I got the opportunity to give the message this last weekend at NE, the 6th Sign in the Gospel of John: Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind. It was a real honor. I wrote a sort of dramatized paraphrase of the text which encompassed about the first 12 minutes of the teaching (click here if you’re more of a listening person than a reading person). It challenged my reading of the Scripture to put myself in the shoes of the man born blind, and writing this was a truly worshipful experience.
Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind
Close your eyes…imagine that is what you were born seeing. You were born unable to see light, unable to see your family, unable to see the color of your skin, your clothes, your house…born in darkness. Born blind.
For your entire childhood, you experienced being left out of things, not just because you lacked sight, but because everyone believed your blindness was a result of your sin or your parent’s sin. It was the only story you had ever heard and even though you just knew in your gut that couldn’t be the reason, there was no alternative. So you blamed yourself. You blamed your parents. The inability to see is not the problem…you are the problem.
You get old enough and everyone you’ve grown up around begins to train for and take on work, but you can’t. You are bound for a life of begging and living off of the pity of others. And you blame yourself. And you blame your parents. But somehow you know that it just can’t be the full story.
Years pass. You sit, and you beg, every day. Every day. Every single day. For years.
Then one day you feel someone looking at you. Not someone looking on you with judgment or that typical feeling of superiority. No, this Person sees you, somehow knows you, and even knowing that He’s looking at you…feels like hope.
You overhear the same question you’ve heard time and time again. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Just another debate over why you are the way that you are. You wait for the same cold, impersonal, standardized attempt at explaining your suffering.
After a pause you hear the Rabbi, “neither this man nor his parents sinned.”
You swallow hard. You don’t know why but you immediately rise to your feet. Your eyes get white hot with tears.
“No,” says the Rabbi, “this happened so that the works of God might be put on display in him.”
“In me?!” you think to yourself, “in ME?!”
The Rabbi continues, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
“Who is this Light of the World?” you think to yourself. You want to ask Him who He is, and if He can explain what He means by the works of God. You open your mouth to speak but before you can get a word out you hear someone spit on the ground in front of you.
You feel you’ve lost the gaze of the Rabbi called the Light of the World, He’s down on the ground working with the dirt, making something.
He stands back up and touches your face. You can’t remember the last time anyone has touched you. He rubs mud on your eyes, but you don’t question why for a second. Whatever He’s doing, you’re in.
Now He addresses you for the first time, “Go” He says, “and wash in the pool of Siloam.”
You don’t say anything. No need to, you just run. You’re tripping over people and carts and animals, but you make your way to the pool called “sent,” dip your face in, wipe the mud off, and when you come up…
Brilliant light and color! You see trees, and clothes, and people, and their eyes! You’ve never seen eyes, but somehow you know these are eyes, and you’ve got eyes looking eye to eye with you.
Dizzy with excitement, you sprint back to the spot where you’ve spent years sitting and begging. You’re looking for someone who makes you feel hope when you make eye contact with them…but you’re not finding Him.
You hear familiar voices, voices of your neighbors, and you’re seeing their faces for the first time!! You want to embrace them, or high five them, to have them enter into your joy with you…but they recoil.
You’re shocked! They start debating whether or not it’s actually you…like it’s possible they’re mistaking you who they’ve seen thousands of times growing up for someone else who just looks like you.
“It’s me! It’s me!” you tell them, but they don’t hear you. They don’t see you.
“If it is you, who did this? Who healed you?” they ask.
“A Rabbi, one called The Light of the World, a man named Jesus. He rubbed mud on my eyes and told me to go and wash, and I did, and I came back seeing!”
“Where is he?” they ask.
You see that they’re still doubting you, but you tell them the truth, “I don’t know where He is.”
Your neighbors go and fetch some of the religious leaders, called Pharisees, so that they can verify what has happened to you. You think to yourself, “these men know God, and they will know that only God could have done this, surely they will join with me in celebrating my newfound sight!” But they, too, recoil.
