When someone joins the church they are asked some very personal questions, like “Do you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?”
This week, we have a story of a man born blind. We see them there, two men, one who sees everything and the other who has never seen anything and the disciples are intent on finding out why. So they ask a question that tells us they suffer from their own form of blindness.
Jesus wasn’t much interested in any of that. What he wanted, when he came face to face with that man who had never seen a thing in this world, was to open his eyes. I suppose Jesus could have stood by the man and speculated why this man was blind. “There has to be a reason,” he might say. But no reason will make the man whole. No reason will make it O.K. Jesus prefers to heal. Oh for a world with more healing and less judgment!
When someone joins the church they are asked some very personal questions, like “Do you acknowledge yourself as a child of God, an object of God’s love?” which is another way of asking, “Do you know that God wants you to see?” They say “yes.” And then we pray a prayer of thanks and celebrate.
The man was blind. They say he was blind from birth. He had never seen the first thing in this world, not a tree, not a sunset, not the face of his mother. But Jesus, the one who sees everything, kneels with him and, with mud from the earth, covers his eyes and tells him to wash in the pool, and did you catch the name of that pool? He tells him to go and wash in a pool called Sent. The man follows his instructions, and this man blind from takes the first step on the journey to seeing everything. And that’s what gets him into so much trouble.
It seems to me only fair to speak truthfully and let all of you know that grace can ruin you. The touch of God in your life, the opening of your eyes, can ruin you. Maybe you already know this, maybe its news. Either way I feel its only fair to tell you so you can be prepared for that.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his amazing book, The Cost of Discipleship says, “No doubt that often, being a Christian and living the life of Christ is a great comfort, a rudder of direction to guide in choppy water, an anchor of stability in a world where things are always shifting. There is something comforting being with these people, singing these hymns, praying these prayers.” That is nice isn’t it? Like warm honey. Yet I imagine you know good ole Dietrich has a “But” in mind and indeed he does. “But this story reminds us that the cost of discipleship is sometimes paid in discomfort, in being out of step with the world, in being less secure than before, a disjuncture which may lead to being crossed off by friends and rejected by loved ones.”
So it was with the man born blind. The religious leaders of his day began to ask questions. They asked questions like the disciples asked, questions that tell us more about what they know than anything else. Their questions tell us that Jesus had broken the Torah because he healed on the Sabbath, because that was the day to talk about blindness. It was no day for doing anything about it.
The healing touch of Jesus had given this man the vision of trees and sunsets, and the face of his mother. But what he saw in her face was rejection. “Don’t ask us if Jesus is a sinner; ask the kid, he was the one healed.” Before he sees his first sunset, the man born blind is rejected by his family, distanced by his friends and kicked out of the synagogue. Grace can do that to you.
So we ask questions when people want to join the church, questions like, “Do you trust in him?”
But don’t be discouraged, for this is much more than a story of a man who finally sees the flowers or the color of the Pharisees’ robes. This is a story of a man who begins to see things as Jesus sees them; he begins to see everything.
“Where is he?” the neighbors ask. “Where is Jesus?” “I don’t know,” is his response, “I don’t know.” He is surrounded by so many who seem to know so much. “He is a sinner,” the Pharisees says. “He is a prophet,” the seeing man replies. “But he is a sinner,” the Pharisees says. “This I do not know,” the man replies. “What I know is once I was blind, but now I see.”
“What did he do?” they ask. “I have told you already,” replies the seeing man. “Do you wish to become his disciple too?”
The Pharisees decide to throw him out of the synagogue. The cost of discipleship. The cost of grace. And so when someone joins the church they are asked some very personal questions, like, “Do you desire to be a member of this congregation and with us seek to serve God?”
After he is banned from the synagogue, Jesus finds him again. “I am the Son of Man, the one who brings God’s new day.” And this man falls down and worships Jesus. He sees him as he really is. He is the only one in John’s gospel who worships Jesus, who sees him as he really is.
This is not a story primarily about restoration of a retina. It is a story about seeing your world, seeing your life, or today we if you are joining the church we might ask you the question, “Do you affirm your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?” Or to phrase it another way: “Do you see him?”
Fred Craddock tells the story of Glen Adsit. Glenn Adsit was a missionary in China. He was under house arrest in China when the soldiers came one day and said, “You can return to America. You can take two hundred pounds with you.” Well, they’d been there for years. How could they reduce their belongings to two hundred pounds? They got the scales and started the family arguments. “I must have this vase.” “Well, this is a new typewriter.” “What about my books?” “What about this?” They weighed everything and took this item off and weighed that and took another item off and finally, right on the dot, two hundred pounds. The soldier asked, “Ready to go?” “Yes,” Adsit replied. “Did you weigh everything?” “Yes.” “You weighed the kids?” “No, we didn’t.” “Weigh the kids,” the soldier commanded. And in a moment, typewriter and vase and all became trash.
We are in a time that invites us to see what is real. So be careful because what you will see has the potential of setting you at odds with the world. The eyes of Christ will show you forgiveness, when the world says to get even. Through his eyes you will see love, when the world says to forget about everybody but yourself. He will reveal generosity, when the world calls you to hoard. He will call you to help and serve, when the world will call you to take care of yourself.
Follow Christ will invite you down a path of strange living, of sometimes unreasonable caring and endless serving. There will be costs, so much so that you may wonder why in the world you chose this life of discipleship. Which is why, when someone joins the church, they are asked some very personal questions.
I want you to read the story again and look at who is alive in it, I mean really alive. The disciples are lost in their questions. The Pharisees are threatened and angry. The parents are afraid. But the man born blind has seen something that has given him a new day. He wouldn’t miss it for anything. His eyes have been opened but not just to see. It is almost as if Jesus put his own eyes in his head. He sees the world as Jesus sees it. It’s easy to miss, but when you see it, no matter the cost, the only thing to do is step into it.