What Did Jesus See?
A little over a week ago, the Bishops of the Episcopal Church gathered for their Annual Spring Retreat. At one point during the meeting, our Presiding Bishop reflecting on the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John addressed his fellow bishops this way,
“A new kingdom [will] come [said Jesus]. [And so] some folks wanted to make [Him their] king. Some folks said he was a prophet because he turned five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish and fed 5,000 souls.
“And they said, ‘We’re going to make you the king.’
“And Jesus said, ‘No, no, no, no, don’t go there. You need to understand who I am, and what I’m about. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will not be hungry. And whoever believes in me will never thirst.’”
“They said, ‘Oh, that’s a good text, preacher—good text.’
“But then he made the mistake that preachers make; he went on to explain what the text actually means. And when he did that, some folks said, ‘We’re out of here.’
“Other folks said, ‘This is a hard teaching.’ And folks started to leave.
“This was the original Jesus Movement. It started out in decline.
And then Bishop Curry added, “I don’t know why you are all worrying about a parochial report. It started out this way, and it’s still here today.”
So, eventually they were just the Eleven. Long before the Seventy, the One-Hundred-Twenty, the Three-Thousand, and the Five-Thousand, there were just eleven souls.
Long before the church extended all over the world, there was just a bunch of afraid disciples locking themselves up against the impossibility of their call – To follow in their Master’s steps.
If anyone had the odds set against them, it was the Disciples. But then Jesus broke down the barriers of their unbelief and almost literally nursed them into new life – “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Now it is interesting to note, that once the disciples decided to move on – “Let’s go! Let’s grow the church!” – they tried their own way and called all of their friends and elected Matthias. Just one! And from whom we never hear anything else again.
One could say that at least they tried. They called someone who was known to them. Someone who would not rock the boat.
“There is so much in the world and in our lives going on right now, that we cannot deal with nothing else but a sure bet,” they may have thought. So, they called “One of us.”
And then – I am guessing – that Jesus may have thought, “This is going nowhere anytime soon.” And so, He took charge. One day – it was Pentecost -- once again, Jesus barged in. And to their credit, the Disciples got out from under their blankets leaving their fears and hesitations behind.
And this is why we are here today.
In our Gospel, we read about Jesus and his disciples coming across a blind man. And the disciples asked, “Whose fault is that this man is blind?” “Was something that his parents, his family or himself did that caused him to lose his sight?”
For the disciples, the man had ceased to be a man. In the disciples’ view – and it had to be said, in the view of many of their contemporaries – the blind man had lost his humanity. He now was a theological and political problem. Or even one more reason to forget about the cruel God who blinds little children.
But Jesus saw the man for who he truly was – a beloved son of the Most High God, His Father. One who needed not to be studied or debated in churches or in political meetings, or to be used to score points in partisan interests, but someone to be embraced and loved.
“It was not his or his parents or grandparents’ fault that this man came to be blind,” said Jesus. “As a matter of fact, it is irrelevant,” Jesus may have added.
“But what it matters is that this man needs to be brought back to trust in a loving God.” A God who left his throne and kingly crown in order that the works of God may be made apparent in the man. And yes, even in us.
In other words, Jesus did not see the man as a problem or even as a disgrace, but as an opportunity for God’s grace, love, and mercy to be revealed.
Now, let me ask you. If you look at ourselves and our building, even at our community beyond us, what do you see?
What did Jesus see in the disciples – the Twelve minus the One who would betray their Master? What did Jesus see in them that kept him keep on keeping on with their lot?
Did he see all their shortcomings and compromises? Did Jesus consider their age – for most of them were long after their “prime” days – as something that would delay the coming of His Kingdom?
And what about their numbers? Jesus who could call a thousand angels, just called twelve and one of them betrayed Him. So, rather than starting with twelve, why would Jesus chose to start with them and not with the One-Hundred-Twenty or the Three-Thousand?
I am reminded of the story of David that we just heard in our first lesson. It is about the time when he was chosen as the next King. But where was David at the beginning to the story? He was not even there! For not even his father saw in him anything worth noticing! In many ways like some of us, it appeared that David was left behind taking care of the sheep way out in the boondocks. Who cares about little David? Or our St David?
But like the blind man, God saw in David what others refused to see. And upon all of them, David, the disciples, and the blind man the Spirit of the Lord came down mighty.
Had the blind man refused to trust Jesus and allowed himself to be touched, and had David refused to heed Samuel’s call, they would have missed what God had in store for them. What made the difference? They refused to acknowledge what others saw in them.
And this is why David, even in the deepest valley was able to see the presence of the Lord with him when everything told him that his chances were slim to none.
And this is why the disciples – even while contemplating their dwindling numbers decided to stick with Jesus. “You have words of eternal life!”
And this is the good news for you today. God has not given up on us. Like with the blind man, God doesn’t care whose fault it is that we are where we are.
God doesn’t care that we do not have an orchestra and choir, Christian Education programs for all ages, and staff to cover all and every need. Or that we have an aging building. Or that we are not dealing with “the real issues of the day,” whatever those may be.
Or that your Vicar is not St Paul or Mother Theresa either. God sees what human eyes sometimes refuse to see. And, in the end, it is what it counts.
For what you have is a heart burning with God’s love. You have hands that, like those of Jesus, carry the scars of hard work – cooking, working, giving, healing, and lifting up in prayer the heavy burdens of many – even of those who have never set a foot in our church.
A family of brothers and sisters that while contemplating their dwindling numbers still refuse to give up. For we all have come to believe that there is no other place else to go, but to Jesus who offers us words of eternal life.
A God who calls us by name opening his arms into a loving embrace and bidding us to follow Him.
We are those who, like the healed man, can say, “I don’t know how Jesus pulled this off. One thing I do know -- that though I was blind, now I see.”
And at the right time, we all shall see what God has in store for us.
Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, today we are not going to pray for us, for you know us inside out. But we are going to pray that you may bring others into your loving embrace so that the world may know the abundance of your grace and the depth and strength of you eternal love. Amen.