The With-God Life: Seeing Worship Anew

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.” (John 9:24-31)

When I read a Bible story, I sometimes try to imagine myself as one of the participants, to see the events from a different angle. As a rules-following, first child, nothing comes easier for me than to imagine myself among the Pharisees, the “disciples of Moses” who have dedicated themselves to following the Law. “Happy are those whose way is blameless,” after all, “who walk in the law of the Lord” (Ps 119:1). Is that not a version of the “with-God life”?

But that same psalmist also asked that God would open his “eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps 119:18). And the Pharisees refuse — even after multiple testimonies by a blind man given sight! — to open their eyes to how God is fulfilling, not abolishing, the law by sending us his Son. “I came into this world for judgment,” Jesus says at the end of today’s passage, “so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind” (v 39).

Cameroonian painting of Jesus giving sight to the blind man in John 9 – Creative Commons (Vanderbilt Divinity Library)

So this morning I tried to imagine myself not as one of the Pharisees, but as the blind man. I don’t know if I saw something that had previously been hidden, but I did end up focusing on a theme of this passage that doesn’t normally stand out to me: worship.

Refusing to back down against the disbelieving scorn of the Pharisees (and that’s surely significant by itself: having been told his whole life that he was a sinner, this man stands up to the most self-righteous law-keepers in his community) the formerly blind man insists that God will “listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.” As the passage ends, he professes his belief in Jesus and worships him on the spot (v 38). It’s not the only example of that response in the Gospels. Among other entries, the Worship index of my Spiritual Formation Bible also notes the disciples worshipping Jesus after he walks on water (Matt 14:33), then again as they watch him be “carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:52).

That bible’s index defines worship as “expressing in words, music, rituals, and silent adoration the greatness, beauty, and goodness of God, by means of which we enter the supranatural reality of the shekinah, or glory, of God.” So I can’t help but wonder by which words, music (“Traditional or contemporary?”), or rituals the once-blind man worshipped Jesus that day? Or did words fail him, and he simply fell to his knees in silent adoration? How would I respond if I could actually worship Jesus face to face?

But there I go getting caught up in the form again, like the Pharisees who are doubly offended by Jesus revealing the glory of God on the wrong day of the week (v 14, 16). Like the Samaritan woman earlier in John’s gospel, who wanted to know whether it’s more proper to worship on a certain mountain or in a certain city.

As I prepare for a second Sunday morning without the usual rituals by which I offer God the words, music, and silence that are part of my routine, I pray that God will give me new eyes to see his glory and to respond with worship. I pray that this trying season will teach me the better to worship God as Jesus taught the woman from Samaria, “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

<<Yesterday: John 1:1-9                                                   Tomorrow: Psalm 146>>