Wilful Blindness versus the
Desire to See
Jim from B.C.
based on John 9:1-41
There's a proverb that goes, "There is none so blind as he who will not see."
This is the kind of blindness that the Pharisees had. The beggarman in today's Gospel
Lesson had congenital blindness (he was blind by birth), but the Pharisees had wilful
blindness (they were blind by choice). Or to put it another way, the beggar had physical
blindness while the Pharisees had spiritual blindness.
This ninth chapter of St. John's Gospel has a artistic, geometrical structure, a line
of progression and a line of regression occurring at the same time. During the course of
this blind man's interaction with Jesus, he makes a gradual progression from blindness to
sight to insight, and finally enlightenment. At the same time, there is a gradual
regression in the Pharisees, from sight to increasing blindness. One might say that there
is a happy progression alongside a sad one. Did you notice, as the Pharisees were exposed
to more and more of the truth about Jesus and about what he did, that they became more and
more closed-minded and hardened against the truth? Their stubbornness led them into
increasing darkness, while the beggar's openness led him increasingly into the light.
First, the beggar receives his sight after a lifetime of blindness. Then he tells his
neighbours what happened to him, and who it was who healed him, that his name was Jesus.
Later, when the Pharisees interrogate him, he boldly confesses that Jesus must be a
prophet sent from God. Then there's a fourth stage, when he is once again under
interrogation. This time the formerly blind man becomes an ardent defender of this healer
and prophet. Finally, when he and Jesus meet once again, he ends up worshiping Jesus as
the Messiah. What a wonderful pilgrimage this blind man made, as he migrated from
blindness to sight, to insight, to a faith-relationship, and finally to worship his
Saviour. For some people, this might take 50 or 60 years, but for the man in this story,
it took only a day or two.
God's desire is that we all make a similar pilgrimage of faith. And I hope and pray
that we all have. St. John doesn't say what happened to the blind man after the events
recorded in today's Gospel Lesson. Maybe he went to look for a job, now that he had two
good eyes. Maybe he went back home and tried to evangelize his parents, who had been
chicken- hearted when they were questioned by the Pharisees. Maybe he joined the
fraternity of the disciples, and after Jesus' resurrection, helped them to spread the good
news. Who knows? The point is, he surely would not have ended his spiritual pilgrimage
then and there. Surely he did not say to himself, "Okay. Now that I'm enlightened, I
have no further need to grow in my faith." That would have been like a fish on a
ten-level fish ladder who reaches the fifth level and stays there, thinking it's the last
Yet, strangely enough, there are some Christians who do just that! Like the Pharisees,
they say to themselves, "In my relationship with God, I've made it'.
Spiritually, I'm where I want to be, and that's where I'm going to stay." Hopefully
none of us ever reaches a level of faith that we're satisfied with. Hopefully none of us
foolishly believes that all you have to do once you become a Christian is to stay on the
straight and narrow and maintain the status quo. Beware of reaching a spiritual plateau in
your life, a level where you want to stay until you die. Beware of being in a groove no
matter how pleasant, because it can easily become a rut.