The Fourth Sunday of Lent
It’s that moment when you move from shadows to sunlight. That’s how it was for me. I was born blind. I had spent a lifetime in darkness. I didn’t even know what “light” looked like. Suddenly my brain was flooded with brightness.
At first I was dizzy. My eyes hurt. I was confused. I couldn’t yet distinguish distances or recognize faces. I staggered and stumbled.
But for the first time in my life, I could see!
Now those around me had trouble seeing clearly. For my whole life, I had been nothing but a helpless beggar. Many people had never even seen me standing up! Now I was walking—no stick, no beggar’s bowl, and no shame.
As my confusion cleared, the questions around me increased.
One person asked, “Isn’t this that blind beggar boy who used to sit near the Pool of Siloam? I stepped right over him many times!”
Another disagreed. “No, that can’t be him! That beggar has been blind from the day he was born! This fellow obviously can see. I must say, however, that the physical resemblance is striking.”
Back and forth they debated. Yes, he is! No, he’s not!
All the while I tried to get them to listen to me. “The man called Jesus made some mud. He spread it on my eyes. Then he told me to wash off the mud in the Pool of Siloam. I went and washed and received my sight.”
The moment I mentioned Jesus, I had their full attention. “Where is he?” they demanded. I had no idea. I used to be blind, remember?
Rough hands grabbed me and hauled me away. Suddenly I felt eight years old again. Cruel boys in our village grabbed me one day. They spun me around. Then they hit me. “Who hit you?” they demanded. If I guessed right, they would let me go. If not, they hit me again. It was a game the bullies played many times.
I got pretty good at guessing.
Now I was standing in front of a group of serious-looking men. “You were blind,” one of them barked. “How is it that now you can see?”
I told the story again—Jesus, mud, washing, sight. Why couldn’t they just believe me?
The men began to argue among themselves. “It’s the Sabbath!” said some. “This Jesus can’t be from God. He does nothing but break the rules!”
Others were not convinced. “A blind man now sees,” they said. How can such a thing happen without God’s help?” They debated for quite a while. I just pretended to be invisible as I had done with the bullies of my younger days.
As they continued to argue, I drifted back to synagogue school in my village. I remembered learning the words of Isaiah. That great prophet described a suffering servant sent from God. God said to the servant, “I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind…”
I loved that prophetic promise. When I was a boy, I prayed every night for that suffering servant to come and to heal me. As I got older, I gave up on such prayers. It seemed that they did no good. But now I could see! Might this Jesus be the suffering servant Isaiah promised?
I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t even hear the question. “You there!” one of them shouted. “What do you say about him? After all, it was your eyes he opened!”
I spoke before I thought. “He is a prophet!” I declared.
That was clearly not the right answer.
Because that was the wrong answer, the argument returned to my identity. Was I really that guy formerly known as the poor, blind beggar? They couldn’t get that settled. That’s when they found my parents and dragged them into the mess.
Truth be told, I didn’t have much connection with my folks. To them, I was an embarrassment. I was a sign of their failure. I was a source of deep shame. People were always whispering to each other. “What did those people do to deserve such punishment?” they would ask each other. “It must be some terrible secret they are hiding.
This is what everyone believed. Even Jesus’ disciples asked the question. “Rabbi,” I heard them say, “Who sinned—this man or his parents—that he was born blind?” I got ready for another load of theological garbage, another tirade about how terrible my family must have been.
Jesus, however, said something else. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned…” I know he said more. But at that moment I didn’t catch the rest of it. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and overcome with astonishment. This Jesus would not be my judge. His business was much bigger and better.
Mom and Dad, of course, didn’t hear Jesus. So they decided to play it safe. The word was out that supporting Jesus was a bad idea. Saying good things about him would get them nothing but grief. In fairness to them, they had dealt with this stuff my whole life. So they slid the problem back to me.
“Yes, this is our son,” they admitted. “And he used to be blind.”
He used to be blind. They said those words with almost no emotion. No joy. No celebration. No gratitude. They were just terrified. “We have no idea how this happened,” they whispered. “He’s a grown man. He can speak for himself. Ask him!”
Thanks, Mom and Dad. I was on my own again. They disappeared into the crowd.
“Give the credit to God!” the men demanded. “We know this Jesus is a sinner.”
I was so sick and tired of being bullied. A lifetime of rage and resentment ran away with my good sense. “Play your religious games with someone else!” I shouted. “What I know is very simple. I was blind. Now I see.”
I should have stopped there. But the years of abuse and bullying had equipped me with a smart mouth.
“After all,” I prodded, “why are you so interested? Do you want to become Jesus followers too?” The words were out before I could stop. Things went downhill fast from there.
“How can you be so blind?” I finally shouted. “If Jesus weren’t from God, I’d still be blind, begging and broken. Do I look blind, begging and broken to you?” I had to run for my life after that one.
I hid in the shadows on the far side of the Temple. That’s where Jesus found me. “You know the promises of God’s healing,” he said. I nodded. “You know that God’s healing is a sign of God’s kingdom among us.” I nodded again. “Do you trust,” he asked, “in the Son of Man?”
I had spent years in the dark, waiting for God’s light to shine in my eyes and in my heart. “Who is this Son of Man?” I asked. “If he’s the one who gave me my sight, I will follow him anywhere.”
Jesus smiled. “You’re looking at him.” I fell dizzy back against the stone wall. All my hopes came rushing into that moment. This was about more than my eyes. This was about light for the whole world. “Lord, I trust you,” I said. I fell on my face at his feet.
By this time, some of the men had caught up to us. They overheard the conversation. Jesus described them as blind sinners. They made him pay for that in the end.
Later, they arrested him on charges of treason and blasphemy. He was sentenced to torture and death. Some of them blindfolded him as they taunted him. He was blind as I had been. And they played a cruel game. They hit him over and over. Each time they hit him, they said, “Prophesy! Tell us who hit you!”
When I heard that part of the story, I wept out loud. I remembered what that was like for me. Jesus was bullied and tortured just like me. His accusers were blinded by their fear and hatred. They saw him as an object of ridicule and rage. They were not unable to see. Instead they were unwilling to see.
And no amount of spit and mud can fix that sort of blindness.
The darkness, however, was not the last word. They killed him and buried him in a lightless tomb. They crucified him and wrapped him in a shroud of darkness. They drove him out of this world and on to a Roman cross.
But now I remember Jesus’ words to his disciples. “As long as I am in the world,” he told them, “I am the light of the world.” The darkness could not overwhelm him. Death could not hold him. Jesus is in the world now and forever. He is the light of the world. And he is the light of my life.
Now I tell my story as often as I can. One of the members of our little church even made a song about it. “Sleeper, awake” she sang, “Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!” It is my joy and my honor to walk in the light of the Lord every day. My prayer is that Jesus will continue to shine through me today and always.
Thank you for listening. And thank you for being willing to see.