Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:
It all started one Sabbath when Jesus’ disciples saw a man who had been blind from birth. Thinking his blindness was the result of, or perhaps a punishment for sin, they asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents? Why was he born blind?” Jesus said it was not that he or his parents had sinned, but that the works of God might be manifested in him. Jesus added: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Then the Lord made a mud pack, spread it over the man’s eyes and told him to go to the pool of Siloam and wash it off. When the man returned from that little errand, he could see. People who had known him only as a blind beggar had trouble recognizing him. Perhaps they couldn’t believe their own eyes, or perhaps he and they were both really seeing each other for the first time. Have you ever diverted your eyes from someone who had a handicap or disability? The formerly blind man told them the whole story. It was his first missionary opportunity!
When the Pharisees got wind of the thing, they had the man brought in and they questioned him. He also told them the whole story (mission two). There was a division within the group over Jesus. Some said He couldn’t be a man of God, because He had not “kept the Sabbath.” He had worked as a healer on the Sabbath day. Others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” My guess is that the only real division was not over whether or not they would oppose Jesus, but why they would oppose Him. Would they renounce Him as a breaker of the Sabbath law, or would they renounce Him as a fraud, saying that the man had not been blind at all, only faking.
In order to test this second theory, they had the man’s parents brought in for questioning. Sure enough, the parents identified the man as their son who had been born blind: “We know he is our son and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don1t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” The Gospel writer, John, reveals that they were hedging on this last part. They knew who had healed their son and how, but they were afraid of saying. They also knew that the Jewish authorities had already decided to ban from the synagogue anyone who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, so they avoided the issue.
The Pharisees had the newly sighted man brought in again and questioned him again. This time they treated him as a hostile witness and cross-examined him. It was a blatant attempt to get him to change his story. Before he had said a word, they let him know that they had already decided Jesus was a sinner. The man said, “Whether or not He is a sinner, I do not know. All I know is this: once I was blind, now I can see.” They then asked for all the details. His fascinating retort was, “Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciples, too?” This is a missionary!
You can probably guess that his words did not exactly endear him to his audience. In fact, the Pharisees became abusive. Unlike his parents, he was not afraid. He said, “Now that is remarkable! You don1t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. . . . Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Their anger increased and they asked, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” Then they threw him out. What did they expect from a missionary?
Later, Jesus met the man again and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is he, sir? Tell me so that I may believe in Him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” The man said, “Lord, I believe,” and worshiped Him. Now his confession could be complete!
It is interesting that the Pharisees, as the disciples had done earlier, picked up on the idea that blindness was the result of sin. In a manner of speaking, they were correct, but sin causes spiritual blindness rather than the physical variety. Just as we are sometimes startled by the movement of our own shadows in dark places, so the Pharisees had mistaken a shadow for reality. The Law was a revelation from God, but it was not God. The Pharisees come off so ridiculous in this story. Given the miracle of the blind man’s eyes being opened, it just seems impossible that they would be so small as to reject Jesus because of insignificant and comparatively meaningless rules and regulations. There are none so blind as those who will not see.
A Chinese proverb says: “One-third of what we see is in front of our eyes, but two thirds is behind our eyes.” In other words, seeing is not believing. What we believe has tremendous impact on what we see. An insurance adjuster criticized a woman for delaying a long time before reporting a burglary. “Surely,” he said, “you must have known when you saw all the drawers open and the contents scattered across the room that you had been robbed.” She replied, “I just thought my husband had been looking for a clean shirt.”
We think the attitude of the Pharisees is ridiculous, but the darkness of sin closes the eyes of love to some extent in all of us. In each of us, there is some portion of the attitude that there are two ways of doing things — the wrong way, and my way. We all probably know a few people who have that perspective on everything. They say, “When the other fellow takes a long time, he’s slow; but when I take a long time, I’m being careful. When the other fellow doesn’t do it, he’s lazy; but when I don’t do it, I’m too busy. When he does something without being told, he’s overstepping his bounds; when I do that, it’s initiative. When he strongly states his side of the question, he’s bullheaded; when I strongly state mine, I’m being firm (because I’m right). When he overlooks a few rules of etiquette, he’s rude; when I skip the rules, I’m being original. When he does something to please the boss, he’s polishing the apple; when I try to please the boss, it’s good old cooperation. When the other fellow gets ahead, he had the lucky breaks; when I manage to get ahead, it’s the result of hard work.”
One evening, a woman was driving home when she noticed a huge truck behind her driving uncomfortably close. She increased her speed, and so did the truck. She exited the freeway; so did the truck. She quickly turned up a main street; so did the truck. Panic-stricken, she pulled into a service station and bolted out of the car, screaming. The truck screeched to a stop behind her car and the driver also bolted out; he ran to the car, opened the rear door and yanked out a man who had been hiding in the back seat. From his high vantage point the driver had seen the would-be-rapist lurking there, waiting for his opportunity.
From His high places, God sees the dangers through all the darkness of our lives. Christ is constantly chasing after us. Like the Pharisees, we can find all kinds of reasons to run away. That truck driver was lucky that the felon didn’t attack and kill him. Maybe he felt that he was big enough or strong enough to stop the man. Maybe he cared enough, even for a strange woman, to risk it. Jesus wasn’t so lucky. The amazing part is that He knew He wouldn’t be. What is even more amazing is that He most certainly was strong enough to stop mankind from harming Him. He could have saved Himself from darkness and death. He chose to save us instead. Let’s join the formerly blind man in saying to Jesus, “Lord I believe.” It is our mission to also confess Him and worship Him.