What the Blind Man Saw
John 9:25, 30-33 (NIV)
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!”
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 man 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.”
John 9 tells the story of a man born blind and his encounter with Jesus. At the outset, this story has a lot of parallels with the tale of the lame man from chapter 5, who was healed at the Pool of Bethesda. Jesus approaches the two men, not the reverse; he heals them, then slips away before they find out who he is; both healings happen on the Sabbath; both men are questioned by the people in charge, particularly because each healing happened on a Sabbath; Jesus finds each of the two men later on and speaks to them. But here the stories diverge significantly. The lame man appears not to accept Jesus and in fact tattles on him to the authorities. It's not clear he ever really understands who Jesus is. The blind man doesn't initially understand who Jesus is either, but we see him reasoning and struggling to come to grips with it, in the face of really difficult circumstances, and in the end he listens to Jesus, accepts what he says and worships him.
Of all the characters that appear in these two stories, only the blind man keeps a strong focus on God as the basis for his reasoning, and ends up believing in Jesus. The lame man focuses at first on his desperate need for healing, and later in his story it's hard to tell at all what his angle is. The authorities ("the Jews," "the Pharisees,") are primarily focused on the law, on The Rules. They bring God in as justification for their reasoning, but he's not the beginning; "healing is unlawful on the Sabbath, therefore this man can't be sent from God." If you're not drawing inside the lines, they say, what you're doing is no good. Period.
But the blind man clings to the reality of what he experienced, and keeps God firmly at the center of his faith and arguments, despite his confusion. He says "I can't tell you who is a sinner and not a sinner, but I know my life just changed hugely for the better, and this Jesus person is responsible for it." Later on he continues the line of reasoning, with a clear assumption that God's power has to be involved: "I don't care if you Pharisees don't know where he comes from. He just did the impossible, and only God can be behind it. God doesn't listen to sinners, he listens to people who do his will. If this man wasn't doing God's will, there's no way he could have given me sight." By keeping his attention on God, he loses the approval of the Pharisees, but keeps God's approval -- and Jesus himself comes to him and initiates a relationship.
I'm reminded that in every kind of circumstance, whether or not I understand what's happening, keep God at the center of my belief and my reasoning and my actions. Keep remembering what I know about who he is and what he is like and what he can do. Keep doing what I know is God's will. With God at the center, guidance will come, understanding will come, healing will come, every good thing will come.
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