On the fourth Sunday in Lent this year, the lectionary reading from the New Testament was John 9:1-41, the story of the man born blind. Here’s the message I preached last Sunday:
The lame man answered the wrong question when Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” Sometimes we do the same thing.
Answering the Wrong Question
1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7″Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath….
The Setting of Today’s Story
Jesus had traveled to Jerusalem for a feast day, possibly the Passover, but we’re not sure. In any event, it was an occasion on which Jews gathered in Jerusalem, and so Jesus goes there, too.
John then shifts his focus, like a movie director giving us a preview of what is about to happen. John tells us that in Jerusalem, and actually very close to the Temple, is a place called the Sheep Gate. The Sheep Gate is probably where sheep for Temple sacrifice were brought in — kind of a one-way trip for most of them, I’m certain.
(We have a missions speaker this week, October 14, 2007, so I’m not preaching Sunday. Here’s a sermon I enjoyed preaching last year on the story of blind Bartimaeus.) Jesus, Help! mp3
The Story of A Blind Man
This is a story that is familiar to those of us who grew up in Sunday School. The story of “Blind Bartimaeus” is what my Primary teacher called it. It’s the story of a man who was reduced to begging because he was blind. Unlike our day, in the first century blindness meant you could no longer go about your trade. A blind shepherd could not look for sheep; a blind shopkeeper could not manage his wares; a blind carpenter was a danger to himself and those around him; a blind farmer could not plant, nurture his crop or see when it was ready for harvest. No guide dogs for the blind, no books on tape, no institutions for those who are visually-impaired. Blindness was a sentence of destitution and hopelessness.