By Dr. Keith Wagner
Most people see the healing of the blind man as a miracle. Jesus made a mud pack, put it in the blind man’s eyes and then told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Amazingly he was then able to see. Once again, Jesus enabled a blind man to see, an event which confirmed that Jesus was in fact the son of God. Indeed, the healing of the blind man was a miracle. Miracles happened then and miracles happen today. When someone’s cancer goes into remission, that is a miracle. When someone walks away from a tragic accident, that too is a miracle. Miracles occur in a variety of ways. Thank God for miracles, life changing events that restore lives to wholeness.
There is however a lot more going on here than just a miracle. This is a story of faith. That will become clear when you consider everything the man born blind had to overcome. He is really the main character. What Jesus did was minimal in comparison to all the blind man had to endure. What John wants for us today is to have our own vision restored. He does that by presenting this story with several other characters, each of whom suffers from spiritual blindness.
First, there were the disciples. They suffered from the blindness of theological ineptness. It was their understanding that the man was blind because of his sins. That was a common belief in their day. If you did something wrong God punished you with some malady. You may not have been the guilty person. You could have inherited that malady through the sins of your parents. Jesus negated that belief when he said, “neither this man, nor his parents sinned.”
We humans have a tendency to make judgments about people who are sick, physically challenged or abnormal. We wonder what they did that has resulted in some imperfection. Or, we say their problems are a result of the dysfunctional family they came from. “No wonder the guy has a drinking problem, his father was a drunk.” “You’d have a temper too if your family was Irish.” Or, “What do you expect from a person who lives on the other side of the tracks?” The list goes on and on.
Second, there were the neighbors. They were blinded by denial. “Wasn’t this guy the beggar?” “No, can’t be him, he was a blind man.” He told him he was indeed the beggar, but they did not believe him.
Denial is a form of blindness when we are not willing to see what is real. Denial is essentially disbelief. In Psychology denial is a defense mechanism. It enables folks to resist change. It is a coping tool that people use to reject the truth, either about themselves or someone else.
Third, there were the Pharisees. They suffered from the blindness of righteous indignation. How dare Jesus break the rules and heal someone on the Sabbath. “How can a man (meaning Jesus) who is a sinner perform such signs?” They did not appreciate the fact that Jesus violated one of their Jewish laws.
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Unfortunately, there are times when rules prevent us from reaching out to others or denying us the opportunity of being agents of God’s grace. We become rigid instead of flexible and closed instead of open. We are so bound by traditional customs and procedures that we can’t tolerate any change.
Fourth, there were the blind man’s parents. They suffered from the blindness of selfishness. They didn’t want to lose their seats in the synagogue. “They were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.” Rather than believe their own son, they chose to distance themselves from him in order to save themselves.
Finally, there was the crowd. They suffered from the blindness of rejection. It is unclear just who was challenging the man on his new sight but the implication is that all of society wanted him to reject what Jesus had done for him. All the man knew was that he was blind but now he could see. But they didn’t want to hear that and consequently they drove him out of town.
The blind man was surrounded by a community who all suffered from some form of spiritual blindness. Sadly, no one acknowledged that a miracle had taken place. No one rejoiced or praised God for the man’s ability to see. No one asked him what it felt like to be able to see his family for the first time. Instead of being excited that God had intervened and helped a man to see, they all rejected him because of his profession of faith.
When we have faith, we see. We see that God works in our midst in spite of ourselves. Too often we are like one of the other five character groups in the story. Like them we are spiritually blind. We can’t see because we are afraid to change. We don’t want to open our eyes for fear of losing our security. We cling to old rules and traditions because that is what we are used to. It is easier to go along with the status quo and remain blind instead of allowing God to correct our vision.
When I was a child my parents noticed I had a vision problem. I was diagnosed with lazy eye. The muscle in my right eye was weak. For almost a year I had to wear a patch on my left eye in order to strengthen the right eye. It was embarrassing. Kids at school made fun of me. I was always bumping into things. Finally, the patch treatments ended and I had to wear glasses to compensate for my farsightedness. Fortunately the lens kept my weak eye straight. You wouldn’t know that I had lazy eye unless I removed my glasses. Wearing glasses wasn’t any easier at such an early age. All through my elementary school years I experienced name calling and harassment because I had to wear glasses. I couldn’t have gotten through that period in my life without the support of my parents and older brother. I had a cousin the same age, who also supported me.
The blind man had to undergo some embarrassing moments to be healed. He had to walk about 500 yards from the temple to the pool of Siloam. During that walk he had mud, plastered in his eyes. Imagine the name calling and embarrassment he most likely endured. When he returned he had to face neighbors who disputed his identity. His own parents wouldn’t support him. And finally he was driven out of town by the religious authorities, all because “now he could see.”
All of society rejected the blind man who could now see clearly. There was however one exception. That was Jesus. Jesus went looking for the man. He found him and affirmed his faith. Jesus said to him, “I came into the world for judgment so that those who do not see may see.”
Jesus is all about opening our eyes to see. To see is to understand that God does not inflict us with health problems because of our sins. To see is to cease using denial as a way of ignoring what is real. To see means to live in grace instead of rules that keep us in the dark. To see is to have the courage to support people who stand up for what they believe. To see to experience the acceptance of God which is greater than the rejection of others.
Copyright 2010, Keith Wagner. Used by permission.