Close your eyes and put yourself in the story I’m about to tell.
It’s a day like any other. Black. Sightless. It’s early so there are not many people around yet. And that’s just fine by you. Placing your hand on the temple wall you follow the grooves until you get to your regular spot. Sitting down you set out your pot. From off to your left a familiar voice calls out. “You’re at it early today! Don’t you ever go home?” It’s your friend James. He’s been working this section of the temple road with you for years. He’s a nice guy but sometimes you wish he would come up with something different to say. “Aw, you know me James” you reply. “I just can’t stop staring at your ugly face!” Someone from across the road starts to laugh. Another one of the regulars. “What are you laughing at John?” your friend shouts across the way. The other voice just keeps on cackling.
You sigh and lean back against the wall. It’s like this every day. Nothing ever changes. Oh, sometimes the beggars who sit in the street with you will change. But the rest … never. All you can do is let your mind wander, and try to look pathetic. You sit there for some time letting your mind drift. Suddenly something catches your ear and pulls you back into the here and now! Not too far away a large group of people seems to have formed around a man they are calling Jesus. You listen intently, and sure enough, there it is again. They are talking about you. You can’t hear it all but you are sure that you do hear the word “sin” several times. “Oh, great!” you think to yourself, “Here you go again, everyone point and stare at the horrible sinful blind person. Let’s all try to figure out why God could hate anyone so much that he would do this to them.”
You sit there waiting for the verbal attack but to your surprise you hear only one set of footsteps coming toward you. The comes the voice. A man’s voice. It is not harsh or cruel. It is a voice full of compassion and authority. “Close your eyes.” the voice says. It seems like a strange request but you do it. Next thing you know there are hands smearing something on your face, over your eyes. It smells and feels like mud. You reach up to stop him but he gently takes your hands and in one swift motion lifts you to your feet. Ye are beginning to get a bad feeling about all of this. What kind of joke is this supposed to be? Whatever it is you don’t like it. You are just about to say so when the hands move from your wrists to your shoulders. The give you a squeeze, like a friend. Again the voice comes to you out of the blackness. “Go,” it says. “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.” The hands give you a nudge and without thinking you start off in the direction they sent you. There is something about that voice and those hands. Wondering why, all the while, off you go.
The rest all happens in what later will seem like an instant. You make it to the pool. You are hot, your face itches under the dried mud, and you are really frustrated. The sounds in this part of the city are strange. The smells are even stranger. You are scraped and bruised, and ready to give this all up. Why are you doing all this again? Remembering the voice, the hands, you carefully grab the rough edge of the pool and sit down. The water is gently lapping by your side. You take a deep breath and plunge your head right down into the water.
The shock of cold water, an explosion of lights and colours, and shadows, and motion! It’s all too much. You reel back from the water. Unable to breathe. Your head is spinning. You cover your face with your hands and slouch to the ground. You need to think, to breathe. You squeeze your eyes tight, welcoming the familiar darkness. You need time to regain your senses. It can’t be true can it? Taking your hands slowly away from your face you gasp in wonder. You never knew there was so much … stuff! Light and shadow, buildings and people and stalls and animals and clothes and soldiers and … and … The emotions come flooding in right behind the images. You can’t help but cry out “Praise the Lord, I can see!” The tears and laughter are uncontrollable. You notice people’s faces as they turn to you. They look strange – all wrinkled up. You don’t care what it means, just so long as you can see it. You’ve been given your eyes! This is the greatest day of your life!
Now a full day later you are once again sitting and staring at the things around you. Only now the thrill is gone. For the hundredth time this hour you look up and down the road at the beggars lining the street. You remember sitting there, wishing things would change. Well, now that they have, you want no part of it. Things are worse now than they ever were before, when you were blind. Back then you were only on the fringes of society. Now you have been cast out all-together. The pharisees have excommunicated you! Now you know what those wrinkled faces mean. You are doing it yourself, even as you think back on it all.
The joy and wonder you felt at the pool had faded quickly enough. When you finally got back to the temple area you couldn’t wait to tell James and ant others. Only they didn’t believe you. It was so frustrating. But finally you got through to them that it really was you … that you really could see … They asked you who did this thing to you and you told them it was the man called Jesus. Then the Pharisees had come by. In all the commotion one of your friends must have gone and got them. You remember how grim the all looked in their fancy robes. “Come with us!” they had demanded. Now you wish you hadn’t.
In that large and oppressive building they had made you sit and wait while they debated among themselves. It seemed to go on for hours. They were all so angry – angry at this Jesus, angry with one another, even angry at you. And the questions … it makes you shudder. The questions were the worst part. They just kept going back to the same things over and over and over again. Where you really blind? How did you get your sight back? Do you remember correctly? You aren’t lying are you? In the room to tell your story, out of the room to sit and wait. Back in to do it all over, back out to wonder how many more times you must do this. Soon it was obvious even to you that this is going nowhere!
