Blind Man III: Pride, Prejudice, and the Manhunt for Jesus

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

-John 9:13-17

When I first met my best friend from college, I thought he was a pot-smoking atheist whose parents made him go to a religious school. The best way to describe him superficially would be to say that he is laid-back, punkish in his fashion, and with manner of speech and mannerisms I could best describe as aloof and even apathetic. But after a month of getting to know him, I found that these presumptions were so far from the truth. He actually was an advocate for those in his school to get out of their destructive habits, was very polished in his tastes of music and art, and had a yearning for finding purpose and meaning in his lives and to help others in their quest for purpose and meaning.

To this day, I tell people that first impressions are after wrong. What has held especially true for me in my life is how a negative first impression is often a good sign that I’m encountering an individual with great depth, with an incredible story, with something important to offer to me.

In the story of the blind man being healed, we see two first impressions of Jesus.

The blind man perhaps is the figure in this story warranting the most amount of distrust. While today we have a society that largely accommodates and protects those with handicaps, it’s not without reason that in the brutal days of the Roman empire that these individuals would be taken advantage of. His earnings from begging might be syphoned, assistance received might be marred by cruelty and humiliation, there is no shortage of scam or abuse that could have taken place for him. But, although the blind man has the most reason for being the skeptic in this story, we see he is the figure with the greatest confession of faith. He boldly calls Jesus a prophet for being able to open his eyes…and later in this reading we shall see that he gives a greater confession of faith, of following after the Messiah and Son of God. The blind man is not jaded because of his handicap, and his handicap doesn’t get in the way of his meeting of Christ. In fact, perhaps, his handicap aids his view on Jesus.

Compare his first impression to that of the Pharisees. The Pharisees not only have their ability to see, but they are well-read and educated. There’s a great deal of “perspective” they have due to their status. Ironically, they are the ones who have trouble of making any confession of faith, of seeing Jesus’ healing as good and godly. Instead they call the Son of God a sinner for performing a miracle on the Sabbath, the day of rest in which no work could be done.

Here the Gospel reminds us that education can mislead us, that acquisition of knowledge can nourish the passions of our intellect: our pride, vanity, fear, and even our wrath. Many of us exit our first year of college or grad school with a sense of superiority with our knowledge, with a contempt for those that we are taught to look down upon. I confess my first year of seminary made me into a boisterous zealot, wherein I was so focused on flaunting the rules of dogma and theology that I had learned, which often distanced myself from my closest of kin and friends. A parenthetical should be stated that knowledge and education are not inherently evil, but rather we must monitor what that education does to our soul, to temper the feelings that might swell in us from such education, and ultimately not to lose our humanity with this acquisition.

This brings us to an important crux in this Gospel lesson: the blind man seeks out God, the Pharisees don’t. What’s interesting is how the Pharisees meander around, asking each other, the blind man, and even his parents for the story of this healing. But never once do they put forth an effort to find Jesus. Instead, they know what they need to know about Him: He broke the Sabbath. That’s enough for the intellectual mob, they’ve already made their verdict without even an investigation.

Again, our intellect and capacity for reason can often affect our souls and mislead us from the truth. While many of us are tempted to place the mind as the highest part of our souls, it’s important for us to keep in mind that God also gives us instinct and heart to listen to as well. Our thoughts are not always our own, and we can be deceived by the noise. But we have gut sensations of trust that we follow for good reason much like Peter in his boldness, and as we see in the Road to Emmaus our hearts can burn and tell us something we know to be true even when our minds just can’t accept the facts.

My appeal here is to the skeptic, the jaded believer, to the one who does not approach the Christ that has been written off. Whatever the reason, whatever the offense, whatever the “broken Sabbath” may be, pursue Him. Argue even if you must. But see how the Pharisees get nowhere when they only pursue the one that Christ has worked the miracle for, when they interrogate the 2nd hand account of his parents. If they were after the truth of the healing, they would have turned the city over to find Him, and some would believe, and some wouldn’t.

But let us not let our prejudices and proud learning prevent us from a real investigation as to who Jesus is. Writing Him off is like missing out on a best friend who we chose not to talk to because of what we thought he/she was about based on the surface.

Seek Him out. Ask the questions in earnest. Set aside the mind, and let us give our hearts and our instincts a chance to guide us to truth.

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