Lent 3: Seeing Jesus and being seen by Him. John 9
The man born blind.
Intro: When they ask Jesus whose fault this is he replies that it is no one’s sin. That seems comforting to our sensibilities, We love the God of grace and forgiveness and not one who takes an eye for an eye. And definitely not one who would visit the sins of the fathers on their children. The gospel has taught us better. But then Jesus pulls the rug out from under our feet. “this happened that the work of God might be displayed in his life” v3. Really? Is it right that a child’s life could be so blighted simply to make him useful for a demonstration by Jesus? Are we OK with that? Hmmm?
The story here is on someone who gradually comes to see God in Jesus. It’s not always an instant thing. How do those blind from birth manage the new sensations that visual stimulation brings? For the bare fact of light triggering a chemical/electrical impulse from visual receptors via a network of nerves and ganglia to the visual cortex is just the start of the story of seeing. How does the brain learn to interpret those signals? How do the connections get made between experiences, memory and education which can bring about our perception?
Here we see the man move from blind obedience v7, with no sense of who Jesus is, to one who admits “I don’t know” when asked about his experiences v13. Then from a guess that he might be “a prophet” v17 to a sort of proto-disciple as he asks “do you want to become his disciple too” in v27. He comes to the conclusion that Jesus comes from God v33 before Jesus himself asks him “Do you believe” v35 and he confesses his faith v38 “Lord, I believe” and he worshipped him. He has “seen” Jesus.
Jesus says to the first disciples “Come and See” ch1v39. Here too someone is invited to experience what it means to follow and thereby to come to see, to perceive, who Jesus is. What experiences have we had which have informed our perception of Jesus as the Son of God?
- Being Seen
How is this man able to tell that Jesus sees and knows him? Not like Simon whom Jesus renames “The Rock” at first sight, or Nathanial whom Jesus calls “a true Israelite in whom there is no guile”. At first the man would have had no conception that Jesus was aware of him at all. He did not see Jesus or call out. He had not been brought to Jesus. It was Jesus who saw him v1. It was the disciples who engaged in the debate. But the man learnt that he was the focus of Jesus attention. Did he hear Jesus talk of God’s glory being displayed in his life, v3? Did he wonder what Jesus’ enigmatic saying “I am the light of the world” might mean - as one who had no concept of light and darkness? What happens? He hears someone spit and then a great glob of mud is put on his eyes and he’s told to wash it off in the pool. He’s certainly been noticed and the Rabbi has singled him out for action. Jesus cares for him. He doesn’t ignore him. Beggars are used to being invisible. He is worthy of being trusted with a task to do and he obeys. He sees!. No longer a blind beggar but a local celebrity. He is someone with a story to tell v11. He’s seen also as a possible subversive, a charlatan v18, someone dangerous to know v21, and a possible disciple? Jesus sees him as someone who can serve in the purposes of God v3. All those dark days of poverty are seen as purposeful in God’s kingdom. A man with potential.
Are we able to grasp that our purpose in the kingdom of God is our true worth and outweighs any earthly consideration. The disciples did; because they followed Jesus. “Come and see”.
- Seeing Differently
So what? How will the world change for the one whose eyes are opened?
There will be beauty. For visual stimuli, colour, movement, symmetry, contrast all have emotional impact too. There is a whole new dimension to be integrated into his experience of the world. From here there is just more than there was before. When we see Jesus and know that we are seen by Him - there is just more.
There will be confusion. Is that a very small cow right in front of me or a normal cow far away? What does a facial expression convey? How do I deal with so much information? Can I still hear, smell, touch the same? When we see Jesus and know that we are seen by Him - our old ways and values can confuse us. There will be dangers and there will be opportunities. Looking from beneath Jesus’ feet as one who has been welcomed into the life of Christ, he too will see a world inhabited by those who see and by those who are blind. He will know that it is possible to move from one state to the other. he will have his story to tell. I once was blind - but now I see. You too can “come and see”. The world is no longer divided into those who are compassionate for his disability and those who will ignore or exploit him. He is no longer victim and beggar but can walk in the footsteps of saviour and grace. He can see things differently. Can we?
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That save a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m foundWas blind but now I see.