Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for March 19, 2013

The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. (John 9:30-38)

It’s fun to read the story of the man born blind. After Jesus heals him, the Pharisees are enraged and want an accounting. The man gives them the facts, but they’re not satisfied.

So he lectures them. And they hate it.

After all, they’re the smart, holy guys and he’s the man who was, probably to them, an uneducated object of God’s wrath. That’s why he was born blind. He was afflicted because of some past generational shenanigan and God decided that someone—how about a newborn baby?—had to pay. How awesome.

I love it that the tables got turned on the Pharisees, but there’s something tragic to the story as well. The man has been, for his entire life, living at the margins of society. Now that he can see for the first time, he has to adjust to a sighted life and find a way to integrate in his context. He’ll need to develop some skills so that he can work. He’ll need to learn how to socialize like his neighbors. And he’ll need to learn how to worship with his community.

Except now, the Pharisees have driven him out. They’ve cut up his synagogue membership card.

How troubling this would be for the man. He could only believe that God had a hand in his healing, a healing that came through that wandering street preacher named Jesus. Having been restored to full humanity by the God he thought had forgotten him, he is now banished by the local religious elite. It doesn’t make sense.

But after the expulsion, Jesus took him in. He invited him into the embrace of faith and the man fell into Jesus’ arms. The Pharisees showed the man the face of the God they preferred—a God to which they felt they had aspired, one that kept his circle of acceptance tight and bounded. Jesus, however, showed the man the real face of God—it was a generous face of love, of healing, of initiated trust.

The man may have been born blind, but he seemed to recognize the real thing when he saw it.

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