The following is a 5-minute sermon(ette) I wrote and delivered for my preaching class. It was composed, however, as if it would be done in my normal church context on a Sunday morning. Enjoy.
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If you were to ask me, I’d know the answer. I wouldn’t hesitate. And I bet if I were to ask you, you’d know the answer, too. Most people at church right now, in this city—much less the millions of others across the country and the world—wouldn’t hesitate either. They would know the answer, just like you and I know the answer.
“Who is Jesus?”
Those of us who grew up going to church have the answers down pat. We can cite chapter and verse. We remember in glorious detail the flannelgraphs, the memory verses, the Bible studies. We know who Jesus is.
Those of us who are new to the church probably have answers, too. We know what we’ve been taught; we know what about Jesus brought us here; we know what it is about Jesus that’s keeping us here. We know who Jesus is.
The characters in this story, however? They don’t seem to have a clue who Jesus is.
Jesus tells us in the beginning: He is the light of the world. And we see him heal a man born blind. So, a healer, too. What else does the story call Jesus?
When the Pharisees ask the man who Jesus is, the man says Jesus is a prophet. The gospel writer tells us the Pharisees were excommunicating anyone who called Jesus the Messiah. And when they question him a second time, the Pharisees say they know Jesus is a sinner. They are disciples of Moses—which apparently means Jesus is nothing like Moses. But the man born blind responds that no man not sent from God could heal him—so Jesus must be sent from God.
And finally Jesus re-enters the scene, with his own questions for the man born blind: Does he believe in the Son of Man? And the man says, “Lord, I believe.”
The light of the world. Healer. Prophet. Messiah. Sinner. Not Moses. Sent from God. Son of Man. Lord. And as we see in chapter 10, as the story continues, Jesus is both the gate through which the sheep enter the pen and the good shepherd of those sheep.
That’s a lot of options. But as we said before, like good churchgoing folk, like good Christians, we already know who Jesus is. We know the right answer to these questions.
Where in this story, though, are the people who have the answers? The blind man doesn’t know. His parents don’t know. The neighborhood doesn’t know. The only people who know from the outset are who? The Pharisees. But even some of them did believe. The point about them is not that they are Jews, or too legalistic, or whatever. The point is that they are the ones in the know. They can’t believe that what people are saying about Jesus could be true, because it would upset their established, everything-in-its-place world.
This story reminds us, then, that what is important is not having the right answer. Having the right answer is believing we can see on our own, without the healing hands of Jesus. Having the right answer is saying we’re already okay; no need to tell us what we already know.
But Jesus did not come to or for people who already know the answer. He did not come to affirm us in our rightness or in our good vision. Instead, he came as the I AM, as the light of the world, as the one who heals our blindness.
So today we believe and confess anew who Jesus is—not because we have all the answers, not because we’re good churchgoers, not because we can see on our own. We believe and confess anew who Jesus is because we simply cannot answer the question enough. Jesus is Lord—and Messiah, and Son of Man, and healer, and Light, and Good Shepherd, and Word made flesh. He is all that and more, and with the world and with the church, as Jesus comes to us in all his mystery and all his glory, he takes us up into the great drama of asking and answering that singular, life-giving, world-making question: Who is Jesus?