“Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12).
In the John’s Gospel, the sight/blindness, light/darkness imagery conveys something deeper than the words at face value. The physical blindness and confusion points to an underlying spiritual blindness increasingly evident.
It also recalls those awful, jarring words of the Last Supper when Judas leaves to hand Jesus over: “So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. AND IT WAS NIGHT.” (John 13:30). The ‘night’ of which Jesus speaks has resonances with the sufferings he is about to endure at the hands of the authorities.
Thankfully, you and I already know how the story unfolds: the brightness and light of the dawn that comes on Easter Sunday as sure as day follows night. Here however, Jesus’ teachings, sayings, healings, and all he describes about his purpose being united with God’s, are being misunderstood, ignored, or rejected.
The image above shows Belle Tout Lighthouse – a famous landmark in my home county of Sussex, right on the Beachy Head cliffs. In 1999 the entire structure was moved 56 feet back from the cliff on runners to avoid the erosion. It was installed on more runners, anticipating that the lighthouse will need to move again. The light will continue to shine and must move as needed to carry on its purpose.
The light of Jesus Christ is shared by all who walk in his light. If we, the church, are that light, we also need to continue to shine, share the good news, and work and pray for peace and justice…and be ready to move and change in order to do so.
Given, that during lockdown we’ve spent a year wearing masks, hand-gel-sanitizing every five seconds and causing shares in anti-bac wipe companies to soar, it seems strange that in John 9, Just after Jesus saying that he is the light, he heals the blind man using saliva and mud. Sometimes Jesus heals with a word, sometimes he’s not even in the same place as the person in need. But what on earth is he doing here (no pun intended)?
I wonder if the mud and mess seem to suggest the confusion prevalent in this story. We certainly live in very messy times, sometimes dark, sometimes very difficult.
You will all have been deeply affected by the pandemic, and if you’ve been ill, grieved a relative or friend, or suffered isolation at home, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Intended or not, I like the way Jesus physically gets his hands dirty in this healing. Jesus is exactly where he needs to be and is exactly where he wants his church to be, alongside the broken, the suffering, the disconnected and the lost.
Today, Jesus calls us all to be his light in all the dark places. May his light continue to shine through us, where we are today, where we were before the pandemic and where ever we need to be in the future.
Rev Nik Wooller
Palm Sunday 2021