Rev. Susan M. Hudson, St Pauls Presbyterian Church, March 30, 2014
God’s Anointed Ones Have Enemies
[I Samuel 16:1-13; John 9:1-41]
During the season of Lent, our Old Testament Lessons highlight the highpoints of salvation history: from the story of creation to the calling of Abraham into the wilderness with Moses and now to the anointing of young David as the second king of Israel. These stories are pivotal to the identity of faithful Jews and formative for Christians, because we share these sacred Scriptures.
Samuel was a priest, set apart by God, to serve in the temple. He was the son of a barren woman, named Hannah, who prayed for a son and promised God that if she had a son, she would dedicate him to God. Samuel is that son and he lived his entire life serving God in the temple. At God’s request, he anointed Saul as the first king of Israel.
When God gave him the instructions to anoint a new king, Samuel was terrified. In I Samuel 15:35, we learn that God was sorry he had made Saul King of Israel. It is odd to think of God feeling “regret” – but that’s what the Scriptures say. Saul disappointed both Samuel and God and God made the decision to reject him as king.
The Lord said to Samuel: “You have mourned long enough for Saul, for I have rejected him as king of Israel. Now take a vial of olive oil and go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse, for I have selected one of his sons to be the new king.”
Samuel objected: “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he’ll kill me.” The Lord instructed Samuel to take a heifer and make a sacrifice to the Lord, which is the normal “job” for temple priests. Then he was to call Jesse to attend the sacrifice and God would show him which son to anoint.
Samuel obeyed the Lord. The elders in the city of Bethlehem were afraid when Samuel arrived. They feared something was wrong, but Samuel assured them, he had come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. He invited them to purify themselves and join them at the sacrifice.
As Christians we no longer “purify ourselves” as the Jews did before they entered a sacred place, and as Muslims do before they enter a mosque. It was standard practice in that day to wash oneself with water as a symbol of purification.
We believe the dying of Jesus Christ on the cross was the final blood sacrifice which put an end to the practice of ritual purification for sin. Jesus was the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice, and this is explained in detail in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament.
However, in Samuel’s time, the role of the priest was to make a sacrifice, and to call the people together to receive a message on behalf of God. In this case, Samuel came to anoint a new king of Israel. Each of Jesse’s sons walked in front of Samuel, beginning with the oldest son, Eliab, then Abinadab, then Shammah, and 4 more, but God did not choose any of the seven. Samuel asked Jesse: “Are there any more sons?”
Jesse replied: “Well, the youngest is out tending the sheep.” Samuel asked Jesse to send for him. When he arrived, David was a fine, ruddy-faced boy with pleasant eyes. The Lord said to Samuel: “This is the one; anoint him.” Samuel took the olive oil and poured it on David’s head and the Spirit of God came upon David and gave him great power from that day forward.
We learn later that the Spirit of God left Saul, who was tormented with depression and fear. Saul’s aides suggested they find a harpist to play for him. David was chosen to be that harpist, so he came to Saul and became a part-time member of his staff. Whenever David played the harp, it comforted Saul.
Although Samuel had anointed David, it was done “in secret,” so-to-speak, but from that day forward the Spirit of God was strengthening and equipping David to do what was necessary as the Jews’ history unfolded.
Eventually Saul became David’s enemy, when Saul realized that God had rejected him as king and anointed David to replace him. We won’t go into that story today. Suffice it to say: God anoints people for a purpose. Saul was anointed to be God’s human representative for the people of Israel & God expected Saul to seek God’s wisdom and guidance. Instead the power went to Saul’s head, and he failed to fulfill the purpose for which God had anointed him.
David’s monarchy was also flawed, for he too was human and made some poor decisions; however, David’s heart was in-tune with the Spirit more than it was not, and he humbled himself and confessed his sins when they were revealed to him. He repented of his wrong doings and sought God’s wisdom, guidance and direction. Many of the Psalms are attributed to David’s pen. We can read of his deep heart-felt repentance in psalms like Psalm 51.
It isn’t EASY to be anointed by God for a purpose, but in our time, & since the time of Christ, God pours out his Spirit on ALL RECEPTIVE PEOPLE, not just a designated few as in the time of Saul and David. God’s Spirit has been poured out on men and women, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, but that Spirit is poured out for a purpose: to enact and accomplish the will of God in our generation.
The Spirit is both a gift and a calling; a gift and a responsibility. We are anointed to SERVE. We are the “wait staff” -- offering people the good news of Jesus Christ. We are waiters and waitresses at God’s feast, saying: “Come and see the goodness of God. Come and taste God’s mercy, the unconditional, forgiving and empowering grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was prepared for you since the foundation of the world. Have a seat at God’s table. Let us serve you.”
