Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Born Blind

The ninth chapter of John's gospel tells a story of a man born blind. When Jesus and the disciples walked past, the disciples leapt into an all too familiar (and futile) exercise of trying to answer the question of "why?" Why did this happen? If he was born blind, then was it perhaps because of his parents' sins? Or was it possible God knew in advance what type of person he would be, and therefore caused him to be born blind as a sort of preemptive judgement?

Jesus turns the question on its head. It had nothing to do with this man's sins, he claimed, nor his parents'. This blindness existed so that the power of God could conquer it.

The disciples, much like us, wanted someone to blame. They wanted to judge, as a way of making sense of the world. Jesus ignores that desire, and points to a greater reality. It is redemption, the transformative work of God in the earth, that should capture our atttention- after all, Christ came not to judge the world, but to save it.

What if we saw the world the way he did? What if we saw pain, evil, and injustice not as accusations against God and people, but as canvases upon which God was eager to paint his work of redemption? What if we are in fact the instruments of that art?

And so the story continues. Christ heals the blind man, causing a controversy among the religious elites. They step in, demanding the young man to tell them who did this miracle. "I do not know who he is," the healed man replied, "but this I know-I once was blind, but now I can see."

The response of the establishment is telling: "You were born a total sinner- and you try to teach us about God!" And they proceeded to cast him out of the religious community.

Christ returned to the now rejected young man, and as he revealed his identity the man cried out, "I believe!" And here Jesus delivers the point of the story: "I entered this world to render judgement-to give sight to the blind, and to show those who think they see how blind they truly are."

This is a story about different types of blindness. The man of course, had been physically blind his entire life. The religious leaders were blinded by an inflated sense of knowledge. Because they saw themselves as the righteous, the ones who had figured things out, they were unable to see God's power at work among them. They were unable to hear the blind man testify of God's goodness, because they refused to accept they had something to learn from a "sinner."

And the disciples were blind at well. They were blinded by their judgements, by their need to blame and have all the answers. Their blindness kept them from seeing how God wanted to reveal his glory right in front of them.

The difference between these three groups of blind people, though, was that the physically blind man knew he was blind. He would not have denied it, would not have defended himself. When Jesus told him to go wash his eyes, he did it, because he wanted to be healed.

This was the judgement that Christ came to bring: that those who know they are blind would see, and those who think they can see would discover their blindness. That the wisdom of the wise would be frustrated, and the folly of children would be exalted. That the weak and worthless things of the world would be revealed as great in the eyes of God.

The point of the story is not to figure out who to blame-in a sense we are all to blame, and in a sense none of us are. The point of the story is to open our eyes. To see the Kingdom of God breaking into our darkness, repainting the ugly places with color, raising the valleys and honoring the lowly. God's world is the opposite of ours, and we will never see it unless we are ready to admit that we were born blind. 


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