Apr 3, 2011(Fourth Sunday in Lent) John 9:24~34 (Rev. Hyunchoul Shin)
Looking back and recalling all the verses that we read during the past month, I thought about Jesus Christ who was tested by the devil in Matthew Chapter 4. I thought about Nicodemus who had thought that he was perfect but who was told that he had to be reborn of water and of spirit in John Chapter 3. I thought about the Samaritan woman who had a lot of problems but who was promised the living water.
It is very ironic that Jesus Christ who was the son of God was tested by the devil. It is also ironic that Nicodemus who was smart and had everything was scolded for not knowing how to enter the kingdom of heaven. Strangely, on the other hand, the Samaritan woman who had nothing was promised the living water.
In fact, the whole idea of Christianity can be called ironic. It is ironic that son of God came to earth with the appearance of a normal human being. It is ironic that in order to save us, Jesus Christ had to be crucified. While we are told that we can be saved as long as we have faith in God, we make such an effort to serving Him. We come to church every week and we pray every day… It is quite ironic.
So what is irony? The concept of irony originated from Kierkegaard’s university thesis paper about socratic irony. He explained that Socratic irony was realization of one’s self ignorance through pointing out of the faults of others.
Irony is often found in Greece plays and dramas. Two types of actors star in such dramas. They are eiron and alazon. Alazon is a character who is strong and powerful but very proud. Eiron is a character who is weak but modest. On the outside, alazon seems to be the winner of the conflict between the two, but in the end, eiron defeats the former. The word Irony originates from eiron, which means truth hidden underneath the surface.
So relating eiron and alazon to today’s verse, who do you think is eiron? If you read John 9:1, there is a beggar who is “blind from birth.”
Jews used to believe that blindness and leprosy resulted from sin, so even Jesus Christ’s disciples asked him, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” So we can see that this blind man from today’s verse is the very prototype of eiron.
How about alazon? In John 9:8, “His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked,” and again, there are the Pharisees who appear in the 13th verse as well as The Jews from the 18th verse. Here, one thing they have in common is they all appear in groups. I guess that having support from group members is a form of power.
From the 16th verse (“Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’”), we can assume that the Pharisees regularly keep the Sabbath. Also, from the 22nd verse (“[His parents] were afraid of the Jews for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue.”), the Jews were powerful enough to banish other people of different beliefs. Again from the 28th verse (We are disciples of Moses!), we can guess that these people were extremely exact about the rules regarding their religion. So these people who knew a lot about rules and were powerful in numbers could be considered the alazon.
So if these people were in conflict in reality, who do you think will win? It seems so obvious that powerful alazon would defeat the eiron. But the irony is that the alazon will be defeated and eiron would conquer. How is this possible?
First, as I mentioned before, a blind man from birth was considered a sinner. Therefore, he spent his life in complete darkness. When he met Jesus, in the 6th verse, “[Jesus] spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” Why did Jesus do this? With words, he could have easily made the blind man be able to see. And why did Jesus tell the blind man to wash in the Pool of Siloam? Siloam is one of the two pools in Jerusalem, along with the Pool of Bethesda. And the word means Sent from the word Shiloah. In Isaiah 8:6, “people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin.” This foreshadows Jesus who gets rejected by the people of Jerusalem. So the fact that Jesus sent the blind man to Siloam could mean that he sent the man to himself in Spirit. We can see that Nicodemus’ realization about rebirth of water, Samaritan woman’s promised spring of water that never dries up, and Pool of Siloam where the blind man went all related to each other. If we do not go toward the Christ who is the spring that never dries up, we cannot truly fulfill our satisfaction in life, and we cannot be reborn of water and spirit. We will be in darkness like the blind man, and in order to be able to see, we have to go toward the Christ, go to Siloam and meet those who were sent. I hope that this place is a Pool of Siloam for all of us. I hope that we are sent by the Jesus Christ and that we are able to open our eyes from the blindness that we are born with.
Through this healing, the blind man not only gained sight in the physical sense, but also experienced a spiritual awakening.
