“God does not give you more than you can handle.” Of all the pious platitudes pursed from the lips of well-intentioned believers, this one is simply bull!
The assumption by the disciples is that God willingly afflicted the blind man in today’s Gospel lesson. “Lord who sinned that this man was born blind his parents or did he do something wrong while he was in the womb?” They believed that because of some sin or another, God struck this man blind as punishment.
Let’s get this straight-God does not inflict sickness or suffering on us. And when we are sick and/or suffering often times it is much more than we can handle. My personal testimony this morning is that in the last year, I have gone through much more than anyone could handle.
How do we know that God does not inflict disaster and pain on us? The basis, the bedrock, and the embedded belief of our faith is that we know how God acts, and thinks and behaves because we know how Jesus acts and thinks and behaves.
Jesus never once inflicted sickness or misery on anyone. In fact, this fullness of God did exactly the opposite, showing beyond any doubt that God’s desire, God’s will, is for us to live healthy and whole lives.
The Gospel of John begins by saying that the Creating word from the beginning of time has become flesh and lives among us. God among us, From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
And then John goes on in the rest of the book to tell us what Grace upon grace looks like: Today's Gospel is one such teaching.
Jesus answers the disciples by saying: "Neither this one sinned nor his parents but that the works of God might be manifest in him. We must work the works of the one who sent me...." It has a sense that he wasn’t born blind because of something done, rather, he is blind because we are not doing anything about it.
Furthermore, Jesus goes on to demonstrate that the man’s blindness is not the issue but the actions and reactions of others is the problem.
The blind man has been cast out of the religious and social community because the religious leaders and the religious followers thought him cursed. They relegated him to a life of begging, they excluded him from the temple, he was banned from a full and vibrant life. In fact, he was banned from life. He was among the living dead-those who live but aren’t allowed to have life.
Which brings us to a catechism moment. Luther wrote about the 5th commandment-Thou shall not kill “We are to fear and love God so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs.”
This is clearly not the case for this man, that is until Jesus steps in.
So Jesus takes some dirt, adds one part saliva, and thus begins the sign. He spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes.
This may seem like an inconsequential, if not a little odd, detail in this story but there is more there than meets the eye… Best PUN of the sermon!
The Hebrew word for mud is Adam. Ring a bell? G-d’s first act of love for humanity is to get the holy hands dirty by reaching into the mud and molding humanity.
Jesus is demonstrating that we are created to have whole lives in full community with one another and with God. In this act of new creation, this second genesis, Jesus welcomes the man back to life.
However, the welcoming was not welcomed by the religious leaders who preferred not to have their prejudice exposed and their authority in such matters questioned.
Every time Jesus shows a sign of how it is that G-d works, the religious people get more upset. Finally, we will see in the last sign of this Gospel, the raising of Lazarus, that they just can’t take it anymore, all this loving people stuff and undermining their authority-they have had enough and begin the scheme of having him crucified.
It must be underscored that this man’s life was not really a life at all. First of all Jesus approaches the blind man and not the other way around. And at the end of the reading Jesus finds the man born blind and makes him part of a new community. One that values him for who he is and not how he was born.
When you are left for dead, you don’t have to worry about finding Jesus… Jesus will find you.
Wandering through the wildernesses of life without a hope without a prayer, without a vision, that is when Jesus sees you-finds you.
I came in order that you may have life, says Jesus, and have it now. A man ostracized from his community and left to beg is embraced by the loving God whose only judgment is to bring us life abundantly and life abundantly now. For G-d so loved the world.
The hymn we are going to sing now was written by a former slave trader whose blindness to the plight of others separated him from the life God intended for him. The response to Jesus finding him was a total change in his life. He worked to end slavery and free those under its bondage. Let’s sing it like we mean it! Let’s sing it like Jesus found us. Amen!