They look at you through furrowed brows, clearly skeptical about how you got healed, but somehow, more skeptical about Who healed you.
You tell them the story of this amazing, life-altering thing that’s just happened to you, how this Rabbi called Jesus gave you this gift of hope and of sight. Their response completely floors you, “This man is not from God for He does not keep the Sabbath.”
Not everyone among them agrees with this conclusion, so they turn to you and ask you who He is. You don’t exactly know, and you know that the Pharisees care very deeply about correct answers. You remember that Prophets are people who communicate directly with God and do His work on earth, that must be the kind of man Jesus is.
“He is a prophet,” you respond.
Your answer falls flat with the Pharisees. They still contend this Man is a sinner. They don’t believe you. They don’t see you.
You see that the Pharisees have invited two new people in to aid in the discussion.
You’ve never seen them before, because you’ve never seen anyone before, but somehow these people feel like home to you, and the way they’re looking at you, they clearly know you in a very special way.
“Mom and dad!” you shout, “Can you believe I can see?! Isn’t this the best day?! The day we’ve prayed for all these years, it’s finally come! It wasn’t your fault! It wasn’t my fault! I met a Man who told me that I was born blind so that the work of God might be put on display in me and then He healed me!”
They, most painfully of all, also recoil. You don’t know why, but they stopped looking at you a moment ago, and they now refuse to look you in the eyes. Instead they’ve locked eyes with the Pharisees, and for some reason, they look afraid.
The acknowledge hesitantly, “we know he is our son…and we know that he was born blind…but we don’t know how he can see now and we don’t know who healed him. Ask him, he can speak for himself.”
They keep their distance, afraid of what the Pharisees will do to them if they even speak to you now. They don’t embrace you. Your own parents…they don’t see you.
The Pharisees turn back to you, more aggressively this time. Demanding that you give glory to God by telling the truth. They say they know the Man who healed me is a sinner. “These guys know everything,” you think, “how can I tell them they are wrong, when I don’t even fully know this Man myself yet. But I cannot deny Him and how He saved me the way my parents and friends have denied me.”
All at once you feel a swell in your confidence, and you use your newfound eyesight to make certain you’ve got the full attention of the Pharisees.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Whether He is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I do know, I was blind, but now. I. See.”
As if trying to find the holes in my story, they circle back to the beginning, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”
Now you can see that somehow their confidence has been shaken. These men who know everything are on the defensive. They are afraid of Jesus, you can tell. You’re confused by their response, but gaining confidence in yourself and in Jesus every moment. You’re a disciple of this Rabbi now, no matter what these men say.
“I’ve already told you! Why do you want to hear it again, do you want to become His disciples too?”
Suddenly this turns from an investigation into an attack, they’re openly shouting insults at you. “We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
It’s as though hearing their ignorance has shown you the truth of exactly why they are afraid of Jesus. More confident than ever, you use the very words you’ve heard them use as weapons to cut down others around the temple.
“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 person 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.”
They are irate, they come at you and forcibly throw you out while shouting at you, “you were steeped in sin at birth, how dare you lecture us!!”
It’s the same story you’ve heard your entire life, but now, you know it’s not true. You’ve heard good news. You’ve met Jesus, and you will never be the same. You will never believe that story again.
As you walk along, contemplating this unbelievable day, but uncertain of who you even are now that everyone you’ve known has pushed you away – you stop dead in your tracks.
A wild hope rises in you, and your heart feels like it could explode with joy. It’s Him. And He sees you. And He’s looking into your eyes. And now you know why you have eyes, the reason anyone who has sight should use their sight, so that you could see Him.
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” he asks.
“Who is He, sir?” you ask. “Tell me and I will believe in Him.”
“You’re looking at Him.” He says, “He’s talking to you now.”
And you fall down and worship Him.
He says in surprisingly loud voice, almost like He wants someone else to hear it too “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Then more familiar voices, the Pharisees. “WHAT?! Are we blind too?!” they demand.
Jesus calmly, lovingly even, but firmly says, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”