March 7, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 9:24-34.
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.” 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.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 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?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” 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. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
“Give God the praise!” In the Hebrew Bible that was used as a command to tell the truth according to the New American Bible notes. So, the blind man did just that as he did earlier. But that wasn’t the truth that the Pharisees wanted to hear; it didn’t conform to their version of the truth. They had convinced themselves that Jesus was a sinner, a violator of the Jewish laws such as breaking the Sabbath ban on work as Jesus did in curing this blind man. They were so imprisoned by their own way of seeing that they couldn’t open their eyes to the power of God’s love wrought through Jesus.
It seems like that’s the story of my life. I am so often locked in the prison of my view of the world that I fail to see God in every person I encounter, to what miracle He may have wrought in their lives or is trying to accomplish. So often I want to try to force others to see that I am right just like the Pharisees just because I know I’m right and they’re wrong. I don’t want to listen to the truth they may hold, the truth that may be from God. Like the Pharisees I dismiss those who disagree with me in thought and sometimes words. They’re just not bright enough; they’re not well informed; they’re narrow-minded and mean-spirited. I’ve said all those things and more. Maybe I’ve never physically thrown anyone out, but I’ve certainly thrown them out of my heart, out of my consideration that they may have something of value, some truth to offer that may broaden my perspectives and open my heart.
The blind man has a simple, powerful faith because his eyes were opened. It was that unshakeable understanding that God had worked through Jesus to cure him that gave him the courage to stand up to the Pharisees. The only story in the Hebrew Bible of a man cured of blindness is in Tobit, but that man was not born blind. This blind man knew that he had been the recipient of an unprecedented miracle. That’s all he needed to know. It had to be the work of God, which meant that Jesus had to be from God. To him it was self-evident. Therefore, Jesus couldn’t be a sinner. The Pharisees had no answer to this simple logic and they were infuriated. They were so focused on the how this had happened that they were unable to open their minds to the fact that someone extraordinary, someone God was using as His instrument, had come into the world as God’s Messiah, God’s anointed one.
God desires to use me and each of us similarly as His instrument in bringing about His kingdom. It can’t happen, though, until my eyes are opened, opened by listening to and following Jesus and receiving the blessing of his compassion so that I may in turn be compassionate to others. My prayer is that I may become like the blind man and be aware that I am more often like the Pharisees. It’s only in being aware of that fact that I can change. Jesus came to open my eyes, to change my life, but I have to be an active participant in that change.
Amen, Mke. Your reflections continue to help me see my own failings and opportunities for growth.
Mike: Thanks for this reflection – it touched on an incident I had at church today, and reminded me I need to learn from the person I disagree with.
One thing about this passage that disturbs me though is that I’ve heard it used against folks, who have cancer for instance, that they did not believe enough in God and Jesus, and needed to turn their lives over to them for healing. What a sock in the jaw to one who is already suffering. I am glad you found the good in the passage and spoke about that. Best wishes, Julie
Julie Trowbridge-Alford “Always look on the bright side of life!” – Monty Python