Aloha Friday Message – March 28, 2014 – Fourth Friday of Lent

1413AFC032814 – Blind Obedience

Read it online here, please.

Isaiah 29:18 – On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.

Isaiah 35:5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

John 9:6-7When 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.

As we continue with our survey of the book of the prophet Isaiah, today we connect that with the account of Jesus’ healing of a man blind from birth. You can see from the verses I’ve chosen that this is mostly about Jesus’ fulfillment of the prophecies concerning his power to heal. Let’s look at the first one then and see where our study takes us.

Isaiah’s prophecy is describing the New Israel, a new order in which all is restored to the goodness God placed in creation “in the Beginning.” (See Genesis 1-3) No more sickness, no more pain, no more blindness, no more deafness, everything will be cured. All of this comes about because God is sending his Servant, a Perfect Shepherd, to rule Israel and restore that nation to the place God intended for it to hold – as the leader to which all other nations look as the paragon of holiness. God gave his People, Israel – his Chosen Race – everything they needed to be the greatest of nations. All they had to do was obey God’s commandments and keep themselves pure by not taking up the illicit worship and immoral lifestyles of the people of Canaan.

They never quite lived up to that expectation.

Nor do we ourselves come close to that; in fact, obedience is something every living human soul has had difficulty with since Eve met the Serpent. Despite that, and despite God’s omniscience with regard to the nature of Man, God’s unfailing purpose for his creation has always been the same: To live in a way that glorifies and pleases God.

To make that possible he has exercised extraordinary patience, given us laws to guide us, sent us prophets to warn us, given us kings to rule us, given us priests to teach us, and given us the blessings of being priest, prophet, and king in our own lives. When even that was not enough, he sent us his only Son made incarnate by the Holy Spirit in the Mary, the virgin prophesied about in Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. We see the splendor of God’s plan to restore humanity to God’s favor throughout the prophecies of Isaiah. Everything Isaiah describes is something about which a reasonable person would say, “That’s impossible … unless it was a miracle by God.” Isaiah repeatedly evinces that God is going to do exactly that – make a miracle so stupendous that all our sin, all our failings, all our weaknesses, and all our sorrows will be totally eradicated and expiated – erased and recompensed, forgiven and forgotten – and God himself will do this because we are incapable of doing it properly. He has shown us what to do, but we do not do it because we are blinded by our sin. He tells us what to do, but we do not do it because we cover our ears and shout LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!

We seem to prefer being blind and deaf. It saves us the perceived effort of being obedient. Actually, it takes more effort to sin than to obey, but that’s another lesson for another time. The man that Jesus met on the streets of Jerusalem, however, was not blind by choice; he was “blind since birth.” We, too, are “blind since birth,” in that we are sinful from the moment of conception – in the sense of Original Sin – and in this account in the Gospel of John, Jesus shows us that he is indeed the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesies (indeed the fulfillment of all the prophesies of all the prophets!) by healing the blind man.

Some special things to note in this passage: Jesus uses spittle as part of the healing. Saliva was recognized as a means of healing in Jewish lore, and so it was not all that unusual for it to be used in the culture in Jesus’ time. Using it to make a clay ointment was, however, unusual. I have often reflected on this particular passage – why the clay? This is a little silly, and certainly there is no theological or scholarly basis for it. But I have wondered if this man was born without eyes. We know that people are sometimes born without certain body parts – fingers, hands, arms and other extremities seem to be what is most often missing – but other body parts or organs may also be missing or deficient. What if the clay was used to create eyeballs? God created man from the clay of the earth; might Jesus as God create eyeballs for a blind man? As I say, it’s a silly idea, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder when I reflect on this passage.

Jesus makes this clay ointment and then smears it on the man’s eyes. Kind of a strange thing to do, and I’m sure – for a moment anyway – the man probably wondered what that was all about. Then Jesus tells him, a blind man with mud covering his eyes, to go to the Pool of Siloam (also called the Waters of Shiloah in Isaiah 8:5-7), and to wash the mud away there. Jesus required him to [1] accept the mud ointment as part of the cure, and [2] to go on his way (with or without help) to the Pool of Siloam. That water was used in rituals for certain Jewish feasts such as the Feast of Tabernacles – which might have been around the time this story occurred. The water in the pool was therefore sacred. Another thought is that the name Siloam, which John translates for us as meaning “sent,” is a metaphor conveying the idea that Jesus was also sent for healing. Still another idea is that the water itself was “sent.” It came from the stream called Gihon and was “sent” to the pool by two aqueducts. Whatever the meaning, the man had to go there to complete the healing; he had to take part in his miracle. He went as told “… and came back able to see.”

Beloved, when our lives are difficult because of troubles caused by our own blindness, when we falter because of our own deafness, we might hear Jesus say, “Do this for me, and your healing will be complete.” The man did not go to Jesus and asked to be healed; Jesus took the initiative. This man, blind from birth, didn’t argue. He did what Jesus told him – without question! Truly, that is “blind obedience.” When he did as he was told, he was “able to see.”

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was in another period of discernment. Happily it has concluded well, and I can “see,” I can “perceive and comprehend,” what I need to do. This man was able to see for the first time. Can you imagine how mind-blowing that must be?!? To see his parents, his community, the place where he sat and begged for decades, to see the Temple, and to see Jesus; even to see his own hands and feet and clothing for the first time. In the middle of that, he is accosted by the temple officials and accused of lying about being blind from birth. He is questioned about his miracle. He is in effect persecuted for being able to see the world as it is for the first time. Meditate on that for a while and weigh the irony in those events.

I also see this event as a sort of parable about how radically life changes for us once we meet the Master and he opens our eyes. Toward the end of this chapter the Lord asks the man, “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.” The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. That man’s eyesight was produced through a miracle, and in the same way his spiritual blindness was also cured. It is the same miracle of conversion that happens to us every time we perceive our own blindness or our own deafness; we see, we hear, we obey, we worship.

As Isaiah said, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.” Sometimes that trip to the Pool of Siloam might be a little scary because we might stumble and fall on the way; but, once we humble our hearts to wash in the waters of forgiveness, we come away healed and ready to take up a new life, the life God promised Israel through the prophesies of Isaiah!

BlindMan'sMud

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved

chick

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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