“Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ And there was a division among them.” John 9:16
Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem, and as they walk in the streets, they stop near a man who has never been able to see. It is the Sabbath. Lots of questions…Jesus spits in the dirt and smears mud on the man’s eyes . . . tells him to wash it off in the Pool of Siloam. The blind man does so, and he receives the gift of eyesight.
This story is steeped in disbelief, doubt and misunderstanding, and the people in it are riddled with it. They are confused and doubtful, and their actions betray the disorienting fear that episodes like this can create. Their expectations of how life “ought to be” challenge their acceptance of real life before them.
But really, among the people in this story, who are the ones who can’t see?
Here’s a list of the players:
- Jesus’ disciples: Wrongly, they believe their culture’s myth that the blind man’s condition is a result of someone’s sin. “Is it his sin or his parents’?” Breezing past some problematic points, they question no longer the link of disease and sin: they ask whose is it.
- The people: The man whom they know as a blind beggar is now walking, talking . . . and seeing. They can’t believe it is the same person. It looks like him. “Not him,” they say. . .They who know the now-seeing man only as a blind beggar create stories to accommodate what, in their minds, is possible: it’s not him. . .it’s someone who looks like him, but it can’t be (read, “we won’t let it be,”) him.
- The Religious Leaders (Pharisees): They crowd around the man and badger him with repeated questions. “How did this happen?” “Who did this to you?” They are stunned (and betray a growing fear) as their understanding of “right-ness” is threatened and flipped upside down. They are so tied-up with their own demands and performance standards (Jesus healed-did forbidden work-on the Sabbath), that they confuse their ways for God’s way. Out of balance with God, their expectation of how life ought to be closes their eyes to the One they so strain to see.
The people have in their minds a template of what life should look like and how life must flow. In their view, anything that doesn’t fit the template isn’t good, can’t be good. It is out-of-order.
In this confused crowd on that Judean street, find my face.
I live within a narrow view of who God is and how He works. I create rules for myself and others that neither can keep. Too often, I rationalize away His activity in my life: His leading, His instruction, His love, His provision, His presence. . . His Way for me. “This can’t be the way of God because . . . ”
I misunderstand His style, His intentions or desire. I miss these because He often acts outside of my narrow box of expectations.
While He graciously begins within them, He won’t be bound by the limits of our understanding.
But as we encounter Him in the street, the scripture and the teaching of His Holy Spirit along the way, a salve is applied to our eyes, and we hear a voice say, “Go and wash.”
We learn to view life as He does: he redefines our ideas of what’s possible, of who we are and who He is.
He resets our expectations.
The Light has come, and we can see.
Photo credit: @philippp03 on Instagram
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6-9 (emphasis added)