THE EYE OPENING WASH AT SILOAM
handmaid Lenten '17 reflections
BY CYNTHIA NEBO
So it's the fourth week of Lent; and Jesus' journey is soon approaching its climax! How are our Lenten journeys going? If you are like me, you may be just about getting into the swing of things; and fair enough, the Lenten observances that were there at the beginning may have, let's say, 'developed' and be a little different than the ones you are walking with now: but that's the nature of the journey right!?
So, a lot to take away from this week's Gospel; the healing of the man born blind:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
The Jew did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “ I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
"Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him."
It was a common belief in the time of the Jews that your ailments were a direct consequence of your sin and those of your ancestors. However, in this story, Jesus changes the narrative. This man is not being held accountable for his sins or those of his father; no, he is being used as an example, an instrument of The Father's Glory!
In the same way, Jesus opens up the purpose of our own ailments, our sufferings: they can always be used for the Glory of God to be made manifest! This completely changes the game! we are invited to offer them to God; and even rejoice in them that they could be used so gloriously!
You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory. (Isaiah 49:3)
‘I am the light of the world.’
Jesus is light; and so He can decide to come into this blind man's darkness, and open his eyes to see him.
He spat on the ground
and made clay with the saliva,
and smeared the clay on his eyes,
and said to him,
"Go wash in the Pool of Siloam" —which means Sent.
Why did Jesus do this whole process? In other places in the Gospels, Jesus had but to only say the word, to only be touched; and someone would be healed!
Jesus gives us a reminder here; he is one with God the Creator; from the clay of the ground we were created, and Jesus uses the same material to heal this man's eyes; blessed with the anointing (spit) of God Himself. Jesus puts work into healing this man; he takes his time and uses a unique process. In this same way, Jesus wants to heal our sicknesses, our wounds; bring light to our blindness. He makes a special unique effort with each of us, and for each of us this will look different.
Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” (John 12:36)
Let's approach from the blind man's perspective now; You've been blind your whole life, society blames you and your family for this; and you have no other means to get from day to day other than to beg from those who would've had sight- but perhaps not see you.
Now to be told, by this unusual, non-conforming man: This is not your fault- your life is an orchestration for My glory! I see you; and you have been sent into this life that others may see My glory also… It is no wonder that this man allowed Jesus to use him, to wipe spit on his face , and to wash at Siloam. Jesus truly seeing the man ; this was enough to stir his desire to see He who saw him first!
So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
Jesus knew what He was doing. Healing someone blind from birth; and on a Sabbath no less; he was calling the Pharisees to see what he had done; to see who He was telling them He is. He was challenging them to believe.
..some of the Pharisees said,
"This man is not from God,
because he does not keep the Sabbath."
But others said,
"How can a sinful man do such signs?"
And there was a division among them.
These people recognised the gravity of the miracle Jesus had just performed; but their fear of giving in to the Person of Jesus; of giving up all they knew and understood at the time of how to earn their salvation (as laid out by Moses in the law); this fear blinded them to seeing Jesus; Saviour, Healer, Light of the world.
And the obstinate pushing of the Pharisees against Jesus is what pushes this former blind man deeper and deeper towards belief in Jesus! We see throughout the questioning from the Pharisees, that where the former blind man is at first perhaps indifferent, or even scared in the same way his parents were of proclaiming Jesus as the Christ; the more they push, the more steadfast the man becomes in Jesus' defence:
"If he is a sinner, I do not know.
One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see."
This man's courage; faith; and trust in Jesus strengthened as the very result of testing by the Pharisees. It is Jesus' desire that we also grow stronger in our faith and hope in Jesus, even despite the disbelief of others around us, who may taunt and question us for our faith in this modern society! For one thing we can all know, defend, and bear witness to, is the works that He has done for us over our lives; one thing that cannot be argued against or debated is our personal encounters and experiences of how Jesus has worked and come through for us! And the more the Pharisees try to argue this here, the more blind they become!
He said, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him.
Indeed, it is in remembering what He has done for us uniquely and individually, that we will be reminded of the revelation of who He is; that we will be led to our desire once more to worship Him!
So as we continue our Lenten journey, let us acknowledge our blindness, and take heart in the knowledge that it can be used for God's glory this coming Easter; as long as we remain open to allowing Jesus to do His unique work of Healing in us this Lent, as long as we recall all of the victories and healing He has done for us, for His glory, in the past; and proclaim these as proof that He is not just a prophet; but He is Christ!
Lord Jesus, we thank you that You, the Light of the world, that you saw us first. Open our eyes once more this Lent, that we may see your Glory manifest in our lives today as in all of our past victories! Allow us to be open to you, and give us the courage, wisdom, and unwavering faith to proclaim your works in our lives, that we may bring our contemporaries into the Light of Your truth: For we know one thing from our encounters with You; that you are from God, You are the Christ!