Everyone is blind. Those who can’t see, can see. And those who can see, can’t see. Everyone is blind. At least that’s what Jesus has to say at the end of John 9 after healing a man of his blindness – with saliva and mud! It is genuinely one of the most entertaining stories in the Gospels (which is saying something, considering Jesus is absent for most of it). The healing happens on a sabbath, which means the Pharisees feel they must launch an investigation and campaign against Jesus. But the formerly blind man is not to be trifled with. He proves to be more than a handful for the Pharisees who thought they could easily disqualify him and his testimony.
The drama of John 9 lies not so much with who is blind or not, but who can admit to it. To be people of faith is to be people of paradox. Experiencing the presence of Jesus means two opposite things suddenly become equally true. The only way to experience life is to experience death. And the only way to see is to surrender to blindness.
What are we trying to see? Jesus. We’re trying to see, to wake up, to be alert to the fact that he’s right here in our midst. This man’s been blind his whole life, but clearly has spent that time honing his awareness of God. So when Jesus walks by and makes a muddy miracle, the man’s faith, the man’s trust, the man’s ability to immediately see that God has been present and active is perfectly sharp.
Meanwhile these religious insiders have no need to really see Jesus. They boast that they can see Moses. They can see their Bibles. They can clearly see where each sabbath falls on the calendar. They can see all their religious comforts. So what’s the point of seeing right in front of them the beautiful revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth?
Every single day the love and beauty and healing power of God are robustly present right in front of us and we casually pass it by. Maybe it’s because we’re just too comfortable to let God in and disrupt that comfort. Or maybe it’s because the good news that God wants to be present and active in our lives, that God wants to heal us, hasn’t fully sunken in yet. Jesus, as he says himself here in John 9, is here to judge, but let’s quickly take the fangs out of that word. The judgment of Jesus doesn’t mean he’s going to point out every little thing he doesn’t like about us. Judgment is actually quite a joyful thing throughout scripture. Judgment, when Jesus is the one judging, means that eyes are being opened to his beautiful, healing presence in our midst. And judgment means that those who insist the hardest that their eyes are plenty open already, they are truly blind and their blindness will continue.
We are not baptized and placed within the Christ-centered community in order that we may achieve the comfort of having all the answers. We are baptized and placed within the Christ-centered community so that we may stand still before Jesus as he puts mud on our eyes and creates within us a new heart that sees with more and more clarity his beauty and his power to heal.