Today’s text is from John 9:1-16, 30-41.
So far through the Gospel of John we’ve heard a lot about people coming to “see” Jesus. People have seen Jesus’ sign of turning water into wine; they’ve seen Jesus flip tables over at the Temple; they’ve heard and seen that being in relationship is a crucial element of following Jesus; they’ve seen this Jewish man speak with a Samaritan woman – and watched as both Jesus and the woman dialogued and entered into relationship with one another to the point where the woman could truly see who Jesus was.
And now the people are witnessing sight being given to the blind – the people are witnessing relationship take precedent over the law. And this creates a bit of tension. It’s no different in today’s world. Whether people are facing a disability like the man in today’s reading, or whether they’re up against long odds due to financial insecurity, food scarcity, discrimination – whatever it may be, for any of us, at times it can feel like the world stands at odds against us.
At times, like the man in today’s reading, we may feel isolated, alone, left for dead – without a hope or a dream for a possible future. On our own – without someone truly seeing what we’re capable of – this might be the case. But all it takes is someone entering into relationship with us, guiding us, advocating for us, empowering us, strengthening us, to truly see the life Jesus Christ has prepared for us.
During the Super Bowl last weekend there was an advertisement right toward the beginning of the game that captured this idea of someone with a disability facing long odds – facing obstacles and barriers – that through belief, and relationship – through the opportunities given to her to succeed, and not to fail – prove that she is worth something.
One in a billion. That, according to the ad, are the odds of winning a gold medal at the Paralympic Games. For the blind man in our reading today, perhaps he felt he had about the same chance of being healed. One in a billion.
The law had prevented this healing from happening. People staying away in fear prevent this from happening. People simply assuming aspects of the man’s life instead of entering into relationship with him prevented this healing form happening.
For too long the religious leaders simply thought the man’s disability was the result of sin – from either him or his parents. That the reason he couldn’t see was because he had done something wrong – with the unspoken reverse side of this coin being that since the leaders can see they must be free from sin.
For individuals in today’s world who reside in this world of unspoken privilege the same train of thought often holds up. If we’re not disabled it’s easy to never view the world through this lens; if we’re not blind it’s difficult to imagine the world as a dark void; if we’re not hungry or thirsty it’s hard to imagine watching a child die of starvation or having to walk miles for water; if we’re white it’s difficult to fathom life as a Person of Color.
Simply put, it’s difficult to imagine such long odds of success, acceptance, relationship – of privilege – if that’s the only life we’ve ever lived. It becomes easy – like for the leaders in our reading today – to place blame on those who seem different from ourselves. It becomes easy to call them lazy or that they should just get off their mat and stop begging and bothering people.
The lens of having good odds of success from the very beginning of our lives can easily blind us from seeing the realities of others. The lens of having even just average odds of privilege from the very beginning of our lives can easily make us fearful and resentful of the “other”.
Of those who need relationship the most – who need support, love, encouragement – often our lens of bias blinds us from seeing through our own good odds and fortune. That we assume everyone has the same odds – the same playing field – the same starting points in life – and that some, like the blind man in our reading today, simply haven’t tried hard enough, or prayed enough, or pulled themselves up by their bootstraps enough.
But that’s where Jesus enters the equation. Jesus steps right on top of our “tradition” and “rules” and “laws” and “status quo” and seeks out those who have been left behind. Jesus enters our world and flips tables over, makes whips out of cords, and drives out those who would put law before relationship.
Jesus seeks and finds those with one in a billion odds and provides abundant grace and mercy and love. Jesus seeks and finds those who have been rejected based on skin color, gender, income, physical ailments – Jesus looks past it all and sees each of us: The rich, the poor; the friend, the stranger; the citizen, the foreigner; the able-bodied, the disabled; the privileged, the defeated – Jesus looks past every label, every category, every possible way we can define ourselves and one another – Jesus looks past it all and sees you: A child of God.
A child of God for whom salvation, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love are yours now and forever. A child of God that is freed from oppressive law, judgement, and the powers of sin. For this day and always, no matter the odds you are facing, Jesus Christ sees you and saves you.