John 9:1-7, March 19, 2023
We too often look for security and love in powerful figures — we are so sure that they can “fix” things for us. It was no different for the people of the First and Second Testaments.
They were looking for Kings, Saviors, Liberators who would offer peace and security in uncertain times. And they often looked “in all the wrong places.”
The Pharisees just can’t believe that this trouble-maker, rule-breaker named Jesus is the One, the Son of God and Savior. Time and again Jesus uses the metaphor of a Shepherd to teach us how we ought to love and care for each other. No wonder,
The Shepherd does what is needed,… when it is needed, regardless of the “rules,”… that humans have made…
This story of Jesus healing a blind man and the Pharisee's finding fault–even feeling threatened by it–reminds me of all of the ways that we intuitively categorize people in our world.
When I read through the Pharisee's skepticism of Jesus' healing, and the way they dismiss the man born blind of that healing. I can't help but chuckle. The Pharisee’s asked, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?”
This is a question that reminds me a lot of statements I have read or heard about people's disbelief, that those experiencing homelessness are capable of being trusted.
Much like the angry crowds that emerge whenever a proposal seeks approval to locate a homeless shelter or services in a given place. The Pharisees objectify Jesus AND the one healed of his blindness before dismissing them both outright.
First Jesus: “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” And then the blind person: "You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?!”
We have a very powerful, internal, and culturally entrenched urge as human beingsto categorize people so that we can more easily identify who can be trusted vs. who is dangerous. We create long conditioned and unconscious images of trustworthy people despite the fact that reality is a lot more complicated.
We can learn from this story of Jesus healing the man born blind, because it wasn't the priest, or a person of perceived religious authority who healed the blind man of his ailment, it was a homeless rabbi! Jesus is the Light of The World.
We often look for spiritual authority in all of the wrong places, and commit the same error the pharisees did in John 9 by discounting the proven miracle that happened right in front of them due to our inability to believe that "certain people" are capable of powerful acts of goodness.
Psalm 23 gives us an image of God that would have been far more striking to those who lived thousands of years ago than it does us today. Shepherds were far from being considered respectable or trustworthy in their communities. They were given a job no one else would have wanted. And yet in Psalm 23 it is the LORD who is our shepherd!
Who leads us to the sweet grasses and whose rod comforts us! The LORD is a Shepherd who dares anoint our heads with oil--an act reserved for prophets and kingmakers!
Folks, most of have focused on what the sheep get from the Shepherd. Please turn in your pew Bible to page 458 And we will read Psalm 23 together. This time I would like you to think about the sheep’s behavior and attitude.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before mein the presence of my enemies;you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
My dear friends, if we will submit to Jesus, and trust our Good Shepherd, we will experience a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Just after Jesus heals the man born blind, in the very next chapter of John, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. The analogy is powerful. The homeless rabbi is the lowly wandering shepherd whose life is lived so that the sheep are safe, are fed, are loved. And later in John chapter 21, three times Jesus asks the question of Simon Peter, “Do you love me?” and when the answer is “of course,” Jesus’ command is to feed his lambs and shepherd his sheep. “Go and do likewise, disciples,” he says to us. “Go as a shepherd who looks for a lost one in danger, no matter the day or the hour.”
Scripture is full of surprising depictions of authority, and power--unsettling our human tendency to limit such characteristics to the people we can only imagine have such traits. Jesus is our Good Shepherd…Jesus put energy into connecting people and pulling individuals together for the common good. He did so persistently, intently, and sometimes effortlessly even when he was in the presence of those he didn’t know very well or who didn’t like him very much. Jesus organized people so simply and succinctly around five basic practices to deepen commitment.
Jesus shows us that when we get to know someone’s heart, we can invite that person to organize around great purposes. We must rekindle this gift in the church today because connecting with people’s hearts is critical to organizing people.
Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary sends out an email issue that had an article on Leadership Lessons from the Bible and wrote an article about
5 Ways to Engage People the Way Jesus Did:
#1. Jesus spoke to people’s hearts.
Jesus observed people and listened to people so intimately that it did not take long for him to discern what really mattered to someone.
