Scripture: John 9:1-12, 35-38
Key verse: (39) Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
Reflection: “Jesus never judged anybody, and neither should we.” That’s what the candidate said on the floor of the Presbytery during his faith statement. It was part of his examination for ordination. I cringed when I heard it. Had he read the New Testament? I knew there would be follow up questions for him. Indeed there were. They came from the usual defenders of orthodoxy. They asked the candidate if he thought Jesus condoned sin. They challenged him about the meaning of the cross if there was no judgment. Questions came about the efficacy of his seminary education. It was not a pretty sight.
Indeed, Jesus did judge people. In fact, in our reading for the morning he states that he came into this world for judgment. What is the nature of his judgment? Does he condemn people for violating Levitical code? I cannot recall a time he did. Does he judge people for breaking the Sabbath laws? Not that I can remember. Does he judge people for sexual immorality? He tells the woman caught in adultery to, “Go and sin no more;” but only after saying, “Neither do I condemn you.” In the Sermon on the Mount he warns against lustful looks, but I can’t remember a time when he pronounces judgment on an individual for sexual immorality. So on what basis does Jesus judge people?
When Jesus judges people in the gospels, it is usually for self-righteousness. His most blistering judgment is offered in Matthew 23 in the seven woes to the scribes and the Pharisees. They are most often the target of Jesus’s judgment. So to in John 9, his ire is aimed at the religious leaders. I hope you can take time to read the whole of John 9. It is a powerful story about blindness and sight. As with Matthew 23, Jesus judges the religious leaders who at the close of the story ask, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “IF you were blind, you would have no sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” Throughout the story they never celebrate the healing of the man born blind. All they can see is sin—he was healed on the Sabbath. They can’t see him. No one sees him; not the disciples—who only see a sinner, not the townspeople, not the religious leaders, not even his parents defend him. In a tragic irony, they are all blind to the blind man. And the blind man is the only one who sees. He sees Jesus for who he really is.
I wonder what Jesus would have done at the Presbytery meeting? The candidate was indeed mistaken. Yet I can’t help but think that Jesus would have been more upset with the way the defenders of orthodoxy belittled him in the wake of his error. Perhaps our highest calling is to see. Not to see just the mistakes, nor the sin, nor the bad theology; but to see one another. I wonder why it was so important to that candidate to say that Jesus didn’t judge. I wonder who in his life judged him harshly, and how he came to the Lord of Love because he did not experience judgment from Him. I wonder why the defenders of orthodoxy are so driven to protect our theological standards. How had their lives been impacted by judgment? What fears and inadequacies laid behind their righteous indignation?
The second time the religious leaders examine the man born blind, he answers their challenge by saying, “I don’t know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” Perhaps he offers us the greatest counsel on how to live as disciples of the Lord. By the end of the story, seeing Jesus he says, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Perhaps seeing is believing; seeing ourselves, seeing one another, seeing beyond the surface we show the world, seeing the Christ whose grace heals us all.
Prayer: “Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me. Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free. Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God, thy will to see. Open my eyes; illumine me, Spirit divine!” Amen. (This is the opening verse to an 1895 hymn by Clara H. Scott, “Open My Eyes, That I May See.”)
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].