“Are you ready, Thaddeus?” his father asked, “it is time to leave.”
“I am ready, Father,” Thaddeus replied, as he retrieved the mat that was just within his reach. He felt his father’s firm grip on his elbow, guiding him toward the door. A warm hand caressed his cheek before Thaddeus could hear the familiar sounds of the street, and he slipped an arm around his mother’s shoulder. He paused to kiss her lightly, and heard her whisper a fond farewell. “I will be fine, Mother” he reassured her, as he did everyday when he left for the marketplace. It was a lonely place, even with all of the people that passed him, but it was a necessary part of his existence. Unable to fend for himself, he had long ago determined that he would not be a burden to his aging parents. They had always been so supportive, still he felt within himself the longing to live an independent life. With his mat rolled-up under one arm, and his father holding tenuously to his other arm, the pair shuffled toward the familiar patch of stone pavement at the entrance to the temple.
He had never experienced the thrill of watching the sunrise, but he enjoyed its warmth as it shone on his face. He had never seen the animated faces of the little children that frolicked in the square, but how it thrilled him to hear their delightful squeals, and playful banter. He chuckled whenever he heard the frustrated dialogue of a shop-keeper trying to convince a stubborn mule to move away from the front of the clothier’s stall. Others would have considered him deserving of much pity, or even cursed of God, but Thaddeus was thankful to be alive. Today, however, was the Sabbath, so he would be begging alms from the faithful worshippers as they made their way to and from the temple. Everyone would come to worship today, and Thaddeus could only hope that they would be as generous to him as God had been to them.
His father stopped now, and lightly kissed him on both cheeks in a fond gesture of farewell, before leaving him to his own devices. Positioning himself in the usual place gave him a sense of independence that seemed to compensate, momentarily, for the indignity of having to spend the balance of the day seeking alms from the passers-by. He listened to the tinkling of the bells that hung from the hem of an approaching member of the Sanhedrin. He held out his cup, knowing that the gesture would be recognized, but the sound of the bells receded, and Thaddeus knew that his cup was still empty.
“That was a close call!” Peter gasped, as they caught up with the other disciples under the sychamore tree. “They were actually going to stone us back there!”
“I’ve never seen them quite so upset,” James agreed, “what was their problem anyway?”
“Not everyone can accept these things,” Jesus consoled them, “even some of you will be offended at my words, but there will come a time when their eyes will be opened, and they will believe that I truly did exist before their father, Abraham. But for now, they are blind men, trying to lead those who are blind.”
“Speaking of blind men …” Peter nodded to indicate the pitiful sight of Thaddeus where he sat on the corner of the street, begging alms from a purple-robed official. The official dropped a penny into the tin bowl, and continued on his way. The disciples were acquainted with Thaddeus and his life’s story, but one question still burned in Peter’s mind. He had been meaning to ask the Master for some time. As they drew closer to where Thaddeus sat, it seemed to be an appropriate moment.
“Master,” Peter proposed, “is it true that if Adam had not sinned, there would be no sickness or disease in the world?”
Jesus nodded affirmatively.
“And is it true,” Peter persisted, “that ‘the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the sons’?”
Again, the Master concurred.
Following Peter’s line of questioning, James interjected, “If that is so, Lord, then who committed the sin that caused Thaddeus, here, to be born blind? Was it him, or was it his parents?”
Jesus winced at their insensitivity. “It was neither Thaddeus’ sin, nor was it his parent’s sin that caused his blindness”, He corrected them, “it happened this way so that you would be able to witness the power of God working in his life.”
The group fell silent as they pondered the meaning of that statement. This was not what they had been told by the teacher’s of the law. Now who would they believe? Who should they believe? It all seemed to be so confusing. As the disciples fell into silent contemplation once more, they became aware that Jesus had knelt down beside the seated man, and was talking gently to him. They watched as He spat on the ground before him, and began to mix dirt with the spittle. Peter shuddered in repulsion as he watched the Teacher take a finger full of the clay and lightly dab it on the man’s left eyelid.
“That’s gross!” Mark thought, as he watched Jesus take another finger full of the mixture and dab it on the man’s right eyelid.
