John 9:1-34 - A Man Born Blind Receives Sight
1-2 Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”
6-7 He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “Sent”). The man went and washed—and saw.
8 Soon the town was buzzing. His relatives and those who year after year had seen him as a blind man begging were saying, “Why, isn’t this the man we knew, who sat here and begged?”
9 Others said, “It’s him all right!”
But others objected, “It’s not the same man at all. It just looks like him.”
He said, “It’s me, the very one.”
10 They said, “How did your eyes get opened?”
11 “A man named Jesus made a paste and rubbed it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ I did what he said. When I washed, I saw.”
12 “So where is he?”
“I don’t know.”
24 They called the man back a second time—the man who had been blind—and told him, “Give credit to God. We know this man is an impostor.”
25 He replied, “I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind . . . I now see.”
26 They said, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 “I’ve told you over and over and you haven’t listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?”
28-29 With that they jumped all over him. “You might be a disciple of that man, but we’re disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from.”
30-33 The man replied, “This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! It’s well known that God isn’t at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. If this man didn’t come from God, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
34 They said, “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they threw him out in the street.
This passage is one of the richest in Scripture and I keep coming back to it. It begins with a quick conversation on the origin of suffering and our response to it. It explores the tendency for power-hungry religious people to deny or discredit the movement of God because they can’t control it. It features a man who was blind being asked what his healer looked like even though Jesus was gone before his sight came back and the wonderful sarcastic response he gives them when interrogated about the most wondrous moment in his life: ‘I’ve told you over and over and you haven’t listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?'
What I want to focus on, however, is a beautiful sentence that I regularly return to:
‘I know nothing about that one way or another … But I know one thing for sure: I was blind … I now see.'
When I was younger and had more confidence in my ability to answer every question, I thought that saying ‘I don’t know’ was weak and unnecessary. I thought that, as a Christian, I had to have an answer for everything. I thought saying ‘I don’t know’ would let God down … a belief that conveniently masked the arrogance and insecurity that prohibited me from uttering those three words.
These days, ‘I don’t know’ isn’t scary. It’s actually weirdly liberating.
Working in a secular university environment, it’s not uncommon for me to be stumped by people’s questions.
‘What about the big bang? The singularity? The multiverse?’
‘I don’t know …'
'How can you believe in God in the face of so much suffering? How can you believe in a loving God when confronted with pictures from Syria? South Sudan? Yemen?’
‘I don’t know …'
‘How can you believe in God when religion and Christianity in particular has been responsible for so much suffering and devastation?’
‘I don’t know …’
There are streams of Christian tradition that focus on the reasoned arguments and justification for belief in God and, while they have helped many on their journey to faith, it sometimes feels like their real purpose is to make Christians feel confident that they are right; that they made the right choice. Though they used to be really important to me, I find that, as I grow older, it has become less and less interesting.
What I’ve realised is that I didn’t become a Christian because the argument for Christianity was objectively and dispassionately convincing. I became a Christian because I found Jesus subjectively and irresistibly compelling.
For me, becoming a Christian felt like having my eyes opened for the first time.
Opened to forgiveness beyond what I could handle.
Opened to mystery beyond my understanding.
Opened to love beyond my imagination.
Opened to grace beyond what I could bear.
It means coming to believe that this world came into existence because of the uncontainable love and creativity of the God who set it into motion.
It means seeing in all people the image and reflection of the God who made and loves them.
It means opening my eyes beyond someone’s usefulness to see their value, dignity and worth.
It means being called to a life of learning to serve rather than rule,
forgive rather than fight,
be last rather than first,
share rather than accumulate.
As CS Lewis wrote:
‘I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.'
There are days when it feels like the sun I was once so sure of disappears behind the clouds but, even in those moments, its light illuminates everything around me. I don’t have the answer to every question or a response to every objection.
I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure:
I was blind … I now see.
And, at this stage in my life, that is enough.
Scott Evans is the Church of Ireland chaplain to University College Dublin, producer of The Graveyard Shift Podcast and co-founder of Paradoxology, a prayer space at Ireland’s Electric Picnic music festival. He grew up in Bangladesh and his life has been a series of crazy decisions, odd adventures and bad haircuts. He is also the author of 3 books, Closer Still, Beautiful Attitudes and Failing From The Front (& Other Lessons From The Lives of Losers.) He loves Vietnamese food, coffee, writing, Aston Villa and Jesus.