Sunday of the Blind Man - Sixth Sunday of Pascha

You can’t be saved unless you have character. God will not give it to you.
John 9:1-38

2010

 

The Healing of the Blind Man. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/miracle-sunday-of-the-blind-man-sixth-sunday-of-pascha-01.jpgIn the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Christ is risen! (Truly He is risen!) Christos voskrese! (Voistinu voskrese!) Christos aneste! (Alithos aneste!)[1]

 
Today, brothers and sisters, it’s already the fifth Sunday of Pascha and the Sunday of the blind man, and in keeping with all the other Sundays it is a day in which we read about someone who is enlightened and the process of their enlightenment, and we have another important characteristic of enlightenment especially shown today. It is shown in some of the others too, in St. Thomas, in the Samaritan Woman, but especially here we see incredible courage; we see incredible character.

 
You can’t be saved unless you have character. God’s not going to give it to you. You can’t be saved unless in your heart you want to be honest and in your heart you want to be courageous. You won’t be saved unless you have good character. Don’t depend on God to give it to you. You have to have it. You have to have a desire to be good. This is good character. Whether or not you make mistakes and you have sins - that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about what is it that you desire and what is it that you value and how do you order your life?


The blind man shows us how we should live. Put yourself in his position for a moment. The question that the disciples asked, everyone else would have been asking too. Who sinned, this man or his parents? So he was basically persona non grata in that kind of society. They thought there must have been some sin that he had committed or his parents, something that marked him as untouchable.


We also know from our tradition that he didn’t even have eyes[2], just had sockets with holes in them. So he must have looked very strange, and he would beg for his daily bread, and of course he wouldn’t get much, and he was alone.

 

Then comes Jesus and He heals him. He heals him in a very strange way. He takes clay and spits on it, makes it into little balls and makes, basically, eye balls for him, smashing them into his sockets and then tells him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam, which of course is indicative of baptism. It’s a type[3] of baptism, to go to the water and to wash and to be cleansed.

 
And even there we see that baptism is not just the remission of sins; it’s also the cleansing of sinful nature, typified here by here by his blindness. It does not just remit our sins; it makes us capable of not sinning.

Healing of the Blind Man http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/miracle-sunday-of-the-blind-man-sixth-sunday-of-pascha-03.jpgSo he goes to the Pool of Siloam to wash. It wasn’t easy. It’s not like he had a Seeing Eye dog or anything. He had to stumble there, people looking at him with mud on his face, wash and then he saw, a great miracle.

 

Now, just as we see good character in the blind man, we see horrible character in the Pharisees and the Sadducees. We should pause a moment to wonder why did they wonder if this man was the one who was healed. They knew it. Oh yes, I’m sure he looked quite different with eyes now, whereas before he had no eyes. But it was a small town; it’s not as if they didn’t recognize him. But they didn’t want to recognize the healing which occurred on the Sabbath day, so they had some pretense for questioning him because there’s not supposed to be work done on the Sabbath day.


But the Lord had already addressed this question, perhaps not until this time. I don’t know when He said this, but remember when He said that if you have an ox or an ass and it falls into the ditch on the Sabbath day, what are you going to do? You’re going to pull it out[4]. Are you going to feed your animals on the Sabbath day? Well, of course. It’s never wrong to do any good on the Sabbath day.


We don’t have a Sabbath day, as it were, anymore, but certainly we have excuses we can make for ourselves about what we do or don’t do. Let not us make any kind of excuse as to whether or not we should do good. We should always do good, no matter what[5]. No matter what day it is or time it is or no matter what the consequences of doing that good are.


So the Jews had a pretense that He healed on the Sabbath day, so they were questioning the man, trying to determine is this really the one. And so they asked him questions and they’re hostile. I am sure he noticed it, and he knew that if he didn’t answer the questions in the right way, what he had hoped for all of his life, was going to go away in an instant because he wanted to be part of the community again, to be part of the synagogue, to be one with his people again, to be considered a peer instead of some sort of outcast. But they were questioning him vehemently, and he was standing up to their questioning.


Now, if you look at the questioning, we won’t go into great detail, but it’s interesting to see how he progressively learns, progressively understands. Part of his understanding comes from the very opposition against Jesus Christ. But first they question him, and he told him how he got his vision. He says, a man named Jesus told me to wash in the Pool of Siloam, and now I see. And then he comes up with the idea that he must be a prophet if He healed him. And then they call his parents because they still don’t want to believe. They’re blinded with envy. They’re blinded with their own false priorities, their own hidden agendas.


Brothers and sisters, don’t think we are so far from the Pharisees. Any time that you do something with an ulterior motive, you’re like the Pharisees. Any time that you do something dishonestly for your own gain but making it appear that it’s for something else, you’re a Pharisee. This is a common human condition, to be full of pride and to be jealous and to manipulate things. This is what they were trying to do.


So just as we see the blind man as exemplary in character and we should try to have his type of character, we should also see what the Pharisees do. And then we should try to avoid such things. Look in your life carefully. If you’re careful, you’ll see. There’s a lot of dishonesty there. You may not tell a lie, but will you act in a way that’s a lie? Christianity is always about telling the truth or actually, I should say, Christianity is always about being the truth. Jesus Christ is the truth[6], and we are supposed to become like Him. So we should be the truth in everything we do, in the things we say and the things we do, in our motivations. They’re the most important thing to check of all. Because from your motivations comes everything.


