Yr A ~ Lent 4 ~ John 9:1-41
So there I was just standing on my corner with my alms jar in front of me, such is the life of a blind man these days, when along came Jesus and his disciples. Of course I didn’t know who he was then, but I sure know him now! They were discussing my blindness, and how everyone knows that something like blindness happens because somebody somewhere did something really bad and I’m paying the price for it. At least that’s what I used to believe. Now I’m thinking that’s a lot of hooey. I wasn’t blind because of my parents or because of myself – it just was. But everybody seems to think it’s a punishment. Now I’m thinking maybe everybody is blind in their own way.
So Jesus chimed right in and said that it wasn’t anybody’s fault and that he was going to reveal something about God through this. I gotta admit, I was a little scared. They just came out of nowhere and suddenly I’m the centre of attention.
And then before I knew it (and without asking I’ll have you know!), Jesus spits on the ground, makes a little clay-like mud and slaps it on my eyes. Gross! Then he told me to go wash in the pool. I wasn’t sure what to think. I had no reason to trust him or to follow his instructions, but then again I was standing there with a load of mud on my face, so I did it.
Well, as you can see, I can see! I can’t tell you how wonderful it is.
It’s like I’ve awoken from a long sleep.
It’s like I’ve entered a whole new world.
It’s like I’ve been born again!
Some of my neighbours didn’t even recognize me. Some of them thought I was someone else entirely. Maybe I am! I guess I’d really changed more than just opening up my eyes. It changed my whole being. Everybody I met wanted to hear how it happened so I gladly told the story over and over again. People started to ask me where this Jesus was, but I didn’t know. He left before I got back from the pool. I didn’t even get to thank him.
Then they took me to the Pharisees. Because I’d been blind I was considered unclean so I had to get the Pharisees seal of approval to be able to be accepted by the village again. I thought they’d be thrilled that I once was blind but now could see (you knew it was coming eventually!) but they seemed to care more that I’d been healed on the Sabbath. Well, whoopdie-doo about that! Why would I give a rip about what day it was! I can see! I can see!
Unfortunately, the Pharisees were unimpressed! They were hilarious though. I know they didn’t mean to be, they meant to be all serious and officious but you should’ve heard them. [over-serious voice] “How could a man who’s a sinner perform such signs?” But others among them were fine with it. It was just some of the stricter ones – you know, the powerful ones who’ve always had it their own way and don’t want anyone to rock the boat. Well, I was blind and now I can see. My boat got rocked! And so did theirs!
They asked me what I thought of Jesus. I said I thought he was a prophet – a guy who brought the very word and presence of God to me and changed my world.
Then, get this, they decided that maybe I wasn’t blind after all and it was all a scam. Yeah, like I enjoy begging on the street and being an outcast all my life! They even brought my parents in to question them. Can you imagine? What a joke! So there’s my parents having to confirm that I had always been blind, which everyone knew already. Then my parents worried about saying too much because they didn’t want to offend the Pharisees and get tossed out of the synagogue. So they said, “He’s of age, just ask him!” Hilarious!
So then they called me back again – like my story was gonna change or something – and tried to get me to denounce Jesus. I said, “Listen, I don’t know if he’s a sinner or not. You all thought I was and that’s why I was blind, so maybe you don’t really know what being a sinner means – all I know is I was blind and now I see.”
And then they asked me again how it happened. Well, I was losing it by this time, so I said, “For crying out loud, I’ve told you over and over again and you won’t listen. Isn’t it obvious what happened? What are you, blind?! Maybe he can come along and open your eyes too!”
Well, needless to say, I may have gone too far with that one. They jumped all over me and trotted out their qualifications and whatnot trying to prove they were the intelligent ones. But I was over the edge by then so I didn’t care anymore. I went right at them.
I said, “Here’s an astonishing thing to me. You claim to be the religious guys, and clearly a profoundly spiritual thing has happened here, and you don’t know anything about it or about the guy who did it for me. Sounds to me like he might be the one with the real credentials. Maybe you should go and learn from him!”
And they got all red in the face and this one guy’s eyes looked like they were gonna pop out of his head and they said [voice again] “You were born in sin, and you’re trying to teach us?!” And they ran me out of the place. Fine by me!
And then another truly amazing thing happened to me. Jesus somehow heard I was getting dragged on the carpet and came looking for me. When he found me we had a really great conversation. I looked right in his eyes, and I saw the love of God. So I said that I believed in him and I’d follow him anywhere.
By this time the Pharisees had come along again and overheard Jesus say “I came into this world so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
I instantly knew he wasn’t talking about me anymore – he was talking about them, the Pharisees, being the blind ones – and they knew it too. They pompously said, “Surely WE are not blind, are we?” – so smug, so arrogant, so sure of themselves even though they treated me and my family so badly.