At one point they even asked you who you thought this Jesus was. You still can’t believe it. The Pharisees asking you for your opinion about something. So you told them: He is a prophet you said. They didn’t like that answer much, for next thing you know they had hauled in your poor parents only to treat them as shamefully as they had treated you. It was amazing to see their faces for the first time. And they were so happy when they saw you, and understood. But you could tell they were scared. They didn’t want to be excommunicated for something this Jesus had done. Maybe it was the rage you felt for what they put your parents through that made you say what you did.
It had been a long and crazy day. A bewildering day. You should have been out enjoying your new-found vision. Out looking for the man who had healed you. But instead you were stuck inside a small waiting room being mistreated by the people who should have been happy for you. So you snapped. That’s the only way you can describe it. You got so fed up you lashed out at those Pharisees. “Why do we keep having to go over all of this?” You sarcastically asked. “Do you want to become His disciples too?” It was, thinking back to it now, the absolute worst possible thing to say. They yelled at you, you yelled back and the next thing you know you were excommunicated and sitting on the street. This was not how things were supposed to work out, you grumble to yourself.
It is then that you are brought out of your memories by the shadow of a man standing over you. Lost in thought, you hadn’t even noticed him come up. He looks down at you and says “Do you believe in the Messiah?” What a question! And today, right now of all times! Do you believe in the saviour? Today? After all that has happened to you? Again, sarcastically the words tumble out “Who is he? Show me so I can believe.” Well, he stoops down, his hands upon your shoulders and looks you square in the eye. “You have now seen Him.” He says.
And then you know. You recognize the voice and the hands. This is the man. This is the one who gave you your sight. And despite what you said to others through all of this, you know that the person before you is not just a man, he is not even just a prophet worth following. He IS the Messiah. He truly does have the power to heal and to comfort and even to forgive. He should not merely be followed but worshipped. He found you once when you were physically blind and gave you sight. He has found you again, and with a few simple words, he has now given you spiritual sight too. He has allowed you to see him for who He truly is. As you look into his eyes you begin to see that during all of this, while all the others let you down one by one, this Jesus never dd. In that moment you know that he was there for you through all of it, and He will be there for you from now on. “Praise the Lord,” you shout out. “I believe!”
So, why did I ask you to place yourself in this story? The answer is simple: it is really your story. The story of the blind man is the story of each one of us. It is a story that we are all living out right now. We were all given physical sight at birth. But in one way or another Jesus has given us spiritual sight too. For most of us this was through our baptisms. For others it may have come from hearing the Scriptures. However it came to be, our eyes were opened to the possibilities of the spiritual realm. We were given faith in things unseen. We were given faith in a God who loves us.
Many people assume, like the blind man, that once this has happened everything will always turn out happily ever after. But then life happens. You know exactly what I mean. Sometimes having this new-found sight seems to cause more trouble for us than good. We start to see things for what they really are. And what we see isn’t pleasant. Greed, dishonesty, disloyalty, pride, pettiness, and on and on and on. We are held to a higher standard of behaviour while so many others seem free to do what they please. We are grieved by the actions of people who don’t seem to care about others or themselves. At many times in our lives this second sight, this faith, almost seem more like a burden than a gift.
Now, of course this feeling is not true, but it is part of the process of growing in that spiritual sight. Just as the blind man grew in his understanding of Jesus. God uses both the good and the bad things of this world and our lives to help us come to know Him better. God is not merely a God who loves us. He is the God who loves you so much that He stood by your bed when you were sick and full of fear and made you better. He is the God who cried with you when a loved one died, and held you up when you couldn’t do it yourself. He is the God who traveled with you in distant lands and kept you safe. He is the God who loved you so much that He sent His very own Son to live under the Law and die on the cross in your place. He is the God who gave up His life for you, so that you can have life in Him. Every day God uses the trials of this world to draw you closer to Him.
And just as He did with the blind man, He also gives us His Words to comfort us and guide us. To give us faith and to continue opening our eyes to Him. The scriptures all point to Jesus who is your Messiah, your Saviour. The Bible is given to us as a sure promise that God is there for us in Christ Jesus … even when we can’t see it because of the things that are going on in our lives. The Scriptures are where Jesus seeks you out to give you faith and life and hope in Him. As Jesus himself said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Dear friends, Do you believe in the Messiah? Who is He? You have seen Him and He has spoken to you! You have seen Him stand with in the trials of this life, and He still speaks to you of His love and compassion in the Holy Scriptures.