I was blind but now I see
Sherlock Holmes, the great detective who had solved many mysteries, and Dr. Watson, his companion, went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. "Watson, look up and tell me what you see." Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars". Sherlock Holmes then said, "Well Watson, what does that tell you"? Watson pondered for a minute and then replied, "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically (the science or study of the measurement of time), I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you"? Sherlock Holmes responded, "Watson you idiot, someone has stolen our tent".
Watson had missed the most obvious. He was clever enough to notice the complexities of the stars, but he missed what was plain and simple.
In John 9:24-27, Jesus saw a blind man, he mixed some dirt with spit, smeared it on to the man’s eyes and told him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man did as he was told, and he came back seeing. Others can’t believe that this was the same man. The man they knew was blind, but this man can see! The once-blind-man replies in just a few words, "The man called Jesus made some mud, rubbed it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash my face. So I went, and as soon as I washed, I could see". That’s the plain and simple truth. What’s so difficult about that – Jesus has made me see?
The healed man is not only given physical eyesight but also spiritual eyesight. As we read John’s record of this miracle, we can see this man's faith developing - firstly he said a man healed him, then a bit later he calls Jesus a prophet, then he recognises Jesus as the Son of Man and finally calls him Lord. Not only had his eyes seen light for the first time, but he could also see the Light of the Word. Not only had his eyed been opened so that he could see colour, and people, and trees and flowers, but his eyes had been opened to see Jesus as his Lord. Jesus had truly opened his eyes!
Later when Jesus asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man", he fell at Jesus feet and confessed, "I believe, Lord!"
But that could not be said of the Pharisees. Like Watson, they could not see the obvious. They didn’t believe that this man had been given sight. This was impossible – he had been blind since birth. And besides, how can someone like Jesus, who was a sinner, who disregarded every rule of the Sabbath, perform a miracle such as this?
They heard the man’s description of how he was healed, and he does so well in putting it simply and clearly. He tells them clearly who had healed him, and how he was healed. He clearly states that only someone from God could do such a thing. But in spite of this, they just can’t see it. They did what Watson had done. They said, logically, a blind person couldn’t be made to see again. Rationally, this man’s sin had caused his blindness and no human can get rid of sin. Theologically, only God can heal. Historically, no one has ever done anything like this before.
Ecclesiologically, Jesus has broken every Church rule possible.
To all this Sherlock Holmes would say, "Watson, my dear chap, you have missed the point completely. It is clear this man can see because of God's power in Jesus Christ."
This man's story is an example of pure grace, set against the background of those who demand a lot from other people and think very highly of themselves. As the blind man receives his sight, they remain choked up with all kinds of rules and logic, becoming more and more blind. They won't accept grace - they would rather be blind.
This is our story. We want to be free. We want to follow the call of faith. We want the light of Christ to shine through us so that others can see what a difference Christ has made in our lives. We want the grace of God to make a difference to the way we act and speak, to the level of our commitment to following Christ and trusting in him when the chips are down. We don’t want to know Jesus with just our heads but with our whole heart, and love and worship him with all our heart, soul and mind.
On a News Special, the founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, John Wimber was interviewed. Wimber said that the first time he went to church, he expected dramatic things to happen, but they didn't. After attending church for three Sundays, he became frustrated. After the worship service, he approached a man who looked like someone with authority. "When do you do it?" he asked. "When do we do what?" the man replied. "You know, the stuff", Wimber answered. "And what stuff might that be?" the man asked. "The stuff in the Bible," Wimber said, becoming more frustrated by the moment. "I still don't understand," the man replied. "You know," said Wimber, "multiplying loaves and fish, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, giving sight to blind people. That stuff." "Oh," the man said, apologetically, "we don't do that. We believe in it, and we pray about it. But we don't actually do it!"
Here is someone else who has missed the point. We believe it, we pray about it, but we actually don’t do it! That sounds a lot like me, and I dare say, a lot like most of you. We know our Bibles and can quote important verses. We pray about it, but actually don’t do it.
Why don’t we do it? Because it’s easier for us not to do it.
When Jesus says love one another – we believe it and we pray about it – and we all know how hard it is to love some people, let alone love those who are our enemies. And if we apply that to loving God – we all know that no matter how hard we try there are times when our sincerity and enthusiasm for worship and living the kind of life worthy of a child of God, is nothing like it should be.
When the Bible talks about the characteristics that should show to one and all that the Spirit is at work in us, characteristics like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control, we hang our heads in shame. We have missed the point. We don’t do it because we have been blinded by our own desires, selfishness, self-centeredness, ambitiousness, and laziness. We hear what God has to say to us about all these things, but we are blinded by what we want to do, the way we want to spend our time, how we want to spend our money.
Who can afford the time, the self-denial, the dedication and the commitment necessary to be disciples in the way Jesus describes when he says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me". It’s like the man said, "We believe in it, and we pray about it. But we don't actually do it!"
Being a disciple of Jesus involves change, a turning around. When a person is baptised, we give them a baptismal candle with the words something like this – "The light of Christ has entered in your life. So live as a child of the light and let that the light of Christ shine through you into the darkness of our world." When Jesus enters our lives, a change takes place in us, and through us the world around us is changed.
In the earliest days of the Christian Church, the story of the healing of the blind man received special attention whenever new members were added to the congregation. Paintings on the walls of the catacombs of Rome portray Jesus healing the man born blind as a symbol of Holy Baptism. One of the writings from that time says: "Happy is the sacrament of our water, in that, by washing away the sins of our earthly blindness, we are set free unto eternal life."
The early Christians looked at their Baptism as leaving behind blindness and darkness and stepping into the glorious light of God. In other words, they realised that their becoming Christians and then continuing as followers of Christ, was indeed a miracle - as great, if not greater than the healing of the physical blindness of the man in the Gospel.
So the miracle of the man born blind presents us with a very real dilemma. How far will we go in faith? Will we claim that we can see, but really be blind? Maybe we worry too much about the ways of the world and what others think about us. Maybe we are too reluctant to fix our eyes on Jesus and risk the suffering of rejection.
Lent is a good time to take stock of how we are affected by this blindness, to see just how blind we have been to Jesus and his call to discipleship, and to see how we have preferred to stay blind.
Lent is a good time to renew our vision and fix our eyes again on the Saviour who came so that we can be assured of forgiveness for such blindness, for the times when Jesus has come to us through his Word and we have been too blind to see him calling us to action.
This is a good time to open our eyes again and see that we have a Saviour who has died for us, who has died for blind people like you and me, given us the hope of eternal life and called us to be his followers.
May we who have been healed of our blindness join with the man who was healed and confess: "I was blind but now I see!"
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Journey into God's Heart - Jennifer Rees Larcombe
Head, Heart, and Hands: Bringing Together Christian Thought, Passion, and Action - Dennis P Hollinger
Hear my heart – Billy Graham
It ain’t over till it’s over – R.T. Kendall