Completing the task, Jesus addressed the man seated before him. “Now, Thaddeus, I want you to go to Siloam’s pool and wash your face there.” Nodding to Mark, He indicated that the disciple should accompany the man to the stated destination. Together the two left the group, to carry out the Master’s instruction.
“Why did He do that?” Thaddeus queried, not sure what to expect after he had washed at Siloam’s Pool.
Equally curious, Mark shook his head in wonder. “I don’t have the answer to that, my Friend, but I have learned one thing since I have been following Jesus - He will never ask you to do something that would be potentially harmful to you. I have only seen Him do wonderful things for those that follow His word completely.”
The courtyard was deserted as they approached Siloam’s pool. Gently, the young disciple led his charge to the water’s edge, and helped him kneel beside the pool. Thaddeus scooped a handful of water, and washed the clay from his right eyelid. Another handful of water dissolved the clay from his left eyelid. The drops of water ran down his face as both hands rinsed the residue from his closed eyes. Instinctively he blinked his eyes against the brightness of the sun. Wait! What was different?! His mind registered different shapes and a variety of colors!
“I can see!” he shouted to the startled disciple. “I can see!” he reaffirmed, as Mark’s face softened in a grin of realization. He had witnessed that sheer elation in others who had been touched by the Master, and he knew that Thaddeus’ life would never be the same.
Ten year-old Martha skipped across the cobblestones on her way to the temple. It would soon be time for supper, and Mother had asked her to fetch Thaddeus. It was a chore that she enjoyed, even though it meant leaving the time of fun she was having with the other girls. Thaddeus always spoke to her as if she were much older than her ten years, and he never seemed to be upset with her if she was a few minutes late. She watched the other young men coming and going from the temple, and thought of poor Thaddeus who would be destined to seeking alms for his existence for the balance of his life. He didn’t seem to mind his fate in life, but Martha thought that it was totally unfair of God to have inflicted such a thing on her older brother. Entering the temple square, her eyes scanned the steps where Thaddeus usually positioned himself. He wasn’t there! Puzzled, she searched the crowd, until her gaze rested on the form of her brother – standing, talking to the cloth merchant.
“Thaddeus!” she cried, as she usually did to let him know that she was coming to fetch him for supper. He turned toward the direction of her voice. He smiled as she came closer – but there was something different about his face. It was his eyes, they didn’t have that vacant stare to which she had become accustomed, it was as if he was actually looking at her!
“Martha!” he said, his voice filled with wonder. His eyes traced the outline of her frame, and came to rest on her face. “Martha!” he repeated in recognition now. Martha’s heart began to beat faster. Something had happened – she knew that Thaddeus could actually see her! He took a few steps toward her, she raced to him and flung herself into his outstretched arms.
“Thaddeus, what happened?” she looked into his eyes with child-like wonder. They were focused on her face – and they had a sparkle to them that she had never seen before.
He smiled as he set her down. “I have something to tell you,” he confided, “can I trust you to keep a secret, Martha?” He proceeded to tell her about the day’s events, trying to answer all of her questions in language that her youthful intelligence could comprehend. It wasn’t long before the truth registered in her mind, and she broke free of his grip, racing home to be the first to spread the good news. Thaddeus watched her go, and knew that his parents would know all about his day from a child’s perspective long before he ever reached the house. Having walked the same route every day under the direction of someone else, Thaddeus had no problem finding his own way to the house.
Three men were standing by the fence at the neighbor’s house as he approached. They were watching him with open interest.
“Isn’t that Thaddeus – the one who always sits begging for alms at the marketplace?” the taller one questioned. “Why is he walking home alone?”
“You are right – that is him!” the neighbor on the right confirmed.
“That is him!” the short one ridiculed. “How could that possibly be Thaddeus? He wouldn’t be walking home by himself. It’s just someone that looks like him. Maybe it’s his uncle, or his cousin!”
“It is me!” Thaddeus confirmed, to the amazement of the trio.
“But, but you are alone,” the tall one stammered in shock, “how can this be?!”