So they continue to question him, and they really bring him to an understanding that since they really hate this man Jesus so much, there must be something to this. So he says to them that it has never been known since the beginning of time that a man blind would receive sight. If this man were a sinner, He couldn’t give me sight. And then they cast him out.

 

It takes great courage for him to say what he said. He had been denied by his parents. He saw that the authorities were about to cast him out if he didn’t say the right things. He could have said the right things and they would have left him alone. He could have either feigned ignorance or he could have -- what is the saying? -- thrown Jesus under the bus, somehow, and he could have skated by. It would not have been that hard to do. But instead he spoke, not only the truth, but he spoke with great courage and showed the Pharisees and the Sadducees how false they were in the way that they were speaking.


Brothers and sisters, we live now in a time that takes great courage. Perhaps it will become worse. You know, there are places in the world where it is very, very hard to be a Christian. Just think of places like Egypt where rape is an everyday occurrence for Christians. But in this society it comes more in little things where the society, our business, or other institutions, try to make us think in a certain way. No, we must think in a Christian way. We must have the courage to think in this way and not be afraid to say what is the truth and to live the truth. That’s what this blind man is teaching us. You can’t be saved unless you have courage. I kind of looked over some of my old sermons and I guess I always said that, because it’s critically important. If you don’t have courage, you can’t be saved. It won’t happen. If you don’t have personal integrity, you won’t be saved.


Now, God will help you in all things. But He will not give you integrity. You must have it. If you have the desire to do well, He will help you to do well. But if you don’t have that desire, He will not give it to you. [READ THE FOOTNOTE![7]] You must have good character to be saved. And the blind man shows us this.


Enlightenment comes to those who have the capacity to understand. Certainly our sins and our passions obscure the truth from us; there’s no doubt; it happens to every human being. But if we don’t even have the right priorities, we are lost completely. We must have the right priorities in how we live our life. Honesty and courage are among the greatest of these priorities. The blind man had them. This is what this really teaches me every time I read it. It takes a lot of courage to be a Christian. I hope you know this. I hope you feel sometimes the pull on you and you pull back, because you can’t be saved unless you have good character.


May God help us to be like the blind man. There will come many times in your life where you will have to stand up and be counted. And you know, the way things are going in our society, it could be that there will be repression in some period of time. You can look at the signs. Things are happening. Things are becoming more controlling. There’s more possibility of control. I don’t want to speak politically here, but if you just have eyes to see and ears to hear, you can see that the world is moving in such a way that controlling people will be easier and easier. And you can see in our society how things that used to be unthinkable and unspeakable now are codified in law. And now we are under pressure to accept these things, sometimes not only with our silence but even with our acquiescence in the work place and in the school and other places.


It takes courage to be a Christian. Do not be afraid to speak the truth. And if you’re not afraid to speak the truth, then God will help you in everything. But if you refuse to speak the truth, then you are denying Jesus Christ. And you know what the Scripture says: If we deny Him, He will deny us[8].


I’ve told you many times before, don’t be afraid of sin; Be afraid of not repenting of sin. If you have good character, God will help you with your sin. If you’re a little sketchy, as far as your morality, if you’re a little dishonest here and there, then you might not get help.


So let us be honest, let us be courageous like the blind man, because it is only if we have good character that God will do everything, with His grace, to make us truly good in everything. God help us.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.    

 

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This homily is at:

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More Homilies on the Sunday of the Blind Manhttp://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#The_Blind_Man

 

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[1] It is the custom during the Paschal season (from Pascha till the day before the Ascension) to greet one another with “Christ is risen!” which is answered “Truly He is risen!” The Faithfull’s “answers” are in parentheses. The languages used are English, Slavonic and Greek. This should not be said softly.

[2] The service texts make this clear. Vespers and Matins are critical for the Christians because they contain the bulk of teaching. Divine Liturgy is not primarily for teaching. We are mediocre as a people because so few Orthodox value the evening services.

[3] “Type” – something that foreshadows or “points to” an important event or doctrine, such as baptism, the cross, the resurrection, etc. Examples: the “sign of Jonah”, which of course is a type of the resurrection, Moses holding the staff with the serpent on the top, which the people looked upon to be healed, which is a type of the cross. There are hundreds and perhaps thousands of types in the OT and even in the NT also.

[4] Luke 13:15 KJV The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?

[5] Here is a favorite little aphorism” “It is always right to do the right thing.”

 

[6] “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

 

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

 

There are many other scriptures. When we lie, or act in a way that is a lie, we are not in Christ, we are choosing to have our Father be Satan, as Christ said: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44 KJV  )

 

[7] I tell my flock this all the time, and it scares some people. The people who are scared are not the ones in danger; the one’s who do not think they have a problem are in grave danger. If we do not feel the desire for doing good, we must at least beg God to give us this desire. In other words, we must “want to want to”. God will always answer this prayer, but He will not help those who do not feel anything lacking in themselves.

[8] Mat 10:33 KJV But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

 

 





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