“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1).
Jesus restored the sight of a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus saw the world in its potential and in its need. Where we are plagued with blindness, Jesus saw where and how to act with gracious love. Where the world pursued a scapegoat, Jesus gave sight to a blind man. Giving sight to the man born blind, Jesus challenged the blindness of all the players in the story.
God offers spiritual perception—vision to human beings. He wants us to see the world as He sees it, filled with potential and beset by needs. In Christ Jesus, God illuminated the world around us. He enables us to see the potential and the needs of others. He offers to deliver us from the blinding effect of the scapegoat mechanism which drives society.
We can see the potential and needs of the world. Or, we can remain blind and never even see what we do not see. At first, we cannot help ourselves. We are born and brought up in the sin mode of envy and rivalry. But as we encounter God in Christ through the gracious word and acts of His witnesses, we can begin to see the world as God sees it. We see our own need. We begin to understand our potential. And, by faith, we begin walking in grace. We can see the potential and the needs of the world, especially its scapegoats.
Lord, uncover the blindspots in our vision, turn our blindness into sight. Amen.
What blindness towards scapegoating does God cure?
God cures the blindness of the blame-game. Jesus was hiding from some of the Jews who were trying to stone Him. He escaped their impromptu scapegoating event. As He flees certain death, His first encounter is another scapegoat. That’s how the disciples saw this poor man. Trying to place blame (scapegoat someone), the disciples presumed to find spiritual meaning in the problems of life.
We tend to presume, the good life of physical prosperity and health is a life blessed by God. Conversely, the bad life of poverty and sickness is a life cursed by God. This belief provides a ready supply of scapegoats. However, it is a lie. This game is all about whom to blame (or claim).
Yes, godly practices can lead to material blessings but godliness does not guarantee good stuff. Neither do disease nor poor circumstance nor chance disaster require us to look for some sinful cause or sinner to blame. Sometimes, stuff just happens.
We don’t manage our lives completely, neither does God pull the strings. We enter the creation with the potential for good and bad which we participate in making and ofttimes must simply receive from the creation and the choices of others.
What was their point? Does this theological musing matter? What’s the point of living right if it does not assure us of good outcomes in the physical realm?
God reveals Himself in the context of our lives, however distressed they may be. The question is not whether to blame ourselves, our parents, someone else, or God Himself. The quest is to discover, display, and proclaim the works of God in the midst of whatever life brings—good or bad. We don’t need scapegoats.
Through the ages, believers have trusted God for healing. Healing is so mysterious that we presumed only God could do anything about our health. With the advent of modern medicine, we’ve come to understand much more about the body. We can do surgery and set bones. We can clean wounds and take medicines to fight infection.
At what point the body heals itself in connection with our efforts of treatment and recuperation is now less mysterious, but mystery remains. What’s obvious here is that Jesus made a clay ointment and prescribed an active treatment. He could have just spoken the word, or perhaps just nodded His head or waved His hand. But, He used tools of healing that the people were familiar with, and He engaged the man’s cooperation.
God cures our blindness regarding methods. A living being naturally tends to fight infection, to regrow broken bones, and to heal its flesh. Nutrition and exercise and good attitude do as much for a body as most drugs. Most importantly, I cannot think of a single healing in the Bible which does not engage the person or his or her surrogates in the process. Faith healing is a partnership of humans and God.
Through love, God created a thriving universe designed to bring health. Through our cooperation, by faith and/or by deed, He can heal the people we planned to scapegoat.
Even with our cooperation, our illnesses often lead to death. We are not promised otherwise.
But as God opens our eyes towards the various methods and tools He provides for us to thrive, we recast our vision on the true and more vital healing of our souls. We can see the scapegoat as one whom God desires to heal. We don’t need scapegoats.
Not everyone will recognize this shift in focus to spiritual healing. Thankfully, God cures the blindness of our shallow relationships. A void of deep interaction with one another positions neighbors as strangers and friends as outcasts.
Some of the neighbors didn’t recognize this man as he returned from the pool, now able to see. The cynic in me presumes they didn’t know him very well in the first place. Others recognized a similarity, but presumed it could not be the same person. They too show a spiritual dullness. Yet some others recognized him. No doubt these were the closest of family friends.
