Monday, April 11, 2011

The Man Born Blind

Monday, April 11, 2011 -- Week of 5 Lent, Year One
George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand, and of Lichfield, 1878
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 956)
Psalms 31 (morning)        35 (evening)
Jeremiah 24:1-10
Romans 9:19-33
John 9:1-17

Today we read the first half of the story from John's gospel that we had as our reading two Sundays ago on April 3.  (click here to see sermon ) 

Sometimes growth and enlightenment is a process.  There are moments of insight and understanding, moments of surrender and willingness.  As we incorporate what we have learned, we discover new ways to articulate truths more fully.  The story of the healing of the man born blind is a good illustration of that process.

He begins as the object of a theological debate.  It is an old argument.  Why is it that a person is born blind?  The conventional answers from the rabbis were two:  either this person sinned, or this person's parent's sinned.  Each of the standard answers has a weakness.  How could this person have sinned prior to his birth?  If his blindness at birth is his punishment, how was it that he could sin before he was born?  Yet, where is the justice that punishes this man for the sins of his parents.  Although the Second Commandment speaks of "a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of the parent, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me," the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel both had announced a new Word from God.  Both said that no more would it be said, "The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge."  From now on each person would be responsible for one's own sins.  The children would not be punished for the sins of their parents, said the prophets.

This old debate is in the background of Jesus' actions.  Jesus doesn't enter the debate.  He transcends it.  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him."  A new teaching.  God works; God is revealed through what we see as tragedy and suffering.  Now we will see that happen in the life of this man born blind.

It starts with the healing.  Jesus makes mud with his saliva, spreads it on the man's eyes and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  The first moment: The man does what Jesus tells him.  He could have wiped the mud off and told Jesus to mind his own business.  But he had enough desire to see or enough trust in the strange new rabbi that he went to the pool as he was told.  He returned with his sight healed.

As the neighbors debate about whether the man who sees is really the blind beggar that they were used to, he speaks for the first time.  He sticks with the facts.  He simply asserts his identity.  "I am the man."

They quiz him.  "How were your eyes opened."  Again, he simply sticks with the facts.  "The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.'  Then I went and washed and received my sight."  He starts with a simple recitation of the factual truth.

When the people ask him where Jesus is now he says, "I do not know."  (He would not know Jesus by sight even if he were standing before him.)

Now the pressure ratchets.  The people take him to some authorities.  They are unhappy.  This healing has happened on the sabbath.  Is it work for a person to make mud with his saliva, place it on eyes and heal a blind person?  If it is work, it is a violation of the Fourth Commandment. 

We have entered another old debate.  Some rabbis say it is okay to do good on the sabbath.  Others say the sabbath is for rest.  Wait to do good tomorrow.

The authorities from the Pharisees question him.  Again he sticks to the facts.  There is an argument and a division of opinion.  They turn to the man and ask him, "What do you say about him?  It was your eyes he opened."  Here is the man's first step toward clearer articulation, a clearer self-definition.  He answers about Jesus, "He is a prophet." 

We'll see the story continue tomorrow, and we will see this man's insight deepen.  His sight is restored.  He continues to see more and more deeply.  He learns; he grows; he becomes more articulate.  He is a metaphor for all of us along our journey of discipleship and insight.


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 8:29 AM, Anonymous janet l graige said...

Lent Twenty-Nine

Healing with earth's dust
An argument seems foolish
When glory shines forth


At 7:49 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

How often we do get into dirty arguments when there is glory shining all around us? Thanks, Janet.


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