(full reading: John 9.1-41)
In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Jesus performs a miracle. We know that miracles reveal to us something of the Plan of God. They are signs of what the Kingdom of God is like. In fact, in the Gospel for the fourth Sunday of Lent, Jesus seems determined to give the disciples a sign.
When he sees a man who has never been able to see, he says,
he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him
We might wonder what the man thinks when he hears that! His whole life is a sign??
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.
That is interesting, is it not? Jesus takes dirt from the ground, the dust under his feet, and spits in it. With his spit, he makes mud.
It seems funny that mud gets mentioned in the Bible. It happens also in the first testament, in the book of Job. The book of Job is one big, long, interesting parable that gives us some insight into how God thinks. Job is a faith-filled man but, after many, many, many bad things happen to him, he eventually despairs. God seems to lose patience with him, and in a long, somewhat humorous speech, God asks Job if he knows how to run the universe. God says,
Can you shout orders to the clouds and make them drench you with rain? And if you command the lightning to flash, will it come to you and say, “At your service”? ...Who is wise enough to count the clouds and tilt them over to pour out the rain, rain that hardens the dust into lumps? (Job 38:34-38)
God seems to say, "These are my ways, not yours." Look at that last line about pouring out the rain. God makes dust into lumps. God makes mud pies from the rain! Not even mud is beneath God's notice.
Perhaps Jesus thinks of this, too. Jesus makes a mud pie and spreads it on the man's eyes. The mud becomes an ointment for healing. Jesus takes the lowliest stuff of creation and gives it a higher purpose.
When the man comes back, he is able to see.
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.’
They do not quite recognize him, do they? It is him, but it is not him. They are used to seeing him one way, but now they see him as God sees him.
As he is meant to be.
This might remind us of something. It might remind us of the people who see Jesus after he rises from the dead. At first they do not recognize him. They do not expect to see him so full of the life of God.
A new creation.
Jesus uses mud to create the man anew—a sign of the Kingdom of God.
No wonder the Pharisees are upset when they consider that,
it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.
Creating is God's work, but it is work of the six days before the sabbath. The Pharisees are not just being fussy here. They are concerned because the sabbath is God's gift to the Jewish people. The sabbath is God's gift of sacred time. They are concerned that Jesus is not keeping the day holy.
What they do not realize, though, is that Jesus is giving us all a sign—a taste of the great eternal Sabbath, when the Kingdom is complete, and all time and all creation will be holy.
The man who is healed by Jesus—what about him, though? We might be wondering whether he likes being used as a sign. Sure, he gets this great gift of sight, but then what? He gets caught up in the arguments of the Pharisees.
And they were divided.
Divisions are not part of the Plan of God. We are meant to be building up the Kingdom, not breaking it down. The man with the gift of sight, what happens to him now?
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘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.
The man is not just a signpost for the Kingdom of God. He is a person, and Jesus does not leave him alone. Remember, St. John makes a point of telling us what the Hebrew name for the pool means.
“Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent).
Over and over, Jesus speaks of God as the one who sent Jesus into the world. Jesus is Sent. So we know that the pool is Jesus' water.
But St. John has to translate "Siloam" because he writes in Greek not Hebrew. The word for "sent" in Greek comes from the word apostelló...
Recognize the sound of that word?? It has the same root as the word apostolos... apostle!
We have to wonder, having bathed in Jesus' water, is the man now sent into the world—an apostle—to tell the world what he knows, what he has seen?
We also have bathed in Jesus' water—the waters of Baptism. Does that make us apostles, too? What have we seen? What will we say? What will we do?