From discerning Simon Peter’s deep frustration from the
empty nets of a failed night’s fishing expedition; to a foreign woman’s embarrassment and shame at a well because she somehow couldn’t shake the problems or pain of her past; Jesus could connect with the heart of anyone and then heal that heart with a simple word or command.
We must rekindle this gift in the church today because connecting with people’s hearts is critical to organizing people. Jesus shows us that when we get to know someone’s heart, we can invite that person to organize around great purposes.
#2. Jesus called and equipped people, then modeled for them what he wanted to see in the world.Once he spoke to their hearts, he often called them to something profound. The fishermen at the Sea of Galilee discovered this one day. After a miraculous catch on the lake following an empty fishing expedition, Jesus called them to a greater vision, which was to catch people with the message that broken lives can become whole again.
Then he spent three years in an intimate relationship with them, encouraging them to follow him everywhere he went and modeling for them how to heal people, cure people, save people, lead people, and connect people for a change.
He even modeled the importance of spiritual disciplines as a critical part of organizing. The church needs to get back to the basics of calling, equipping, and modeling.
#3. Jesus organized people through caring for people’s individual needs.
A tax collector named Zacchaeus who was shamed because of his career found Jesus removing his shame, liberating his home, and compelling his heart to go out into the community and restore fortunes to people he’d previously taken advantage of. A demoniac with mental and emotional issues found himself clothed and in his right mind because of an encounter with the Master.
Soon thereafter, Jesus told him not to travel with him but to stay in his community to organize the people around the good news — the message of healing and wholeness. When we focus attention on caring for people’s individual needs, we can mobilize and connect people for change.
#4. Jesus communicated to people something greater than themselves.
Sometimes he did that one-on-one, and sometimes in crowds, as in the Sermon on the Mount. He began by laying out a way of living that leads to a blessed life.
Then he encouraged the crowd to understand their divine role in the world; to answer the question, “Why are we here?”
Then he talked about why he was there and centered the crowd in the foundation of the good news: love that finds us in our brokenness and leads us to wholeness.
After soaking Folks in this rich communication, he began teaching how wholeness can play out in their everyday lives, using real-life scenarios about character building, forgiveness, adultery, divorce, and loving one’s enemies — life experiences that many people face. Finally, he organized people by communicating a better and greater way of life that exceeded what they assumed they could ever attain. As Eugene Peterson translates it, “In a word, what I’m saying is, “GROW UP!” You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you” (MSG, Matt. 5:48).LOOK FOR THE GOOD SHEPHERD AND use Jesus as your role model.
#5. Jesus coordinated systems to have full organizing impact.
One of the best examples of this is found in Luke 10 as he organized the seventy-two.
He sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
Do not take a purse or bag or sandals and do not greet anyone on the road.” He then went on to lay out a specific strategy for what they were going to do and how they were to behave in ways that allowed them to discover that they, too, had the power to heal, the power to cast out demons, and the ability to withstand all types of trial.
He transformed those with low self-esteem to experience divine confidence, and he positioned them to evangelize cities with the gospel and to expose neighborhoods to his good news through some of the most unlikely vessels. We often see these five practices play out simultaneously. For example, Jesus’s feeding of the five thousand is an expression of implementing systems that met people’s needs, even in the most impossible of situations.
He took the complacency of the disciples (“Master, send these people away to buy their own food, it’s getting dark”) and moved it to commitment:
(“You give them something to eat”), which inspired courage in them to take what they had and what they could find and organize people for the common good.
Jesus was so good at this type of organizing that in the feeding of the five thousand people had leftovers!
The church today can learn a great deal from Jesus, Our Good Shepherd, about deepening commitment to organize people for the holistic common good. When we commit to speaking to people’s hearts, calling and equipping them to model the holistic life that the world yearns for, caring for people’s needs, communicating to people something greater than themselves within systems that can transform.
The church will truly be the catalyst that makes disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Please rise and let us sing together, the words are printed in the bulletin, “Lord, Dismiss Us” #834 “Lord dismiss us with your blessing; fill our hearts with joy and peace; let us each, your love possessing, triumph in redeeming grace; O direct us and protect us traveling through this wilderness.”