AM I LIKE THE PHARISEES OR AM I LIKE THE BLIND MAN?
(A biblical refection on THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – March 26, 2017)
Gospel Reading: John 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 (longer version: John 9:1-41)
First Reading: 1Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13; Psalms: Psalm 23:1-6; Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14
As He passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth.
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 beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used and sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he”; others said, “No, but he is like him.” He said, “I am the man.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened His eyes. The Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees 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?” There was a division among them. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about Him, since He has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
They answered Him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of man?” He answered, “And who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen Him, and it is He who speaks to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and he worshipped Him. (John 9:1,6-9,13-17,34-38 RSV)
In first-century Palestine, physicians treated a variety of illnesses with saliva because they believed it had curative powers. In today’s Gospel, Jesus approaches a man who was born blind, spits on the ground, makes a paste of dirt and saliva, and smears this paste on the man’s eyes. After washing off this mixture in the pool of Siloam, the man is able to see.
Some overly legalistic Pharisees objected to what Jesus did because He did it on the Sabbath. Since they considered making paste with saliva and dirt to be work, they interpreted Jesus’ actions as a clear violation of the command to keep the Sabbath holy.
The Pharisees interrogated the man born blind about what had happened, but when the man defended Jesus, they became indignant and accused Him of being a sinner from the moment of his birth. Because people in biblical times did not know about viruses and germs, they believed sin was the cause of all pain and suffering. The Pharisees, therefore, concluded the man was born blind because God was punishing him for something either he or his parents did. He was a sinner, they reasoned, because he had experienced the effects of in from the day he was born.
This story is one of seven miracles reported in the Gospel according to John. Most of these “signs” (that what John calls them) lead into one of the seven discourses or sermons of Jesus we find in this Gospel. Although physical in nature, each miracle also has a spiritual meaning which becomes clear in the discourse that follows it.
Jesus gave sight to the blind man and this individual then preached to those who were spiritually blind (those who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah). Thus, a physical cure set the stage for a teaching about the need for spiritual healing.
The reading ends with Jesus saying He came to divide the world and that some people will be blind because of Him while others will regain their sight. In the original Greek language of the Gospels, Jesus clearly is not talking about the purpose of His mission but rather about its effect. There will divisions because some people will believe in Jesus and others won’t. Some of those considered spiritually blind will see Jesus as their Messiah while the respected spiritual leaders will not accept Him. Historically, that’s exactly what happened.
Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels, pages 26-27.
Short Prayer: Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior. Forgive me Jesus, because sometimes – like the Pharisees – I believe that I am spiritually superior to others. Today’s Gospel tells me that I should be like the blind man who needed You instead. Lord, please heal all aspects of my blindness, so I can serve God and my neighbors with genuine love according to His commandments. Amen.
Jakarta, 25 March 2017
A Christian Pilgrim