“The blue sky above never leaves”

John 9:1-41(Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14)

He was walking along, minding his own business.  Jesus was strolling.  It starts as simply as that.  But, that’s often the way that profound changes come, isn’t it?  I bumped into a Lutheran pastor in my hometown in Scotland who was visiting from Chicago.  Four years later I married a woman I met in Chicago; and now we’re at St. Armands Key Lutheran Church.  You have, or know, similar stories I’m sure.

The account of the miracle of Jesus giving sight to the man who was blind is pretty concise and straightforward.  But that’s the point: this is a sign, and signs point to something larger, more important than themselves.  The detailed story that flows out of the miracle is interesting.  But, it too points to something deeper (and more interesting) than a back-and-forth between the Pharisees and the man who was formerly blind and his parents.  (Jesus even disappears from the story from verse 7 all the way to verse 35!)

There are greater, deeper things revealed by this Gospel text:

Life turns on a dime.

The man is healed through grace: he doesn’t ask to be healed – it is a gratuitous act of love on Jesus’ part.

Sin is not the cause of illness or disease.

The infirmity of the man is taken by God and worked for the good – in this case as a sign.

Religious traditions, such as the Sabbath Law, are secondary to the working out of God’s love.

The blind man heard Jesus before he saw him: he heard, and trusted the word he heard.

First the man heard the voice, then saw the man (Jesus), then saw/believed that he was from God.

Just beyond this week’s text (10:1-21) Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd, whose voice the sheep recognize, trust and follow (discipleship).

Trusting the word led to the restoration of sight.  Apparently believing is seeing, not the other way around! 

Seeing is revealed to be a spiritual sight: it is recognizing Jesus for who he is.

In the words of one scholar, “As a sign that He is the Light, Jesus gives sight to the blind man” (Raymond Brown).

Do you remember how it was only a few weeks ago that we first began to hear about a novel virus discovered in China?  A small bottle of hand sanitizer was the only addition to our shopping lists.  And now, we’re experiencing social distancing.  In-person worship has ended; schools are canceled; the Dow is in freefall.  

Some rogues on television are saying that this is a punishment from God.  Yet we learn that, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned” (vs. 3).  Some wonder if the danger we face is worth the cancelation of in-person worship.  Yet we read, “Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes… Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath” (vs. 14 and 16).  All around us, dark clouds seem to be gathering.  Yet Jesus promises, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (vs. 5).  And, many ask where is God’s love? Yet we hear the eternal promise, “… the sheep hear his [the shepherd’s] voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:3, 11, 14-15).  

People of faith – looking at the world and at life through the eyes of faith – live with a profound hope, resting in a profound truth: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23).  This hope, this faith, this love, this light, is what underlies a statement such as that found in the book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy: “Those are dark clouds,” said the boy.  “Yes, but they will move on,” said the horse, “the blue sky above never leaves”
Pastor Kenneth Blyth