3/10/02, L4A

This One Thing I Know!”
John 9: 1-41

he most powerful sermon I have heard on the story about Jesus' healing of the man born blind was delivered by Dr. Benjamin Mays when I was a first year student at the Candler School of Theology. In order to understand the strong impression the sermon made on my young soul you have understand the setting, the situation in which it was delivered. It was during the height of Vietnam War student protests and the local controversy called "The God Is Dead Movement," which had spilled over onto the cover of TIME magazine. All of us in the room held recent memories of where we were when we heard the tragic news that President John Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. We recalled the horrors of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and most recently we had experienced the brutal murder of Attorney General Robert Kennedy. It was an age of doubt and serious questioning of the very foundations of religion.

Dr. Benjamin Mays, a Baptist minister and the first African-American President of the Atlanta School Board, known for his sound theology and broad understanding of the struggle for equal rights of his race, was one of the few persons who could have had the respect of the majority of the divided congregation in our chapel that morning. There was as many angry sides represented in our chapel as there were on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on the day that our story about the Man Born Blind took place. The seminary community was quick with anticipation as Dr. Mays called out the text in his moving African-American style. He especially intoned the words of the formerly blind man as he was grilled by the elite Pharisees as to whom it was who had healed him. Dr. Mays chanted out, "I don't know about his pedigree, I don't know his history or his theology, I don't know much about him at all; but, this one thing I do know, I was blind, and now I see!

Soon after that experience Marilyn and I took a pilgrimage to Palestine during the Christmas break with our parents and many longtime friends. Touring Jerusalem, our guide announced that our next stop would be at the Pool of Siloam; and he asked, "Can anyone tell us the story of Jesus and the blind man He healed?" One of the young preachers spoke up and said in an enthusiastic voice, "This one thing I know, I was blind and now I see!" You can probably guess who that young enthusiast was. It became an undergirding thought for me in the face of the cold hard skepticism of that troubled era. Dr. Mays was saying that we do not have to understand Jesus in order to know Him. He was saying that we can still trust Jesus as the very heart of our spiritual lives and that He is available to meet our needs and live in our hearts despite the doubt that many had in those troubled times.

As we work our way toward Easter, just three weeks away, we are challenged to see ourselves in the lives of persons who met the Master. Together these life changing encounters have created what we might call a New Testament paradigm, or model of how individuals, then and now, can come to experience a relationship with God through Christ and by the working of the Holy Spirit in our contemporary lives.

During the past few weeks we have focused on the Lectionary Gospel readings which have zeroed in on varying personality types, and people of vastly different backgrounds, who each met Christ in somewhat different ways. Jesus challenged Nicodemus, a leader of the Pharisees, to experience a new birth. In last Sunday's story Jesus identified with a woman who was a social outcast at a well in Samaria. Today we have heard how he came to Jerusalem and found a man who had been blind from birth and gave him eyes to see. Next Sunday we deal with the story of how Jesus called his friend Lazarus back for the tomb. Then on Palm Sunday we will read the story of how a once trusted Apostle sold out Jesus for a few coins. Within the life stories of typical individuals who encountered Jesus there is a common thread that says that each one was confronted with a decision whether or not to accept or reject the claims of God on their lives.

The obvious observation is that some power greater that the individuals involved must somehow stand behind the weak people who individually have made up, and still make up, the Church. There is no other explanation of how the Church has survived the wars and heresies of the past to still be the most powerful force in the world. Other religions, governments and ideas have come and gone, but the Church of Christ still stands tall. We are not a military power or financial empire, but are led by one who was despised and rejected by the prevailing socio-political system, one who was brutally executed, but one who was resurrected from the dead and still lives today to confront is all with the potential of becoming an abiding place of His Holy Spirit.

Just as this Blind Beggar was pitifully hopeless before he met the Master and was given new eyes and a new calling, so are we confronted this day with the Lord of the Ages who still calls us to surrender to His plan for our lives. At the heart of the matter we all must decide to allow Him entry. Salvation can no more be bestowed upon us than can the love of a spouse. Relationship with Christ requires both parties to be willing and He always stands waiting on our response. Today would be a good day to open up your heart to Him, or perhaps let Him back in.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

3/10/02, L4A