There is certainly a lot going on in this passage of Scripture we just heard. We have Jesus meeting a man blind from his birth. We have Jesus’ disciples asking Jesus who had the greater sin, this man or his parents? You see, the ancients believed that illness or handicap was caused by sin and so the question for them was a valid one.
We have the man being healed. We have the man being hauled in and questioned before the authorities. We have his parents throwing him under the bus. We have religious leaders more concerned about following rules than about the fact that this man, who has been blind from birth, can now see. We have the man being cast out of the Synagogue because he dared to challenge what the leaders were saying. And we have the testimony of the man born blind, “I believe Lord,” to which I will add, “help my unbelief.”
The words I have added to the story come from a different story and can be found in the 9th chapter of the Gospel of St. Mark, but I believe that in our world today, they ring very true, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
Some crazy things are going on in our world, including this virus that has us all on edge. We are worried, and rightly so, what is going to happen. Sure, I can stand here and try and reassure you all will be well, and my faith tells me that it will, but during the storm, that is not easy to believe. We so desperately want to believe that all will be well, but we are scared, we are worried for ourselves and our families and friends.
Last week I spoke about the story of Jesus calming the storm, and I want to believe that Jesus will calm the storm. I want to believe the words from Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I keep telling myself, “I shall not want,” “I shall not want,” “I shall not want.” It has become a mantra that I repeat over and over again in my head and my heart, but I am still scared, and I am still concerned.
But what of the blind man from today’s story I am sure he was afraid. He could not see; he had never seen. He had been stumbling around his whole life, shunned by most and pitied by the rest. How was he to care for himself, feed himself, clothe himself, earn a living? Then along comes Jesus. The man did not ask to be healed. Jesus healed him.
Now he was scared for another reason. Now he can see things he had never seen before, things that he had drawn images in his mind that might now be changed because he can actually see them. He is so excited that he can see. Then he gets hauled in before the Church council and grilled about how and when he was healed and, in the end, he is cast out, and once again, he is scared.
Being thrown out of the Synagogue was a horrible thing to have to happen. He is cut off spiritually and physically. Now he is back to worrying about how he is going to care for himself. But along comes Jesus again, this time looking for the man because Jesus has heard what happened to him. Jesus asks if he believes and, after a few moments of questions, he tells Jesus that he does believe.
Now get ready because here comes the meaning behind all of this, and I don’t want you to miss it.
Come one, get ready… Jesus healed the man born blind, but he never abandoned him. Jesus healed his physical ailments and then came back to look after the spiritual ones. Last week Jesus calmed the storm and then stayed with his Disciples to make sure they were okay. The point is, Jesus will never leave us no matter what. Turn to the person next to you and say, “Jesus will never leave you no matter what” go on, those of you at home go on I’ll wait, Jesus will never leave you no matter what.
Now I know it’s easy to say and hard to comprehend. When the waves are crashing over the side of the boat, when the virus is creeping around and we don’t know where, when Tom Brady signed that contract with Tampa Bay I know it feels like you are all alone but you are not, Jesus is right there with you.
I know this is going to sound strange, but I get great comfort from the story of Jesus in the garden just before his arrest. He has gone off to pray by himself. He knows what is about to happen, and he is scared. Let me say that again, Jesus is worried. He starts to pray, and he is pleading with God. Scripture tells us that his prayer is so intense, so focused that drops of blood form on his forehead. He is pleading with God to take this cup away. But in the end, he finds comfort, and he tells God, not my will but yours.
A few hours later, he is hanging on the cross. Everyone close to him is gone save for a few brave souls that have come to be with him. He is in agony, and he feels totally abandoned, and he cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me.” And God comforts him in his time of desperation and need.
So, what is the message? It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to cry out to God. It’s okay to struggle with your belief at times like these because Jesus has been there, and he knows what we are going through, and He will never, ever leave you. I hope you believe that.