As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
“Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Jesus said] “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Some Pharisees, who were with him, heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. (New International Version)
Behind everything we believe and talk about, there are pre-suppositions or assumptions. The disciples had an assumption about blindness: its sin – not just a result of living in a fallen world, but personal sin. That is, an individual sinner whom we can point the finger to. The disciples demonstrated they were just as blind as the physically blind man.
Jesus had a clear and concise response to that assumption: nobody is at fault here, nobody. Which, to me, begs the question:
Have you considered that your thoughts are subjective, not objective?
Too many people treat their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs as if they were pure gospel truth (which is probably why they feel justified in assuming they are always right and are arbiters of truth!). Reality check: You, nor I, have the corner on truth. Jesus is the truth, not anybody else.
Since Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, he has the power and authority to heal, making the blind to see. Sin wasn’t the issue; the true issue was an opportunity to showcase the gracious work of God. So, Jesus healed the man’s eyes so that he could see again. Healing is not a one-size-fits-all, which is why Jesus did something unique with the blind man, and then gave specific instructions on what to do.
Therefore, we must not assume that we know how a healing is supposed to happen. There’s no codifying a particular process or prayer in order to leverage God into performing one.
The religious leaders always seem to have a problem about something. They, like the disciples, assumed sin was at the core of the man’s blindness. The leaders were befuddled that a sinner like Jesus (who doesn’t keep the Sabbath properly) could ever heal another sinner (a blind man). That’s a conundrum they couldn’t live with, and so, the questions kept getting heaped on the poor guy who was healed.
The religious leaders were trying to make sense out of what they thought was a nonsensical situation. It’s only nonsensical to them because they didn’t have any good sense to begin with. Their interaction with the healed man, and then with Jesus, only demonstrated their profound lack of awareness resulting in spiritual blindness.
Remaining in Blindness
Many of the religious leaders, heretics in the early church, and spiritual phonies of today are not deliberately trying to deceive or lead others astray; they think they are doing the right thing when they are actually not.
An eye-opening reality I discovered when I first studied church history is that the early heresies, condemned at church councils, were doctrines promoted by men who were not evil – they were just sincerely misguided. The heretics believed they were helping the church better understand the nature of God and Christ. However, they were unaware and blind to the actual nature of their teachings.
Back when I wrote my master’s thesis in nineteenth century American Religious History, I read hundreds of sermons from southern preachers before the American Civil War. They had a “biblical” defense of Black chattel slavery. Many of them were influential pastors of large churches who led many people to Christ, that is, white people. Yet, at the same time, they were blind to how they slammed the door of God’s kingdom in the faces of Black folk, were complicit in slaveholder abuse, and fueled antagonisms between North and South.
Churches and Christians may be unaware and blind to how they keep people out of God’s kingdom by saying God’s grace is for all, and then avoid certain people; by having explicit written statements or rules that exclude people from service; or by binding people to human traditions and practices instead of Holy Scripture.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23, NIV)
In the ancient world, the eye represented what you fixed your gaze on, or what your focus was. In our culture, we could replace the word “eye” with the word “goal.” The word “body” represents the entirety of one’s life. So, we might interpret Christ’s words in this way:
A goal is the focus of a life. If your goals are good, your whole life will be full of proper focus. But if your goals are bad, your whole life will be full of blindness. If then, the focus within you is only really blindness, how great is that darkness!
If goals and dreams are toward earthly treasure, one will blindly move in that direction and have misplaced values. Today’s Gospel story portrays the need to be self-aware as individual Christians and as a church. We can choose to:
- Be open to new information
- Entertain the notion that you might be wrong
- Embrace a full range of knowing (head, heart, and gut)
- Allow the light of Christ to shine on every person and each situation
- Stick to your experience of others and events
- Consider how your words and actions affect others
- Keep accountable to others and ask for feedback
Monitoring ourselves and our own emotional landscape will help us to become aware of what’s happening inside us. And then, in turn, having our eyes opened enables us to truly see others and be aware of their needs.