By Kelly Wright
I cannot see anything without the help of my contacts. When I say anything, I’m not exaggerating. I’m grateful to live in a time where there are corrective lenses. Had I been born prior to the age of glasses, I’m sure my life would have been cut short, having been eaten by some wild animal that I, quite literally, never saw coming.
My bad eyesight began to be a problem in 6th grade when I was having trouble seeing the chalkboard at school. Even sitting in the front row and squinting as much as I could didn’t help. I could see marks that were written, but I couldn’t see what they said.
But, wow, when I got my contact lenses, they opened up a brand-new world. I could see again! I didn’t realize how bad my vision was until it improved. With contacts, leaves on the trees looked sharper, words on the chalkboard were clear, and people no longer looked like blobs. I got better at sports and didn’t make a fool of myself saying hello to the someone who I thought was someone else.
Have you ever gotten used to something and once it was corrected or changed in some way, it left you shocked at how bad things really were?
In John 9, we read the account of Jesus healing a blind man. We are told this man had been blind since birth. I can’t imagine all the ways his limited ability affected his life, especially during that time in history. I wonder as a little boy if he was ever able to play outside with friends. Did he get to do anything other boys his age got to do? Did he experience joy despite his blindness or were his days filled with shame and isolation?
As Jesus and the disciples encountered this man, the disciples asked an odd question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Although this seems like a strange thing to say, I get the disciples’ curiosity. It’s human nature to wonder why bad things happen. In our human perspective, our spiritual economy usually forms this equation: bad people = bad consequences.
The disciples wanted to know why. Why was this man born blind? They wanted an answer to why this bad thing happened. In their minds, this man or his parents must have sinned. They must have done something horribly wrong – why else would their son be born blind?
As I put myself in the disciples’ position, I get the question. Most times, I, too, want to know why. Why do bad things happen, especially to good people? Why don’t good things happen, especially to good people?
Jesus’ response must have surprised those around him. He stated that neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that his blindness happened so the works of God might be displayed in him.
So the works of God might be displayed in him.
That response is both comforting and unsettling. We long for a perfect world where we don’t have to face trials and hardships. But the truth is that God works through our challenges so the works of God might be displayed in him. We might think of these as a God things. God things happen to people to display the works of God. In the healing of this blind man, a God thing happened.
How Jesus went about healing this man was very unusual. He spit on the ground, made mud with his saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. Jesus told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam and afterwards, he came home seeing.
What was this encounter like for this blind man? Was he so desperate for any possible miracle that he got excited when Jesus put mud on his eyes and couldn’t wait to wash and see for the first time? Or was he so downcast that he was too afraid to trust that he could ever see?
No matter what his initial thoughts might have been, we do know he trusted enough to give these instructions a try and he was healed.
As the story continued, there were interesting reactions from his neighbors. Instead of celebrating that this man could see, his neighbors took him to the Pharisees to be investigated. The Pharisees took issue with this man’s healing because Jesus healed him on the Sabbath. According to the law there was to be no work on Sabbath and healing was considered work. They believed Jesus had sinned because He healed this man on the Sabbath.
They interrogated the man twice as well as his parents, asked them over and over how Jesus healed him.
When they told the man that they knew Jesus was a sinner, the man replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
The Pharisees threw the man out of his community and when Jesus heard that he had been thrown out, He went to the man. Jesus told him, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
The Pharisees overheard Jesus and asked if they were blind, too. Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
This is one of the many mic drop moments of Jesus.
Ruth Haley Barton writes, “Everyone in this story is blind—the beggar, the disciples, the Pharisees, the man’s neighbors and his parents. The irony, of course, is that the man who is physically blind is the only one who ‘sees’ with any kind of spiritual insight. His ability to ‘see’ Christ with the eyes of blind faith and the simplicity of his testimony, even under duress, is an indictment on all of us who have made our faith more complicated than it needs to be.”
You see, perspective is powerful. It’s your point of view, how you see things. It’s the lens you see the world through and determines how you view yourself, others, and everything else around you. And yet, most of us never give it much thought.
As a matter of fact, most of your perspective is so ingrained that you rarely even really consider it – it’s just there. But it’s something we bring with us wherever we go, part of every conversation. We get used to seeing things the way we see them, often through eyes that need corrective lenses. Lent is a time for seeing our spiritual blind spots.
“Lent is a season for acknowledging our spiritual blindness and crying out to God to help us see what is in our blind spot. Stripped of the distractions that keep us living in our illusions, we are able to see ourselves more clearly for who we are and acknowledge that we are missing something. We are able to admit that we are so blinded by our own paradigms and programs, our fears and our filters that we cannot see the kingdom of God as it unfolds right in front of our eyes. It is a time for doing whatever Jesus tells us to do in response to our growing awareness of our need for healing.” Ruth Haley Barton
During this fourth week of Lent, I invite you to put yourself in the John 9 story. Who might you be in this story? Spend a few minutes considering these questions:
- Am I the blind man that is aware of my blindness?
- Am I the disciples who were asking the wrong question?
- Am I the neighbors who couldn’t see anything outside of their own perspective?
- Am I the Pharisees who couldn’t recognize a miracle?
Awareness of our perspective can be unsettling and disruptive. Sometimes it seems easier to walk around blind or with our head in the sand. But doing so only keeps us captive to our faulty ways of seeing things. Jesus came to disrupt our faulty, fallen perspectives for our individual sakes and for the sake of the world. The season of Lent gives space for a deeper awareness of these perspectives.