Posts Tagged With: blindness

John 9: Who Has Sinned?

“Healing the Blind Man” by Edy Legrand

Jesus and his disciples come upon a man who had been blind since birth.  He appears to be a well known man in his community (9:8).  A conversation ensues concerning sin and who is at fault for this man’s condition.  However, throughout the chapter who the sinner is becomes a hotly contested question.

Conventional wisdom at the time said people like this were being punished for sin.  Maybe it was the sin of the person afflicted; maybe it was due to the sin of the parents.  The disciples are thinking like this (9:2).  Who is the sinner?  Either the blind man himself or his parents.

Then we hear the Pharisees tell us who they thought had sinned.  Simply put, they thought everyone had sinned, well, except for them.  Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, so surely he was the sinner (9:16, 24).  When the formerly blind man refuses to agree with them that Jesus was the sinner, they declare him to be a sinner too (9:34).

Ask the formerly blind man and he would tell you that it isn’t likely that Jesus is a sinner (9:25):

God doesn’t listen to sinners. (9:31a)

Could it be that this man who had been blind since birth could actually see the truth more clearly than the religious leaders of his time?

Then Jesus got the last word.  Earlier he made it clear that neither the sin of the blind man nor his parents was the cause of this man’s blindness.  Jesus said he came to bring sight to the blind, while those with sight would be blind.  The Pharisees correctly interpret this as a slight against them.  Jesus, then, says this:

If you were blind you wouldn’t be found guilty of sin.  But now, because you say, “We can see,” your sin remains. (9:41)

Who has sinned?  The Pharisees.  They know better, yet deny him nonetheless.

What did you see in this chapter? 

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Acts 26: The Wounded Healer

I have to admit I don’t think of Jesus saying much more to Paul on the road to Damascus than verse 15.  I have missed the great richness in verses 16-18 of this third version of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts.  I was especially drawn this time to the first part of verse 18:

I will rescue you . . . so that you can open their eyes to enable them to turn from darkness to light. (26:18a)

Remember the context of this original story.  Jesus was saying this to a blinded Paul, a Paul who was experiencing nothing but darkness.

I imagine if I were Paul I would have been saying, “Open my eyes!  Help me to turn from darkness to light!”

Maybe that was the point of God’s choice to blind Paul.

Drawing on the work of Carl Jung, the now-passed Roman Catholic priest and scholar Henri Nouwen once wrote a great little book called “The Wounded Healer.”  His main premise is that just as we see over and over again in the Scriptures, God usually chooses to use “wounded,” broken people to become the “healers” of others.  Nouwen even argues that one cannot adequately do the work of a healer until we face, accept and even embrace our own woundedness.  Then, just like Jesus who allowed himself to be emptied of glory and wounded on a criminal’s cross, we are really prepared for God’s work.

God’s way of working is beautiful and poignant!

What did you see today?

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Acts 9: Hunter turned Hunted

Caravaggio's "Conversion on the Way to Damascus"

This is a very familiar chapter for many of us, I am sure.  Today, we see Saul turn to Paul, the hated hunter of Christians turn to a hunted Christian himself.  How does that happen?  By nothing less than a vision of the very presence of the resurrected Jesus himself.

What struck me in this chapter were the many words that all pertain to eyes and seeing.  The word “see” is used six times (9:7, 8, 9, 12, 17, 18).  The past tense “seen” or “saw” is used three more times (9:12, 27, 35).  Paul doesn’t just hear a voice, he has a “vision” (9:10, 12).  Paul’s eyes are mentioned twice (9:8, 18). Interestingly, even in the Peter and Dorcas story that follows Paul’s conversion, her eyes are mentioned (9:40), as are the words “weeping” and “showed” (9:39), both words connected with vision and eyes.  Ananias is told to “look” at Paul praying (9:17).  Three other vision related words show up here: “appeared” (9:17), “demonstrating” (9:22), and “watching” (9:24).

Of course, this is simply because this chapter is in part about Paul being blinded.  But it also seems the author is trying to make a larger point.  Saul the Pharisee was a very learned man.  He had an almost unparalleled passion and commitment.  He was willing to kill or be killed for his beliefs.  Surely, amongst his Jewish religious leader friends he was respected.  Why else were they laying their coats at his feet when they stoned Stephen (7:58)?  Why else was he a ringleader (9:1-2)?

And yet he was blind.  The physical blinding of Saul only paralleled the spiritual blindness he had in his heart.

By the end of the chapter, vision is restored to Saul’s physical eyes, but the scales fall off of his heart too and a new man is born — Paul.  And this new man gives the enlightened cry of a person who can see correctly:

“This [Jesus] really is the son of God!” (9:20).

What did you “see” anew today?

Categories: Acts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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