1 Samuel 16:1–13; John 9:1–41
As we read this text from John, it is stunning to us to hear the number of people who had difficulty believing that Jesus had God’s healing power. This story is traditionally titled, “The man who was born blind.” Through the centuries, he is rarely called, “The man who could see.” He is nameless, as was the woman at the well. Let’s give him a name – Benjamin.
It’s a Sabbath, and Jesus heals Benjamin, who was blind from birth. He didn’t go blind through injury, or because of disease; he was born that way. The disciples have drawn Jesus’ attention to him by asking who sinned, this man, or his parents. They struggle, even after spending years with Jesus, to remember that sin does not cause such disability. Jesus reminds them of this, and goes on to state that this man will become a cause for giving glory to God.
To do this healing, Jesus makes a bit of mud with the dirt of the street and some of his spit. He smears the mud on Benjamin’s eyes, and tells him to go and wash in the nearby pool of Siloam. As he washes off the mud, Benjamin realizes he can see.
I find it amazing – yet not surprising – that when Jesus heals blind people, the physical sight is accompanied by the ability to know what the healed person is looking at. Benjamin has never known what things looked like, what to call the things and people he was seeing, yet he seems to have been given that insight as well as physical sight.
Unfortunately, no one else is as excited as Benjamin that he can now, suddenly, miraculously, see. The neighbors, who have been accustomed to blind Benjamin, are not sure it really is Benjamin who is healed. They concoct strange scenarios – maybe this person who can see is someone who just looks like Benjamin.
The Pharisees are so convinced that Jesus is not from God that they willingly claim that the healing has come from evil. The blindness came from evil, from sin, so the healing must also have come from evil, sin, too. They are also very sure that God would not heal on a Sabbath. So, when the Pharisees interview Benjamin, they are not convinced by his testimony.
The Pharisees have his parents brought in. The parents are so afraid of the consequences of admitting that Jesus has healed their son, that they distance themselves from him. “Yes, he is our son, and yes, he was born blind, and yes, he can now see. He is an adult, and he can speak for himself. Ask him who healed him.” They don’t want to get involved.
Once more, the Pharisees question Benjamin. He sticks to his story, “I was blind. The man put mud on my eyes. Now I see. End of story.” The Pharisees respond, “You’re outta here!” He has been cast out of the community of the synagogue.
In a rare follow-up to a healing, Jesus seeks out Benjamin. Jesus has heard how he has been treated and they have a conversation about who sees and who is really blind. Benjamin believes that Jesus is from God and worships him as the son of God. Those who believe have true sight, even if they are physically blind; those who refuse to see and believe are truly blind.
Only Benjamin was willing to see what Jesus was offering. Only Benjamin was willing to open his eyes to see God’s possibilities. His life was changed forever by Jesus.
At this point, we’d like to look at the Pharisees and ridicule them. It’s easy to see how blind they are. We’d like to look at the parents and criticize them for throwing their own son to the Pharisaical wolves. We’d like to look at the neighbors and accuse them of being too cynical for their own good.
But, we need to check ourselves for our own blind spots. We need to open our eyes to look for God’s possibilities today.
In class last Monday, we talked about some of the ways in which we don’t see. We all tend to see people through their conditions, not their spirits.
We see a heavy women in a restaurant and think, “She’s really fat. Why is she eating so much?” What we can’t see is that she is on medications which cause extreme weight gain.
We see a person in a wheelchair and assume he is mentally as well as physically disabled. What we can’t see is that he has a law degree and advocates for fairness for all people.
We see a woman with Latino coloring and accuse her of being an illegal immigrant. What we can’t see is that her great-grandmother was born in the United States, and she is studying to be a doctor.
We see a young man with his pants well below his hips and assume he is a drop-out and on drugs. At the least, we want to tell him to pull up his pants. What we can’t see is that he is a genius with a twelve-string guitar.
In all of these situations, we have looked at what we consider to be their limitations, the ways in which they are different from our standards. We neglect to look at God’s possibilities within them.
We are afraid of being scammed, so we find it hard to believe a healing could be God’s work. We learn of a miraculous healing and try to find some medical reason for it. The tests were wrong; the tumor was really benign all along; the condition was all in her head; it was a trick. We don’t look for God’s possibilities in this healing.
We are called by God to gather here for worship and education and inspiration. We are called to be here to know Christ. We are also called to go out from here and make Christ known. We find it hard to believe that God can reach others through us. We fail to look for God’s possibilities in our story-telling. We don’t look for God’s possibilities in growing the congregation with more people who want to know Jesus Christ.
We know we should give more to the ministries of Hope, but we know our finances are finite. We have accounted for every penny, and there is nothing extra to give as offering. We don’t believe that God can multiply our money. We never look for God’s possibilities in our wallets.
On the other hand, some people have looked at God’s possibilities and taken action based on the hope that God would be with them.
About 3,000 years, Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint a king to take Saul’s place. David was the youngest, the least likely candidate, but God saw possibilities in him his family did not see.
In the 1940s, doctors dreamed of a way to not just remove cataracts but to replace the lenses with new ones. Today, it’s a quick surgery with few complications.
In the 1960s, Martin Luther King and many others dreamed of a world in which people are seen for the spirit behind the color of their skin.
In the 1970s, the Lutheran Church in America Board of Missions looked at this area and committed to building a congregation here. Over the years, Hope has grown and shrunk and grown and shrunk. It is time for us to be committed to helping people know Jesus, and to helping them discover that he is present and active here among and within us. Let us open our eyes to God’s possibilities!
One more thing. In a few minutes, we will offer anointing for healing. I pray that you will come forward with the belief that it is possible for God to heal you or someone you pray for.
Please pray with me. God of possibilities, sometimes we dare to hope you will heal us, grow faith inside us, and cause miracles to happen.