1 Samuel 16:1b, 6 – 7, 10 – 13a
This Sunday, we hear the very interesting account of the selection of David to replace Saul as king of Israel. First of all, we remember that 1 Sam is part of the Historical Books of the Bible, presented in its final edited form probably at the end of the 7th century BC. It is called Samuel because it focuses on Samuel, the last judge of Israel, who was called by God to anoint both the first and second kings of Israel. The story we will hear on Sunday is told with a sense of suspense (the fear of Saul) and local color (the meeting with the elders). The choice of David over his elder and, apparently more eligible brothers (taller, more handsome), demonstrates that God looks inward while we tend to focus on the outside appearances. We will only hear selected portions of this account on Sunday but let’s read the entire pericope to understand the situation completely. In fact, let’s begin with 1 Sm 15:1 to get the full background. Before we do that, however, let’s look at Dt 20:10 – 18.
1 The LORD said to Samuel: “Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”
Fill your horn with oil: The anointing here prepared for seems to be insignificant to David’s brother Eliab in the next chapter (1 Sam 17:28), and David is twice anointed after Saul’s death (2 Sam 2:4; 5:3). Scripture scholars surmise that this demonstrates the final editor’s use of several sources, resulting in some interesting inconsistencies.
2 But Samuel replied: “How can I go? Saul will hear of it and kill me.” To this the LORD answered: “Take a heifer along and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’
3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I myself will tell you what to do; you are to anoint for me the one I point out to you.”
4 Samuel did as the LORD had commanded him. When he entered Bethlehem, the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and inquired, “Is your visit peaceful, O seer?”
5 He replied: “Yes! I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. So cleanse yourselves and join me today for the banquet.” He also had Jesse and his sons cleanse themselves and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 As they came, he looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is here before him.”
7 But the LORD said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and presented him before Samuel, who said, “The Lord has not chosen him.”
9 Next Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.”
10 In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
seven sons: ordinarily, the number seven indicates a perfection or completion, so it is curious that the one to be anointed was not among these. As Isaiah reminds us so well, “God’s ways are not our ways” (Is 55:8).
11 Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
12 Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The LORD said, “There-anoint him, for this is he!”
ruddy: people who heard this story told in Hebrew or Aramaic would have noticed that the name, David (which means “ruddy”), refers to the dust of the earth, recalling Adam, the original man made from the clay of the earth.
13 Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.
spirit of the LORD rushed upon David: just as the spirit of God brought life to the man formed from the clay of the earth at creation, so here, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David. The parallel would not be lost on the people hearing this story in ancient Israel; it should not be lost on us, either. Although both Adam and David sinned, David remained faithful to God’s first command – I am the Lord, your God – so God blessed him.
John 9:1 – 41
This Sunday, we hear the Johannine account of Jesus’ curing of the man born blind. This is the sixth sign that Jesus performs, and is a sign that Jesus is the light of the world (cf. John 8:12; 9:5). The narrative of conflict about Jesus contrasts Jesus (light) with the Jews (blindness, John 9:39-41). The theme of water is reintroduced in the reference to the pool of Siloam. Ironically, Jesus is being judged by the Jews, yet the Jews are judged by the Light of the world; cf John 3:19-21. This story is rich in the tragic irony of which John is such a master: a beggar stands before his superiors, badgered to deny the one thing of which he is certain. This is intended to encourage the early Christians who were called to deny their faith. The essence of the sign is that, just as the man, blind from birth, is given sight, the light of faith is given to those who never had it before.
First sign: miracle at Cana; second sign: healing of the official’s son; third sign: cure of the cripple at the Pool; fourth sign: feeding of the crowd; fifth sign: walking on water; sixth sign: curing the man born blind; seventh sign: raising Lazarus from the dead.
Before we read this passage, however, let’s examine similar cures in the synoptic Gospels: Mt 9:27ff, 20:30ff; Mk 8:22ff; Lk 18:35ff. Notice that in all of these accounts, Jesus requires faith before he cures them. In fact, in the synoptic Gospels, over and over again, people come to Jesus or bring people to Jesus because they believe – or at least hope – that Jesus can cure the disease.
Not so in John’s Gospel. For John, Jesus’ healing leads to faith. And, faith grows gradually. We see this theology clearly stated at the end of the miracle at Cana. Let’s read Jn 2:11.
