In the gospel of John, stories about blindness are metaphorical; symbolic of ignorance, or inner not-seeing.
There are many characters in one such story in the gospel of John 9:1-41. It’s interesting to imagine what matters to each.
What matters to the disciples is to work out who is to blame.
They don’t question that sin is the cause of the man’s blindness; they only question whose sins are to blame (the man’s or his parents’).
The precursor question about the nature of cause and effect with regard to human suffering is not an issue for them. That question was answered in their worldview: God causes every effect and does so on the basis of the causes we give God to affect us. If we are righteous, we cause God to affect our lives with blessing. If we are sinful, we cause God to affect us with calamity.
The disciples don’t question how this actually works out in their own experience or what this might say about God.
If they have known good people who have suffered bad things, they seem to have forgotten how this puts paid to a transactional theology.
If they have heard Jesus say that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, then they seem to have forgotten God’s non-partisanship.
What matters to Jesus is that something be done to affect the effect. This is where we find God, Jesus says, in our response to the effect not in tracing the cause. Here is darkness; I am light. I will affect the darkness by transforming it so as to admit light.
What matters to the neighbours and associates of the blind man who will come to see is that they get some answers. Preferably ones that support their way of seeing the world. So they take the man to the authorities.
What matters to them is preserving their authority. It gets tricky when the questions they ask lead to division amongst them. Instead of resolving the issue of whether Jesus is a sinner – since he worked on the Sabbath – or not – since he worked a miracle – they just kick out the one who is causing trouble in the first place.
What matters to us in this story? Maybe what matters to us are the same things that matter to the blind man.
He was blind.
Then he could see.
And once he started seeing, he couldn’t stop.
First he saw that he could see.
Then he saw that he could see through things.
He sees through the authorities who are more concerned with preserving their authority than delighting in the gift of sight. And the disciples who were worrying over who’s to blame. And the neighbours who just wanted to be right.
In the end, the sight is insight. And that matters alot.
The story invites us to imagine insight as a gift of grace, unearned and even unbidden. (The blind man doesn’t even ask to be given sight.)
If, in a specific moment, we are granted such a gift, if for just a minute we are cracked open and the light gets in and we see something – really see it – then let us receive it well and use it to the advantage of all. Then it will be a light unto the world.
posted 05 Apr 2014 by Jana