“Go, wash in the pool Siloam”
A Sermon Preached at Reconciliation UMC, a multicultural church, last March 2, 2008
This Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Lent. The Lenten season is a way for us to get ready, it is a time for us to reflect on ourselves, to reflect on our sins, our mistakes and shortcomings and allow God to transforms us. But my question for you this morning is, have we allowed God to transform us? Are we open to God’s transforming power? Are we willing to participate in our healing? Have we allowed Jesus to restore our sight?
Today’s reading challenges us to answer these questions. (Read from John 9:1-41).
Let us pray. (Oremos) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our rock and our redeemer.
We live in a world of darkness. Just like the blind man in the story where everything he sees is dark, everything around us is dark too. The dark world that we live in is full hatred, anger, indifference, discrimination, oppression and injustice. We are blinded by this darkness of the world. In our blindness, we conform our lives to the darkness of this world. Our actions and lifestyles are works that belong to darkness. When we talk about darkness in the world, we think of war, corruption, hunger and poverty. But what about apathy, not sharing with the poor, not forgiving enemies, not caring for the homeless and the sick, not standing up for what is right, not praying for others, not responsive to the sick, ungratefulness for blessings, not giving offerings, not praying devotions, not consistent in attending worship? Aren’t these things belong to darkness?
The good news, my brothers and sisters, it is in this darkness that God’s love is shown. It is in blindness that God’s glory is revealed. It is in our broken lives that God’s power is bared. God offers a new life by sending Jesus Christ. Jesus says in verse 5, “I am the light of the world.” God brings light to a world of darkness and offers to transform and change our ways. The healing of the blind man is Gods transforming grace. Just as Jesus heals the blind man, so can Jesus heal our blindness. Just as Jesus transformed his blindness into sight, so can Jesus transform our wrongdoings and sinful ways. God reveals his glory through Jesus Christ who transform us through the healing that Jesus brings.
Let us look closer at the miraculous healing that happened to the blind man. The healing involves two things: first, Jesus anointing the blind man’s eye with mud and second, the blind man’s obedience to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” If we think about this, the blind man could have refused to go to the pool, he could have refused to open up to this transforming and healing power of God. He could have chosen to remain blind. Isn’t that intriguing?
What does these two components of healing mean? It means we are called to participate. John Wesley always emphasizes that humans must respond to God’s grace. After all, faith and good works always go together. If we read closely, Jesus took the first step in the healing. Jesus spat on the ground, made mud and spread it on the blind man’s eye. It was Jesus who took the first move. Even more interesting, the blind man never asked to be healed. He never called out to Jesus to heal him. He was unlike the other people that Jesus cured and healed, sick people usually came to Jesus, they work their way through large crowds just to get near him, people even cried to Jesus for healing, or they would grab his cloak just like that woman with the issue of blood. No! This blind man was just there sitting outside the synagogue and Jesus took the first step to heal him. Although Jesus did not ask the blind man if he wanted healing, he did ask the blind man to participate.
In my experience as a medical doctor, patients always participate in their healing. The doctor can only do so much anyway. The patients needs to participate willingly starting from the medical exams up to the rehabilitation. The blind man did that. The blind man participated in his healing. Although Jesus took the first step, the healing was never forced to the blind man. After Jesus made mud with his saliva and anointed it to the blind man’s eyes, he said to the man, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” and he obeyed.
Why did Jesus instructed the blind man to go wash his eyes into the river Siloam? The pool Siloam is supplied from mount Zion, so the waters of Siloam are the waters of the sanctuary. The water is holy, Jesus was sending the man to go to a holy place. More than that, Siloam means sent. In other chapters in John, Jesus refers to himself as the sent of God. Jesus is the one Sent by God. So when Jesus was instructing the blind man to go to the pool Siloam, Jesus was instructing him to come to Jesus himself. When the blind man went to wash his eyes, he was going to Jesus for healing. All throughout, it was only Jesus at work in the healing of the blind man. But it is important to note that the blind man opened himself and allowed the healing. The blind man received sight in his obedience to God. The blind man opened himself to God’s transforming power. He accepted God’s offer for healing and transformation.
