Last June, on an airplane mid-flight between Phoenix and Atlanta, a passenger suffered a heart attack with his wife and friend next to him.
The crew sprang to the man’s aid and performed the best medical training they could in this emergency.
Another man on the plane saw what was happening, and he walked to where the suffering man’s wife was and prayed with her and her friend during the incident.
Tragically, the man didn’t survive the heart attack.
When the plane landed, the man who prayed with the family remained with them, comforting them the best he could.
When they got off the plane, he offered the car that was awaiting him, and he accompanied them to the hospital and stayed with them during through the whole ordeal.
And he never said a word about it, not even to the press.
Most people would agree that this man was doing a beautiful thing in comforting the woman and her friend.
Yet within 24 hours of the incident, which received a good deal of media coverage, there were a whole lot of negative comments, such as:
“(He) was getting in the way while trying to be a missionary on a plane? What a putz!”
"He is the male equivalent of a Kardashian. Maybe he ought to change his name to Kim.”
(as in he was only seeking attention). Also:
"Why is this even a story?"
"Prayed? Give me a break. Get out of the way and let modern medicine take care of the sick. Idiot."
"I think I'm going to throw up.”
Why was this man ostracized for simply acting like a Christian?
Well, his name is Tim Tebow.
Tim Tebow, who now plays baseball for the New York Mets, had a short professional football career, too.
And before that, he was the Florida Gators’ starting quarterback, and in 2007, he became the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy.
That was all great.
What bothered a lot of people, though, was his public display of prayer and giving thanks to God.
Tebow would kneel and pray before and after football games and especially after a touchdown.
He would talk openly about his Christianity.
He would witness anytime, anywhere he felt moved to.
And that just turned a whole lot of people off.
It didn’t matter that during the whole time — through college and his professional life — that he not only donated millions and millions of dollars to help children all around the world, and most recently as a partner with the international CURE agency, but that he would show up in missionary work, roll up his sleeves and work hard alongside of other volunteers.
Not for the media attention.
But because people were in need, and he helped. That’s how he was raised.
Are we afraid?
The name Christian carries an awful lot of connotations and meanings — both positive and negative.
In a world of professional sports, where nearly EVERYONE decries athletes who act immorally or unethically, we finally see a man with high morals and ethics, and we hate him for it.
We think he’s on a high horse, a goody-two-shoes…
When all we ask for are good role models for our kids, we end up wearing the jersey numbers of guys whose worth is measured in the dollars they earn for the touchdowns they score, the homers they hit or the hoops they score rather than for who they really are.
This is our world. This is where we live.
We teach our kids to comfort, to not be afraid to pray in public, to never deny Jesus.
But do we really act like this?
More and more, our culture revolts against this.
And I’m not talking about forcing our faith on others or being completely obnoxious — because that wouldn’t be like Christ.
I’m talking about our witness in this world.
Today, we read a long passage in John 9, 1-41, about how Jesus gave a blind man sight.
The man was born blind, we read, Jesus approaches him and gives him his sight.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you celebrate such an occasion?
But that’s not what happens, is it?
Right off the bat, Jesus’s disciples see the man and ask Jesus what sin did the man or his parents do that made him born blind?
The disciples totally don’t get it, do they?
Jesus answers that the man’s blindness has nothing to do with sin, but God will use his condition to reveal God’s presence in Jesus.
And when Jesus heals the man, again, we don’t see praise; instead, we get question, fear and even anger.
Some of the formerly blind man’s neighbors say it’s not him, just someone who look like him. They refuse to see the miracle.
The Pharisees question the man, and instead of seeing the work of God, they attempt to paint Jesus as a sinner who broke the law of working on the Sabbath.
How does Jesus perform the miracle? He mixes spit and clay to rub on the man’s eyes.
The healing isn’t the work; the mixing of the spit and mud is. The Pharisees see this as kneading — like how you would knead dough, and that wasn’t allowed on the Sabbath. That’s work.
They look for any excuse to not see the miracle that just happened.
And finally, we have the formerly blind man’s parents, who when questioned by the Pharisees in verse 23, say, he’s old enough to answer for himself.
Why are they afraid?
The Jews in this case is the Pharisees. In John’s Gospel, we see that division happening between Christ followers and the Jews, who are led by the Pharisees.
And more, we see that there is persecution against the Christians.
That’s why the parents don’t answer; they are, it says in Verse 22, that anyone who confesses Jesus as their savior will be thrown out of the Temple.
When you are thrown out of the Temple, you are basically not a Jew. And if you’re not a Jew, your money isn’t good here anymore.
It’s a big deal, and they are afraid to witness to this miracle.
So the disciples get it wrong, the neighbors get it wrong, the pharisees get it wrong, and the parents get it wrong.
Isn’t it ironic that all of these people simply refuse to acknowledge what they can plainly see with their own perfectly functioning eyes?
They will not recognize who Jesus is.
