Grace and peace from the Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. I am the light of the world.
Jesus said, ‘If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.’”John 9:1-41
It is a story in contrasts. A story of reversals. There are so many twists and turns I don’t know if I am driving down Lombard Street in San Francisco, or hiking up the last mile on a trail at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
A study in contrasts
The one who was blind at the beginning of the story now sees at the end. Those who could see at the beginning, are now blind at the end.
In the beginning, it’s about who to blame. In the end, it’s about who should get the glory.
And then this really weird statement at the end by Jesus: “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”
That’s a strange thing to say after you’ve just given a blind man his sight.
But let’s go back to the beginning.
The passage starts out by trying to affix blame for the illness, the disease, the blindness. Now I realize this is strange to our 21st Century ears. We don’t blame people for their illness, their disease … we just focus on curing, right?
Who’s to blame?
I mean – and let me give you a far-out hypothetical – let’s just say there was a deadly virus running rampant across the world. We wouldn’t be focused on where it came from, naming it after the city or country it started in, seeking to blame someone… How barbaric would that be? NO, we would be focused on stopping its spreading, testing for it, curing it… Right?!? Isn’t it nice to know how far we’ve evolved?
But here are these barbaric disciples, using the blind man to make a theological point, or who knows, maybe a political point. Seeing him only through the eyes of their theology, their beliefs, their fears… which blinds them to the ways of God.
But Jesus doesn’t care and goes on to heal the man. Seeing him not in his brokenness, but seeing him in the light of what can give glory to God.
Now, that’s seeing things in a different light. Not, “What’s wrong with everything and everyone, here?” But “How can God be given glory in this situation?”
In what light do we look at situations?
It’s amazing what a little mud and spit can do when you see things in a different light. Apparently, a Jesus spit-take is more healing than funny.
Blinded by vision
And the blind man’s friends and neighbors still can’t get over him. They keep seeing him in light of how he has always been. They’re not even sure he’s…him. They’re blinded by their vision.
And the religious leaders are even more blinded by the whole thing. They can’t see the blind man in a new light, much less Jesus. They’re blinded by their vision.
Jesus seems to have not only thrown mud into the eyes of the blind man, but into the eyes of his neighbors and the religious leaders. Everyone is seeing things in light of their own theology, their own belief systems, their own fears. And they are sure they are seeing things correctly. And they are all dead wrong and blinded by their vision.
“If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”
Jesus’ words take us back to Genesis and the Garden of Eden, where the serpent tempts Adam and Eve by saying, “Your eyes will be opened to see everything, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
It is what we live for, isn’t it? To be God-like, and to be able to pronounce good and evil on things. To be able to place blame, like the disciples. To be able to pronounce brokenness, like the blind man’s neighbors, and to be able to rule in God’s stead, like the religious leaders.
It is what we live for, isn’t it? For the world to see things the way we see things. For the world to see things in light of the way we see things…
For the light in which we see things must be the way it is.
I am the light of the world
But then there is this statement from Jesus in our passage: “I am the light of the world,” or “I am the world’s Light.”
And now, to quote the great theologian Scooby-Doo, “Ruh, roh!”
There is a different light in which we are to see things. Not the light of my experience. Not the light of my beliefs. Not the light of my fears… But the light of Christ. And that scares me.
Because I’ve been taught to see things through the light of capitalism and nationalism, or social Darwinism, or Atlas Shrugged-ism. I’ve been taught to see things through the light of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of MY happiness.”
And so new light scares me. A changing world scares me. A God who throws mud into my eyes and my ways of seeing things absolutely frightens me.
My son, Tylor, once wrote in a high school paper a line that struck me in a powerful way. Here is what he wrote: “It is not what we don’t know that we fear. Rather, what we fear is who we will become, when we discover that what we believe to be true, isn’t.”
In other words, we don’t fear the unknown. Rather, we fear new knowledge, new experiences, new light that contradicts our set beliefs. Because then we won’t know who we are.
For me, this text challenges what is the light of my life. Is it certain beliefs, rules, structures and procedures? Or is it something more, something different?
I don’t think the point of this text is to read it and simply say, “New rule. Jesus is the light of the world.” The point is not to make a new rule, but to move us beyond them. To get us to see as Jesus sees.
Seeing as Jesus sees
What this means then, is that as Christians we don’t start sentences with, “I believe” or “I think” or “I fear.” Rather, we start them with, “In light of Christ…”
Let me ask you, what difference would it make if you started each problem-solving situation you encounter with these words:
“In light of Christ…”?
And what is that light? What do those eyes see?
Well, they look at those the world sees as sinful from birth, or sinful in life, and instead see that which can give glory to God. They look on those upon whom the world seeks to place blame, and pronounce them as God’s hope and glory. They see us all as one, rather than as separate.
Our structures, rules and belief systems lock people in, lock people down. And anyone who deviates from those structures, rules and belief systems is just that – a deviant.
But it isn’t just others that get locked in and locked down. Our structures, rules and belief systems lock us in, lock us down, and cause us to turn a blind eye to God at work in the world. Our vision blinds us.
Rather than remembering that we are given sight, we think we have sight. And it is our sight that is determinative.
Maybe we need to have some mud thrown into our eyes, so we can no longer see things in the light of our own beliefs and fears, and begin to see things “In light of Christ…”
Maybe then we can say, along with the blind man: “One thing I do know, that though I was blinded by my own vision, now I see in the light of Christ.”
Though I was blind, now I see
In the night in which Jesus was betrayed, Judas, Peter and the rest were blind to the way God would work in this world. Blinded by their own way of seeing. They were locked into the view that God could only be all powerful in this world. And so, the idea that God could be all vulnerable – that God could suffer and die to show love for us – was incomprehensible. That wasn’t the vision they had of God.
Why, if God could be all vulnerable rather than all powerful, what might become of me? Who will I become, if all my beliefs about how God should act are turned on their head?
In the night in which Jesus was betrayed, Judas, Peter and the rest were blind to the way God would work in this world. Blinded by their own way of seeing.
But here is Jesus, reacting to their blindness not by giving them a new set of rules, but by putting himself in them. Giving them his body, his blood, his eyes for the world. Replacing their blindness with his vision. Shining his light in their darkness.
Here is Jesus, raising a cup of wine and saying, “Here’s to mud in your eyes … I am your light.”
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Spirit in the Desert faith mentor, Rev. “Bro. Jim” Hanson.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud