5 April 2014 by Adeline Lum CM-
On March 30, Rev Augustin Muthusami of Bangsar Lutheran Church spoke about blindness in John 9:1-41 (NKJV).
The story began where Jesus was walking in Judea, where he came across a blind man who was blind since birth (v 1), meaning having zero chance of recovery.
Rev Augstin shared that the gospel of John is very special because it contains many duality of themes (i.e. light versus darkness); while in John 9, the theme existing here is the paradox of physical blindness versus spiritual blindness.
The first spiritual blindness we see in this story is the disciples. They asked Jesus whether the man was blind because of his own sins or his parents’ sins. (v 2) The common misconception during then was that if you do evil, something bad would happen to you and vice versa. But Jesus opened their spiritual blindness when he said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (v 3) Rev Augustin shared that in this case, we learned that suffering does not always originate from sin, though all sins cause suffering. Sometimes, suffering enters randomly into our lives with no apparent reasons. The only certainty we can hold on to is that only God can make sense of our suffering although we may not understand why now.
Moving on to the following verse, Jesus said that he must do the works of God while it is still daylight (v 4). He said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. “ (v 5) The usage of ‘I AM’ here greatly upset the Pharisees because Jesus was using the exact phrase that God used when speaking to Moses about His Name. Rev Augustin shared that only Jesus is the ultimate light in our world of darkness. If we follow God, we would emit the light of Jesus in us. (1 John 1:7) Apart from Jesus Christ, there is no true light.
Rev Augustin also shared that we are taught in this world, that seeing comes before believing the truth. However, in our Christian faith, believing comes before seeing the truth. In other words, if we don’t have faith, we will not see the truth of God. We can see this scenario exemplified in the healing of the blind man by Jesus.
After spitting on the ground and making clay from his saliva, Jesus anointed the blind man’s eye and asked him to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. (v 6,7) Why did Jesus take the extra step of asking the man to fumble across the multitude of people to the pool and wash his eyes? Jesus could have healed him immediately by a single touch or a word. This is because obedience is the key to healing, where obeying first comes from believing. If the blind man did not believe in Jesus, he would have stayed in his position. But because the man believed, he obeyed by walking to the pool and washing his eyes as instructed. And because he obeyed, he saw! (v 7)
The second spiritual blindness we see is the blindness of the people around the blind man. Although his neighbors (meaning the people residing around him) knew and saw that he was blind since birth, they suddenly could not recognize him. (v 8,9) Did his features or face changed? No, but Rev Augustin shared like how we often ignore people who are so-called lower in the society, we often also walk pass the security guards, sweepers, and janitors who work and exist in our peripheral visions without noticing and acknowledging them?
Also, the people could not recognize the blind man because he is not behaving like a blind man. He did not fit in their past perception about him. Likewise, while sometimes we judge a person by appearance, God judges us our hearts beyond our appearnce. (1 Sam 16:7) How comforting it is to know that the Lord recognizes our value unchangingly, based on who we are in Him, and not our appearance. Also, how many times do we misjudge a person based on our past beliefs about the person? In irony, the blind could see but the people around him were blind to him.
Moving along the story, instead of celebrating the blind man’s joy of receiving sight, the people around him sent him to the Pharisees because they thought there was something wrong with him. Taken into today’s context, would you celebrate the miraculous healing of the person next to you, or would you bring the person to see the authority? The contrast of being blind spiritually and receiving sight physically continued.
The third spiritual blindness we see is the Pharisees. When the blind man told the Pharisee what Jesus did for him, the Pharisee did not see the miraculous healing by Jesus, but what they only saw was how Jesus was not from God because He healed during the Sabbath day. (v 16) But some said amongst the Pharisees, “How can a man who is a sinner do such things?” (v 16) In other words, they were labeling Jesus as a ‘sinner’, immediately placing Him at the unrighteous camp, apart from their ‘righteousness.’