Those who can see become blind. And those who are blind will see.
They find any reason to deny the miracle.
And in denying the miracle, they remain blind.
I want to say that we all know people like this, don’t we? They aren’t believers.
It hurts us.
Sometimes they're our friends.
Sometimes they’re our coworkers.
Sometimes they are even our family — our siblings, our children, our spouses…
We pray, and they roll their eyes at us.
We say someone was healed, and they turn away.
We witness to the works and presence of God in our lives, and they criticize us.
Or maybe they finally read that Bible verse that we took the time to reference and give them, and they say, “I don’t get that at all” or “I don’t think that could possibly have happened.”
First Corinthians 2.14: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”
And so, like the neighbors, the pharisees and the parents, they walk away in blindness.
And who stands as witness?
Like a lone voice calling in the wilderness.
Who in our reading today is the witness?
Not the community that’s supposed to support one another.
Not the pharisees, who are supposed to be the spiritual leaders.
And not even the man’s own parents, who are called to love him unconditionally.
The only witness to Jesus’s works is the man himself.
In fact, he is called to testify twice.
He witnesses to his own healing to his neighbors: He keeps saying “I AM THE MAN!”
In other words, “IT WASN’T SOMEONE ELSE WHO WAS BLIND, IT WAS ME!!!”
And then he has to witness to his own healing to the Pharisees.
At first, he tells them Jesus was a prophet, but later, he witnesses to Jesus as God revealed in Jesus.
You see, think about this faith of the blind man.
He never saw Jesus at first. He didn't know who Jesus was, even. Jesus never said “Hey, I’m the messiah. Or I am Jesus.”
Jesus came to him and healed him by rubbing the clay on his eyes, then he told the man to go wash his eyes, and he would see.
By the time the man received his site, Jesus was already gone.
It wasn’t until after all those conversations with the neighbors, pharisees and parents that Jesus approaches him again (verse 35).
Jesus doesn’t tell him “Hey, I’m the guy who gave you sight.”
Instead, he asks the man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
The man says “Show me him, and I will.”
Jesus reveals himself to the man, and the man believes.
See that? First Jesus gives the man his physical site. Then he gives him spiritual insight.
Light and Dark
This is what it’s so amazing that John here — and throughout the Gospel — talks about the contrast between Light and Dark.
When you are blind, you are in the Darkness. And in the Darkness, you are blind.
You have to see to understand. Your eyes must be opened. There must be Light.
And Jesus says “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Verse 5)
“As long as I am in the world…”
We could rephrase that to say Jesus is the reflection of God and ask: How do we respond to that revelation?
We can acknowledge it, or we can turn or eyes from it.
We can even accept that Jesus took all of that darkness with him to the cross in order to open our eyes to that light.
Or we can turn our eyes from it, and remain in the dark.
When we are in the darkness, we have an excuse — it becomes easier to pass the buck or the blame and say, “Hey, there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t even see it!”
When we’re in the light, we can clearly see what is happening.
So, what is happening?
What do we conveniently turn a blind eye to in our own lives?
In the dark, we can talk so easily about the sin and sufferings of others.
In the dark, we can pretend that the suffering and pain around us doesn’t exist.
In the dark, we can pretend to not see where Jesus calls us to love and to heal.
In the dark, we can tell ourselves that we’re not obligated to follow Christ.
But again, because Jesus took away that darkness on the cross, there is no excuse for being spiritually blind.
Because Jesus took away that darkness on the cross, we’re in fact OBLIGATED to see what is around us.
A war that’s killed half a million of people in Syria, mostly children.
Policies that illegally target refugees who are worshipping in Christian churches.
Greed that puts money in front of things like safe drinking water.
A social and political system that condones racism and prejudice.
Blinded by convenience
Are we conveniently blind to this stuff? Certainly, Jesus tells us that he is the light.
What excuses do we have?
Or maybe we can say it this way: Are we blind to where Jesus is doing great works in the world?
Do we acknowledge it?
Do we acknowledge when a church or a community comes together to help a family or people in need?
Are we afraid to say “Jesus is Lord!” outside of these church walls?
Do we hesitate to acknowledge the healing power of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life?
Are we shy about telling someone we’ve been praying for them or we will pray for them?
The blind man being given sight happens all around us each day.
We say so often that we want a more moral and ethical world, but we’re afraid to witness not only when we see something good that Jesus has done, but when we refuse to proclaim that IT CAN BE DONE through Jesus Christ!
We are called to see. We are called to witness. And we are called to share the Light.
The people who criticize Tim Tebow for his open witness? They are blind. Absolutely blind.
Just like the neighbors — they doubt what Jesus can do.
Like the Pharisees — reason can’t make sense of the supernatural.
Like the parents — fear of being ostracized.
Like us — afraid to stand against all of that blindness and say, “No. No. No.
Like the man born blind: No matter what it costs me, no matter who you think you are, no matter what you will do to me: Let me show you the true light.