Dn. Chris's Sermon on the Sunday of the Blind Man
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Lord Jesus was coming from the Temple on the Sabbath, when He saw the blind man mentioned in today's Gospel while walking on the way. This man had been born without eyes, according to the writings of Church Fathers such as Saint Irenaeus, Saint John Chrysostom, and Saint Basil the Great. When the disciples saw this, they asked their Teacher, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" They asked this because when the Lord had healed the paralytic at the Sheep's Pool, He had told him, "Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you" so they wondered, if sickness was caused by sin, what sin could have been the cause of his being born without eyes. But the Lord answered that neither the man nor his parents had sinned to cause this condition, but it was for the glory of God. Then the God-man spat on the ground and made clay with the spittle. He anointed the eyes of the blind man and said to him, "Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam." Siloam (which means "sent") was a well-known spring in Jerusalem used by the inhabitants for its waters, which flowed to the eastern side of the city and collected in a large pool called "the Pool of Siloam."
Therefore, the Savior sent the blind man to this pool that he might wash his eyes, which had been anointed with the clay-not that the pool's water had such power, but that the faith and obedience of the one sent might be made manifest, and that the miracle might become more remarkable and known to all, and leave no room for doubt. Thus, the blind man believed in Jesus' words, obeyed His command, went and washed himself, and returned, no longer blind, but having eyes and seeing. This was the greatest miracle that our Lord had yet worked; as the man healed of his blindness himself testified, "Since time began, never was it heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind." Because he now had eyes, some of the locals even doubted that he was the same person; and this miracle was still fresh in their minds when Christ would later come to the tomb of Lazarus, and they would say, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have caused that even this man should not have died?"
The Gospel says, "They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes." According to His Grace Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos, "the miracle now becomes a cause for scandal, because it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and anointed the eyes of the blind man." The reference to the Sabbath by John the Evangelist as the day of the healing indicated the evil intentions of the interrogators to use it as an excuse. Thus, the formerly blind man is led to the Pharisees, not to officially confirm the healing, but to malign the miracle as a violation of the Law. Some of the Pharisees raised doubts about the miracle and with malicious envy condemned Jesus as not being a man of God, since he did not observe the Sabbath. But some other of the Pharisees asked themselves: How is it possible for a sinful man to be doing such marvelous signs? So there was a division among the Pharisees.
The Pharisees who envied Jesus sought now to learn the opinion of the formerly blind man about Jesus and the cause of his healing. Despite the objections and the fear of the Pharisees, the formerly blind man confessed with boldness and said that Jesus is a prophet – that is, a man immersed in the spirit of God – since his word expresses the will of God and since he is endowed with divine authority to do such wondrous signs. The Jews who did not want to believe in Christ also did not want to believe the testimony of the formerly blind man, nor even the authenticity of the miracle. They now sought additional information even from the parents, whom they interrogated, saying, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" The parents feared the Jewish leaders and were cautious. They do confess that the man in question is their son and that he was indeed born blind. But even though they are absolutely certain that he has been healed, they do not express an opinion as to how he was healed and who healed him.
Bishop Gerasimos points out that John the Evangelist is making an interesting observation here that the parents feared the Jewish leaders because they had already agreed among themselves to cut off from their synagogue anyone who would confess Jesus as the Christ. This observation is a foreshadowing of a later period of time in the early Church, when the first Jewish Christians would be cut off from their synagogues. The Pharisees called for a second time the formerly blind man, and this time they changed their tactics and told him to give the glory to God for the miracle of his healing, and not to Jesus. The Jews emphasized again that Jesus was a sinner because he did not observe the Sabbath. The healed man did not go along with the presumed sinfulness of Jesus and re-emphasized the miracle by saying, "One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see!"
The Pharisees once again began to question him about how his eyes were opened. By now the bad faith of the Pharisees was obvious, and the formerly blind man, with greater boldness, refused to repeat his narrative and questioned them; Why do you want to hear it again? Do you too want to become his disciples? This rhetorical question of the formerly blind man to the Pharisees presupposes as a known fact that Jesus has disciples and that the healed man now considers himself to be one of them. The Pharisees were offended by the boldness of the man and began to mock him. You are a disciple of Jesus, they said, but we are disciples of Moses. They emphasized strongly the presumed opposition between Moses and Christ, whereas they should have discerned the harmonious symphony between them. They do not discern that Christ fulfills and completes what Moses commanded and foretold, even though it was the duty of these self-professed disciples of Moses to examine every possible indication for the manifestation of the long-awaited Messiah.
The healed man continues to defend Jesus and expound on the uniqueness of the miracle that just occurred. The Pharisees respond by condemning him as a sinner from birth, and casting him out of the synagogue. It is obvious that the Pharisees do not really have any profound interest in searching for the truth about Christ. For them, the Law condemned Christ as a violator of the Law, as a sinner. The Law brings the curse, and Christ frees man from the curse of the Law, as St. Paul says in his pastoral letter to the Galatians. The person of Christ, who brings the grace of light, of life, of truth, and of salvation that liberates, is superior to the curse brought by the Law.
The Gospel reading concludes by saying that Jesus heard that the Pharisees had cast out the healed man, and he sought to find him. This is the reason why the Son of Man came into the world, as recorded by Luke the Evangelist, to seek and to save the lost. He found him and asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" This title, as a designation of the Messiah, was known to the Jews, and the formerly blind man must have been familiar with it. The healed man asked, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus makes himself known in his response, and the healed man professes his belief that Jesus is the Son of Man, the expected Messiah, and worships him. The confession of faith and its practical expression in worship finally placed the seal upon the bodily healing. Now the miracle was completed, and the formerly blind man can see both bodily and spiritually.
As we chanted in today's Kontakion, let us come to Christ as the man blind from birth. Recognizing that the eyes of our soul have been blinded by sin, let us cry out to Him in repentance, "You are the resplendent Light of those in darkness."Amen.