Sunday, July 05, 2009

John 9: Thoughts and Activities

If you talk about John 9 there are lots of activities you can do with light, seeing, blindfolds, and a dark room but here are some other trails to explore as you're pondering the story:

Born blind. What would you never experience if you were born blind? What are all the things we've been seeing our entire lives that we would miss? There are activities for using just ears, or nose, or taste, or touch.

Do you know parents whose children have a physical handicap because of something they or their children did wrong? Do you know parents whose children have a physical handicap because of something they think they did wrong? Do you know parents who feel guilty but don't need to feel guilty?

Why did this bad thing happen? We all ask this at some point or another. Jesus says in this case (vs 3-5 NIV) "Neither this man nor his parents sinned . . . but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

Jesus also said, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." We spiritualize this but think about working in the daylight as opposed to working in the dark and about Jesus being the light we need to do that work. And Jesus said "we".

Jesus is the light. [light and darkness activities] We have to be able to see to work. We work when it's light, not in the dark when we can't see. Pick a task - doing a 9 piece jig saw puzzle, building a block tower...something that would be simple if you could see it. Try it in the dark. Picking up the room in the dark, ha ha ha!

Verses 6-7 are gross but what if. . . what if you spit in the dirt, made a paste, stuck it on your eyes, washed it off in some public pool or fountain because Jesus told you to and you were suddenly able to see for the first time in your life?

Most stories (this one included) lend themselves to skits. Any good story will stand on it's own simplicity but it will also have layers. God's stories have the added component that He sends us His Holy Spirit to show us things we didn't see the last time we read it.

The man was blind. He was begging. He couldn't see to work. Jesus healed him. Suddenly he could see. People noticed. Some people didn't even recognize him as the same man. The social interchange of vs 8-9 is interesting. Apparently the change was dramatic. What would change if you spent your whole life blind and unable to work and suddenly you could see?

A blind man heard Jesus and did what he said. The newly seeing man was asked and had opportunity to tell about the thing Jesus asked him to do and what happened when he did it. If some friend told you that story about a stranger, what would you say?

"He told you to do what?"

Life isn't so simple as all that. The religious leaders find out. The fact that Jesus "broke the Sabbath" to heal this man becomes an issue. Maybe begging on the Sabbath was an issue, we don't know.

This newly healed seeing man - the one everyone is talking about- is the one who has to face these religious leaders, not Jesus (the one being accused of the wrong-doing). These leaders are going to make some decision, pass some judgment, about whether or not they believe what just happened. Can you imagine being able to see for the first time and having your church leaders question whether or not your healing and the man who healed you is from God?

They're still referring to this guy, this seeing man, as the blind man. Some say, "So what you can see. This guy who healed your eyes can't be from God, he broke the Sabbath."

Other people argue. "Of course Jesus is from God, whether he broke the Sabbath or not. You can't just heal someone who was born blind so they can see unless you come from God. Sinners don't do stuff like this!" Can you hear them arguing?

So they bring in the man's parents.

"Is this your son?"


"Was he born blind?"


"How come he can see?"

"Well, we know this is our son. We know that now he can see. But we don't know why he can see. Ask him. He's of age. He can speak for himself." How old was this young man? 14? 20? 40? We don't know.

Whether or not the parents knew what happened they were afraid to come up against their religious leaders and praise Jesus for what He did for their son for fear of getting kicked out of the synagogue. Their newly seeing son might not be outcast anymore but they would be.

So the leaders come back and interrogate the man again. They say, "Give glory to God!" Simple request. The young man already told them he believed the man to be a prophet, "I don't know anything about the man who smeared the mud on my eyes. I don't know whether he was a sinner or not. I don't know whether he came from God or not. All I know is that I was blind. Now I can see." In all of our discussion about concrete, that's pretty concrete - from the blind man's perspective, anyway!

They interrogate him again. Through the whole interrogation this formerly blind young man holds his own with these presumably well-educated religious leaders. The young man asks them, "Why do you keep asking me the same things over and over do you want to believe in Him? Do you want to follow him and learn from him?"

Finally they just flat out "hurl insults" at him and flat out accuse him of being Jesus' disciple insisting that they are disciples of Moses. So the young man ends up coming to Jesus' defense, saying back to these leaders the same things they started with and they kick him out.

Jesus finds the young man but the young man doesn't recognize him. Apparently he doesn't even recognize his voice. The seeing young man expresses his desire to believe in his Healer even though he never saw who made him see. Jesus gives him opportunity.

(John 9:35-41 NIV), "Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"

"Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him."

Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you."

Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.

Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."

Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?"

Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." We circle back to blindness and guilt and sin...

There's a lot to ponder in this story. In it's simplist form, Jesus made a man see who had never been able to see in his entire life. Jesus put mud on the man's eyes and asked him to wash it off. It changed the man's life. He told people what Jesus did for him. The religious leaders gave him a hard time but the man was honest about what he knew and what he didn't know. And he could see. Face to face with Jesus,he gave God the glory. The more complicated version, Jesus did this on the Sabbath. When the man went to share what happened with the religious leaders they worked very hard to discredit him. They even brought in the man's parents who were afraid to stand up for their son or what Jesus did. Maybe they really didn't know what had happened. By the end of the story, Jesus responded to the Pharisees taking it to yet another level asking who has the right to pass judgment, who is blind, who can see? Who is guilty of what? I guess I never noticed how it all circled back around.

Taking God's stories in their simplist form for the simplist listeners will grow faith. Taking that story with more and more of its detail to more experienced listeners will grow more faith...Ideally, anyway ...

You can follow where their questions and comments lead. And you can ask them: "What can we do to help us remember this story and what Jesus did?" What kind of materials would you need on hand to give kids with different interests and skills opportunity to create projects of their own design to help them remember the stories?

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