoke light into existence, and formed humans from the dust of the ground.  Jesus, took the dust of the ground, made mud and opened the blind man’s eyes to the light.

There’s a lot of blindness in this story.

The disciples are blind too - they see the man’s blindness as a punishment for someone’s sin.  Jesus opens their eyes to see that it’s not a question of sin, but how God can work through all kinds of life circumstances to reveal God’s amazing love and grace.

Once healed, the formerly blind man is physically changed enough that his neighbors don’t recognize him. Or perhaps they are suffering from another kind of blindness.  They couldn’t believe that in this man they barely noticed for so long, seeing only his blindness, Jesus could see a person worthy of dignity and compassion.

And all the religious leaders can see is that one of their laws regarding how to properly keep the Sabbath has been broken - to spit and make mud was considered making mortar and that was work.

And there’s more than one way to see in this story!

The formerly blind man gained more than physical sight.  He begins to realize that Jesus is not just some guy that came along and put mud in his eyes.  At the very least he’s a prophet.  He’s from God.

But the Pharisees are blinded by the light.

John 9:17- 34 So they said again to the blind man, "What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened."

He said, "He is a prophet."  

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?"  

His parents answered, "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself."  

His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.  Therefore his parents said, "He is of age; ask him."  

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, "Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner."  

He answered, "I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."  

They said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"  

He answered them, "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?"  

Then they reviled him, saying, "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."  

The man answered, "Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."  

They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?" And they drove him out.  

Light does 2 things
·     Light brings things into focus, makes us able to see:
    • the sun coming up lights up the path,
    •  a flashlight illuminates corners.
  • Light can be so bright it can blind:
    • a car driving toward you with the brights on makes it hard to see the road,
    • walking outside on a bright winter day after a darkened room hurts, you squint, you struggle to see until your eyes adjust.  

When you encounter the Light of the World, either you see clearly, or you struggle to see, blinded by the brilliance.

When Saul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he may have been able to see, but he was blind to the Light of the World.  His encounter with the light left his physically blind, and it was only when his spiritual blindness was lifted and he believed that he was healed.

Turn to the light or turn away.  Be healed or remain blind.

As our gospel reading continues, the Light gets brighter for our formerly blind man.

John 9:35-41 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"  

He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him."  

Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he."  

He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him.  

Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind."  

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?"  

Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.  

Yes, a blind man sees.
The religious leaders are blinded by the light.

The light of the world continues to blind the religious leaders and they seek Jesus’ death.

And as we move from Transfiguration to Lent as John’s story follows Jesus to the cross, the question is where are we blinded, where do we need healing?  And where do we see?

There is another meaning of transfiguration: an exalting, glorifying, spiritual change (again from Webster’s Dictionary).

That happens on the cross, John’s transfiguration story leads up to that moment when of transfiguration - exalting, glorifying, spiritual change  - the dramatic illustration of what “For God so loved the world… (John 3:16)” means as the ultimate revelation of God’s glory, God’s love, God’s absolutely amazing grace.

I once was blind but now I see.

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