“I was sitting at the temple,” Thaddeus began his explanation, “when a man by the name of Jesus came by. He put clay on my eyes and told me to go wash in the pool of Siloam. I went and washed, and I came back seeing! I don’t quite understand it myself yet, but, what more can I say?” Thaddeus spread his hands and shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of unexplained wonder.
“Thaddeus!” his mother’s voice broke into his explanation. He turned to see his mother for the first time, followed by a jubilant Martha, proud to have been the first to spread the good news about her brother.
“We had better be getting along to the synagogue,” the leader of the neighborhood trio commented, leaving the family to revel in the awe of the moment.
It wasn’t long before Thaddeus had become the main topic of conversation among the group of Pharisees gathered on the steps of the synagogue. “How do you suppose he did that?” some of them pondered.
“Well, it goes to show that this Jesus is not a prophet sent from God!” someone sneered, “or he wouldn’t have waited until the Sabbath day to perform his little miracle!”
“But if he is a sinner,” another mused, “how could he do such a wonderful deed?”
“Maybe we should send a delegation to the house, just to get the story straight for ourselves,” proposed a third. “Maybe that’s all it is – just a story!”
As they approached the house, they were stunned to see Thaddeus working in the small garden plot next to the wall, quite obviously not suffering any visual impairment.
“What’s the meaning of this?” demanded the leader of the delegation. “What are we hearing about you and this Jesus of Nazareth?”
Surprised that they had not yet heard of his good fortune, Thaddeus proceeded to repeat the story of his blessing to the indignant trio. He could tell by the scowls that remained on their hardened faces that they were totally dismissing the truth of his experience.
“So, Thaddeus, what is your opinion of this man?” the leader of the group asked.
“I believe that he must be a prophet!” Thaddeus exulted.
“I don’t think he ever was blind,” he heard one of them mutter to his neighbor, “I think the whole thing was just a scam from the beginning!”
Thaddeus shook his head in amazement at their determined unwillingness to believe his testimony. He was relieved when he saw his father exit the house and close the door behind himself. Immediately, the group of Pharisees mobbed him with their questions.
“You are his father? Is it true he was born blind? How is it that he now can see?” the questions came too quickly for the aging man to sort out.
“He is my son”, the father affirmed, “and to our sorrow, it is certain the he has been blind since his birth. It has been a source of distress to both his mother and myself, and we have often despaired for his future. As to how he is now able to see, I do not know. But he is of age, he can answer for himself. Why don’t you ask him?”
Turning to address Thaddeus, the spokesman for the group declared, “We know for sure that this is a very evil man who did this to you! Now give the glory to God!”
“I am sure that you are a better judge of that than I am,” Thaddeus conceded, “but I do know one thing – yesterday I was just Blind Thaddeus, begging alms at the entrance to the synagogue, today I can see!”
The fervor of his statement still unnerved the delegation of the Pharisees. “So what exactly did he do to you?” the spokesman questioned once more. “How did he cause you to see?”
Totally exasperated now, Thaddeus turned to them in mild anger. “I have already told you – didn’t you listen? Maybe you also want to become His disciples?” he suggested.
“You impudent cur!” the spokesman exploded, “how dare you even suggest such a thing! You are his disciple, we remain true disciples of Moses!”
“We know that God spoke to Moses,” the tall one stammered indignantly, “but, as far as this man is concerned, we don’t even know where he came from. He can’t be a messenger from God! That’s impossible!” He stamped his right foot to emphasize his claim.
A condescending smile crossed Thaddeus’ face. “Well, isn’t this amazing,” he offered, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “you tell me that you don’t know where he came from, and yet he opened my eyes. I think that he needs to do the same for you! Since when have you ever heard that God listens to the prayers of a sinner – but God obviously listens to this man. Perhaps you need to rethink your theology ??”
“Enough of this blasphemy!” the spokesman thundered. “Who made you our teacher? We don’t have to listen to this! Get out! Out I say- and don’t come back!”
In a daze, Thaddeus stumbled into the street. Was this reality, or was it simply a bad dream? What would he do now? How could religious leaders be so willingly ignorant? Yes, that was it, they didn’t want to see the truth.
“Do you believe on the Son of God?” a calm voice broke into the turmoil of his thoughts. He recognized that voice! He turned to face the Healer.
“If I knew who He was, I would believe! Tell me about him Master – so that I can believe in Him!”
“You have already seen Him, Thaddeus,” the master continued, “in fact, you are talking to him even now”.
Of course! Now it all made so much sense! This was the Son of God – who else could have done something so wonderful? “Jesus!” Thaddeus stammered through his emotions, “You are the Son of God! You are the One we have been waiting for! You cause the blind to see, the lame to walk…” his praise was lost in the flood of joyful emotion.
Cupping his face in His hands, Jesus looked directly into Thaddeus eyes. “Once you were blind, Thaddeus”, the Master spoke softly, drawing the words from his own confession, “but now you truly see!”
It was not the first time that Jesus had been called upon to care for a blind man. Much of His ministry was directed towards those who were blind. We can observe from His teachings that His definition of blindness extended not only to those with a visual impairment, but also to those who lacked spiritual perception. Both groups were represented in the interaction with Thaddeus. Certainly, with respect to Thaddeus, the predicament was clearly limited to the physical realm. The spark of hope that was lit by the presence of the Healer required little fanning to break into a burning desire for complete healing. Though the method was rather unorthodox, the results were unmistakably profound. It is a lesson that all of His disciples need to learn with respect to public ministry. We may be directed to effect some rather bizarre remedies at different times, but our obedience in faith will accomplish the purposes of Almighty God.
The problem with the majority of the actors in this particular scene is clearly one of spiritual blindness. It begins with the opening interaction between Jesus and His disciples. It was a doctrine that had long been established by the spiritual leadership of the day, and indeed, is still adhered to by many modern religious leaders. All physical affliction is a result of sin (which is true), therefor if one is physically impaired, he must have committed some sin, (which is possible, but is not necessarily so). From personal experience, I am aware of the depth of emotional wounding that can be inflicted by the spiritually misinformed as they endeavor to apply a unique principle to a variety of situations. In this case, in direct opposition to the doctrine of cause-and-effect relationship between sin and physical affliction, Jesus quite clearly states – neither has this man sinned, nor his parents. Thaddeus had likely been exposed to similar veiled accusations by the religious leadership of the day, so that the unorthodox assessment by Jesus would have been liberating indeed. Such assurance would certainly have been a boost to his faith, allowing him to believe for the results that followed.
Regardless of the prevailing doctrine, it was clear that the facts spoke for themselves. The indisputable conclusion, “Once I was blind, but now I can see” is one that left the pharisaical minds in a total quandary. The community was aware of the change that had happened in Thaddeus’ life. The evidence was irrefutable. There are none so blind, the parable states, as those who will not see. Certainly, the self-imposed blindness not only effected the outraged religious leaders, it was also, out of fear, adopted by Thaddeus’ immediate family. When asked for their assessment of the situation, they quickly chose the no-comment option. He is old enough, let him speak for himself. Not only was the response motivated by lack of knowledge, the author points out that the family was afraid of the social ramifications of their agreement to the case presented by their son. Rather than risk ex-communication, they chose to remain uncommitted in their view of what had transpired in Thaddeus’ life. It must have been somewhat disheartening to Thaddeus to realize that his own parent’s had left him ‘hanging out to dry’.
The lack of parental support, however, did nothing to cause Thaddeus’ faith to waver. He still believed that the Man who had ministered to him was, at the very least, a prophet sent from God. It didn’t take a lot of persuasion on the part of Jesus to convince him that the Healer was, indeed, the Son of God. In a moment of recognition, it was the only plausible explanation, even though it contradicted everything that he had been instructed to believe. As in the case of Thaddeus, we need to realize that there are many people in today’s world who are longing to believe in something other than the ineffective ‘religion’ to which they have been exposed for so long. All they need is the stimulus of a real experience with an Almighty God. Though Jesus does not physically walk the marketplaces of today’s world, we, his present-day disciples, do. When we reach out in faith to help the blind to see, they too will come to the realization that our Jesus ‘truly is the Son of God!’