The magnificent story of the healing of the man born blind occupies the whole of chapter 9 of St John’s gospel – although the miracle itself only takes two verses to tell; the controversy around the healing takes the other 39 verses. The first question that arises and which continues through the drama as it unfolds is – who is to blame for this? Who sinned? There was a very clear teaching in the Torah about sin and its consequences and so there must obviously be someone to blame for this man’s affliction. The must have realised that it was a bit rich to blame the poor man, since this is the way he was born – so did his parents sin? Where does the buck stop? If only the church and the christian community had taken on board the teaching of Jesus here: “Neither he nor his parents sinned.” How much grief would be avoided if we stopped looking for causes and blame for so many things in our world, and just got on with fixing them instead? But the discussion about sin is not yet finished, because we soon discover that this sixth sign in the Gospel of John happens on a Sabbath day, so that gives cause to the Pharisees accusing Jesus as a sinner for working on the holy day (creating the paste with the dirt and spittle). But what really is sin? Is it just breaking random commandments – or is it something deeper? Perhaps a definition that I read this week might shed more light on this area of darkness: the culpable disturbance of shalom. The Lord intends that we experience a world that is based in Shalom – peace, wholeness, blessing. We know that so many things disturb this shalom, and the blindness of this man is an example of this. The wonderful thing is that after the healing, the man begins to journey from physical sight to spiritual sight as he slowly ponders about who this man Jesus is that he brings such restoration.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 5.30pm (9’39”)
Sunday 4, Lent, Year A. John 9:1-41.
This insight on sin is contained in a blog series by Rob Bell called ‘What is the Bible?’, which I have published in book form on my website.