A man sat on the street. He was blind from birth, which meant he was unable to work and had to beg. John gives us his story with no-holds-barred detail in his gospel, chapter nine. There are five reactions to this man born blind. Four of them typical and understandable human reactions. One of them is miraculous.
The Blame Game
The Disciples saw him, and their immediate response was to ask Jesus “who sinned?” They go straight to the Blame Game. For them, this man was simply an opportunity for speculative discussion. Perhaps this is like the way we immediately try to figure out who to blame when a family falls apart or someone gets AIDS. They must not have followed biblical principles, so they are at fault, right? We’ve got to first figure out who to blame.
After Jesus healed him, his neighbors and the crowd made him the news of the day, arguing about his healing. To them, he was just a curiosity to entertain and pass the time. They probably moved on to some other weird minor scandal the next day. Could it be this is similar to how we suddenly are scandalized by a Miley Cyrus, but move on to the next scandal with the next news cycle?
The Pharisees don’t see a blind man, they see another pawn in their ongoing battle against the compromising Sadducees, the Romans, the “mob”, and against radicals like Jesus. This was an opportunity to score points in a culture war they believed they were fighting on God’s behalf. Is this like the way homosexual people are often talked about today by Christians? As enemies or pawns in a culture war?
The blind man’s own parents were so afraid for their own security that they basically abandoned him. To his parents, he was a liability and a threat to their own security. They would lose everything if they were thrown out of the synagogue. This may be similar to the way we are prone to treat addicted people and criminals, or the way we prep for social breakdown. We first worry about our own security and comfort.
Predictable Human Reactions
We might be saddened when we consider that these are reactions to a man lying blind in the dust, never having seen his mother’s face or a beautiful sunrise, and having to beg to live. While he lies there in the dust, he is being blamed, mocked, abandoned, and used. And yet these are understandable, predictable human reactions. The Disciples asked an eternal question. The neighbors were bored. The Pharisees thought they were defending God. His parents were afraid. What they missed is the fact that a human being was suffering and crying out, right in front of their spiritually blind eyes. And our modern day reactions are no less understandable, and no less sad.
To Jesus, the man born blind was a human being, made in God’s image. To Jesus, he was a man with faith, and a heart of worship. To Jesus, he was blind but he was beginning to truly see, and had better spiritual eyesight than the rest of the people. To Jesus, he was a person in need of healing and grace. Jesus was the only one who saw that this blind man carried the universal, human burden of shame and guilt, and only Jesus granted him freedom. Jesus didn’t blame anyone, he didn’t need to be entertained, he wasn’t afraid to touch the “cursed one” and he didn’t seem to worried about winning a culture war against the Pharisees, at least not on their terms. In fact, Jesus knew that the community of grace and healing that he was building, not scoring political points, would transform people, the culture, and the world.
After the blind man had been cast out, Jesus found him. “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man? He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.”
When we encounter people who cannot see, or who are broken and in need of healing, it’s easy to immediately want to speculate and blame, like the disciples. It’s natural for our curiosity or need for entertainment to drive us. Often we fear for our security, or see an opportunity to score points in a culture war and perhaps do God’s work for him. We will do that, because we are human. However, as predictable and as understandable as those reactions are, they have to change.
Yet Jesus didn’t heal this blind man simply to be an example for us to do likewise. He gave us an example, yes. But what it points to is our own spiritual blindness, our own guilt and shame, and our own inhumanity. Our hearts have to be changed, so that we can see ourselves and others the way Jesus sees them. We need to be healed, not just to try harder to be kind to others. He opens our eyes to see that we are human, and we need healing and forgiveness. We will always need healing and forgiveness.
Then Jesus opens our eyes to see others as fellow human beings in need of healing and grace. He enables us to seek out those who have been cast out, and to bring them to him. As we encounter people, we are called to look past our initial reactions, and to bring healing in the name of Jesus Christ. We are called to risk, and to the cross, and to the way of loss.
Playing the blame game, gossiping about the scandals, building secure bunkers, and trying win a war against “cultural enemies” will get us nowhere. We need healing and forgiveness, and so do the people around us, and only Jesus Christ can give it. We are called to a radical re-orientation in which we receive healing and we give healing to human beings, made in God’s image, in the name of Christ. That is the Gospel that we are called to proclaim and live.