We don’t call the shots in the Kingdom of God. We are servants of the King, Jesus Christ, who NEVER lorded over others, but walked a humble path, a self-emptying path to crucifixion, putting to death once and for all the selfish, narcissistic ego which grasps for power and control.
Let’s turn and look at the story from John 9, where Jesus heals a man blind from birth. Jesus did not use “olive oil” for this healing, but rather his own spit mixed with mud. And in this story, the man did NOT come to Jesus asking to be healed. Instead Jesus chose him as God chose David. In John’s Gospel many of Jesus’ healing stories are “signs” pointing to who Jesus is, because Jesus took the initiative to heal people others had rejected.
Jesus was with his disciples when this occurred and they were asking him: “Why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his sins or his parents?” Jesus answered: “Neither… but to demonstrate the power of God.”
The disciples, like others in their generation, believed that blindness from birth was a result of someone’s sin: either the man’s or his parents. We know better today. Science and medicine help us understand congenital diseases and defects, but in Jesus’ time, people blamed people for their infirmities.
Jesus turns this idea upside down… and says: “NO!” This man is also a beloved child of God. Jesus then made mud from the dirt and his own spittle and put it on the blind man’s eyes. He asked him to go wash in the Pool of Siloan (which means “sent”) and when the man did that, he returned to Jesus with the ability to SEE for the first time in his whole life.
The people who knew the man doubted he was the blind beggar. They interrogated him and took him to the Pharisees, who were outraged that this healing work had taken place on the Sabbath. They assumed “Jesus could not be from God, because he worked on the Sabbath.”
How could a normal sinner accomplish this miracle? The Pharisees “turned on” the healed man as if he was an imposter. The Jewish leaders didn’t believe he had really been blind & called his parents to inquire. They confirmed he was blind from birth.
The leaders called the man for a second interrogation. Listen to their words: “Give the glory to God, NOT to Jesus, for we know Jesus is an evil person.” The healed man could only reply: “I don’t know whether he is good or bad, but I know this: I was blind and now I see!”
Even though the man had already explained the details of his healing, they wanted to hear them again. When he told them a second time, he added these words: “Since the world began there has never been anyone who could open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do it.” Instead of praising God, the leaders of the Jews CURSED the healed man. How dare he act as THEIR teacher?!!!
Jesus heard of the man’s persecution and met with him privately. Jesus asked him if he believed in the Messiah. The man said, “Who is he, Jesus? I want to believe in him.” Jesus replied: “You have seen him and he is speaking to you.” The man immediately believed and worshipped Jesus.
Then Jesus explained to him his PURPOSE for coming to earth. Listen to what Jesus says:
“I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” The Pharisees standing nearby were horrified: “Are you calling us blind????”
Jesus answers: “If you were blind you would not be guilty.” You would be teachable and healable – but because you claim to know what you are doing… I cannot reach you.
What do we LEARN from these 2 poignant stories?
Being chosen by God and healed by God does not give us immunity from persecution or harassment. Sometimes the persecution increases when God’s Spirit is active in our lives.
The Good News and Liberation Jesus brings often disturb the peace for those who are powerful and self-assured. Those who have the most to lose when others are empowered and healed are the ones who RESIST good news.
When Samuel anointed David and Jesus healed the man blind from birth, the natural order of things was disturbed. Samuel chose the youngest son not the eldest, the one who was overlooked by his family, lowest on the family totem pole.
When Jesus healed the man born blind, he turned on its head the understanding he was cursed from birth. Jesus shook the cultural foundations which enabled that generation to ignore the needs of people who were blind or disabled. Jesus selected a person who was marginal and made him “Center Stage” – which threw everyone else off balance, except the man who was healed.
When we EXPERIENCE the grace of Jesus Christ, we find new grounding, which is not influenced by what everyone else thinks. We are no longer victims of peoples’ opinions. We are validated at the core of our being by the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. We are seen, known and loved for the first time. We are rooted in God as persons of worth & value.
When we experience GRACE, it throws other people off balance. They are familiar with our neediness, not our strength. They are comfortable with us as victims. But when God’s grace HEALS us from the inside out, our core is strengthened, our feet are grounded, and we can withstand whatever harassment comes our way. Good News has enemies. However, when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us. In fact God prepares us a table in the presence of our enemies. God anoints our heads with oil and our cups overflow. Let us pray.