Sermon delivered June 1, 2008.
Most often in the miraculous healings of Christ, a certain pattern emerges. Usually the healing follows the sick person or a close acquaintance approaching Jesus to seek healing such as the royal official’s son at Capernaum (John 4:46-47), the centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-3) and Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:41). At other times it involves Jesus asking the sick person or the acquaintance a question like, “Do you wish to be healed” as with the paralytic from a couple week’s ago (4 Sunday of Pascha; John 5:6) or “What do you want me to do for you?” as with the blind man in Luke 18:41). Only a very few times, like today’s Gospel (6 Sunday of Pascha; John 9:1-38), does Jesus heal the sick with no prior demonstration of that desire on their part. The blind man did not ask Jesus to restore his sight nor did Jesus ask him if he wanted to be made well.
In fact, the blind man seems to have little faith or knowledge of who Christ is. When questioned by his neighbors about the restoration of his sight, the blind man does not credit his own faith or the Jesus as the Messiah. The man knows Jesus name but does not know where He is (v.11-12). Let me ask the question: is not this often our own experience of healing? When we are sick or ailing, we get well or we go to the doctor and we are treated and we recover. During our sickness and healing we have little or no awareness of the presence of Christ and His divine power. People may ask how we got better but there is no mention of Jesus on our part.
Just like the blind man in today’s gospel, we are called to reflect upon our experiences of healing and understand the presence and involvement of Christ in those miraculous events. After being questioned by his neighbors, the blind man was brought before the Pharisees. Although, these religious leaders are focused on finding the person who violated the Sabbath, when they ask the man, “What do you say about Jesus?” he answers that “He is a prophet?” (v.17). The blind man’s faith is growing. He does not stay with his original answer, but now acknowledges that a man from God, and thus God Himself, was involved in his healing.
Further pressed by the Pharisees to call Jesus a sinner in order to discredit Him and His works, the blind man remains resolute. The Pharisees already knew about Jesus and were obviously intimidating the people to disavow and denounce Him as the Messiah. The blind man’s parents were afraid of being put out of the synagogue (v.22). Even after the Pharisees reviled him, the man who once was blind and a beggar, now speaks with boldness about Jesus saying, “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (v.33).
We too may be afraid to acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior and Healer in our life because we do not want to be perceived as naïve, blind or too religious, a Jesus-freak, a bible-banger and thus be ostracized from various social and professional groups. This is an important lesson for doctors, nurses and health professionals too for they can be tempted to take credit for healing others. The reality is that all healing, great and small is a gift from God. We participate to various degrees in that healing but ultimately it is of divine origin.
So, if we are courageous enough to confess Christ as the Physician and healer of our souls and bodies, and it causes us to be marginalized from our friends, colleagues and perhaps even our family, what then? The blind man was driven out of the synagogue (v.34) and then Jesus seeks him out and finds him and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (v.35). If we remain resolute and faithful, even if we don’t understand everything or how it all fits together in God’s plan, Christ will seek us out and find us and ask us to trust Him even more. The journey of faith is in some sense infinite but the object of our belief, Christ our God will be walking with us all the way. Amen.
Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews is the pastor of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fr. Andrews is the past president of Minnesota Eastern Orthodox Christian Clergy Association (MEOCCA), and a volunteer chaplain with the St. Paul Police Department.