I have known a couple of children who were considered legally blind. When I say I’ve seen a glimpse of using another kind of sight in the world, I mean I’ve seen it up close. The way they engage with people and objects around them is mesmerizing. They navigate around what seems normal to a seeing person with creativity and wonder. To be truthful, I think I’m fascinated by this process because of fear. I’m terrified of being blind.
It’s a somewhat irrational fear because there is no threat to my health that should affect my eyesight. We even have a little family joke because I am the only one in my immediate family who has not needed glasses. Although age may eventually catch me there. Nonetheless, somewhere in the deep dark places where fear waits to claim us, I fear going blind and having to relearn the world.
Maybe that’s the real fear. I like to see where I’m going and what might happen ahead. I like to know what’s around me. When I read John 9, and so many other accounts of healed blindness, I can connect to the celebrating part because I can’t stand the darkness part. To be able to see when you couldn’t before—Yes! Bring on the cheers and dancing and gratitude. Woo-hoo!
And then this strange little chapter takes a turn. I read the story happening around the story. I want it to be about healing and faith and Jesus and good news. . .but there is so much more going on here. It feels similar to the deeper root of my own fear. Maybe there is more than just blindness. Maybe there is fear about control and comprehension. Looking for answers instead of accepting the reality of a miracle. Our Jesus is so good, though. He is not afraid of their questions or their doubt. He makes room for their searching just like he made room for healing when it was needed.
There’s also a trick of language in this passage that has caused much debate and trouble over time. The common NIV translation (and others) say, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
How many times have we spun round this verse trying to understand why a loving God would inflict suffering in order to be glorified? I confess I’ve mostly brushed past that part and headed for the celebration. Wise, learned souls tell me there is something not quite right about how we read that, though.
Studying the complications of language transfer, we discover this really is something lost in translation. Greek uses phrases in strange order, and more accurate interpretations indicate this was reversed. Jesus was saying this suffering occurred, but now we get to see a glimpse of God’s glory. He didn’t implicate God in causing the suffering. Jesus was setting up the next part of the plan. He was pointing out that He is light to come and save us, but His time is limited. He must do the works that are available while they can be done. . .He must take the opportunity to heal when it is presented in order to display the glory of God while it can be seen in person.
Don’t we do that all the time? We flip what we heard or we apply meaning to the wrong phrase of something important. Then we spin in circles trying to find our way back to God from confusion. We even blame him for the problem. While he slowly rubs a bit of spit and mud into our blindness, waiting for us to obey and see more clearly. He answers the questions by casting more light.
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."
It’s possible that sometimes I am already blind and don’t know it. I let fear and a need for control and answers and clarity cover up what I should be able to see. Jesus casts light by pointing out blindness to the oblivious and reminding the faithful of their clear-sighted purpose. Let me be a seeing person today, Lord. Teach me to wash out doubt and fear when privileged with seeing a glimpse of God’s glory. I want to dance with the blind man.
Dana Spivy Children`s Minister Maury Hills Church Columbia, TN