Summertime Storytime

Published July 8, 2014 by

Healing Miracles: the Blindblind

Blindness can be physical, mental, moral or spiritual.  How many times have we refused to see the truth because it went against what we believed or wish to believe?  How many people denied the Holocaust in spite of reports and evidence, because it was politically inconvenient or because they refused to believe that any Christian nation could commit such atrocities?  Or, worse yet, because they were Jews?  Spiritual blindness is just as crippling as any physical disease because it separates us from our humanity and our sense of Oneness with all of creation.  Spiritual blindness allows us to judge and to marginalize others.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.*

The miracles of Jesus were accepted as factual by Christian and non-Christian peoples in His time, but the non-Christians accused him of performing magic to accomplish those miracles.  A Talmudic tradition maintained that Jesus was hanged on the eve of Passover because He practiced sorcery and led Israel astray.**  The ranks of the Pharisees were actually divided over this point.  While miracles were attributed to members of the priestly cast, it just wasn’t acceptable that a false prophet could also perform true miracles.

The ranks of the Pharisees were divided.  Some declared that a sabbath-breaker could not have been sent from God.  Others were embarrassed by evidence that a miracle had accredited Jesus as a prophet to be received. **

It was commonly believed in the Ancient world that people could be lead astray by demons and were then punished by God with various illnesses, including blindness.  Blindness was all too common in that part of the world by disease borne by flies–this disease could not be healed.  Either way, their blindness marked them as impure and therefore outcasts.  Some suggested that Jesus was only healing what we would now call psychosomatic diseases, i.e., not real blindness.

The healing in Mt. 9:27-31, Mt. 20:29-34, and in Luke 18:35-43 each involve individuals who call out Son of David, have mercy on us!  They reach out to Jesus with conviction, believing that He has the power to heal them if He so chooses.  Once healed, those in Matthew 9 began to spread the word in all that country.   The others chose to follow Jesus, praising His name and giving glory to God.  It is important to note that they first claimed their good by calling out to Jesus, then they responded to Him with faith, and finally they followed Him to praise and give the glory to God.

The story of the Man Born Blind in the ninth chapter of John is much longer and more involved than the others.  It is also far more interesting than the shorter versions in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  It begins, not with a cry for help from the blind man, but with a question from His disciples:

And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?***

This was an imminently logical question in the context of their culture, because blindness marked the man as impure, one punished for his sin by God with blindness.  But Jesus turned aside the issue of sin, just as he denied the whole purity system of the priestly cast.****  

Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.***

This statement can be used to suggest that our suffering is from God, i.e., the man was made blind by God so that Jesus could show His stuff and demonstrate the power of God to heal.  I would like to suggest, instead, that Jesus chose the man because He suffered from blindness and used his affliction to demonstrate the presence and power of God working through each one of us.  God does not inflict suffering upon us–we manage to stumble, if not race our way into more than enough trouble and suffering without any help, thank you very much!

Jesus then says that as long as He is in the world, He is the light of the world.  Given that the healing need here is sight,i.e., light or understanding, His statement couldn’t be more appropriate.  He must bring light into the lives of His people–that is His purpose in being.  The word light in this context means to shine, to make manifest; luminous.  When we are spiritually blind, we wander in soul darkness.  To stumble, to err becomes unavoidable.  We are lost inside our own heads, isolated from any hope of heaven.

The healing of this man is quite different from the other stories.

1. He does not ask for help, he is chosen.

2. Jesus mixes a poultice of saliva and dirt to produce clay and anoints the man’s eyes with the mixture.

3. Jesus sends the man to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes.

Unlike the other stories, the man is required to participate in his own healing.  Given what follows with the Pharisees, I believe that his active involvement in the healing empowered him, giving him the strength of character and wisdom to face down the Pharisees with powerful words and conviction.

The man’s neighbors question him closely about his healing, some even doubting that he is the one who was born blind.  They take him to the Pharisees for questioning about this healing by Jesus.

 Therefore some of the Pharisees said,  “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.***

The Pharisees then questioned his parents because they do not believe him.  His parents are very hesitant to answer because they fear the power and intent of the Pharisees.

We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know.  He is of age; ask him.  He will speak for himself.”***

When the Pharisees question him again, challenging him to finally speak the truth, the man becomes irritated and passionate in his defense of Jesus:

Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet  He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.***

For his words and his attitude, the man is excommunicated and made an outcast.  Yet, he is not alone, for Jesus comes to Him and welcomes him into the kingdom, for by his faith in the Son of God, his eyes have been opened and he has been made new again.

Rev. Claudia Naylor

I Corinthians 13:12*

The Interpreter’s Bible Vol. 8**

John 9:1-43***

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, by M. Borg****

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