This act of blindness made the Pharisee unable to see Jesus, or to see the plain miraculous healing that Jesus did as well. Rev Augustin shared that they could not see or appreciate God’s works because God did not fit into their ‘box’ of knowledge about Him.
Once again, the faith of the Pharisees depended on their own religious knowledge, which has a fine line with arrogance. Similarly, sometimes, our faith about God is confined by our knowledge. Our set knowledge about God becomes a stumbling block. Sometimes, we are stubborn to accept and see God as who He is because He does not fit what we already constructed Him to be in our minds.
Rev Augustin shared how God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, where one was to keep the Sabbath Day holy and not do any work (Ex 20:8-11). But what the Pharisees have done is taking the commandment and building a fence around it. They defined not doing any work with man-made rules such as not walking more than two miles, yet pulling a child or an ox out from a well is ironically acceptable. (Lk 14:5) Hence, in their own manmade fence, they saw Jesus breaking the ‘law’ but the blind man saw in plain sight that Jesus was a prophet. (v 17)
Moving along the conversation, the Pharisee still did not believe in the blind man. Hence, they called in his parents to learn whether the blind man was lying about being blind from birth (v 20). Sometimes, Rev Augustin shared, when we bring the truth to other people, they would go to all lengths to prove that we are wrong. This is because it is painful to admit that we are wrong. But when the Pharisees asked his parents what happened to his son for receiving sight, they became scared, lest that they should be excommunicated from the synagogue and cease to become Jews.
So, the Pharisees turned back to the blind man and asked him again how he received his sight with these perplexing words, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.” (v 24) In other words, the Pharisee is saying that the truth is agreeing with them—that Jesus is a sinner. But the blind man said that although he did not know whether Jesus is a sinner, he knew that he could see (v 25).
Finally, for the third time, the Pharisee asked the blind man how he saw. This time, the blind man got angry and said, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” (v 27) The Pharisees became angry at his answer; they said that they were the disciples of Moses but they did not know where Jesus came from. (v 28-29)
The blind man who had no spiritual knowledge responded, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (v 30-33) When the blind man said that, it was the last straw for the Pharisees who said, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” (v 34) They could not handle the truth that Jesus comes from God. When He met the blind man later, he said to him, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may be made blind.” (v 39)
In this Lent season, Augustin shared, we should ask if we are ‘blind.’ All of us have a blind spot, which is a particular spot we could not see due to its position in the retina, which varies from person to person. But because we could see, we are not aware of this blind spot. Likewise, sometimes we are blind to our self; we thought we know everything about God but do we? The Israelites build idols because they could not handle God or could not put Him in a box. Baal had a name, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has no name. The Israelites can place Baal on the table to touch and see, but the God we know cannot be contained in a temple, nor can He be touched or seen. Hence, Rev Augustin shared that it is easier for us to construct our own god instead of seeing God as who He is. Do we see God as who He is or do we make an idol to suit what we want?
At the end, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” Like the Pharisees, Rev Augustin shared that everything inside of us says we cannot acknowledge weaknesses and failures because they are difficult. He shared how Pope Francis recently surprised his Masters of Ceremonies by kneeling and confessing his sins before a priest in the St Peter’s Basilica, to inspire others to seek forgiveness from God. While the Pope who did not follow the expected instructions or proposals took some people aback, he did that to remind everyone including himself that we are all sinners.
Rev Augustin shared that every time we think we could handle and figure God out, we cannot be taught. This is because every new perspective that challenged our understanding about God (which is based on the Word) becomes unacceptable due to our different views and opinions. Rev Augustin shared that it’s only when we see ourselves clearly, we can see God truly. Where are we in our faith, life, and discipleship? Do we really know God as who He is?
Find more information about Bangsar Lutheran Church (BLC) in
Address of BLC
No 23, Jalan Abdullah, Bukit Bangsar,
Bangsar, 59000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan
10 AM (Sunday)
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