Initially the person refers to Jesus as “the man they call Jesus” (9:11), then in line 17, he refers to him as a ‘prophet,’ and in line 33 the blind man states that “if this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Finally in line 38, he exclaims “Lord, I believe.” The man, to prophet, to man from God, then to Lord… To reiterate, the blind man not only opened his physical eyes but also his spiritual eyes and as a result, came to know who Jesus really was. Furthermore, if we look at today’s scripture, we see that there are three trial scenes. The first targeted the Pharisees, the second against the blind man’s father, and the last to the blind man.
To the blind man, this trial may have instilled fear as he could have possibly been sentenced to death as the accusation was an issue surrounding Sabbath. Even his father was in ‘fear’ (9:22). However, the blind man remains unshaken, “He replied, ‘whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’” (9:25).
Previously, the blind man was ignored and belittled as a sinner and as a beggar but now, he is boldly telling the truth in a life-threatening situation. In line 27 he even says, “He answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?’” and in line 30, “The man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.’” responses that even demonstrate his wisdom.
What changed this blind man to this extent? I feel that this assurance can only be seen in those who have experienced the truth, in that he is unable to deny the truth. This blind man, after meeting Jesus, found new light in his life, and because this experience was so concrete, he gained the ability to truly see.
In contrast, the accusers asked “How then were your eyes opened?” (9:10). The Pharisees “also asked him how he had received his sight” (9:15). Line 16 shows a division among people due to this issue and in line 18, “the Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight.” Later, “they asked him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’” (9:26) and says “We don’t even know where he comes from” (9:30).
Isn’t it strange that people, who know the laws of God and were proud of abiding by the rules of Sabbath, seemed to know less than the blind man? As time goes on they became more confused and divided. They ask the same questions repeatedly and the more they ask the more they fall into the abyss.
Now why is this? It’s because these people were the truly blind men. Despite the fact that Jesus said “while I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5), they were unable to see as they were unable to see the light. Line 39 supports this conclusion as it makes us wonder who the real blind people are, “the blind will see and those who see will become blind. Even though Jesus came as the light of the world, these people who are unaware of the truth and thus are unable to see are the truly blind ones.
In the beginning of chapter 9 we see that Eiron, the blind man, came out as the victor against Alazon, the Pharisees and the Jews – those who were able to see couldn’t see and those who were unable to see could see.
Recently I saw a piece of writing on the internet entitled ‘the irony of creativity.’ It said that in times when we most need creativity, it is more difficult for you to be creative. For example, if we were to be working on a project, we are told to be more creative in situations where we are lacking time in order to become more effective. However, in reality we are able to be more creative in situations where we have excessive time as we are able to brainstorm and experiment. It is only when we have the time to see the bigger picture that we can be creative.
Some researchers conducted a study on how people’s perspectives are affected by their emotions. They showed a series of pictures with a house in the background a face in the centre. Because different parts of our brains recognize places and faces, the researchers were able to figure out how much of the picture a person can observe in the given amount of time. The study showed that pictures that elicit warm emotions like those of puppies or chocolates enabled people to not only see the faces but also the houses but pictures that elicit negative emotions like those of people fighting or crying, people were only able to see the faces and not the houses. The scientists concluded that negative emotions narrow our perspectives and thus we are only able to observe a small portion of the given.
Similarly, when we are late for an appointment and are looking for the book that we were supposed to bring to it, we become frantic and are unable to see. We’ll search to the right, left, up, down and everywhere but to no avail. However, when we come back to look for it at a later time, we see that the book was on the desk all along.
Why couldn’t we find it before? People like Nicodemus, the Pharisees and the Jews who led holy lives full of knowledge were unable to really see Jesus Christ even though he was right in front of them. However, those who seemed as though they wouldn’t have been able to see like the Samaritan woman and the blind man were able to truly see him. Why is this the case? Why can’t we be creative when we need to be or see Jesus who is in front of our eyes or find that book that has been on the desk all this time? With both fear and anxiety I reflected on myself. How about me? In this world, under the control of God, am I Eiron or Alazon? (translated by Mika Choi and Soyeon Song)
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