Blogging Towards Sunday, April 3, 2011
This story of a healing encounter with Jesus is filled with irony. Only the blind man is able to see Jesus. And yet he recognizes him not first by sight but rather through hearing his voice. Once healed, the community, that has known this man his whole life, cannot recognize one of their own. The religious community, rather than celebrate this miraculous sign and wondrous man, wants to paint him as the bad-guy and the problem creator. What would seem logical, isn't what happens.
The text seems to assert that the man was born blind so that in healing him the power and graciousness of Jesus might be visible and made known. I find that problematic. Do bad things happen in the world, and by bad I mean sickness, handicaps, cancer and natural disasters and destruction, so that people might be brought to faith? If so what kind of a God will they believe in? One that threatens and destroys in order to twist our arms and illicit our faith? Or one that is intimately involved within the parameters of creation, inviting and pulling all creatures towards deeper, more abundant life? How can confessing faith in the midst of a fight with cancer, at the ICU bed of a child, or in the wake of the Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear melt-down be tolerable let alone fathomable?
The critical point of the text is not the miracle, but rather the confession of faith. Blindness is a state of being - physical, social, emotional and spiritual. This unnamed man, born into an experience of the world that would seemingly never change, is transformed. Maybe the point is not that God makes himself known through his blindness, but rather that the man sees the hand and presence of God in his life journey and this unexpected twist. Maybe where we think the gospel is trying to explain God's actions, it is instead more about confessing hope, trust and faith, that God is present - loving us, cheering us on, giving us hope - in the darkest, loneliest, and more horrifying moments of life too. While the authorities argue about who passed on their sinful nature, causing this man's blindness, Jesus has moved beyond such consequential thinking to affirm that this man is loved, needed, essential and blessed.