4th Sunday in Lent – How to See

1  Samuel 16:1-13 ; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5: 8-14.
John 9:1-41

Jesus taught far and wide, and by all accounts also did amazing healings.  It was a key part of what made him famous in Galilee. While he was traveling with the disciples they saw a man born blind, and asked, “Who committed the sin that caused this?” Jesus answered by saying no one’s sin caused it, but then turned the question around. To Jesus, it was an opportunity to show what God is up to. Let’s see… some spit, some mud, packed onto his eyes. But the last step was for the blind man to do: the God-Sent One sent the blind man to a pool of water named Sent.  He went, and he could see! Of course, this was life-changing news!

People saw this, and brought him to the Jewish leaders for them to see for themselves.  But they knew full well what this meant: someone else had the authority from God that they were claiming.  So they excommunicated him, threw him out of the Jewish community.  But all this guy knows is that he can see, and that could only be done by someone who had the power of God behind him.

Jesus heard about this, and was not going to abandon him in this hour of need. So he got up close and personal once again, seeking him out. And it is here that Jesus lets the formerly-blind outcast in on the same secret he revealed to the outcast woman at the well: that He is the One foretold, the One sent to rescue the people.

People can see, but have no vision. People can see, but refuse to believe it, even with evidence. The closed mind might as well be blind, for all the good seeing does it.

Lord Jesus, giver of all good things, give us eyes to see and ears to hear.  Make what we learn from our senses burn its way into us, and let the Spirit teach us you ways through it. Amen.

A challenge: When Jesus heard what the religious leaders had done to the man born blind, he went out to find him. Have you had occasion to give personal support to one who was wrongly accused?  Is there anyone now in your life that’s in that situation?

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Palm Sunday: Proceed, Without Caution

(In a downloadable mp3 form, too.)

Save Us!
Matthew 21:1-17

This was a strange procession. A guy on a donkey. (No doubt the scoffers likened him to that poor animal.) Tagging along with him were a bunch of fishermen, rural herdsmen, and even (shudder) a taxman. A crowd, mostly of just plain folks, got into it. They’d apparently heard about this Jesus of Galilee (v. 11), and had a high regard for him. Maybe this was the man who’d save them from the hands of the Roman conquerors. Maybe this was the man who’d save them from the effects of a chasm that set the keepers of the Temple system apart from the ordinary Jew. Maybe this was the man who’d save them from their own frustration and loss of hope in the God who chose them.

So they laid palm branches before him as he went in, and cried out to their (potential) hero, “Save us!”

And His first deeds took him along that course just fine, too. He goes to the Temple grounds, to the money changers and the salesmen. It was a real need within a sacrificial system to have ritually-clean animals available to those whose raw poverty or citified lifestyle let them have none of their own. But what happened is the same thing that always happens when the customer is powerless to argue: not only does the price go up, but a system is created to extract more through the exchange of currency. Jesus struck at this about as directly as he could, as part of a sort of ‘Occupy Temple’ action. His more important strike at the sacrificial system was that Jesus could deliver what the system could only promise. But no one noticed that, at least not yet.

Then, Jesus did the sort of thing He had always done: He went around the Temple area preaching and healing the sick. These people must’ve gathered there desperately in the belief that the God who lived in the Temple might heal them.  Instead, the God who lived among them healed them. And children came out, continuing to call on the heroic descendant of David, “Save us! Save us!” They all had been without hope for so long.

If they only knew just how big a task it would be to save them. Or how far God would go to make it happen. The cries of praise would give way to the call for blood, and it would be shed. But not just yet. The original Palm Sunday was time to celebrate what could be.

Father, you have indeed heard the cries of your people, and answered them in an unexpected way. Help us to bear witness to what you have done. Amen.

A challenge: think for a while about what God can heal in you and in the world immediately around you. Try focusing away from your own personal behaviors, at least this time; what else is there?

Bob Longman