Sermon: Those Who Would Not See

The late Marcus Borg, a well known New Testament scholar and theologian, once wrote that American Indians would often begin a story by saying: “Now I’m not sure all of this happened this way, but I know it is all true.”

“The Story of the Man Born Blind” in the Gospel of John is the story of a community cast aside. They were thrown out: unseen, unheard, unwanted. They were rejected by those whom they loved; and who they thought loved them in return.  

Please join with me in prayer…

Lord God, fill each of us with your presence this morning. Open your Word to us. Enable me to clearly communicate all that you intend for us to receive. Help us attain new and deeper revelations of your unconditional, living, and infinite love. And through that love, may we better learn how to embody your Gospel. Living it in all that we do, think, speak, and are. And, through the Body of Christ, enable us to better fulfill your plan: preaching your Gospel to all. 

In Jesus Name, Amen.  

The Gospel of John differs from the other Gospels. It has a unique narrative and perspective. We know it was first written down a few years after the first Jewish Rebellion against Rome (66-73CE), long after the other three Gospels. 

The present text attained its current form decades later; after some additions and much editing. It was probably written and edited by Gentile believers in Ephesus, in Asia Minor. The other three Gospels are thought to have been written by Jewish believers in Israel and perhaps Egypt.  

It was a dark time. The Jewish rebellion had failed. Much of Israel was laid waste. The temple and Jerusalem were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Jews had been slaughtered or enslaved. The remnants of Rome’s fury remain even today. Rev. Tom talked about seeing some of that destruction himself, during his recent visit to the ruins of Masada.  

Jesus’ followers considered themselves a Jewish sect. But, they were not always accepted as such by their neighbors. They were very different, especially those who lived outside of Israel itself. 

For one thing, they accepted Gentiles as equals, which was unheard of. For another, they saw the Holy Spirit as their temple, not some fancy building in Jerusalem. 

While clearly Jewish in their faith, many or most were not Jewish by descent. They did not have deep connections to Jewish history, or culture, or faith.   

Because of this divergence from those born into the faith of Moses, Christians did not join the Jews in rebellion against Rome. Many saw this a betrayal, as proof of their non-Jewishness. In their eyes, these Christians, even those born Jewish, were not Jews at all.

Up until this time, many Jewish communities throughout the Empire shared their synagogues with their Christian neighbors. Even so, many Jews did not believe Gentiles should be welcomed as full members of the community. And so, did not allow them to participate fully in the life of the synagogues.

The Christian movement’s growing Gentile presence, combined with the resentments from by the rebellion, created an increasing distance between the two groups. This led to the pain of the expulsion. 

All this is foundational to John’s story. He wrote a metaphoric allegory of that split: chronicling and defining the emergence of Christianity as a distinct religion.    

A critical event in that split is documented in this morning’s reading. John writes: “…The Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.” The expulsion of Christians was already underway, or very recent, at the time of this story.  

I’m sure it was painful for nearly everyone. Many Gentile believers had joined the faith, in spite of rejection and condemnation from their own non-Christian families and friends. Through Jesus, they’d finally found a home in the synagogues, after years of resistance from some Jews; but now they were being expelled from their new spiritual homes and families, too.  

For the Messiah’s believers of Jewish extraction, they’d lost access to their entire culture. They were being rejected by the community that had birthed them; often cut off even from their families of origin. They would never again be able to enter a Jewish House of God.  

Finally, many of those who remained in the synagogues were hurting as well, having lost loved ones to this new faith; and perhaps having a hard time processing their own complicity in the tragedy.

Whether Jew or Gentile, those who confessed Jesus as the Messiah were now outcasts. They’d been heartlessly cast adrift. They did not know what the future would bring. As far as their former friends and families were concerned, they were now invisible. They felt like they had lost everything for their faith. …Hard facts, but is it all Truth?  

John didn’t think so. He wrote to help his fellow Christians, deeply wounded by this loss and separation. He was not concerned with literal fact, but with Spiritual Truth. He was determined to give his audience hope, healing, and a path to the abundant life promised by God.  

At the beginning of our reading, John says: “Jesus was walking along and saw a man blind from birth.” OK, no big deal. Blind beggars were a common sight in that time and place.

Then his disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Presumably, they saw the man, but the passage does not actually say that. Instead, it says they asked Jesus who had sinned to cause his blindness.  

