John 8:48-9:12- Living as Your Eyes are Fixed
Just prior to 1991, a wrestler by the name of Jake “the Snake” Roberts was sprayed in the eye with cologne by another wrestler Rick “the model” Martel. Martel called his cologne “arrogance”. Martel used “arrogance” to blind Jake. I recount this lore because more than the cologne, the arrogance within us is a symptom of our blindness.
Arrogance is defined as having an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities. Ironically, arrogance is never more evident than when one encounters someone of equal or greater importance or ability.
In John 8:48 the best accusation the religious elite can level at Jesus is: “You are demon possessed.” They swing all the way left or right depending on which side they’re starting from. The point is they demonize the most holy man to walk the face of the earth. Pretty amazing, right?
After Jesus defends himself and offers eternal life to those who believe, the religious leaders are somehow more convinced than ever that Jesus has a demon by accusing him of being arrogant.
Jesus basically tells them he is God and he is greater than Abraham their forefather, so they get ready to stone him. But Jesus sneaks away.
After this, Jesus comes upon a man blind since birth and his disciples ask an interesting question: “Who sinned this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The disciples don’t ask out of arrogance, instead they ask from ignorance, another symptom of blindness.
I’ve always found the question astounding. The disciples indicate that this mans blindness was given him at birth because of sins he would eventually commit. This reveals something they believed about the way the world worked. They believed a person’s future behavior foreseen by God could be met with punishment in the present.
Jesus doesn’t spend too much time giving heed to this assertion; instead, he lets them know that the mans blindness was not a result of sin, but it happened so the work of God would be revealed. Jesus points to an opportunity for healing that the work of the gospel would go forth.
So what does he do? He spits on the ground, makes some mud with the saliva and puts it on the man’s eyes. Then he tells the blind man, “Go take a bath in the Pool of Siloam.” The blind man obeys and goes home seeing.
What follows the miracle is unfortunate. The mans neighbors and those who ordinarily recognized him doubt he is the same man because they only knew him as one who sat and begged, not even as the blind guy. They attributed his identity to his dependence and to see him with open eyes was unfamiliar.
The man insists that he is the same man, yet he is different so they ask, “how were your eyes opened?” He tells them of what Jesus did but he does not know where Jesus is. What follows will be the subject of my next post, but spoiler alert, the man is subjected to more questioning and the doubt of others.
This is a familiar story, God does a miraculous work in a life but sometime after we no longer know where he is. We may even find ourselves in a position where a great many doubt this work, or doubt that we have been transformed and we allow the perception of someone else to affect us.
A popular quip recently is: perception is reality. That quip can only be true in a world without God, without anything absolute. Fortunately some or, more probably than we’d like to admit, most things have absolute truths. We might blur the lines enough to confuse them, but this man was absolutely healed of his blindness even when most people did not believe he was the same man or blind to begin with.
Perception is real but not reality in the sense that it has power to form our disposition, our character, our way of life but perception as an ability or a state is subject to influence especially when we are blinded. Perception can be an agent of change, but not an indication of the way things are or will be for eternity. Perception is a shadow to the fullness of the senses. Perception is in the thoughts, in the mind, not necessarily in the heart or evidenced by some concrete external.
At Wrestlemania 7, on March 24, 1991 “the snake” fought “the model” in a blindfold match. The wrestlers competed with masks over the head and blindly had to wrestle one another. During the match, the fans are so loud the wrestlers can only rely on the sense of touch. At one point Rick “the model” Martel slams a chair against a ring post supposing it to be Jake. His realization and perception change immediately when the shock of the chair on another steel object reverberates through his hand. The match ends when Rick backs into Jake and Jake snatches Rick’s head and hits him with a DDT, his finishing move, and pins him to win the match.
What I love about the story they tell in the match is the perception that the fans are somehow helping Jake find Rick even though it is just lots of yelling and cheering. Jake uses the crowd by pointing across the ring in different directions and based on how loud they are indicates what direction he should walk in, meanwhile Rick is fed up by the loudness of the crowd.
Here’s how you and I fit in. We have a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on in our pursuit of living for Jesus. Our eyes are never more opened than when we are relying on the Holy Spirit for our guidance and comfort. We will make it so long as our eyes are fixed on the author and finisher of our faith.