4th Sunday of Lent A
The man born blind claims that, “It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.” He was the first person born with blindness to be cured. But since then, with remarkable advances in medicine, thousands of those born blind have been brought to sight. And their experience is fascinating. As one researcher put it, the moment the bandages are removed from their eyes is not like how it is portrayed in the movies. It is a moment of great confusion. Everything is blurry because the eyes do not know how to coordinate with one another. The vast array of colors means nothing to one without the experience of color. Even objects that have been held and whose shape is known are not understood by the newly sighted for to feel a shape is not to see a shape. The moment of sight is confusing cacophony of images unsettling to the newly healed.
Yet, the brain is a marvelously adaptive tool. Within months and weeks, the eyes discover how far they are from each other and focus comes. Associations are made between shape and sight. With experience, colors gather meaning. Beauty becomes visible. Of course, the biblical story has nothing like this kind of detail. Or does it?
For how the blind person builds their understanding of what they see is exactly how the man born blind grows his image of Jesus. It takes time and experience, but eventually the blind man sees more than all the rest.
When they first ask the blind man how he came to be cured, he says, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’” By the time the Pharisees ask him what he makes of the man Jesus, the healed one claims, “He is a prophet.” After the religious authorities interrogate the man’s parents about his blindness, they return ever more convinced that Jesus is a sinner. The man born blind now angrily and even sarcastically argues with the Pharisees, ensuring their everlasting wrath. They throw him out of the synagogue. Then, in a moment of pure compassion, aware of how badly he had been treated, Jesus seeks out the one he has cured and asks him if he believes in the Son of Man. He is willing to believe even as Jesus reveals, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” The man does believe, then he performs an act no disciple, nor anyone else in the Gospels ever does. He worships Jesus. The man born blind alone is able to see that Jesus is God.
His story is ours as well. I am 52 years old and have made quite a study of God, but I best I can only see God through squinted eyes. God’s depth and beauty will ever escape me. When we ask people to “Come and See,” we are not asking as those who have found the definitive answer and that others must catch up with us. We are only inviting people to journey more deeply with us into the mystery of God.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean. Some people like depictions of heaven that are familiar, with family and friends clearly visible and everything relatable. I think it is a wonderful way to understand how heaven will comfort us. But for how heaven really is, I prefer those depictions of death experiences which are not as specific – which describe colors and feelings and contours and images that are beyond explanation, beyond articulation. When I come to heaven I don’t want to witness the most beautiful array of colors I have ever seen, I want to see a color I have never knew existed; I don’t want to hear the most beautiful music ever, I want to hear a sound beyond music.
Our God is beyond our comprehension and yet thoroughly intimate. To know this God is to go more deeply along the path of compassion and love then we knew possible, and it would still be but a glimpse of the majesty and goodness and of our God.
It is why we worship together. Here we can share the experience of God. God touched and healed me this way, even as God spoke to you another way. Here I can point out to you this stunning color and then you can touch the texture you have never felt before. And together we wade into God’s beauty, God’ love; each of us a pilgrim in a strange and blessed land – each aware of overwhelming blessing like a blind person seeing for the first time. And so we believe. And so we worship.