DECISIVE DAYS IN THE LIF EOF CHRIST (5)
AN EYE OPENING EXPERIENCE
SCRIPTURE: JOHN 9: 1-41
In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us, and gives us life. Amen!
You are probably wondering why in the world I read the entire ninth chapter of the Gospel of John. Well, even reading from the Eugene Peterson’s THE MESSAGE, which is a Reader’s Digest Version, it is still a classic.
It has all the elements of good storytelling, intrigue, action, movement, and humor. In fact, it has been suggested that viewed at high speed, the gospel story looks like a Marx Brothers movie, with Groucho dashing around frantically trying to be understood.
First we have the neighbors arguing about whether the man healed of his blindness was actually the blind beggar. Then we have the interrogation of the Pharisees trying to determine if the man was born blind.
Not believing him, the Pharisees then go to his parents, and ask them how their son’s blindness was healed. Not wanting to be involved they tell the Pharisees to go as their son, for after all, he is of age, and can answer for himself.
The ironic part of this story is that, of all the characters in the story, only the blind man can see! Not that the others could not see, they just could not see – for different reasons.
John Killinger tells of a man who visited one day in a classroom for visually impaired children. Troubled by what he saw, the man remarked in a rather insensitive manner. “It must be terrible to go through life without your eyes.” A young girl quickly responded, “It’s not half bad as having two good eyes but still not being able to see.” Her point was well made. There are varieties of blindness.
Jesus tells this story that becomes a decisive day in his life. The blind beggar is not the only one blind in the story. Perhaps no blindness is more tragic than that which affects, as it says in Ephesians, “the eyes of the heart.” (1:18)
This morning, consider these thoughts: THE FACT OF PHYSICAL BLINDNESS OF THE BEGGAR.
The scripture lesson from the Gospel of John identifies several forms of blindness; only one of them is physical. That was the medical condition affecting the beggar who was brought to the temple. John says he was “blind from birth.” Obviously the victim of a genetic disorder, he had never seen the faces of friends, nor the soft beauty of grass bending to the wind, not the radiant smiles of children.
In the movie “Mask”, there is a scene where the young boy who was the central character in the film tries to explain to a girl who was blind from birth what blue looked like. She reminds him that blue is a meaningful concept only to people who seen it.
The beggar in this morning’s story was like that, “man blind from birth” that concepts of the world around him were all fashioned from sound, smell, taste and touch. From the day of is birth he had never been able to see. However, the beggar is not the only blind person in this story.
Next: CONSIDER THE THEOLOGICAL BLINDNESS OF THE DISCIPLES.
When Jesus and is disciples came upon the blind man, they asked Jesus, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it is own parents’ sin?”
Popular opinion in Jesus’ day decreed that suffering was the result of sin. This is what most of the story of Job is all about. Job’s friends kept trying to convince Job that his terrible plight in life was due it his being a sinner.
They were certain no one would be so terribly afflicted unless God was punishing that person for some unspeakable transgression. Remember, in those days, God was a God of justice, not mercy.
It is clear this is what the disciples believed. They were trained in the Old Testament that taught that the misfortunes of the children were often the blame of their parents. So, when this blind beggar confronted them it was quite natural for them to ask Jesus. “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
In some ways this argument has credibility. We are learning a great deal about illnesses that are transmitted to a child prenatality, many of which result from conscious decisions that parents make, such as smoking or using drugs during pregnancy, which results in heartbreaking stories of newborn infants already addicted to heroin or cocaine alcohol addiction.
But that really is not the issue here. In this instance the disciples were struggling with their own theological blindness that taught that misfortune suffered by persons was brought about because of God’s judgment.
Jesus labored to teach them about God’s mercy and grace, and how theirs was a God who wished only good for God’s children, whether they deserved it or not.
Tragedies of life are not necessarily the just rewards for bad deeds at all. Rather, they become the means whereby testimony can be made to God’s ability to redeem a bad situation.
As Christians we do not believe that God causes blind births or defective children, or that God causes accidents or strikes people down in the prime of their life or causes them to suffer in the autumn years.
What we do believe is that God has a way of taking the misfortunes of life and making them so that we can live our lives to the fullest regardless of the circumstances. What God does do for us is to give us the power to transcend the physical limitations.
In the case of the blind beggar God was able to give him 20/20 vision despite his physical darkness.
Now CONSIDER THE PREJUDICAL BLINDNESS OF THE NEIGHBORS.
