My favorite Jesus Story pt. 2

Healing of the blindThis is part 2

When we left off last, Jesus had placed mud on the man’s eyes, the man washed, and then was healed.  Jesus then disappears from the story for a bit, but don’t worry, he’ll be back.  As we read, the man runs across his neighbors.  His neighbors see him and ask, “Isn’t this the blind guy?” Others answer, “Naw, just looks like him.” (I’m using the John Elkins revised remix translation).  Now take note, the debate is between the neighbors.  No one specifically addresses the blind man until he interjects himself.  This happens throughout the story.  First it happens with the disciples, then the neighbors, then the Jewish leaders.  So this poor man stands around his neighbors and they don’t believe his story.  No one cares about the blind guy.

What should give us pause is that the people who live around this man are unsure if he is even the blind guy.  They are so far disconnected from the plight of the weak that they cannot even recognize a neighbor.  This is the tragedy of the story, that no one cares about the lame guy…  no one that is, except Jesus.  The community of faith has failed to defend the weak and broken among them.  They have allowed this man to beg in the street without ever engaging in the plight.  This is exactly what Ezekiel condemns the Jewish leaders for doing in Ezek. 34 and 36!  The shepherds of Israel have abandoned God’s sheep. In this story, the Lord if fulfilling His promise that He will be the Shepherd.

So, the neighbors take him to the Pharisees and they ask the same questions.  This time there is the added struggle that Jesus decided to heal the man on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is the day of peace and remembrance of God’s work in creation.  So it should not surprise us that God is recreating on the Sabbath.  But it surprises the Jewish leaders.  In the court of the Pharisees, the discussion is not about the blind man’s sin, but about Jesus’ sin. (Of which there is none, by the way.)  The Pharisees don’t care about the man’s story.  In fact, they don’t even believe in it according to verse 18.  So they call his parents and his parents refuse to stand up for him.  No one cares about the blind guy…  not even his parents.

The Pharisees call the blind man again and demand that he reject Jesus as a sinner who could not heal the blind.  This is exactly what people do in our modern world today.  First we deny the validity of the change that happens inside a person, then we challenge the story, then we reject the answer, then we reject Jesus.  No one cares about the person.  We get caught up in the way that things are done, insisting that we know better.  We get caught up in WHEN things are done, insisting that we know better.  We tweek programing thinking that our programming will save people.  We get mad because we think we have the right answers in our programs and works.  In this story Jesus shows us that we should be concerned for the blind guy.  But we are often too busy being right to care about the blind guy.

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John 9, My favorite Jesus Story

One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “what is your favorite Jesus story?”  (a trick I learned from my older brother Jeff)  I love this question because it tells us a great deal about each other.  It tells me if a person actually reads the Bible or if they just regurgitate stuff their pastor has said.  It tells me if they have certain theological dispositions and tendencies.  It lets me briefly peer into their inner workings and attitudes towards religion, faith, and culture.  I thought today I’d share one of my favorite Jesus stories with you.  It will come in multiple parts, this is part one.

In John 9 there is a man who was born blind begging on the side of the road.  Jesus’ disciples ask, “whose fault is this man’s blindness?  Did he do it or His parents?”  Now, this question indicates a very peculiar understanding of life.  These men believe that bad things happen as a direct result of our individual wickedness.  To be sure, sometimes we suffer consequences of our sin in a dramatic and dire way.  For example, you end up in Jail if you break the law.  You may get sick and not be able to think as clearly if you are enslaved to alcohol or mind altering drugs.  Or you may end up losing jobs and being broke because you cannot overcome some sort of addiction.  Whatever the case, there are certainly consequences for individual sin that sometimes have great ramifications.  But, this is not the case with every trial and infirmity.  This poor blind beggar is simply blind.  Sin exists in the world and as a result death and infirmities plague EVERYONE.  This man is not guilty of being blind.  He simply is blind.  His own guilt is no greater than anyone else’s and he may actually be more righteous than the disciples!

To be clear, the true indictment should be laid on the community that surrounds this man.  The question the disciples ask is, “why is he blind.”  The question Jesus would have them ask is, “why is no one doing anything about this?”  Jesus asserts, “This man is blind so that the works of God would be shown.”  Cases of infirmity, sickness, and disease exist so that we can show the love of God to one another and recognize our common need for Christ.  So this story begs the question, where is the community of redeemed believers who follow God?  Why have they not taken care of this one?  Jesus kneels down and heals the man.  In Jesus’ example, we are beckoned to do the same thing for the broken around us.

Read the scene carefully, He doesn’t say a word to the man.  Just puts some mud on his eyes and says, “go wash that off.”  It must have been the weirdest thing that man had ever had happen to him.  I’m a little surprised that there is no record of the blind man’s verbal response.  I imagine that this must have been almost offensive, as Jesus’ healings often seem to be.  (He is always initiating healing with a rather offensive statement.  C.f. Jn 5:6, “do you want to be well?” or Mt. 12:13 to the man with the crumpled hand, “stretch out your hand.”)  I can only imagine what he was thinking, “what do you mean, ‘go wash this off!?’ of course I’m going to wash this off, you just put cold wet mud in my face you big bully!”  And yet, once he has washed it off, he was healed.

We are called to work this mission.  We are called to bind up the broken and take care of those who have shattered souls and lives.  It is in these broken people that we find the love of God is most fruitful.  It is in the broken community gathered around to aid each other that we see the Life Eternal at work.  So, get to work Christian!  Find some broken people and lift them up!

What’s your favorite story?