I am sure you have heard the phrase “there are none so blind as those who will not see” which is rooted in Jeremiah 5:21 “Hear this O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see…” I assume we all have had a situation when we wanted to convince someone of our point of view which, of course is always absolutely correct, right? We may think the other person we are unable to convince to our own way of thinking just cannot see the truth right in front of their own eyes. This tendency to feel sure we are right and the other person is blind has never been more pronounced than during this past election cycle. All elections are contentious but this one was awash in vehement views and ideology, on both sides. As a result, each side thinks they are the “good guys” and the other side the “bad guys.”
We may sometimes think this is novel to our times but that’s just not so. “In the ancient world, it was customary to assume that every effect had a cause, and that this cause must be somebody's fault. Blindness (wasn’t) simply unfortunate; it (was considered) a punishment for someone's transgression.” Today’s passage from the Gospel of John is a graphic illustration about how much our myopia keeps us from seeing the big picture. We actually want to be right and to point out the wrong in others, more passionately than we want to see the truth. It sometimes seems we have a proclivity to blame one another even above the clarity of seeing.
So, how much do we really see? How clearly do we see what is actually there? How long is our memory? Try this on for size. Watch this video to test your own ability to see what is actually going on.
Now that you have seen the video, how did you do? Do you feel confident about trusting your point of view?
One of the most interesting parts of this text is that Jesus doesn’t just heal the blind man of his sight, he does it in a rather graphic manner. First he spits on the dirt
and mixes it up in a goopy mud, then he applies it directly onto the blind man’s eyes. But the mud alone doesn’t do the trick. His sight comes back after the man is told to rinse off the mud in the pool of Siloam. When he follows Jesus’ suggestion, only then does he return with his eyesight restored and it’s the cleansing off of the mud that clears them. However, when the man comes back from the pool as a sighted person, some in the crowd simply refuse to believe it is him.
At our home, we’ve been binge watching a TV series on FX called “The Americans” which is simply startling. It’s about a Russian couple who had been conscripted into service in their youth to be Soviet Spies and live together as a married couple with two kids in a lovely suburban Virginia home near Washington, DC. They were trained to perfectly fit into the American way of life and they have absolutely no accents or any other telltale signs of being Russians. Across the street from them lives an FBI Agent whom they befriend and that really heightens the tension! Sometimes it is violent which send me out of the room, but it is a superb TV production. So good in fact, that I can only watch a few episodes at a time because I get all caught up in the characters and worry about them as if I know them! The couple are masters of disguise and watching the espionage and the way they are able to fool absolutely everyone around them brings to mind a basic fact of human nature and one of the main characters openly says it, “people believe what they want to believe.” That seems true.
Because the crowd in the Gospel text was accustomed to seeing the blind man on the streets begging, they simply could not believe this well-functioning, sighted man could be the same person. How often do we feel that once someone has presented themselves in a negative way, like if they’ve been in prison had been addicted to drugs, how willing are we to see them rehabilitated? Although Jesus gave him sight, detractors would not believe Jesus was the catalyst for the man’s eyesight restoration. Then, when the blind man’s family made it clear to the Pharisees that it was their son who had been given back his sight by Jesus, the authorities then decide to attack Jesus for working on the Sabbath! Jewish people were not supposed to even knead bread on the Sabbath and obviously, Jesus did knead the mud, so there you go - that made this miracle a bad thing!
Which character in today’s Bible text do you most identify with? Are you the blind man who is healed? When has something wonderful or healing occurred in your life that you never anticipated? Think about that for just a minute. Imagine yourself as this once blind man - What is it like for you now to see for the first time? You now notice your clothing is torn and you see the dirty conditions on the street you had been living in. What are you going to do with your new life now that your sight is restored? Do you agree with Jesus that your blindness was a way that God used you so that “God’s works might be revealed in him” as it says in verse 3? How about if you were a Pharisee and you thought that it was of utmost importance that all should follow the letter of Jewish law? Would you, like the Pharisees get all ticked off because Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath? Apparently, doing God’s work and taking care of God’s people whatever day, Sabbath or not, was something Jesus was going to do no matter what the Pharisees had to say. Jesus’ work was so uncool by the Pharisees, that they tossed him out of the temple right along with the formerly blind man. How about the man’s parents - they were real charmers weren’t they? Can you see yourself as the parents who all but disclaimed their kid in verse 20
“We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the (Jewish authorities); (who) had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
Nice parents, threw him right under the bus!
Turning to our Hebrew Scripture from 1 Samuel we are affirmed that God sees beyond the superficial and into the heart. 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; (who look) on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." Have you ever looked at a clothes catalog and said to yourself how can these people be so beautiful? Who are they? The truth is, in many socially acceptable ways models are people we are supposed to hold ourselves up to as a standard. The problem with that is someone, somewhere decided on these standards which are arbitrary and subject to whims of fashion and fading. In other words, a person’s looks and the way clothes hang on their bodies are but ephemeral stereotypes. There is nothing in that which is permanent, good or should make us feel in anyway inferior. Yet they do and it most especially hits young women where it hurts so that young women will over spend their disposable income or develop eating disorders in an effort to fit into the parameters of that stereotype. Surely, this is not the way God sees us and it’s not the way we should see ourselves, nor each other. God sent Samuel to discover a person who was the last in the line of Jesse’s sons, David. In him, God saw all the qualities necessary to make a great king, even though no one else did.
Let us not be fast to judge one another, because we do indeed have eyes that sometimes cannot see and ears that hear only what they want to hear. After all, we are only human.
Let us pray:
Wonderful and surprising God, you who sees things about creation which we may not, help us to learn to look past the obvious or the traditional or standard. Assist us to new and fresh perspectives in the way you work in the world. You have challenged us to see the newness you always find within us. For this we are grateful and rejoice.