John 9:13-41, 12:37-50
“Beyond every door I hear your voice saying to me, ‘This is only the land of shadows. Real life hasn’t begun yet.'”
There is no day in which it should be inconvenient to open blind eyes. But to a group of powerless religious leaders, opening blind eyes required formal questioning. The blind man, who I imagine is trying to make the moderate out of his healing, answers questions about Jesus. The leaders embrace doubt and derision requiring a formal questioning of the blind man’s parents.
The parents give both an honest, yet safe answer. They don’t want to promote a miracle at the expense of socio-religious ostracization. The religious leaders give up on his parents because what they are after is the rejection and denial of a person, not celebration. When they don’t get the denial from the formerly blind man or his parents, they cast further doubt and cast the man out from their presence.
Then enters Jesus, and I believe Jesus’ timing is not late and is intentional. Because so often, when our eyes are opened or when a miracle happens, it feels like God leaves us be to see what we will do. Give an epiphany and go dark. Jesus goes through this in the gospels after his baptism. A glorious experience followed by a wilderness. Here a blind man’s eyes are opened and many are skeptical.
But this man not only has his eyes opened to the natural world; this man’s eyes are opened to the eternal reality of Jesus. So the formerly blind man worships Jesus when he reveals who he is. Some present Pharisees overheard what Jesus said and understand the implication that they were spiritually blind. They ask, “What? Are we blind too?”
And the chapter ends to set up a much lengthier discussion that Jesus seems interested in having with the contrasting religious order. He says, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” This theme is something that John, in his gospel, finds really important. He wants his reader to know that Jesus has compassion on his enemies, while the religious order despises the work of God.
The more miraculous the work, the harder the religious order tries to kill Jesus. We will see it again in the resurrection of Lazarus. In John 12:37, John wrote: “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe him.” Their inability to see was a fulfillment of the prophetic utterance of Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah wrote, “He (God) has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts.”
In chapter 12:45, Jesus says, “The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness… I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”
Jesus’ intentions are clear. When we are talking about the intentions of God, it is different from the intentions of humans because the intentions of God do not fail. Jesus came to reveal God to the world and give of himself. Jesus gave to save.
Our intentions can be at times a little harder to place, a little harder to see. I’ve been fascinated by my own shadow recently. The closer I stand to a light source the larger the projection of my shadow is on the walls in my living room. My shadow can be either more imposing or less depending on my relation to the light.
Yet my shadow is not entirely me. It reminds me of how little we know ourselves. It reminds me of how little others know us until they become familiar with our story. Even then, they hardly know us. We hardly know them. We cannot predict with certainty one’s next action, and we hardly have much control over steering our own course.
But… Jesus on the other hand meets us. After the opening of our eyes, after the enduring of the ridicule or indifference of others to hearing our story, he meets us in the open and says, “I still see you, not your shadow, I see you; I see who you are and who you’re becoming. And I love who you’re becoming.”
In a world full of shadows, the light of God shines.