Weekly Bible Reflection
Matthew's Communities of Justice
Fourth Sunday of Lent
John 9:1-41 :
Eyes wide shut
Begin by using the Method as outlined
Think of discussions you have had with people about Christ and the Christian faith where the more you tried to explain the less convinced they became?
What were the barriers that prevented people from believing (‘seeing’)?
Reflection on the text
John’s gospel has been described as an account of an extended trial. Jesus is regularly questioned by the ‘prosecution’ and the writer of the Gospel brings the case for the ‘defence’.
Here, Jesus is questioned intensively by the Pharisees (the ‘Jews’) about a healing. We find rich themes: the relationship between sin and disability (v2), Sabbath work (v4), Jesus as ‘the light of the world’ (v5) and the process of new creation involving clay and water (v 6). Later the focus shifts to discipleship (= belief in Jesus) and judgment (v38).
The poor man is overwhelmed by the experience. He is not used to so much interest and attention. And it’s scary too, as the heat rises and he finds himself at the centre of a dispute over breaking the letter of the Law. But, as his confidence grows, he is able to give as good as he gets (v27)
The Pharisees in their arrogance increasingly tie themselves in knots because they are ’blind’ to Jesus’ identity and being ‘from God’ (v29f). It all simply defies their logic and they end up calling Jesus a sinner. They increasingly show themselves to be spiritually ‘ignorant’ of the truth about the One they are challenging.
As the Pharisees walk into greater darkness of unbelief (v40f), the healed man’s spiritual understanding of Jesus ever deepens and is expressed in worship (v38) and followership.
some questions for group discussion:
- In Jesus’ day, people often linked disability and sickness with sin. Consider some modern examples of this - such as HIV/AIDs. How might you and your Christian community go about challenging such beliefs and attitudes?
- Jesus claims to be ‘the light of the world’ (v5). How best do we share this and the other ‘I am’ claims of Jesus in a multi-faith society?
- People with disabilities are frequently marginalised. John Hull is blind, a professor of education, and has written extensively about his disability and faith. He points out that the language of Scripture and Christian hymnody reinforces a negative image of blindness. He says:
‘We must train ourselves to purify our language from unconscious traces of prejudice. The truth is that there is no such thing as spiritual blindness. There is spiritual insensitivity, stubbornness, ignorance and callousness, but when we refer to these qualities as being spiritual blindness we reinforce the prejudice, and collaborate in the continued marginalisation of disabled people.’ He also says:
‘It has become common to pour scorn upon political correctness, but that scorn is not shared by the people who are slandered and marginalized by the failure to use the language of liberty.’
Share together your thoughts on John Hull’s remarks. What practical steps can we take in order to stop using language which demeans people with disability?
Light a large candle and place it in the middle of the group circle to remind everyone of the presence of Christ the Light of the World in your midst.
Have a time of open or silent prayer for the issues discussed and/or the individuals that came to your mind in the discussion.
Conclude by saying together the Grace together.
More background information
For more on John Hull’s views on the use of the language of disability to disenfranchise and alienate the actual disabled go to the following links:
http://soundprint.org/streamIt.php?stream=documentaries/j/john_hull.rm (you will need Real Player for this)
For helpful comment on the link made between sin and disability go to the following link: http://www.johnmhull.biz/broken%20body.htm