My sister is a nurse at a prestigious, teaching hospital and she has stories to tell. She sees disease and healing in all of its raw and ugly glory. She sees how it impacts not only the one going through the disease and [hopefully] healing process, but also how that person’s family and friends react or respond the patient and her disease and healing process. Death is also a very real process and it reveals a lot about how people live, or don’t live, their lives.
Recently she was telling me about one of her patients who was circling back through the unit. She was 28 and in the end-stages, as in days, of her life. Alcohol and drugs completely ravished her body, which now was slowly and painfully shutting down. With her liver no longer filtering toxins out of her body, she was now a sickly orange-green color. It’s a horribly painful way to die and her mother refused to allow pain medications for her daughter. She didn’t want her to become addicted. It was a very unhealthy mother-daughter relationship and there was not going to be any graceful transition from this life into the next for her daughter. In fact, there was a lot of discharge discussion on what was best for this dying young woman. It was extremely sad … and extremely familiar.
The [long] story of the man born blind and later healed by Jesus, illustrates how seeing is not always believing. In fact, change – even good change – is always, always, always disruptive.
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. ~ John 9:1-41
What I have come to appreciate over my years of dealing with people is just how blind we are about our own lives and how blind we are to change in others’ lives. Blindness comes in all sorts of forms – physical, emotional, and spiritual – and sometimes we aren’t even aware what we are blind to or that we are even blind at all.
While there are many potential observations and lessons in this passage, one common thread runs throughout this passage and all of the passages we are looking at this Lenten season. Encountering Jesus will change your life. That all sounds great and good until you realize change is disruptive. And then we wonder if the change is worth it. We may decide the change and new life are indeed worth it, but then those around us don’t – or won’t – recognize or accept the new life we have now embraced. Our own blindness is removed and we can see the new path before us, but those around us refuse to acknowledge our new sight. Even worse, some will try to sabotage our new life because if we can change, then the possibility exists that they too can change, and they do not want to change. They would prefer to remain blind.
Seeing isn’t always believing, but for the man blind since birth, Jesus giving him sight and a new identity (he was no longer the blindman), was belief. What Jesus wants for us isn’t the status quo or a life of eeking by and persistence. Jesus offers us a life that is full of color and texture and abundance. Transformation is disruptive, but seeing ourselves as God sees us – precious and loved – is worth it.