Scripture Passage: John 9: 1-12 (13-41) (Lent 4A)
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
Go and wash. It sounds so simple. So there must be something fishy about it, right? Inherently, we are just distrusting creatures, are we not? It’s interesting that the first thing that people address here is sin. The man has been apparently blind from birth and their first thought is sin? Did he commit the sin? What an odd question! Was he supposed to have committed some sin in the womb that was apparently terrible enough to blind him for life? Or did his parents sin? It’s an odd line of questioning to us. They see a man that has missed out on so much of what life holds, that has never seen what you and I take for granted every day, and they immediately want to know what he did wrong or what his parents did wrong to deserve that. (Ok, now don’t get too self-righteous about our own reaction. We do the same thing. I mean, what went wrong in that person’s life? It must have been SOMEONE’S fault.)
But Jesus doesn’t see a sinner; Jesus doesn’t even see a blind man; Jesus sees a child of God. And so he reaches down into the cool dirt and picks up a piece of the earth. He then spits into his hand and lovingly works the concoction into a sort of paste. And then, it says, he spreads the mud into the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. And the man’s eyes were opened and he saw what had been always hidden from his view.
We love this story. But there are so many that ask why we don’t hear accounts of healing such as this. Maybe it’s because we’re looking for miracles with ordinary eyes, with the eyes of our world that need to explain and extract. Maybe it’s because we do not see something new. At the risk of destroying the story for you, does the blindness have to be physical? It never says that, nor does it say that the blind man was “fixed”‘ or “cured”. If it wasn’t a physical healing, would that lessen the story? How miraculous it is for someone to see in a different way, to open one’s vision to what God has envisioned for us.
I couldn’t help (again) but think of the Wizard of Oz. You see, everyone imagined what they would find–courage, heart, mind, and home–imagined what it would look like, how it would come. But the curtain was torn back and revealed that the miracle-worker was part of this world. He was just an ordinary person. So how could he give them courage, heart, mind, and home? It had to do with seeing what is hidden from view.
This season of Lent is as much about showing us our blindness, our darkness, as it is about bringing us light. For that is the way we see as God sees. It is a way of seeing anew, seeing beauty we’ve never seen before, seeing the Way of Christ. Rainer Maria Rilke said that “the work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.” That is the work of Lent—to release us from our spiritual blindness, from our old way of seeing, frozen in time, and to light the way for a vision of eternity. We are called to see that which is hidden from view. It is the work that allows us to see, finally, what has always been hidden from view. You see (pun intended), it is time for the heart-work.
There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. (Albert Einstein)
Much of this Lenten journey is about seeing, about seeing through our spiritual blindness, our own often self-imposed darkness. Now is the time for our heart-work. What does that look like? What heals you from your won spiritual blindness?
Grace and Peace,
One thought on “Seeing What is Hidden From View”
I have been reading a book about the Talmud. Jesus’ response to his disciples is very typical of a Rabbinic answer to their question although the Talmud is several centuries later. I think it is interesting that Jesus was also a “trend sitter” with respect to later Rabbinic thought. Although to be fair Hillel might have given a very similar answer and he is a generation earlier than Jesus. This also illustrates that Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity are really “Brother-Sister” religions and both took the place of ancient Judaism.