Lent 4 is an exploration of light and darkness, sight and blindness, truth and deception. The passages behind my reflections today are: 1 Sam. 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14, and John 9;1-41.
The story in John 9 is the one that captured me. We read it out loud at last Thursday's Bible study and that was eye-opening! I hadn't realized how many questions pepper the passage! (17, but more if you count the implied ones.) It became clear that the Blind Man's answers start out being simple and clear, then he gets justifiably frustrated and sarcastic when his truth is dismissed and negated. He ends up having to choose between his simple truth and the politics and entrenchment of his community.
The doubters go down all the rabbit trails they can find or invent. Some actually ask helpful clarifying questions to verify facts, but others try to distract and disengage from the simple truth. There are obvious attempts to discredit Jesus by those who feel threatened. They are more concerned about themselves and what they would like to believe than they are open to hearing anything new. They try to discredit the witness, but the fact that the Blind Man is no longer blind keeps staring them in the face. When one line of questioning doesn't produce the discrediting they are looking for (such as questioning the man's parents) they switch to other ways to go after both Jesus and the now not-blind man. Strange that the fact a blind man sees gets lost in the arguments over the Sabbath. Strange the blind man's former life of poverty was not deemed an issue. Strange that the questioning continues long after clear answers were given. It is obvious that the Pharisees against Jesus had no interest in any truth but their own.
It is important to note that not all the Pharisees are against Jesus. They are a divided group, and that muddies the waters for the crowds who are trying to sort through what is happening and who they should believe. Ironic, isn't it, that Jesus puts mud on the Blind Man's eyes in order to open them?
In the end, even the man's parents are afraid to say more than that this is indeed their son. They say he can speak for himself and they effectively wash their hands of the whole situation. They are worried if they say anything that could be construed as supporting Jesus, they will be exiled from their community. When the formerly blind man refuses to change his story or deny his simple truth, he is driven out, not allowed to join in the temple and community life that was denied him when he was blind. When Jesus finds him, the man sticks to his truth and follows.
Sometimes all the arguing should be set aside so we can focus on the simple truth. A blind man sees because of Jesus. Maybe we need to ask Jesus to put mud in our eyes too.
This story is amazing in how it challenges us to pay attention to what we see and hear, to ask good questions, and to stay on track with truth. What an appropriate message in this time of false news, alternative facts, and distraction!