Lent Week 4: A Blind Man Sees

“...Each morning brought the same persistent darkness, which all who passed him by were unable to ease. That is, until the day the new rabbi came.”

He felt the heat of the rising sun on his eyelids, a contrast to the cold earth on which he had slept. He opened his eyes ever so slightly, easing himself fully awake. Although he was excited again each morning to view the world around him, he found that it was still somewhat painful for the light to touch his newborn eyes.

He had been blind for 34 years, and it was all he had ever known. A beggar on the side of the dirt road to the City of David, he subsided all his adult life on the charity of strangers whose names and faces he did not know. Some had walked by to drop bread or figs, others to exhort him to repent of his sins. Again and again he had repented, but found that each morning brought the same persistent darkness, which all who passed him by were unable to ease. That is, until the day the new rabbi came.

He heard their footsteps coming, and heard the familiar question asked as though he were not even present. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Over the years passersby had offered different arguments for both sides. Sometimes he liked to guess which side people would be on. And that day, for the first time in his life, he heard a new answer.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” the rabbi said firmly, “He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

The beggar lifted his head, inclining his ear in their direction. Had this man truly just implied that his affliction was not the result of his sin? Behold, was this a new thing?

“I must do my Father’s work while I am here,” said the rabbi. The blind man listened closely to the approaching footsteps as he continued. “The time is coming where I will not be able to work as I do now.” After just a moment, he could sense that the teacher was almost right next to him. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” And then the rabbi spit with his mouth.

The beggar flinched, preparing himself for the impact of saliva that he had felt from children so many times before, prepared himself for the laughter or derision that inherently followed. But none came. In fact, it took him a moment to realize that the spit had not landed on him at all. The rabbi missed! At least that was a relief.

And yet, the beggar could still sense the warmth of the teacher’s body next to him, kneeled down close, he could tell. What was the rabbi doing? What was he about? He heard the gritty earth being scooped up, the squish of a mud being formed. The next second he felt a hand upon his face. Strangely, this time he did not flinch.

The mud seeped into the crevices of his eye sockets, uncomfortable yet oddly smooth. “Go,” the rabbi had said quietly, “wash in the pool of Siloam.” For reasons he could not entirely explain, the beggar knew that he must go and do as commanded. When his face emerged from the cool waters of the pool, his world was illuminated and his life would never be the same.

It was to this new reality he awoke, with fresh eyes and a bright sun shining so strongly that he knew the darkness would never return. Now that he had his sight, he knew that his life would be different.

Heads turned in his direction as he walked down the main path of the market. The linen dealer turned to the potter and asked, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” How strange, thought the man, that they do not ask me directly. “I am the man!” he said with a smile that was not returned. He continued down the path, taking in the details of the booths around him and eager to connect with those he had spent his life around but had never truly known. 

However, he received the same reaction from the miller, the carpenter, and the rest of the merchants—each spoke to one another about the man, and yet no one spoke to him. Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” And each time, with increasing frustration, the man who had been blind kept saying, “I am the man.” 

A small crowd slowly gathered around him, blocking his way forward. They asked him, “If you were blind, then how were your eyes opened?”

By this time he had discerned that the rabbi could only have been Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was said to have performed many miracles. So he told them, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”

Some shifted uncomfortably at the mention of Jesus’s name, looking around as if to see if anyone else had heard what was said. “Where is he?” they asked quietly, to which the man could only disappointingly reply in truth, “I do not know.” The one face that he had not yet seen was the one that had restored his sight.

“Let us take him to the Pharisees,” the potter suggested. At this the man took heart—surely the holy men of Israel would appreciate this great miracle and celebrate with him. Unfortunately, their reception of him was even more skeptical.

“How is it that you have received your sight?” the priest asked, his eyes narrowed in curiosity. The man turned his head left and right, trying to follow the faces of the other Pharisees as they circled around him, examining him like a specimen. He repeated to them what he had said to the crowd. “The rabbi,” he said hesitantly, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

“This rabbi is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath,” said the main scribe dismissively.

Another scribe chimed in and said, “Ah, but how can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” Then they began to quarrel among themselves, debating what qualifications this teacher must have or not have, whether such things have a basis in the scriptures, and so forth. The man of miraculous sight stood there, spoken about but not spoken to, and again felt as though he may as well not even be in the room.

After a minute they seemed to remember that he was there. One asked him, “What do you say about this rabbi, since he has opened your eyes?” He thought for a moment, and said, “He must be a prophet.”

Then they had sent him away, only to call him back again for inquiry later. That second time they had even called his mother and father to inquire of them, but he preferred not to even remember that instance.

By the time they inquired of him on a third occasion, the man was thoroughly exasperated. They asked him sharply, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

“I have told you already,” he repeated, “And you would not listen.”  It was clear that they were not interested in the truth, and his interest in convincing them was quickly fading. “Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

They looked upon him with derision. “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.”

At this the man could not help but laugh. “Why, this is an amazing 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 if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” Never before had he spoken to anyone with such boldness, but suddenly he could not help but speak of what he surely knew. “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”  

At this the Pharisees stiffened in indignation. The main scribe looked at him in disgust. “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us? Be gone and do not bother to return. You have no place here.” And with that they turned and walked away, casting him aside without so much as a second glance.

The former beggar ran quickly down the stairs from the temple, trying to discreetly wipe away his tears of frustration and hurt. For his entire life, his greatest desire was merely to see and to be seen, to be accepted as part of the world around him. Now that he had received his sight, it was as though everything and yet nothing had changed. Though he could now see those around him, it was clear that he himself was not truly seen. He would forever be known as the former beggar. And the secret fear that he had tried not to voice finally rose too strongly in his heart for him to ignore: that though his eyes were healed, his former blindness would forever define him. How could it be that receiving such an incredible gift and healing did not bring him the joy he longed for?

He quickly turned the corner away from the temple and headed back toward his familiar dirt road outside the city. A minute later, a rabbi turned the same corner, scanning through the crowd as though looking for someone. His eyes locked onto the man and he ran toward him to catch up. 

“Friend! Must you leave so quickly?” he called out.

The voice instantly sounded familiar. The man stopped and turned around, looking up at the rabbi. 

Jesus walked up to him and put a hand on his back. “I received quick word that they cast out a man from the temple, one blind from birth yet who now can see.” Compassion was etched on every facet of his face as he spoke. “Tell me,” he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 

The blind man had heard of the Son of Man, and the promise of hope and redemption that this Messiah was said to hold. It had not occurred to him to think of the Son of Man right then, but upon consideration he realized that he had never more strongly wanted to believe in such hope than right at that moment. “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Jesus met his gaze. “You have seen him,” he said simply, “And it is he who is speaking to you.” Then Jesus smiled at him, and the man realized it was the first smile that he had ever seen anyone give him. 

A warmth came over the man of new sight and he felt his entire body relax slightly as he exhaled. He blinked several times, taking in the powerful presence of the One before him. Peace rose within his spirit as he realized that he had, in fact, always been graciously looked upon by God, and was looked upon by Him even now. “Lord, I believe,” he replied, bowing his head in worship. 

And as his eyes were opened to who Jesus truly was, his world was illuminated and his life would never be the same.

Ashley Ross

Ashley is a member of Cornerstone and serves as a Web Content Editor.

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