Christ is Risen!!!
In today’s gospel, Christ gives sight to the man born completely blind, demonstrating conclusively – once again – that He is God by fulfilling one of the best known prophetic signs of the Messiah listed in Isaiah. As the former blind man himself says, in testifying to the Pharisees, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.” When he washed in the pool of Siloam the man born blind received his sight. This is a foreshadowing of how we receive our spiritual sight, at our washing in the water of our baptism.
What a great blessing when our physical handicaps, our weaknesses can be the very things that bring Christ into our life! (Rom. 8:28) “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…” This new disciple of Christ was born blind expressly that “the works of God might be revealed in him,” Our physical condition has little to do with our fulfilment in life. Many who suffer with bodily limitations and ailments find great joy in God, and many who are perfect specimens of bodily health and would appear to have everything going for them from the worldly view of success, are miserable and suicidal. For only in God is there true life, and whatever brings us to Him is to be received with great gratitude.
Christ uses clay to create new eyeballs for this man born blind. The fathers say this was not simply an act of healing, but an act of creation. Using clay, as He did when He formed Adam in the beginning, Christ formed clay eyeballs and placed them into the empty eye sockets of the man born without any eyeballs. In the beginning, we hear in (Gen. 2:7) that He “formed us out of the dust from the ground, and breathed in his face the breath of life; and man became a living soul,” Christ chooses to unite His healing divinity with our humble constitution of clay. Such is the unfathomable love that God has for us that He wishes to work together with us weak and broken human creatures simply because of His love for us and His creation. All through the scriptures we find references to our nature of clay. (Isiah 45:9) “Shall the clay say to the potter ‘What are you making’?” or (Rom. 9:20,21) “But Indeed, O man who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this? Does not the potter have power over the clay from the same lump to make one vessel for honour and another for dishonour?” We sing the Kontakion of the Departed at our funerals, “You only are immortal, Who have created and fashioned man. For out of the earth were we mortals made, and into the same earth shall we return again, as You commanded when You made me saying unto me: (Gen.3:19) For dust you are and unto dust shall you return. Where we mortals all shall go, making as our funeral dirge the song: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.”
So, what is the lesson of the clay mixed with God’s own saliva and breath. The lesson is that we are inanimate, completely devoid of any real life apart from God. We don’t even exist apart from God. Complete nothingness, as lifeless as the clay we walk on. This should awaken in us a true spirit of humility – of simply knowing who we are and being grateful to God for all things. When our nature of clay is energized with the breath of God, O wonder of wonders, we are joined into communion with God Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and with our true family the saints. Even as Christ comes today and mixes His saliva with clay, anointing the blind man and granting him sight, so He comes to each of us, mixing His divinity with our humanity – with our nature of clay – and His power is manifest through us to heal the earth and all of creation. That’s our job description, the Church is a spiritual hospital dispensing the healing grace of our loving Lord Jesus Christ.
The man born blind from birth is representative of all of us who are born spiritually blind, surrounded in the darkness of sin. Yet through God’s grace we too can receive the gift of sight & illumination. All through the scriptures we are told that if we are spiritually blind we are in much worse shape than if we are physically blind. This man born without physical eyes had developed remarkably good spiritual eyesight. Immediately upon learning that Jesus was the Son of God he responds “Lord I believe! And he worshiped Him.”
His disciples ask at the beginning of the gospel reading “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?” this understanding of God punishing us for our sin – the wrathful God – was so ingrained in their culture that Christ’s disciples can not even conceive of any other cause. God is just waiting to punish us, when bad things happen He is sending His just punishment – right? Wrong! “Neither this man nor his parents sinned but that the works of God might be revealed in him.” This simple question cuts right to the heart of how we see God. We still have much of this false thinking even here amongst us enlightened Orthodox Christians. We need to continually ask ourselves if we are still viewing God in this manner? We should know better, we constantly hear Christ saying that he came not to condemn, but to heal the broken hearted, free the captives and give sight to the blind.
We are dismissed from every Liturgy with these words, “He is a good God; He loves us and all of mankind.” This is the central message the Church in every age and every culture is trying to get across. Christ, quoting from Hosea and Micah and all through the Old Testament (Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:6-8) tells us to “understand what this means, I desire mercy not sacrifice.” (Matt. 9:13). We hear John 3:16 every Liturgy and often have it memorized from an early age. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But the next verse John 3:17 explains how the Father’s love in Christ acts “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
The Orthodox Church’s understanding of why Christ came to us in the incarnation was that He came and sanctified all of life by becoming fully human, taking on our human flesh from His most pure Mother the Theotokos. He spent three years completely fulfilling all the many signs the old testament said the Messiah would do. Who else in all of history before or after Christ has even come close to fulfilling all these signs. Today He restores sight to one born blind, without even eyes the fathers tell us. Last week He told the woman at the well all that she had ever done and the week before He heals the man paralyzed for 38 years. He heals the lepers; He heals the sick; He raises Lazarus to life after being 4 days dead; He casts out the demons and they name Him as the Son of God; He feeds the 5000 with 5 loaves; He calms the storms and they fall silent and He walks upon the water; Who else in history has even done a fraction of these things, how can there be any doubt that Jesus is the Messiah. He spent three years demonstrating beyond any question Who He was and then, He went to complete His mission and very purpose in coming and taking on our humanity. His voluntary death on the cross – for our sake alone; and His resurrection unto eternal life – for our sake alone.
He enters into death and Hades itself, confronting Satan and destroying the hold that death and the devil had on the race of Adam. Then through His Resurrection He paved a path and invited us to come and join Him, to be transformed and to allow the image of God He had originally placed within us when He first created us, to come to life and grow. He died to heal us, to restore the broken image we inherited from our common ancestor Adam, to save us by providing a way for us to enter into His kingdom and restore our communion through Himself with our Father God. St. Athanasius said in the 4th century said, “Christ put on a body that He might find death and blot it out.” and “He, indeed assumed humanity that we might become God.” He was simply repeating what Irenaeus, Clement and Justin Martyr had all said in the 2nd century. “Christ became man that man might become god.” We desperately need to understand who we are, the incredible gift God has given us. St. Paul prays for us in (Ephesians 3:18,19) “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Christ says in the very next verse following today’s Gospel reading “I came that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” He continuously tells us that if in humility we begin to recognize we can do nothing, nor understand anything apart from Christ – then we begin to see. He came to save sinners, not the righteous. Like the man born blind, may we allow Him to do that which He most wants to do, to heal our blindness and bring us safely home. For He is a good God; He loves us and all of mankind. Christ is Risen!