The disciples only saw the man through their own preconceptions. They saw his blindness, they did not see him. …They saw a caricature of a blind man. They did not see the real, living, suffering, human being right there in front of them.

John uses this man as a metaphor for the state of his own people before they first encountered Jesus. The Disciples are also a metaphor, for those Jews who believed but were still learning how to see as Jesus did.  

As Jesus passes by, the blind man doesn’t call out. He has no knowledge of Jesus’ presence, let alone who Jesus is.  But, Jesus sees him. The disciples see a caricature. And, the blind man – since he’s blind – sees nothing.  

Then, Jesus heals him. The Blind man still hasn’t spoken. He has not asked for healing, and still does not know who is before him. Actually, we don’t even know that he’s healed yet. He does not begin to see until he does as Jesus directed: to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.  

This is significant. The Pool of Siloam was the source of water the Temple Priests used for their ritual bathing. Water is also a sign of the Holy Spirit, which is why we use water for Baptisms, 2000 years later.

In fact, in thinking about it, Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed at this point. So, Siloam is lost. It is not available to the priests. Even the Temple is no longer accessible to them. And yet, water cannot be destroyed: it remains. So that water, and therefore the Holy Spirit, are still here.

John is telling his audience that despite their expulsion, the Holy Spirit is still available to them. It comes from the same source they share with the Jews: from their love of, and relationship with, God.

Washing in that pool allows the blind man to see. The Holy Spirit is what enables John’s people to see. Through it, they are just as able to perform the work of God as any prophet. John is telling us that their ministry – and ours – is just as valid as that of any Priest, or Rabbi, or Minister.  

The authorities cannot accept that the one who had once been blind can now see. Just like the Gentiles are not accepted for sharing the faith of the Jews. The authorities question whether the blind man can see, they do not believe until they have no other option.  Then, they turn to denying the source of that healing.  

And here we see the most explicit statement of the fear of expulsion I mentioned earlier. When questioned by the authorities, the man’s own parents refuse to answer. They say “Ask him, he is of age.” They throw their own son under the bus (well, I guess it would actually be a chariot) out of fear of being expelled themselves.

When the leaders finally accept he who was blind can now see, they demand he give credit to Moses, not to Jesus. The Blind Man refuses.  

And here is the crescendo of the story: the blind man has been given sight. He now sees, and sees in a spiritual sense, too. He says to them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?   

Oooh. That was a low blow. We know how the leaders will react to that. The Blind Man knew that very well, too. He knew the court he faced had already judged him and predetermined his sentence. John’s audience knew this, too. …I imagine they relished hearing that line.

The leaders react exactly as everyone expected. They say, “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”   

Think about this. They knew full well who Jesus was and where he came from. They knew his teaching. But, they are denying Jesus’ Jewishness. They say he doesn’t come from them. They are denying their own relationship with him. They refuse to see him as a Jew. 

So, now they can reject everything about him. They can reject his teaching, and his disciples. They’ve created a new fact for themselves that allows them to not see what they don’t want to deal with: willful blindness. But is that Truth? No. 

The leaders drive the man out of their presence, just as Christians were driven from the synagogues. John’s audience knew the pain of that man. But, now they knew he walked out of that Court of the Blind in victory. He had become a man who knew Jesus. A man filled with the Holy Spirit. A man who could see. 

And so this morning’s lesson draws to a close. We all are sometimes confronted with uncomfortable facts that fly in the face of all we thought we knew. We all fail to measure up. We all are often blind, willfully or not, to the pain, loss, and grief, that others experience. But, we have that common Spirit which binds us together as one. We have each other. We have God. It is the Love of God, made manifest through our own ministries, that heals the ills of this world, and the pains and losses within our own lives and in the lives of those we love.  

Now, I’m not sure this story happened exactly the way John wrote it down, but I know it is all true.  


Scripture Readings:

John 9:1-7,18-34 – Jesus Heals The the Man Who Was Born Blind

Delivered at Memorial Congregational Church UCC in Sudbury MA, March 19, 2023: (Lent, Week 4)

Copyright 2023, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Author: Allen

A would-be historian turned IT Professional who responded to the call to the Ministry, and is now focused on social justice and community service. He is the proud father of a daughter and son, and enjoys life with his wife near Boston. You can follow Pastor Allen on Facebook at

Contribute to the discussion... (All Comments are Moderated)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: