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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 step!

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.