1 Samuel 16:1-13; John 9:1-41
March 19, 2023
- Facing the truth about ourselves.
People are either good or bad. That’s called a dichotomy – when we divide things into two opposing groups. Generally, I am not a fan of dichotomies because they do not reflect the complexity of the world. A prime example is my opening statement, “People are either good or bad.” I hope you don’t believe that. I don’t. All people are somewhere in-between, neither entirely one nor the other. We quite often show evidence of both goodness and badness. I am equally loathe to say that people either tall or short, stupid or smart, or even right or wrong. While I might be right about some things, I am certainly wrong about other things, and I might also be somewhat right or wrong about anything. Human understanding and perspective are so limited in the grand scheme. I think you probably understand what I am trying to say here: it is not so useful to try to divide people into one camp or another. However, there is one way I am going to dichotomize us today: we are either blind or we are not.
No, I am not talking about physical blindness at all. Someone who is completely physically blind could be very aware and insightful and heart-eyes open to what we are discussing today, and someone who is 20/20 strong can be completely oblivious to the picture that God needs us to see. Hellen Keller, the famed disability advocate who lost her sight and hearing at the age of 19 mos., said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Hear me carefully, physical eyesight has nothing to do with how we can see or cannot see the Kingdom of God. Once you do see through eyes of faith by the grace of God, though, you will never lose that gift. Once God opens your eyes, you will always have at least a glimpse of goodness in Jesus. We might squint sometimes or have our seeing challenged, but once we see God’s Kingdom, we will always have a view that can grow.
There are lots of things that we see that will never forget. Maybe it was the first time you met someone important to you. Maybe it was traveling to somewhere amazing. Maybe it was a tragedy or some great loss. Maybe it was something extraordinarily funny. Early on in our marriage, Anne and I were cooking pasta for dinner. She had a longer hair cat, and we discovered that cooked spaghetti noodles stick very well to cat hair. When a piece of spaghetti got tied up in her cat’s hair, it started jumping around in every direction like it was out of the movie, The Exorcist. We could not stop laughing at how ridiculously the cat was leaping around trying to get away from the spaghetti stuck to it. The cat eventually got over all that hilarity.
It was not so funny for the man born blind. Like with Hellen Keller, he understood very quickly just how hard life can be without sight. It was even worse in a day and age when that physical disability automatically made you a sinner in society. Your best hope was to beg in the street. That’s where the man met Jesus – or better, that’s where Jesus met the man. Notice, that the man never yells for Jesus’ help, never calls out, never asks for kindness. In fact, Jesus is hardly in the passage at all. This chapter is really about the blind man. He is the lesson. How was this man born blind? What’s the reason?
We all want reasons in life. No one wants to believe that things are random. We Presbyterians are masters at this since we have worked out that everything is in God’s plan. Not a hair can fall from your head without God’s direction. Whether you believe that or not, my sense is that we all want to believe that everything that happens to us can point us to God’s good, God’s love, and God’s grace. That is certainly the case of this man born blind. It was not a matter of sin, but God wants us to know something from this man’s blindness. Jesus wants to show us God’s glory through this man’s story.
Healing the man was the easy part – maybe a little weird… but easy. Jesus does not seem to heal people like this ordinarily. No one said healings had to be pretty, though. The strangeness of this healing would have attracted attention, however, and that might be the point. Watching a blind man walk to a pool to wash the mud out of his eyes would have caught the notice of others. There in that very moment that blind man began to lead the people, everyone there, in a lesson about what vision means – who is blind and who has sight. The blind man becomes a hero of faith who begins to see the world from the perspective of God’s love.
The moment he is healed, the questions start coming, the accusations start coming, the denials start coming. Some struggle to believe that it is the same man, that he could have been blind one day and sighted the next. “How did this happen? How did Jesus do this? Where is Jesus now?” The questions are flying here and there, but they all seem to miss the simple truth. He keeps trying to tell them. “Jesus put mud on me; I washed; now, I see.”
The religious leaders struggle so hard to make sense of this in every way but the truth. They question him; they question his parents; they question him, again. The unnamed man answers their questions. He never backs down. He does not seem to fear their threats. The man who was blind is leading those who are still blind to the simple truth – how can anyone but a man of God do these things? Never since the beginning of the world has this happened. I love the line. This miracle was a shock to history itself. God’s life-changing love, God’s life-valuing purpose, God’s life-renewing redemption is right here and right now for all to see, whether they have eyes and sight or not. As Hellen Keller also said, “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see shadows.” The sun was shining for the now sighted man, and he was never looking back.
Jesus returns to bring this story to a close. Here we see sight and blindness at work. The man born blind now sees in every good way. He is ready to follow God’s Messiah. He stood up for the truth, even though it cost him a place in the synagogue. He has been kicked out of the religious place, but he is in the heavenly place. The Kingdom of Heaven has found him and opened his sight to God’s goodness. He tried to lead the rest of the people around him into God’s living love, but many of them refused to follow and remained in the blindness of their hearts. Either you see or you don’t.
Even a glimpse of God’s goodness, even a momentary awareness of a love greater than yourself, even the recognition that there is something out there showing us true beauty, grace, and kindness in the world is eye opening. While so much in the world seems to be broken and crumbling beneath us, there is a Spirit even greater holding us in hope for a better day. Even though it is so hard to have confidence for a future, we have a future set in stone that cannot be shaken or lost. If we have faith, we trust in the God who is able to hold all of this world with all of its problems in his heart. In this day, we should all open our eyes, again.
In fact, that is somewhat my job. I see my place here to help us open our eyes more and more to God’s glory around us, whether our eyes work very well or not. This is one reason why I enjoy the Facebook posts with beautiful and glorious things, but even more important is the reality beneath all of that goodness. God loves all of God’s children. This is hard to do if we leave things up to our eyes. That is Samuel’s problem, leaving it up to the eyes to value the next king. God sees with the heart.
Each and every one of us is made in God’s image, literally every single one of us. You cannot see that with your eyes. We all look different. We are all actually different. God in amazing creative splendor has made us each unique creations. There will never be another you. While are all different and unique, we are also made in God’s image. You and I are bristling with uniqueness, but we are also connected with sameness. We each have a value beyond measure, but we have something in common with everyone. What would happen if we could see each other in this way? When we greet one another, we should say, “The image of God in me greets the image of God in you.” Truly, we are both precious, we are both special, and we are both crafted from divine glory.
And we don’t even need eyes to do that. Once we realize what we carry, we will never see anyone the same, again. At the end of my hunting days, I was up in a tree stand and a small deer came up a path in the woods. It stopped in a big puddle and seemed to be staring into the water. Then, it began jumping up and down in the water having a good old time. It was playing, and it knew it was playing. I never would have suspected it had the self-awareness that it could play like that. Somewhere in its DNA is enough of a mind that it knows how to have fun. The end of my hunting days was seeing with different eyes.
We need different eyes, people willing to see with the heart, to see each other as children of God made in God’s image. We are not past saving. We are not past rebuilding. We are not past creating community. We are not past finding new expressions of God’s family, but we must see each other more and more in the image of God in which we are created. We need to see each other as the gift to the world that we were made to be. Some of us are more broken than others. Some of us are more challenged than others. Some of us are more stubborn than others. But if the blind can lead the blind, if Jesus can give us real sight in a world of darkness, then we are on the right path to heart-open healing. To God be the glory. Amen.