Light In Our Darkness

Light in Our Darkness (Acrylic on Canvas)

Secondary Text:  Ephesians 5:8-14

We continue our Lenten journey in what has been termed The Book of Signs (Chapters 2-12 of John).  In these chapters we over and over again see sign posts that point to Jesus, that point to God in our midst.  Jesus as the light of the world, as the light in our darkness continues to be a theme.  Do we have eyes to see that God is still in our midst?  Do we have eyes to see or do we choose to cast our lots with the Pharisees and remain spiritually blind.

Context:  Back in Chapter 7 we are made aware of Jesus going up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.  And apparently in today’s text he is still in Jerusalem.  There are a couple of key connections to the Feast of Tabernacles* that are relevant for our text.  During the Feast of Tabernacles, many large candelabras were lit in the temple courts.  These candelabras, which were high on the temple mount were there to act as a sign post of the revelation and truth of the Jewish faith.  The Jewish people were called to be a sign post to God, a light in the darkness, to be the light of the world.  They had been chosen and blessed by God in order that they might be a blessing to the world.  At the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus declares himself to be the light of the world.  Jesus reiterates this claim in our passage.  It is also interesting to note that at the festival, priests would pour water from the Pool of Siloam onto the temple steps .  This was done in order that the water would flow down, through the temple and out into the world, demonstrating the Jewish faith as a faith for all people.  This Pool of Siloam is where Jesus will choose to send the blind man to wash the mud from his eyes.

The contrast of seeing and blindness pervades today’s passage.  It is miraculous in and of itself that Jesus chooses to see the blind man.  This man, born blind, is probably used to being overlooked, seen as a background fixture in life.  We tend to avoid looking at that which makes us uncomfortable.  And even when we do see, we sometimes try to ignore that which is right in front of us, especially if it is something that we cannot fix.  The first step toward this man’s healing is that he is seen, his presence is validated.  

Note the disciples reaction.  They expound the worldview of the time.  They assume that either his parents or he (while in the womb) sinned.  They believed that If one suffered it was a result of either their own sin or ancestral sin.  Jesus counters this worldview, and uses this as an opportunity to reveal the glory of God.  When there is suffering, pain, misfortune, we tend to want to assign blame.  The thought of a bit of randomness and unpredictability in the world is daunting.  When facing the suffering in the world, we wrestle with why suffering exists especially in light of the presence of an all loving God.  God whom is loving, merciful, and just has not caused this man to be blind as some sort of punishment for his sin or for the sins of his parents.  But Jesus, Immanuel, God with us is choosing to use this blindness as an opportunity to reveal the glory of God.  God is with us in our darkness, with us in the midst of our suffering.  God transforms and redeems our suffering.  We must also note, though, that sin does in fact cause suffering.  When we live in alienation from God, from one another, from ourselves, and from creation there will be suffering.  There are consequences for our actions; however, not all suffering is because of sin.  There is an element of randomness to suffering and not all of it can be explained.  God is not the author of evil.  Yet God can transform our suffering.  God can do a new thing, can make a way where there seems to be no way.  

With this blind man we see God doing a new thing.  Healing of a person born blind is unheard of, and here we have God transforming the situation.  The contrast, though, that stands out is that although this man was born blind and now sees, the religious leaders of the day may have physical sight yet they are spiritually blind.  Jesus gives physical light to a blind man just as he gives spiritual light to the world.  

Notice how Jesus chooses to heal this unnamed blind man.  It is very hands on.  Jesus takes the known folk remedy of using spittle for healing and transforms it.  Jesus uses his own spit.  And notice with what he combines it.  Dirt.  Immediately, the creation story of Genesis floods my mind.  Jesus is not restoring this blind man’s sight (he was born blind so there is no sight to restore), he is creating sight for him.  Jesus is doing a new thing.  

Although the blind man has not asked for healing or exhibited faith up to this point, Jesus has begun the healing work in him.  He is then sent to wash in the Pool of Siloam, the same pool referenced in the Feast of Tabernacles.  The blind man (in faith) goes to the Pool of Siloam, which the scripture tells us means “sent.”  And as he washes away the divine mud his eyes are opened.  Light has come into his darkness.  He once was blind but now he sees.  His eyes, his windows to his soul are now open and full of light.  He who has been sent to the pool called “sent” will now be sent out to bear witness to what has happened.  This blind man will act as light in darkness.  The Greek word for sent is where we get our English word apostle.  Apostle literally means one who is sent.

And of course the people want to know how it is this man who was born blind can now see, and thus the interrogations begin.  When the religious leaders, the Pharisees enter the scene they become divided.  Because Jesus has healed on the Sabbath some of them believe he cannot be from God, while others see the miracle of the healing and can only conclude it must be from God.  Those who can physically see seem to have confusion in seeing what is going on.  They do not have eyes to see.  They choose to remain in darkness.

How is this story relevant for us today?  How often are we aware of God’s tangible presence in our midst.  The Holy Spirit continues to act as light in our darkness.  The Holy Spirit comes giving us eyes to see, using the things of this world like mud and spit to transform us.  God comes to us in the ordinary things.  We see God in the bread and cup of communion and in the waters of baptism.  These channels of grace rain down God’s presence into our world.  This light breaks into the darkness.  And God has chosen to make God’s home among us.  We are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  God places God’s light in us and we are to reflect that light to all the world.  We are to be light in this dark, dark world.  We are called to be at work in the world bringing light into dark situations.  We are to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, seek justice and mercy, and show love.  If we have eyes to see we can live as lighthouses of God’s presence in the world.  We can choose to let God use us to reveal God’s guiding, abiding, and loving presence to a hurting world.  Let us choose to live as children of the light.  Let us live as Easter people.  We have died to self and having been risen, we walk in newness of life bearing light in the darkness.

Let us Pray:  Eternal Light, shine in and through us.  Pour Your light into our darkness.  Transform even the shadows of of each one of us.  Meet us in the ordinary things of life.  Raise us up to walk in Your light.  May we be vessels of Your presence and may Your light shine through us.  May we serve as sigh posts, as lighthouses of Your presence and purposes in the world.  Use us to be light in the darkness of this world.  In the name of the Light of the World we pray, Amen.  

*Insights into and knowledge about the Feast of Tabernacles comes from Gower, Ralph, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago:  Moody Press, 1987)

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