March 22 (Fourth Sunday in Lent): Psalm 23 and John 9:1-41

January 30, 2020 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa

One of the most quoted verses in sermons, at hospital bedsides, during memorial services, and on framed photos of Scripture verses, are these words: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” followed by the closing words of this week’s psalm lection: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life/ and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD/my whole life long.”

When I would visit my late grandmother as she laid bedridden at a hospital and her memory fading, it was Psalm 23 that was one of the few verses of Scripture that she would recite, together with the Lord’s Prayer, and a handful of hymns such as “How Great Thou Art” and “Amazing Grace.” These hymnal favorites and Scripture verses like Psalm 23 somehow shepherd us from birth to the shadow of our death, and life in-between. They have the quality of instilling in every fiber of our being that the Lord is the shepherd who guides us to green pastures, who protects us with his staff, who accompanies us in the valley of the shadows, who anoints us, who sets the table for reconciliation with our enemies, and whose goodness and mercies are lifelong companions because we dwell in the house of the heart of God.

What if we lived life with the end in view, so we live it in reverse? That is, take all the truths and realities that you would want recited and sung on your bedside, and instead live fully in the lifelong encounter of the shepherding Lord who accompanies you and me, who carries us, who leads us, who protects us. Like eating a meal from dessert first and then the main course, start with what brings delight in the end, and live now with the end in view, because the end is actually the beginning of living.

We find in John 9 the story of Jesus healing a blind man, who goes off to share with the town about his sight and they are in disbelief. They discount him, his testimony, and the One who healed. The townspeople try to justify the healing, that perhaps the man wasn’t really blind. And that if he were blind, he really is delusional and so full of sin that the sin he has accumulated since birth or sin that he inherited from his parents were so much that there was no possible redemptive value in his alleged healing. It takes an encounter with Jesus for some of these doubters to be confronted with their own blindness, because their own sight rendered them blind to the reality of the Savior right in front of them; that their hard-headedness and hard-heartedness were in plain sight but which they could not see.

They missed the opportunity to truly and really see. They missed the value of the encounter with Jesus and with this erstwhile blind man. They were in a place of such privilege, that they could not and would not see that a man born with a disability can actually teach them something about life, about true life. If they couldn’t even receive a testimony from a man who is bearing his heart and soul and jubilation at being healed, would they ever receive the Savior who would bear his own life, to the point of death on a cross? They refused to be led by the Shepherd to green pastures and still waters. They were still in want.