“Be ye therefore followers of God,as dear children; and walk in love.” [Ephesians 5:1-2a]
I know this person who was reading a biography on the infamous Russian Monk, Rasputin. He called me up in a dither. It seems that he has this belief that no one can perform true healings UNLESS they are true prophets of God. Well, if any of you know anything about Rasputin, you know that he was anything but saintly. Yet, this book maintained that Rasputin DID perform actual healings. This, in turn, created a great spiritual dilemma for my friend – a challenge that he did not know how to combat.
This is the same dilemma from which the Pharisees suffered in our Gospel Lesson for today:
They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, “He put clay upon my eyes, and I washed, and do see.” Therefore said some of the Pharisees, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day.” Others said, “How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” And there was a division among them. They say unto the blind man again, “What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thy eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
How can a person who is supposedly the Messiah violate the Mosaic Law when performing a miracle? The Pharisees’ initial assumption was that Jesus was an imposter – a huckster. But none of the evidence supported this assumption. The man who was healed had been blind since birth; his parents corroborated this fact. Jesus had healed the man, and He did so on the Sabbath Day. So, for many of the Pharisees, this was impossible to support. Their whole framework was being challenged.
This inability to accept that which challenges our preconceived notions is VERY human. Psychologists believe that our beliefs as to how the world looks and should act is formed by the time we reach the age of 10. From then on, it is VERY difficult to challenge our beliefs UNLESS a significant event changes the way we think.
The Pharisees are no exception. The truth was right before them and yet, they were unable to accept it because, to do so, would mean rejecting one of their highly cherished beliefs. The Sabbath should NOT be violated, even when that violation results in the healing of someone blind from birth. Therefore, if someone violated it, then they must NOT be the true Messiah.
But what is made clear by our Old Testament lesson is that humans judge by appearances, for they have no ability to see the true make-up of our nature:
And it came to pass when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.” But the LORD said unto Samuel, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”
For hundreds of years, Jewish people believed that illness and afflictions were a reflection of either the person’s sin or the sins of his parents to the third and fourth generation. But Jesus made it clear that this was NOT true:
And his disciples asked him, saying, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
Sometimes we are afflicted with something because of the sins we have committed. This principle is clear from what the Bible has told us. But afflictions may also be unrelated to our relative guilt. We all sin, but illnesses and other things may happen regardless of our sins or lack thereof. Just look at Job. However, because the Pharisees could not see into the soul of the man himself, they could not adequately judge. But that did not stop them. Because the man was blind since birth, the Pharisees concluded that the blindness he suffered was a result of his parents’ sins.
God is demanding of us, in both the Old and New Testament, to let go of what we think we know. We are to realize that the rules and regulations of the Law are not as important as the spirit of the Law. And the spirit of the Law is love.
The Pharisees were trying to place people under the strict rules of the Law. This gives most people great comfort. If they follow the Law, then they “know” they are “safe.” But what also happens is legalism. There is no room for mercy; and there is no room for love. The result is NOT examples of Godly living but rather hypocrisy.
What God wants us all to do is live by the spirit of the Law and not the letter of it. The Ten Commandments are a nice framework in which to see if we are doing what God wants, but no Christian is under these laws anymore. Now the Law is to advise and instruct only. It is NOT to dictate what we are to do.
So, how do we know if what we are doing is what God wants? Well, we must turn to Christ as our ultimate model, and we are to live in the light of God’s divine love.
It is not an accident that the sixth miracle that Jesus does in the Gospel of Saint John is to heal someone of blindness. This is the ONLY miracle where the person was blind from birth. And Jesus does this as an example to us all:
“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
Jesus performs this miracle to show us, in an outward way, the transforming power of our belief in Him:
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” He answered and said, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” And Jesus said unto him, “Thou hast both seen him,and it is he that talketh with thee.”And he said, “Lord, I believe.”And he worshipped him.
The truth is that we are all blind at birth. We are blinded by are fallen nature. A teacher once said to me that, if you do not believe in original sin, all you need do is look at children. If confronted with something they have done wrong, children’s natural inclination is to lie. If someone hurts them, their natural inclination is to hurt that person back. We are all blind at birth.
Then there are our personal sins. These keep us blind. Specifically, pride helps us to maintain our blindness. “It cannot be our fault. It must be the other’s person’s fault.” Blindness is our life UNLESS and UNTIL we come to believe in Christ. Faith in Christ opens our eyes as surely as this poor blind man’s eyesight was restored by Jesus. And with this sight comes a new perspective.
This new perspective is revealed in the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians:
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.
Christ, Himself tells us: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” [Mark 2:27-28] Jesus made this statement when some accused His disciples of breaking the Sabbath Law when they picked grain from a field to eat.
So, again, how do we know if we are following what God wants? The answer is love. Do we walk in love or do we walk in the Law. Jesus tells us that if we walk in love, we are following the spirit of the Law.
The spirit of the Law would not demand that a man remain blind just because, to heal him on the Sabbath, may be considered work. The spirit of the Law also would not demand someone to starve just because, to pick grain on the Sabbath, may be considered work. No, we are to be the children of God, walking in love and following the spirit of the Law, rather than the letter of the law.
If there is one thing I would like us all to remember from these lessons for today is this: our first priority is to love God. We are to love Jesus with all our hearts. Our second priority is to love each other. If we do this all the issues of the law become clear. We are to act in love. We are to act out of love. And we are to act in a loving way. If we do this, we will be following God’s Law more fully than any checklist from the Mosaic Law. And if we do walk in love, we will truly become children of God.