They had seen this blind beggar at his post every day of his life. They had come to believe that “he was what he was.” They were unwilling to concede that he could ever change of become different.
And even after Christ touched him, after his eyes were opened and he became a new person, those “blind” neighbors remarked, “It is not him, but someone like him”. They were to the very end, unwilling to adjust their opinion once it had been formed.
Prejudicial blindness is common in these days. A couple walks into a crowded Methodist Church on Christmas Eve. Guided by their white canes and assisted by the ushers, were seated near the front of the sanctuary.
The minister was able to get their names and called on them after the holidays. He went to their apartment, thinking that he had two real prospects for joining their church. However as the conservation started the couple commented how disappointed they were when the minister announced from the pulpit during the service that each person was to light their candle of the person sitting next to them.
The man shared how cheated they felt when they discovered that no one had given them candles. He assumed, and correctly so, that the ushers had made the decision not to hand them candles like they were doing for everyone else.
At that point the couple invited the minister into their kitchen. It had been remodeled. It was beautiful. The cabinets were beautiful, the minister commented. The man smiled with pride and said, “thank you. I made them.” The minister was astonished. The man went on to say that he does woodworking and has a whole set of power tools.
The man went on to explain that he and his wife were directors of a Rehab program for the visually impaired. He said that they teach the blind and those who are going blind that blindness is nothing but a dammed nuisance. He said that there is only one thing that the minister could do that he couldn’t do---drive a car!
After a few moments of awkward silence, the man said to the minister, “If I can remodel my kitchen using high powered tools, don’t you suppose we can handle a couple of candles?” The minister said that when he entered the apartment he felt nine feet tall, but when he left he could have walked under the carpet without ducking.
Doesn’t that help us understand about prejudicial blindness? The kind of blindness that suggests that blind people can do only certain things. The prejudicial blindness that we carry with regard to other persons of handicapping conditions. The kind of prejudicial blindness that keeps us from seeing people as full human beings. The kind of prejudicial blindness that keeps us from accepting persons of different life-styles as persons worthy of not only God’ unconditional love, but our unconditional love as well.
There was yet another type of blindness illustrated in this story. CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS OF THE PHARISEES.
The Pharisees see the least, because they have the most to lose. Their very faith is at stake. Their salvation hangs on this insignificant beggar. If Jesus really cured him, then Jesus must be from God, and that is not the same God the Pharisees knew.
Jesus had become a threat to them and to their standing in the community. He was saying things that they had not said, and doing things they could not do, and in many quarters people were paying more attention to his words than to theirs. Increasingly the Pharisees were becoming convinced that Jesus had to be silenced.
This spiritual blindness on the part of the Pharisee’s was quite tragic. They fail to see Jesus in the right light. Sherlock Holmes put it to Watson this way: You see, but you do not observe.” Their spiritual blindness kept them from seeing the new life that Christ could bring.
How easy it is to look at other persons and not see them in their true light. How easy is it to misjudge others because of external issues like age, race, economic status, gender, political affiliation, or life-style.
The Pharisees looked at the Messiah and saw a threat instead of a blessing. The neighbors in the temple looked at the blind beggar and said, “It’s not him, but it is someone like him.” Having eyes, they would not see.
And so our story closes with that beautiful testimony of faith: “one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” The blind beggar was blind no more! He had become a new person with a new scope, potential and fortune because of the touch of the Master’s hand.
A woman spoke to her pastor about her decision to leave a financially lucrative career to enter full-time service to troubled and abused youth. Her income had literally been reduced by 75%. She had to sell her lovely home and moved into a small rented apartment. Her nine-to-five schedule has increased due to the addition of “on-call” hours to her regular office/field service routine.
Her entire life style had been turned upside down. Her pastor asked what prompted her to make this decision, and she replied, “Christ did. For the first time in my life, this past year I have begun to see myself as someone who is loved, unconditionally, no matter what. And that liberated me to be able to love others in the same way.” Then with a broad smile she added, “After forty years of stumbling around this world, at last I am able to see why I am here.”
Jesus encountered a man born blind, touched him with divine power and infinite love, and the man proclaimed what John Newton so beautifully wrote in a hymn that we will sing in a few minutes, “Amazing Grace.”
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see!
What Jesus did for that beggar he can do for us if we give him a chance. He can open the eyes of our hearts that we may no longer stumble in the world’s darkness, but at last might truly see why we are here.
MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH