Illness and Perspectives

By John Yieh

A Reading from the Gospel of John 9:1-17

1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Meditation

Taking ill is painful, and long illness may drive away even loved ones. The main character of the story in John 9 is a man born blind sitting and begging outside of the temple. The disciples treated him as a subject of theological debate on sin and punishment. The Pharisees accused him as a suspect of false witness to a fake prophet. Only Jesus saw him as a person through whom God’s glory would be revealed.

I cannot imagine how challenging it must have been for this man to grow up never seeing his parents, other children, the birds in the air, and the flowers in the field. What did he think of God, as he begged for alms from pilgrims? How would he feel about the different attitudes shown to him? If I were him, I would probably resent the disciples’ dismissiveness and begrudge the Pharisees’ accusation, and of course I would appreciate Jesus’ kindness.

Jesus’ personal touch on the man’s eyes demonstrates his genuine love for this poor man and reflects his view of him as a beloved child of God. Sending him to the Pool of Siloam to wash his eyes afforded him the opportunity to trust Jesus’ words and experience God’s healing power.  He was blind but now he could see. He found dignity as well as eyesight restored by Jesus. God’s glory was amazingly revealed. Therefore, he could resist the pressure from the Pharisees and insist that Jesus was a true prophet of God.

In our lives, we cannot always see people clearly and rightly. In relationships, we can sometimes be marginalized by friends and dismissed by colleagues. We can also be misjudged by bosses or discriminated against by strangers. But Jesus sees us for who we are and will open our eyes to see our value in the eyes of God. We do not have to live miserably in darkness, for Jesus is our light.

The Rev. John Yueh Han Yieh, Ph.D., is professor in New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary and a New Testament editor for the Bible Society in Taiwan. Dr. Yieh enjoys his teaching ministry at VTS and is a frequent preacher and speaker in the U.S. and Asia.

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Grace Church, New York, N.Y.
The Diocese of Karnataka South – The (united) Church of South India

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