With all of this as background, let’s look at the passage we will hear on Sunday. And, pay attention to the blind man’s step-by-step awareness of who Jesus is: the man called Jesus, then a prophet, and finally Lord.
1 As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
man blind from birth: notice that the man is not named; in fact, in the original Aramaic and later Greek, the word simply means a person, a human being; it could actually have been a woman, although this would have been unlikely given all the attention the person is given. Notice, also, that the person is blind from birth so, as we will see in the next line, the people would have thought that he was blind as a result of his sin or the sin of his forefathers. So, they thought very little of him.
2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
- John 5:14, Exodus 20:5, Dt 5:9; parents’ sins were visited upon their children. Jesus denies such a cause and emphasizes the purpose: the infirmity was providential.
3 Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
4 We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work.
while it is day. Night is coming: notice the interplay between night and day, light and darkness. You find that a lot in John’s Gospel. But, to truly understand what he is saying let’s look at the first few verses of the two Genesis creation accounts. In saying, as we see in the next verse, “I am the light of the world,” Jesus is declaring that he is the same light of the world that was part of God’s original creation and is now here to redeem the world. And so, we see many references to the creation story. Pay attention to that.
5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes,
spat: spittle was thought to have medicinal purposes. Notice the similarity to the creation account where we hear of God making man from the clay of the earth; here man is given new sight!
7 and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
Go wash: perhaps a test of faith; cf 2 Kings 5:10-14(Naaman, the Aramean commander). The water tunnel Siloam (= Sent) is used as a symbol of Jesus, sent by his Father. Water is the source of life in the original creation account; here it is the source of new life in Jesus.
8 His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
9 Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.”
10 So they said to him, “(So) how were your eyes opened?”
11 He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.”
man called Jesus: the man knows Jesus name but nothing else about him, including where he is, as we see in the next verse.
12 And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.”
13 They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees.
14 Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a Sabbath.
on a Sabbath: In using spittle, kneading clay, and healing, Jesus had broken the Sabbath rules laid down by Jewish tradition.
15 So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.”
16 So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” (But) others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them.
And there was a division among them: some of the Pharisees choked on their own easy answer. Sometimes, the easy answer isn’t the right answer.
17 So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
He is a prophet: the man born blind had a new insight into who Jesus was – a prophet.
18 Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight.
19 They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?”
20 His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
21 We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for him self.”
22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Messiah, he would be expelled from the synagogue.
would be expelled from the synagogue: This comment of the evangelist (in terms used again in John 12:42; John 16:2) envisages a situation after Jesus’ ministry. Rejection/excommunication from the synagogue of Jews who confessed Jesus as Messiah seems to have begun around 85AD, when the curse against the minim or heretics was introduced into the “Eighteen Benedictions.”
23 For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”
24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.”
Give God the praise!: an Old Testament formula of adjuration to tell the truth; cf Joshua 7:19; 1 Sam 6:5 LXX. Cf John 5:41.
25 He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
26 So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
28 They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses!
29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.”
30 The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.
31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
32 It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.
A person born blind: the only Old Testament cure from blindness is found in Tobit (cf Tobit 7:7; 11:7-13; 14:1-2), but Tobit was not born blind.
33 If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”
34 They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
35 When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.”
38 He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
39 Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
(39-41) These verses spell out the symbolic meaning of the cure; the Pharisees are not the innocent blind, willing to accept the testimony of others.
40 Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
Ephesians 5:8 – 14
We hear from Paul’s letter to the community in Ephesus. Again, we are fortunate that the reading develops a theme found in the other readings as well: light.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light,
9 for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.
10 Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
11 Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them,
12 for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret;
13 but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
14 for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
Awake, O sleeper…: An early Christian hymn, possibly from a baptismal liturgy. For the content compare Eph 2:5-6; 3:9 and Isaiah 60:1.
Just as the kingship was taken from Saul because he was blind to the blessings God had given him and wanted more – including the booty that God had forbidden him to take, so the kingdom was taken from the Jews because they were blind to the salvation God had offered them through His Son. We are called to put our sights on God and be grateful for all that He gives us – especially the promise of eternal life where we will see God face-to-face!