Not a brag or claim to specialty. Partly confession, partly simple statement of fact. I am the man. (See July 30, 2017 for You Are the Man; the same opening caveat applies.)
As you begin reading this, let me ask you to take three minutes on a timer and do some imagining. Use your smart phone, watch, or an egg timer from the kitchen; seriously, go get it and set the timer for three minutes. Seriously, I’ll wait.
During these three minutes pretend you were born blind. Imagine your daily routine and how you arrived at it. Your alarm goes off and you reach for its place; you rise and find your way to the bathroom where in complete darkness you locate your razor to shave; the toothbrush to brush your teeth; the toilet to use and clean yourself afterwards; the closet to find prearranged clothes so you don’t mix some plaid golf pants with a bright orange shirt; to breakfast where you have to fix an egg or toast . . . all in the dark. And the day goes on, completely as shadowed as it begins. Now take three minutes on the timer and imagine life without seeing.
This was the life of the Man Born Blind in John 9. Before the age of convenience where we have everything from psychology support systems to social agencies and medical care workers to tend to the young blind, this man was put as a boy at a roadside near the Temple every day to beg. “Just hold onto your cup and shake it when you hear someone walking by and keep one hand slightly covering it so no one can steal the money you get without you knowing it.” At the time of this story he had spent more than 40 years, day after day, in a prison of blackness whose source could not be determined: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)
You can read the story there. Even if you were born blind, now we have Braille Bibles. No such luck in Jesus’ day. His only interaction with people was the occasional clink of a denarius or maybe copper coins into his cup and conversations with family and donors and the few friends he had, most of whom were handicapped and set by his road to beg, also.
Then along comes Jesus leaving the Temple, and makes some mud with his spit to apply to his eyes, and instructs the Man Born Blind to find his way to the Pool of Siloam and wash his face. Most likely a friend or family member led him by the hand (or did they use the crook of their arms the way we lead the blind today?) In any case, he washed and for the first time in 40 years he shielded his eyes from the high sun! With dirty rivulets on his cheeks, he looked at and saw his friend who had led him to the pool! He viewed for the first time the pavement he had walked on blindly for 40 years! HE COULD SEE!! Now where was the man who had made the mud?
This caused no small commotion around the beggars. Even people who recognized the Man Born Blind argued over whether it was really the same guy. “The guy we know is blind; this cannot be him.” How easily we let our preconceived notions of what people are like contaminate the reality of what Jesus can do to them. But to their questioning the Man Born Blind asserted, “I am the man.” (John 9:9)
Then the religious do-gooders and seriously righteous got involved. Criticizing his Healer did not settle well with the Man Born Blind. “Whether [Jesus] is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25) Confused with how God’s judgment, certainly on a man for his apparently in-utero sin, was changed, they concluded God used a sinner to heal. They even were giving in to the idea that God had healed on the Sabbath. When confronted with their inconsistency, they simply got down and dirty to name-calling and pulling rank, throwing him out of the Temple, probably with warnings never to set foot in it again! No grace, no thanxgiving for a blind man’s deliverance, no mercy for a man who had experienced God’s mercy. Just “Get out of my Temple and stay out!”
I, too, was born blind, thinking I could see. At three years old I sat by the child’s oak rocker my mom and dad had purchased for my brother and me. Playing with my toys as they watched some television, I began to imagine things that somehow felt wrong, but fun. In a moment, I was pulled from my reverie to realize Daddy and Mommy were sitting over me . . . and as I looked at them watching tv, I was struck by the epiphany that all they could see were my toys; not my thoughts of what I was imagining. I could indulge in anything in my mind and no one could know unless I told them.
Of course, I was blind to the truth that Jesus had taught: “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light.” (Luke 12:2) So for much of my life I expected my thought life was mine alone. Never intending to harm anyone, I still did lots of things that were harmful to many. I will not disparage the truth of Scripture, so I will concede to Paul the title “Chief of Sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) but have to figure I run a close second. Maybe it is his active participation in murder that prevents me from first place in the Hall of Shame; mine was only facilitative participation in an abortion, which some do not even consider murder.
But then Jesus came by as I sat in my sin and degraded state. Begging for mercy from anyone who might show me a little, I encountered a Mercy like no other. First from Anita, then Pastor Keith Carlson, then others, but most of all from HIM. People saw my blindness and covered my eyes with grace and told me I did not have to die for my sin; Jesus already did that, and I believed and was healed.
I am the man.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see. (John Newton, former slave trader)