Friday of Lent IV: Read John 9
The blind man, his parents, the church leaders and congregation, neighbors, questions of sin, Jesus (Man?-Prophet?-God?), and a whole lot more including twists, turns, surprises, wonder and the unexpected. This is a big story.
On Sundays, along with most other Christian churches in the “Western” world, St. Peter follows a recognized 3-year series of Lectionary readings, simply identified as Series A (Matthew & John), B (Mark & John), or C (Luke & John). This year (from Advent to Christ the King Sunday) we are currently working through Series A: Matthew with a smattering of narratives from John. The Series A Lenten lessons have been particularly meaningful for me over the years. The Gospel narratives in this cycle of Lent are longer but offer a fuller picture of different engagements Jesus had with people. Every three years, they stir-up in me a longing like that of getting together with dear friends I haven’t seen for three years. The anticipation of meeting, remembering, breaking bread together, catching up, sharing stories, picking up where you left off and having your friendships enriched in new ways is something I look forward to. Little did I know that half way through our Lenten reunion our bodily presence with each other would be so painfully disrupted.
And yet, here we are living and breathing the Sunday narratives each day in these devotions. The fourth week Lenten narrative is a very long reading and it cannot be abbreviated. Open your Bible and read it slowly and carefully. Better, think of this as a play. It is written that way. If you have multiple folks in the house assign them parts. You will need a narrator, Jesus, the blind man, and someone to read the group parts, parents, neighbors, disciples, pharisees. They speak with one voice, but they are always a group of folks.
This whole chapter is written like a first century play. In fact, it is a form of a comedy. We are not used to laughing when we read our Bibles, but perhaps we should. John may have meant this to be funny. He uses one of the common comedic devices which you can see in modern TV sit coms today. You, as the reader, know more than the people in the story know. That makes it sort of funny. You know the man is the same blind man and you know who Jesus is. No one else in the story really gets that. I think people in the first century would have laughed at this story. But just because it is funny does not mean it is trivial. Some of the sharpest and most significant words are using humor to make a point. Mark Twain was famous for doing this. Luther also firmly planted his tongue in his cheek when he said that 18 of the 12 apostles were buried in Germany. His humor was aimed at the abuses of medieval piety.
As you read this passage pay close attention to the words and actions of the blind man. Notice how he talks about Jesus throughout this story. In verse 10 he calls Jesus a man. In verse 17 he says Jesus is a prophet. In verse 33 he declares that Jesus is from God. In verse 38 he doesn’t say it with his mouth but with his knees. He falls upon his knees and worships Jesus. Pious Jews only worship God.
By the end of the story, only the blind man can see. Everyone else is in fact blind. Only the blind man has faith. The readings this week have all asked us to open our eyes, acknowledge the gifts of God, give thanks, and join this blind man in a willing obedience. We have been reminded of faith.