Not previously knowing him, Jesus saw this man who was blind from birth. He saw his potential and his need. It seems that some of his neighbors had failed to see a human being of worth at all. He remained a good candidate for scapegoating. In any case, we are never going to see what we haven’t been looking for.
God works through our sensitivity to others. God can cure the shallow level of our relating with others so that, with blinders off, we can see one another and know one another and call each other by name.
The man did not know where Jesus was, the neighbors brought the man to the Pharisees. It was Sabbath, and there might be legal issues with which to deal.
Making clay and practicing medicine, Jesus broke Sabbath rules. The Pharisees ruled that, as a Sabbath breaker, Jesus was not from God. But, the signs of healing which Jesus had performed begged the question of His authenticity and authority. The Pharisees divided over the issue.
God cures the blindness of legalism. The Pharisees had to reconcile the reality of a cure with their rigid rules. What is more important, people or principles? Some people have a difficult time answering this question, but for me it’s obvious. God favors His creatures over the adherence to rules.
They presumed that God rested on Sabbath, and at creation He did. But hear this interchange from a previous healing on a Sabbath. John explained, “For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working’” (John 5:16-17).
The “rules” legitimize the need for a scapegoat. Expecting a zero-sum balance, we believe that someone must pay the price! However, God rules through love to heal and to cure the blindness of our legalism.
Fear of Exclusion (Parental Predicament)
As soon as our eyes are opened to our bent towards legalism, another blindness arises, fear. The parents of this man feared that the Jews would have them thrown out of the synagogue. They feared becoming scapegoat, themselves. In fear, they were willing to let their son be the scapegoat.
The good news is that God can cure the blindness of fear. Jesus opens our eyes to the limits of human expulsions. No group can cast out a supposed scapegoat without sending that scapegoat into the arms of God.
The parents deferred to their son’s accountability because they feared the Jews. They passed the buck, determined that if anyone suffered, it would not be them. He would substitute as the object of the Jewish action of exclusion.
Ultimately, the Jews cast the man out. But, notice how that unfolded. “They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?’ So they put him out. Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’” (John 9:34-35, emphasis added). Jesus sought out the man, just as He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
Now, why did the Jews cast out this man? Pride seems to be their driving motivation. The man whom Jesus cured of blindness stood before the Jews and proclaimed the mysterious power and presence of God in Jesus. But they were too proud to allow any truth to the reality. They had a tradition to protect at any cost.
They were, after all, “disciples of Moses.” Their pedigree trumped any late-coming, rabble rousing rabbi of questionable origins. But the proof stood before them. A man, blind since birth, stood before them seeing. And he could now see not only what they could see of the natural world, but he also could now see what they could not see because of their pride. The man saw that God was working through and in this teacher, Jesus.
God can cure the blindness of pride. It simply requires us to humble ourselves and accept that God was at work in Jesus. Humility allows us to see God at work in any number of people around us. But in the case of these Jewish leaders, they remained blind; they put him out, and Jesus came and found him.
The most simple blindness to cure is that of ignorance. Jesus found the man and asked a question, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35b). The man answered in honest humility and openness, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” (John 9:36). Here, Jesus revealed the blindness of the scapegoat, himself.
“Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you’” (John 9:37). God cures the blindness of ignorance. Gently, directly, clearly, Jesus revealed Himself to the man. The man opened his heart to the Son of Man, and Jesus affirmed his questioning, searching, and budding faith.
God revealed Himself through and in Jesus. God replaced our need for a scapegoat with the Lamb of God. We may find Him in the face of a friend, a neighbor, a family member, or even a foreigner. God’s Spirit will reveal Jesus to our searching hearts.
All we need to do is ask. Sadly, pride morphs to rebellion as we refuse the most gracious offer from God. If we humble ourselves, God cures our blind stubbornness. If we refuse, in a proud self-defense of our logic and learning, we will remain blind.
The certainty of our positions ought always be checked by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit leads us to understand and opens our eyes to see. The world and the religions of this world refuse to see God revealed in Jesus. He breaks the rules! He shows God at work in sinners! He finds those whom “we” cast out! He shows us our blindness in respect to the scapegoat!
May all our blindness be turned into sight. And may we see and trust in God, revealed in Jesus. Amen.
60 “Be Thou My Vision”