And then Jesus nailed them between the eyes, it was awesome! – “If you were physically blind you’d be blameless and not so arrogant. But you say ‘we see’ like you think you’re perfect and it never occurs to you that you might not be seeing everything clearly, that there might be another way, a deeper way, a more faithful way than the one you know so well and are so comfortable with. Your blind spot is thinking that you don’t have a blind spot! That’s keeping you from knowing God.”
So yeah, I was blind, and now I see – and I mean that I really see. I see that Jesus is the life and the truth and the way – and I see that I’m living a brand new life in the light of God’s love. And I’m sure I’ve still got some blind spots, but I’m hoping that following Jesus will help me see them. Jesus showed me the way through my big blind spot – now I see him, see God’s presence, see the beauty in life that I couldn’t see before, and not just with my eyes. I went from no-sight to insight! Thanks be to God!
[end of monologue]
Blind spots. If you’ve ever driven a car you know all about blind spots. Blind spots are those parts of your seeing that in your normal range of looking at things remain hidden from you. You think you’ve seen what’s what, but there’s that little spot that if you don’t make the extra effort to really turn around and have a good look it’s going to cause you big trouble. Blind spots are not inherently bad – they’re only bad if you deny you have them, or if you refuse to make the effort to try to look into them.
The Pharisees get a bad rap in the New Testament, and they shouldn’t, because they were by and large good spiritual men who wanted the best for their communities and their nation. They really did see themselves as the glue that held their culture together. And they did it all by holding up the letter of the law as the most important thing. It was their greatest strength and at the same time their biggest blind spot.
Surely you’ve encountered people, and perhaps you’ve even heard similar sentences come out of your own mouth, that say “if I bend on this everything will unravel. If this part isn’t right then maybe everything’s wrong. But we’ve always done it this way.”
What I want to tell those people, and you if you see yourself in it, is that you aren’t wrong necessarily and that everything will not fall apart, but it is very possible that you may have a blind spot about this – whatever “this” is.
This is especially true in religious things. Religious people have an awakening and catch a glimpse of God’s Presence in the world and they rightly hold fast to it and lay claim to its power and authority in their life. And because it’s so powerful our language tends to follow in exuberance and instead of saying “I’ve found A way to God” we find ourselves saying “I’ve found THE way to God” – which in and of itself isn’t wrong, until you follow it up with “and therefore your way is wrong.”
Although even that is complicated because sometimes people truly are wrong and it isn’t just arrogance speaking, it’s error. Discerning the difference between those things is high level spiritual stuff. I think it’s far better to approach those conversations with humility and consider the possibility that we might be speaking from our blind spot too.
The Pharisee’s blind spot was that they couldn’t comprehend how God might work through any other person or way than by strictly following the letter of the law, and anyone who claimed to be doing something in God’s name that wasn’t following the letter of the law was wrong. Hence, they ignored a beautiful restoration of wholeness for a man and instead condemned Jesus for breaking the rule to do any work on the Sabbath.
But before we jump on the judgement wagon we should remember that it wasn’t that long ago that doing things on the Sabbath was strictly forbidden around here too. And many of you probably lament how it used to be a day of rest and now it’s just another busy day. Well, that’s kind of what the Pharisee’s were on about. Maybe we have blind spots too.
I wonder what I’m a Pharisee about? I wonder what my blind spots are? Denying I have any is the biggest blind spot there is, so I must have some, I just can’t see them on my own – I’m blind to them. What are your blind spots? How would you know?
This is why we don’t do faith alone. Our worship and prayer life and our belonging to this community of faith helps us to see and deal with our blind spots – and if you’re thinking that sounds too vulnerable and you wouldn’t want anyone telling you anything about how you might not be quite as perfect as you imagine then you’ve got some work to do on relationship building. We need people to tell us the truth about our blind spots – in love, of course, but it’s still unpleasant.
Blind spots in driving are potentially very dangerous, and blind spots in faith are too, because when we finally have to look into that dark and unexplored piece of ourselves we may not like what we see, and we may have a hard time letting go of what’s making us blind.
Jesus was poking at one of the core values of the Pharisees and challenging them to see God differently. A few weeks ago I said, “Growing hurts!” And growing a new way to see the world hurts a lot – because you have to die to how you saw it before, you have to die to your blindness in order to be reborn into light and insight.
This scripture passage is not all that deep. The metaphor of being spiritually blind is right up front and easy to see. It’s what you can’t see that trips you up.
What is in your blind spot?
What aspect of your theological understanding is being challenged and shaken when you come here on Sundays?
If nothing is ever being shaken in you then you’re either denying your blind spots or you must share the same one’s I have.
My prayer for you today is that the light of Christ will shine upon you and reveal to you a blind spot in your life, and that you will have the faith and the courage to open yourself to God’s Presence and face it together with God and those who are travelling alongside you.
As you journey through Lent and toward Jerusalem, keep an eye on your blind spots.