Healed and Sent
Every Tuesday there’s a pastor’s bible study group I attend on zoom. We take turns leading it and this week the leader invited a friend of hers who is a retired Lutheran pastor who himself is a man born blind. He shared with us that John 9 (what we just read) is a challenging passage for blind people and what makes it even more challenging is how people so often use blindness as a metaphor for sin. Most bibles even have a section of this chapter titled “spiritual blindness” even though Jesus does not explicitly use that term. Rather than seeing this as an allegory of spiritual blindness, this pastor encouraged us to see this as a story where healing leads this formerly blind man to become a disciple with purpose. He goes from being a beggar on the street to a man with a mission. Because of Jesus’ healing touch, the man now has a sense of purpose and meaning, newfound confidence and self-esteem. He even has the courage to speak to the religious authorities and be a witness for Jesus, even though it leads to him being driven out.
To me, the fact that this is an accurate interpretation becomes crystal clear when he notices that the name Siloam means “Sent”. The man is “Sent” from the place of his healing. It seems the Gospel writer John wants us to understand this passage is about how a healing leads this man to being sent, leads him to empowerment and discipleship. Leads him to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
While it is also clear that the religious authorities misunderstand what God is doing in Jesus, instead of focusing on how we get it and they don’t, it’s important for us to recognize what this story should inspire in us. We see how this healing transforms the man born blind in a way that goes beyond physical healing. He is also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually transformed. He is empowered to be a disciple, sent out to be an apostle sharing what God has done for him. This invites us to reflect on how Jesus has healed and empowered us in our own lives. Whether or not we’ve experienced miraculous physical healing ourselves, this text invites us to consider how Jesus has transformed and empowered us. And it invites us to call on God for that empowerment and transformation that we may be sent out as well.
Some of you may remember last year during Lent we had a series on “Unbinding the Gospel.” We studied a book focused on modern day evangelism for Mainline Protestants. The author, who is a pastor named Martha, says that the key to sharing our faith is not going door to door trying to frighten people with the threat of hell. But rather, real evangelism is the simple sharing of God’s activity in your life. Sharing how God in Christ has transformed you. Sharing how we have been healed and changed and empowered. How we have been given meaning and purpose. How we have had our lives transformed by Jesus.
Pastor Martha says that sharing our faith stories with people who we’re already close to, like family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, is the core of real evangelism. To start, Pastor Martha says we should prayerfully ask ourselves: what is it about Christianity that has changed our lives? Then, once we understand how God has healed or changed or transformed us, we practice articulating that to ourselves. Maybe in front of the mirror or to a supportive spouse or friend. Once we can articulate our faith story well, then we can pray for opportunities to share it. And for the Holy Spirit to help us recognize those opportunities when they come. We don’t need to force it; life will certainly provide us with plenty of chances. And when the opportunity presents itself, we’ll be ready to share why our faith is important to us.
I’m reminded of that well-balanced type of evangelism when I read this passage. Because that is exactly what the man born blind does. He is transformed by Jesus and then he courageously shares his experience. So too in our lives, we may have experienced healing, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. And maybe we’ve been so changed that we desire to share our story too.
But maybe we’re in a place where we still need healing. Maybe we’re in a place where we can’t feel God’s presence and love. Maybe we’re trapped in grief or bitterness. Maybe we’re currently walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Maybe we’re currently praying for a miracle, for healing, for courage and strength. In those times, I hope you find strength in this story and in the beloved Psalm 23 we read earlier this morning. A psalm that reveals the promise that no matter what we are going through, God is walking with us. No matter how much doubt or uncertainty. No matter how much pain or suffering. No matter how much guilt or shame. Still, God is with us in the darkest valley. God is our shepherd through it all. Guiding us, leading us, carrying us when we need it most. And also, strengthening us and empowering us, eventually bringing us out of the dark valley into healing and new life.
And so maybe you’ve already been healed and transformed. Or maybe you are still waiting for God to bring you out of the dark valley. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between, living a manageable life while patiently waiting for spiritual wholeness. Whatever your situation, know that Jesus Christ is with you.
As he healed the man born blind and gave him purpose and mission, confidence, and a calling, so too does Jesus heal us and call us to be light for the world. To embody God’s goodness and love in our lives. To manifest the kingdom in all we do. Thanks be to God for the One who opened the eyes of the blind man. The One who heals and transforms us. The One who heals and transforms the world.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.