God calls us to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” and God is waiting for us to respond. It is not an accident that in most part of the narrative, from verses 8 to 35, Jesus is not mentioned in the narrative. This is because the author of John highlights for us the different human responses to God’s healing, restoring and transforming power. The neighbors could not believe the miraculous healing. The blind man’s parents were in fear and did not want to be associated or even be asked about the healing. And the Pharisees, yes, those Pharisees, bless their hearts, remember that they doubted the blind man’s healing. When the Pharisees heard about this healing, they called the blind man to question him. In verse 18, it says that the Pharisees would not believe that he was healed. More than that they were appalled that it was done during Sabbath. Who in their right mind would cure a blind man when everybody knows that no one is allowed to work during Sabbath. Definitely, someone who breaks this law of God is not a man from God, and so the Pharisees judged that Jesus who healed the blind man on a Sabbath is not a man from God. The Pharisees would not acknowledge God’s healing and transforming power. They would not acknowledge and accept that Jesus could heal a blind man and transform blindness into sight. They would not accept the transformation of the blind man, and they would not allow this miraculous event to change their attitude towards Christ. They rejected that Jesus is a man from God. In verse 27 and 28, the Pharisees did not want even to be called disciples of Jesus and instead reviled the blind man for asking them that.
Sometimes we are like the Pharisees. The Pharisees are supposedly the good, the righteous, the educated, the church going, mission oriented, gift giving, and religious people. They are somebody like us. they think like we think. We think that we are already church-going people and so we are already good. We think that we no longer need to be transformed. We are already Christians and so that’s it. We think we no longer need God’s grace to continue to move on to a Christ-like perfection. We think we no longer need to change our ways. We think we no longer need to improve our prayer habits. We think we no longer need to read the Bible daily. We think we do not need to fast at least once a week. We think we no longer need to go to Bible study. We think we no longer need to go to Sunday school. We think we no longer need God’s sanctifying grace. Because we think we are already good and that we don’t need to be transformed by God’s grace. We are like the Pharisees.
Why can’t we be like the blind man? The blind man is just that, blind. He has no pretensions. He is disabled, he needs help, he is not learned like the Pharisees, he is not educated, he do not know anything, he do not know the law and that he do not even know Jesus. But he knows he is blind and he knows he needs help. Unlike the Pharisee, the blind man knows his weakness. And when Jesus came up to him to offer him healing by anointing his eyes with mud and told him to wash his eyes, he readily accepted and went to wash his eyes that he may see. Now notice this, he did not know Christ before but when he experienced the healing power of Christ he recognized that Jesus was a man from God. When Jesus asked him if he believed in the Son of Man he said in verse 38, “Lord, I believe” and he worshipped Jesus.
God is waiting for our response. What is our response? For we are judged by our response, God judges us if we sin or not according to our rejection or acceptance – if we recognize or not the work of God. Jesus came to judge. In verse 39, Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Jesus judges our sin. But sin here for the author of John, is not a moral category about behavior. Sin is not disobedience to the law, as the Pharisees suggest. Jesus even disregards the common Jewish understanding of the relationship between sin and physical illness as implied by the disciples question to him. Jesus judges according to our response, if we are open to receiving God’s grace or not. Sin according to John is committed if one rejects the revelation of God in Christ, sin is committed in refusing to open oneself to God’s grace, sin is committed in rejecting the transformation of our lives, sin is rejecting the restoration of our broken relationship with Christ.
In this season of Lent, Jesus is transforming us and changing us. Are we like the blind man or the Pharisee? Do we recognize our blindness? Do we acknowledge God’s transforming power? Do we accept the restoration of our relationship with Christ? Later, we will be invited to dine in God’s table. There will also be an opportunity for us to restore our brokenness through the anointing of oil. The Good News is God has already taken the first step of transforming us, restoring our sight and healing our blindness. Respond to Christ’s instruction to “Go, wash in the pool Siloam!”