(full reading: John 9.1-41)
In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Jesus gives sight to a man who has never been able to see. He heals him. This is a miracle and it is marvellous, and it is one of many examples of Jesus healing people. Healing and faith go hand in hand.
There seems to be a certain order to faith and healing. Look at these three other accounts of healing and faith:
1. Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
2. Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened.
3. Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
What do we notice?
Usually when Jesus heals someone, they first show him that they have faith in his ability to heal. The order is:
Step 1: Faith
Step 2: Gift
What do we notice about the order in this Sunday's Gospel?
The man does not ask to be healed. He does not show that he has faith. We could say that he does not do anything to deserve the gift of sight. Jesus just gives it to him.
Jesus spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.
Step 1 is the Gift.
Something else to notice: the man has no name. Perhaps that is not so unusual. We do not know the names of the other people healed in the examples above. But the man's namelessness becomes a bit of a problem, even for St. John writing the Gospel! He calls him,
a man blind from birth
the man who had formerly been blind
the man who had received his sight
the man who had been blind
and then, even after the man can see, St. John calls him:
the blind man
Would it not be a lot easier if the man had a name? Would it not be better if we knew he calls himself Joshua or Jackson or Bob?
His namelessness becomes a problem for the crowd of people, too. They are not sure who he is, once he has his sight:
The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.”
If anyone had ever bothered to ask him his name, they could say to him now, "Are you Joshua?" (or Jackson, or Bob)
The man's namelessness actually becomes a problem for himself, too. He does not seem to know what to call himself.
He kept saying, “I am the man.”
In this time of newness of sight, he begins by naming himself after Jesus-—Jesus who says,
I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)
I am the bread of life. (John 6:35)
I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
I am the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11)
I am the True Vine. (John 15:1)
The man keeps telling his story to everyone who asks, even when not everyone believes what he says. Perhaps telling the story helps him to sort out what has happened to him. Perhaps it helps him to know. Certainly, eventually he seems to know something about Jesus:
If this man were not from God, he could do nothing
And then Jesus comes to him. He finds him and asks,
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped him.
There it is. Step 2: Faith.
The order for this man's healing—1. Gift, 2. Faith—might remind us of the order for many of us. We are washed in the pool of healing at Baptism and given the gift of belonging to Jesus. We call ourselves by his name—Christians—but we do not seem to really know him very well at first. But we tell our story over and over to whoever will listen and we come to know.
And Jesus comes to us with the gift of faith.