Thursday March 21, 2013 – Lenten Reflection by Bill Thornton

imagesIn Revelation (3:20) Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” It is always this way. If there is any movement toward a closer relationship between God and us, it always begins with God. The next step is how we respond to God’s approach.

There is a good example of how this works in the story in John’s Gospel of the cure of the man born blind. This is a long story so maybe you can follow this link and read it now.

The first thing to notice is that this story is not like the stories of other miraculous cures, here the blind man does not approach Jesus or ask to be healed. He is just sitting where he always sits, and doing what he always does, being blind and begging. I know just how he felt. I have stayed in the same place doing the same thing and being blind and begging from time to time.

The next thing about the story is that Jesus reveals that God has a plan for this man. Jesus says that the man has been born blind “so that the works of God can be made visible through him.” Wouldn’t we like to think that God’s plan included the idea that the works of God could be made visible through us? I think that God does have that plan even if it does not always include something dramatic like a miracle.

What happens next is rather strange. Jesus does not speak to the man, but rather puts mud on his eyes – dirt and spittle. How rude! How gross! And then Jesus says, “Go wash your face.” The blind beggar does not object or complain, he just moves toward the pool. Has his self-respect been so degraded by others over the years, because of his condition and what he has to do to maintain a living, that he does not even stick up for himself? Anyway, he goes and does what he was told, just like always. By obeying Jesus, when every instinct would be to be angry and fight back, the blind beggar gained his sight.

We will come back to the beggar, but for a minute let’s talk about the other people in this story. Jesus said that the cure was to make the “works of God” visible. The bystanders have, in a sense, seen the works of God. What is their reaction? It is as if they had seen a street magician. The are curious and maybe amused. “Where is he?” they ask, “we want to see more.” Just like the crowds that gathered around Jesus after he had fed the multitude.

What is the reaction of the Pharisees? All they can see is that Jesus broke the rules. They were more concerned with themselves – their rules – than the “works of God.” The beggar’s parents were afraid. They feared that acknowledging the “works of God” would create problems for them within the synagogue.

Back to the beggar: He had no choice but to face the reality – look the miracle in the face, if you will pardon a pun – that he was blind and now could see. He took on the opposition of the religious authorities. He called Jesus a prophet and said that his miraculous power must have come from God. He even took a shot at “evangelization,” when he said, “Do you want to become his disciples too?” When Jesus again sought out the beggar, the man professed faith in Jesus and worshiped him.

At the end of the story, Jesus has a conversation with some Pharisees about what had happened, how the physical cure of the beggar was supposed to be a lesson about their spiritual blindness. And it is clear that they understood the message. Some of them said, “Surely we are not also blind are we?” It makes you want to grab them by the shoulders, shake them and shout “Yes, yes, you understand. Now go change.”

An old technique for reading and meditating on the Scriptures is to put yourself in the place of each of the characters in the story. Am I like a bystander and simply curious, like a parent and fearful, like a Pharisee who is blind and more concerned with ancient rules than the “works of God,” or can I be like the man born blind.

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