Seeing is Believing

John 9:1-41

Today I chose to use a visual presentation of the gospel reading, to assist you in hearing the message.  Many of us are not auditory learners and may struggle to take in all of what we hear, when we have a visual attached it greatly enhances our ability to hear and understand and perhaps even in some ways experience the story, to ‘see’ it better.

Can you imagine what it would be like never to have been able to see, we take such things for granted, to wake up this morning and see that the clocks had been changed back and that the sun still wasn’t up yet, to see the birds that you can hear, to take in the beauty of everything God created.  Imagine not being able to see the faces of the people you love and care for.

The man born blind in the gospel today lived a life just like that.  He was forced to beg to survive, because he could not work to earn an income.  The people of his time believed that someone who had a disease or disability or their family had sinned to bring about that disease.  This man would have believed too that his sin had caused his disability.

Even Jesus’ disciples questioned Jesus as to who it was that had sinned.  Jesus told them that no-one had sinned to cause it, but that God had a purpose for him, that he would be used to bring about God’s works.  He had been born blind so that Jesus could perform this miracle of healing.

Hearing that is difficult enough for us isn’t it, we question how God could do such a thing, how could a gracious and loving God, deny this man of all of those years of sight. Yet God’s purpose brought about a wonderful transformation in this man, not only was he physically healed, but spiritually through his experience.  It wasn’t an easy journey for him to get to that point though was it, he was brought before the Pharisees and questioned, not once but twice.  The motive appears to be to find fault with Jesus rather than the man who was born blind, but he and his parents both knew the consequence of believing that Jesus was the Messiah was to be thrown out of the synagogue.

His parents hung him out to dry, they wanted to protect themselves and not rock the boat with the Pharisees, so they said that he is a grown man he can answer for himself.  Again the man is brought before the panel and questioned.  The same questions are asked and he tells them, I already answered these questions but you wouldn’t listen!  He even asks if it is because they want to be Jesus disciples, which is met with a rather negative response.  The result is just as his parents feared, he was driven out of the synagogue.

When Jesus came to find him again and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  At first he wasn’t even sure if this was the man who had healed him, after all he had never seen Jesus and didn’t know how to find him when the people asked where he had gone. But He answered, “Lord, I believe.”  This was a man who was once lost, but now is found, was blind but now he sees!  Just as you imagined before what it would be like to be born blind, can you now imagine his elation at now being able to see, it would be a sensory overload.

Now I don’t remember what it was like not to believe in Jesus, as far as I know I always have, but there are of course millions of people around the world who were once lost, but have now seen and believe in Jesus as the Son of Man, the Messiah, the one who came to take the sin of the world on himself, to forgive our sin.  For them it must be a sensory overload too.  When they start to attend worship it must be truly daunting, with all of the rituals, the theological language, and concepts, different music, getting up early in the morning to come to worship, giving up time on a Sunday morning to worship instead of sitting at home reading the Sunday paper or taking kids to sport.  It must be a culture shock. 

Maybe like the man born blind they will be rejected by those around them because of their faith.  I had a man yesterday who has known me for five years cringe and take a couple of steps back from me when he discovered I am a pastor.  He did continue to talk to me but quickly changed the subject.  He obviously has some issues with the church. 

The marvellous thing for the man born blind and for those who are new to the church is that they have a new community to be a part of, who we hope will love them and care for them and pray for them for the rest of their lives.  And not only that but they now have a relationship with the Son of Man, who has forgiven their sins, and has given them eternal life.  Eventually through us and by the power of the Holy Spirit those other friends may eventually have their spiritual sight restored too and come to see and believe in Jesus.

Perhaps not if we act like the Pharisees did in the gospel, by having people thrown out, but by showing even those we may not feel particular comfortable with that they are loved by God and by us.  Sometimes in life we are confronted with challenges, but usually through them we grow and learn.  Sometimes when our beliefs are challenged we grow firmer in our conviction that what we believe is indeed true.

May you hold firm to your faith, may you rejoice in that faith and confess that you do believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and share that belief with others, regardless of the consequences.

Amen