I went to get a new driver’s license at the end of February. I wear glasses but I can see okay without them. I have always been able to pass the eye test at the license bureau without them, so I always take the test without them. I started wearing glasses when I was in high school but like I said, I did not have to wear them all the time. As the years have worn on, I have become more dependent on my glasses. So, I stepped over to the machine they use to test your eyesight at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. She said, “Read the bottom line of letters.” I laughed as I tried to read it. The lady gave me that look with her eyebrows raised. I said, “I think I had better put on my glasses.” I read it again. Much better this time. She looked at my paperwork. “You didn’t wear your glasses last time for your test?”
“No,” I said, “Until now, I have been able to pass without my glasses, but I guess those days are gone.” She stamped my license with the restriction: “corrective lenses required.” No turning back now. From now on I must wear my glasses while I’m driving.
Thankfully, I can still see to get around without my glasses, unlike my husband Kurt. When he wakes up in the morning, and his glasses have fallen off his bedside table I can hear him pawing around like Mr. Magoo, trying to find them. I come to his rescue and help him search. He cannot see a thing without his Coke bottle glasses. Our poor daughter Becca inherited Kurt’s eyes. She lost her glasses the other morning and Jamie and Kurt were both in there trying to help her find them. We finally had to move the furniture to rescue them.
When one cannot see, and is given the gift of being able to see again, it is a wonderful thing. In our story for today, there is a man, blind from birth. He has an encounter with Jesus, and Jesus restores his sight.
The townspeople who have known this man from birth won’t believe it at first. They say he is not the same man. Then they take him to the Pharisees. You remember, they are the religious leaders who believe that keeping the religious law is the most important thing. They ask, “Who did this?” They find out it was Jesus and that he healed on the Sabbath. They say he must not have been from God because he broke the Sabbath law. They are more concerned with criticizing Jesus for breaking the law than celebrating the gift of healing.
They go back and forth with the man and with Jesus, trying to trip them up.
The man believes. He says that Jesus is a prophet.
The Jews bring in his parents for questioning. His parents hedge, because they don’t want to become outcast. So they bring the man in again. He says simply: “I was blind but now I see.”
Then they question him: “How did he do it?”
I love the man’s answer. He asks them: “Why are you so interested? Do you want to be his disciples?”
That puts them over the edge.
People are so threatened by Jesus. How can this be? How can they be threatened by someone who brings sight to the blind? How can they be anything but overjoyed?
The man understands exactly why they are threatened. You see, up until this time, the Pharisees ruled the roost. They had authority. They were at the top of the heap in the religious hierarchy. People may not have liked them, but they had to listen to them. They had status. They had power.
But their power is only held together by the law, by their grip on the law, and by the people’s fear of the law and respect for the law. They had convinced people that God was all about law, and because they were all about law, well, then, they were the people who were closest to God.
Jesus comes along, loving, gentle Jesus, and he simply will not play by their rules. And this man healed of his blindness is evidence that Jesus does not care about their rules. And Jesus is closer to God than they are. The man says to them: “It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. If this man [meaning Jesus] didn’t come from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
Well, as you can imagine, that puts the Pharisees over the edge. They go off on the man. They say to him: “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they throw him out in the street.
They do this because if Jesus is closer to God than them, then they do not have a corner on the religious market. Jesus is trying to take their place. In fact, he has more than taken their place. They do not have the ability to give sight to the blind, and to set the captives free from their burdens. They don’t have the ability to free all of us from our brokenness and give us new life. All they have to offer is a life of burden living under the weight of more and more laws.
But Jesus comes along and puts some salve on the eye of a blind man and sends him to wash in a healing pool and, lo and behold! He can see! What, then, might Jesus do for us?
We are stumbling around in the dark looking for the glasses we lost in the night, when Jesus is standing there all the time saying: I will help you. Follow me, and I will clear up your cloudy eyesight. I will show you the way.
The religious leaders threw the man who was healed out into the street and Jesus went to him. Jesus said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
The healed man said to him, “Show him to me and I will believe.”
Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?”
And the man says: “Master, I believe,”
And then Jesus states his mission ever so simply: “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”
Oh, that really makes the Pharisees mad. They say: “Are you calling us blind?” And he says, “Well, if you were really blind then you would be blameless, but because you claim to see everything, [but of course, it’s obvious to everyone that they do not], then you are at fault.”
Jesus is bringing light to the places of darkness. These religious leaders were using their status to hold the people down. They were not pointing the people to God. They weren’t setting people free with the law.
Jesus came to bring everything into the clear light of day: both for those who were obviously blind and for those who claimed to see and know everything but who really saw and knew nothing.
So how do we apply this to our lives? There are people who try to reduce following Jesus to a rigid system of rules. “Do this, don’t do that, and you will be in good shape with God.” We all fall into this system of a judgment-based-religion at times. It seems like it would be easier if we just had some rules. The 10 commandments, for example, are a good place to start. But practicing religion with only a rules based approach usually gets us into trouble, because there are never enough rules to fit every situation, so we have to write more rules. And then we have to determine who gets to write the new rules, and human beings who write and interpret the rules for God are imperfect, like the Pharisees. Even when we work in community and try to come up with rules together, it’s an imperfect process.
Now of course I am not saying to throw out all the rules and neither was Jesus, but he was responding to a context in which a rules based religion was not working so well, and we see evidence of this in our day, too. Some people are caught up in a strict rules based system that is not working so well. We watch as those systems begin to unravel.
Jesus said that he “came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, so that those who have never seen will see.” We are all blind in some way. We need Jesus to be the corrective lenses that we put on, so that we can see more clearly. Jesus wants us to see the world through his lenses. It’s like when I could no longer pass the eye test at the DMV. I think Jesus was saying, “You are all blind without me. Let me give you some mud to rub in your eyes and you can go wash in the healing pool. Or let me give you this pair of glasses to wear. When you wear these, you will see the world with my eyes.”
Wouldn’t that be great? We could put on a pair of glasses and see with the compassion of Jesus. We could put on a pair of glasses and see injustice and how to make change for justice. We could put on a pair of glasses and see harm and we could bring healing and the restorations of God’s way in the world.
Hmmm. I am pretty sure that is what Jesus offers us every day when we open our eyes.
Try this with me. Close your eyes. Now open them and see what God wants you to see.
You see, the eyes we have are the eyes God gave us, and they have lenses in them, made by God, lenses made to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. So, how about we use them? Let’s try an experiment this week. When we open our eyes this week, let’s imagine that we are seeing for the first time, and let’s imagine that we are seeing what Jesus wants us to see.
I want you to try that exercise several times a day. Set an alarm on your phone to go off several times a day. When it does, close your eyes, and then open them and see what Jesus sees. Or do it before each meal at the time you would pray. Let’s post on the Village Facebook page what we see.
Let’s ask Jesus to open our eyes to those things to which we have been blind. His promise is clear. Jesus came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, so that those who have never seen will see. Let’s see what Jesus wants to show us. And then let’s follow Jesus. Let’s be the voice of Jesus. Let’s be his hands and feet. Look through those eyes God gave you and see what Jesus wants to show you. Amen.