Tuesday, March 21, 2017

John 9:1-41

This passage occurs in the RCL during Lent (year A), most recently March 26, 2017.  This passage also occurs in the Narrative Lectionary for Transfiguration Sunday, most recently 2014.

Summary:  Jesus' claim to be the light of the world doesn't simply put him above it all.  Rather it puts him in the midst of it all, even amid people's problems and divisions.

Some key words:

ημαρτεν (aorist form of αμαρτανω, meaning "sin", 9:2 and 9:3)  A few comments here
- The Pharisees want to ascribe sin as the cause for problems in this man's life.  Jesus says that this problem is really an opportunity for God's glory.  There is always a tendency in us to ascribe God's judgement to a situation rather than see things as an opportunity for transformation and God's goodness.
- Afterwards the Pharisee's obsession with sin and the law means they cannot see God's goodness at work.  This is a passage that personally challenges me.  I can easily find fault in situations rather the see God's goodness.

επτυσεν πτυσματος ( "spit" (aorist form) and "saliva", 9:6)  In order for Jesus to give man sight -- to be the light of the world -- he must spit.  John uses the word as a noun and verb to make sure we picked this up.

οφθαλμος ("eye", 9:6)  This word appears 10 times in these verses.  I especially like the phrase "open my/your eye."  I can't help but think that John wants to draw attention to the physicality of everything.  Jesus is literally touching this man's eyes!

νιψαι ("wash", from νιπτω, 9:7)  This word comes back into John's Gospel at another interesting juncture:  When Jesus washes their feet!  Again a reminder that being the light of the world, washing people, is a very humble and earthly task.

αποσυνάγωγος (literally apo-synagogos, meaning "banish from synagogues", 9:6)  This word appears three times in the Gospel of John (12:42, 16:2)  John is the only biblical writer to use the word.  It is hard not to imagine that this was becoming an issue for people as John's Gospel was being written -- that claiming Christ was getting people kicked out of their religious communities.  It is a reminder that claiming Christ has a cost.

ευρων (from ευρισκω, "find", 9:35)  In the very next story, Jesus talks about how he is the good shepherd.  Well, in the Gospel of Luke we hear about a shepherd that finds lost sheep.  Here Jesus is finding lost sheep.

φος ("light", 9:5)  One can go many directions with light.  It is interesting to see where the word light appears in John's Gospel.  Almost all the time there is a contrast of living in the dark vs living in the light.  Can we read John's Gospel (and preach on it) without getting into the current cultural clashes over a variety of issues?  The Jesus of John's Gospel is a prophet in many ways, who speaks out against the church and culture of his day.

Here are the light passages in John that reference light vs dark

John 1:5: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it
John 3:19:  This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
John 8  Jesus says he is the light of the world, but immediate the pharisees protest against this
John 11:9-10  But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.

John 12:35-37 Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.  Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.

John 12:46
I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.

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