1 Samuel 16:1-13
March 19, 2023
And Nobody Believed Him
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Where as last week we had the longest conversation Jesus has with anyone in the entire NT canon, this week, we see Jesus’s part is very minor and the man that Jesus has healed is really the main character. Just like the woman at the well did not have her named revealed, neither does John reveal this man’s name either. He is always just the blind man. I find it a bit odd and somewhat insulting that nobody bothered to ask the man his name. They are, instead, too busy arguing about being healed on the sabbath and about the man who healed him that nobody cared to ask him his name. Not even his own parents call the blind man by his given name.
The only way that we can define him is through his disability. In all the cultural competencies and sensitivity trainings that I had to go through, we are taught to never do this. We are taught to never look at someone’s limitation but rather, focus on their individuality—who they are rather than what they cannot do. Jesus healed a man who had been born blind and nobody wants to believe him - they only want to condemn him as a sinner. Which is also another thing worth noting - the reason they all believe that this man has been born blind is because of something his parents did. Unfortunately, this theology does have biblical roots and foundation. I wish it wasn't there but it is and frankly, this way of thinking is still use today, which I find even more despicable because frankly, we know better. In Exodus 34, God says "...the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Most of us like only focus on the part that says if you don't keep God's word, you will suffer and your children will suffer, and their children will suffer, but what about the first part of this verse: a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. We forget that part. We forget the part where God promises to forgive, is slow to anger, is abounding in steadfast love. We love to focus on the part about God’s vengeance. It makes us happy to think that God will punish our enemies, all who have done us wrong—That God will get you, but what happens when you are the one who is got? When you are born blind simply because of a genetics. As science has shown us, sometimes things like blindness happen for a variety of reasons…but it is no way indicative of our behavior or our parent’s behavior.
Their way of thinking really reflects the best wisdom of a time when we did not understand disease, germs, and genetics. Today, saying anything like, "God is punishing you for something you did..." is not only unkind, it is just plain wrong. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes people are born blind or deaf. Sometimes people are born with one arm or leg. Some people are born with a bad heart. BUT That doesn't mean God is punishing them, it just means their body is different. But we do all share one thing in common. John 9:3, Jesus says, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him." You were created so that God's works might be revealed through you. Part of me wonders though, was it worth being blind from birth so that God works might be revealed? I mean, God did create the heavens and earth from nothing...couldn't God find a better medium other than this poor guy? I think that is a fair question and I really don't have a good answer nor would I venture to try to make one here. But I will venture out to say that we need to do a better job of seeing past someone's disability and see them as a child of God and we all have a part to play in God’s kingdom.
In Jesus' day, people born blind and deaf or with other disabilities had to rely on someone else to care for them. Because of the commonly held belief was your disability was the result of your sin or your parents sin, you couldn’t received any help from the temple and you would have been a major burden for your family. Hence why this blind man had to beg for food and money. I think, in a way, that is where Jesus really bulks at the temple and the religious people who care only about themselves and not about people who are suffering. They rather feed themselves than feed the mouths of those suffering from birth for something they did not do. They rather condemn this man then welcome him into their community because it is easier to deal with him as a beggar and a blind man than as a healed man who has his life back. It is a lot like the idiom "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know..." It is better to keep this man blind because at least we know what we can expect out of him; he will just sit there and beg and not challenge us.
"The result of the blindness is rejection from the community. The result of the healing should be acceptance back in, except the community rejects the miracle in favor of the status quo.” From the very beginning of this gospel reading, Jesus had set out to define this man's blindness not as a sin but about God at work within the Man’s Blindness. Jesus set out to make this about faith and gave us all something to believe in - that God wants us to live in communion with one another, that blindness is not a result of sin but is a result of God using this person to reveal the gospel, the good news to the world.
My brothers and sisters, the whole time the religious leaders are arguing about whether or not it was right to heal on the sabbath, whether this man was born blind was because of a sin, or whether Jesus had done the miracle - nobody celebrates with the man who was once blind can now see. Nobody believed him! They instead, drive him out of the temple and tell him never to come back all because they can't understand why God would heal this blind man. And nobody believed him.
I get that. Really, Nobody wanted to listen to him because changing the status quo is hard and difficult. Sometimes it is easier to live in the dark because in the darkness, we can't see our sin. Sometimes it easier to ignore the truth. I get that. I am a part of a generation who is absent from our pews. And over the years, I have read so many news article, journal articles, attended conferences, attended synodical meetings focusing on how to attract more young people. The ELCA has even made it a goal to attract more young adults over the next few years. Beside that being, in my opinion, a really strange goal to have, how exactly is the church going to do that? A few years ago, I was sitting a ecumenical gathering of sorts. The group was talking about millennials and what they could do to bring us back into the church. All these guys were throwing ideas out left and right. Some where okay, some were quite offensive to me, but nobody dared to ask me or another woman sitting at the table our opinion. We were both millennials but nobody wanted to know what we thought. See, the problem that most churches have is that they want new people, but they don’t want change of the status quo that comes with new people. We are afraid of what they might take away, instead of seeing what might happen if given a chance. For the first time in the history of the world, there are seven generations of people are living together on earth all because we are living longer. Before, at the most there were three generations which meant generational divisions, even though they were present, were not as prevalent. We have people sitting in these very pews who remember the end of WWII to people who have no concept of life before cell phones. In the very same pew, seven generations of people can sit. Seven generations of different views, opinions, experiences…Sometimes it is easier to just look at those sitting next to us and say, “You just don’t get it.” We all do this, no matter the generation we hail from. We condemned them like the Pharisee’s condemned the blind man and push them aside—calling them all sorts of names simply because we rather stick to what we know, rather than what could be.
I want you to know that I am not condemning this group of people that I was a part of. They were concerned about the church aging prematurely and truly wanted to find new ways to reach out to a largely unchurch population of people but I think it is worth pointing out that we still push aside and ignore people who challenge us or want to reveal God's good news in a different way. It is far easier to act like the pharisees than to change the status quo. But here is the really good news. "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.’" At the end of the day, even though the leaders drove the blind man out, Jesus found him. Even though he had been driven out of the temple, Jesus found him. Even though the first thing he literally saw with his eyes was humanity at its worse, he also get to see humanity at its best - Jesus the Christ. Despite the temple condemning him, Jesus sought out this bewildered man out and revealed to him that God does love him. That God had always loved him. Even when he thought he thought he was forsaken by God, even when he thought that he was being punished by God for something he committed or his parents had done, even when he was kicked out for being healed - Jesus takes away the false narrative and replaces it with the good news - God loves you. May that be our narrative as well. May it be written on our hearts and more importantly, acted it out with our hands, feet and mouth.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.