“Asking Different Questions”

Mar 20, 2023

The Scripture

John 9:8-41


The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am he.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “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.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see may see and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.


The Sermon

This morning our theme of Seeking takes us to ask the question, “Who Sinned?” It’s an innocent question that arrives out of one’s desire to understand how this world works and at the same time is arrives out of one’s own fears and worries about why things go awry, why bad things happen, and in our passage this morning we are faced with a specific question of why a baby is born blind. What is the cause of this? As we hear this passage, we must remember that medical care, illness, and disabilities were thought of in a whole different way in those days. There were no scientists doing genetic workups or treatment options that are available today. The search to find meaning in devastating situations leads to asking judgmental questions…trying to blame someone, or something.

There is so much here is this story. A man born blind who now sees, questions being asked by the disciples, by the Jews, by the Pharisees. Questions being asked to the blind man, to the blind man parents, to the blind man again. We must not miss why these questions are being asked. For the disciples the questions are to justify why a person is born blind, maybe to ease their own anxiety about why things like this happen…for the Jews and Pharisees the questions have an underlying intention of setting a trap by which to discredit Jesus, to stop this movement that he has created; a movement changing lives and giving sight to the hearts of God’s blind people, sight to hearts so to see God with a new vision.

The questions we ask one another tell us a lot about ourselves, our perspective and what we believe about God and how God works in the world. Our commentary for this passage, Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow says, “We turn genuine struggles of the human condition into solvable formulas of cause and effect, which then gets warped into the idea that if something bad is happening to us, it is because God has determined that we deserve it”. Or maybe we start thinking we’re God and judge and believe that THEY deserve it, they are the cause of their own suffering. Do we really believe God works this way? And do we really want to live out our faith this way? The disciples thought sin caused this blindness but then they are just learning about who God really is, how God really works in and through Jesus who is standing before them, putting mud on eyes and giving sight to the blind. We too fall into this trap and ask the wrong questions, wrong questions based on this false reality of how God works in this world. We quickly determine why certain things happen to people. With no probing, no deep pondering, no searching for an expansive perspective, we know how this world works and we are certain. It is a rigid mindset that keeps us isolated from others, a mindset that prevents empathy and compassion entering into the relationships we have with one another. Reyes-Chow describes this rigid stance this way, “We know what we know and nothing you do or say will change our minds.” It doesn’t have to be this way!

You and me, we can ask different questions, better questions and it starts with learning more about this amazing, life giving God that we worship. The One who puts mud on eyes and gives sight to the blind. The One who leads with love, and compassion, forgiving and accepting all who come to believe in him. Knowing God in this way, allows us to ask different questions which then prompt us into action rather than remaining locked down with judgementalism and false assumptions. So, let’s explore some examples, “We know people are poor because…? What is your immediate answer? They are lazy, they don’t want to work, they are uneducated, they are satisfied to live on government subsidies. Maybe we should be asking questions like, how can I help you, do you need assistance filling out job applications, college application, do you need help with transportation? Or here is another situation, a person is diagnosed with lung cancer. Again, often people will ask this question. Did they smoke? A question that judges a person and places the blame on them…so unhelpful, so uncaring. We could ask, can I prepare a meal for you, or do you need help getting to the doctor? Hospital?

God calls us to deeper connections with one another that begin by asking different questions, questions that show our concern, questions what show compassion and caring. We need to wash the mud out of our own eyes so we can see clearly how our questions can lead to disconnection and judgementalism or to connection and love. We can ask better questions!  Amen