March 10, 2002
Text: John 9:1-41 (emphasis on verses 32-38)
Title: “Was Blind, But Now I See”
There is a particular episode of the television series M*A*S*H that has always fascinated me. In this episode, the character Hawkeye is attempting to light a gas heater for the nurses when suddenly there is an explosion and Hawkeye is blinded. An ophthalmologist is immediately summoned from another army unit, and the hope is that Hawkeye’s blindness will only be temporary. Nevertheless, for the time being, he is blind.
The remainder of the episode is spent chronicling Hawkeye’s blind exploits. We explore his anger at having lost his sight. We explore his fear of an uncertain future; the world has little use for a blind surgeon, so it seems. But for me, by far the most fascinating aspect of his journey through the darkness is not what he sees, but what he hears. And smells. And tastes. And feels.
Having lost his sense of sight, Hawkeye discovers that his other senses seem to have compensated for his loss. His sense of hearing takes on a new acuity, and he tells a friend how funny it is to hear someone slip and fall down in the mud. His sense of smell takes on a new sharpness, and he detects a patient’s perforated bowel just by walking through the operating room. A new world has been opened up for him, a world of sensory experiences previously overlooked. The sense of sight has been the dominant sense, yet in an ironic twist of sensibilities, it is precisely that ability to “see” that has blinded him to all this other sensory input.
Hawkeye himself realizes it. Observing that while it has many pitfalls, he suggests that there might somehow be some advantage in blindness. There is a richness of sensory experiences that Hawkeye would have never experienced if he had not been blinded.
Of course, that doesn’t stop him from attempting to regain his sight. He’s not that convinced. But he does realize that somehow blindness has opened up a new world for him. Blindness has helped him to see.
It reminds me of a hymn, one you know quite well. Verse one of Amazing Grace contains these words:
“I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”
These words, words that have inspired the listener for so many years, seem to be making a subtle suggestion. To be found, first you have to be lost. Do they go so far as to suggest that to see, first you must be blind?
I. John 9:1-41 a long reading
· Like a drama with multiple scenes
· Scene 1 – the introduction
o Blind man introduced
o Disciples want to pontificate theologically over his ailment
§ Who sinned?
o Jesus rejects this nonsense
§ Simply heals him
· Nothing particularly magical about his method
o Used by other healers of his time
o Except it works
· Scene two - Back home again
o Sight restored, but uncomfortable
o Mainly because friends, neighbors are peppering him with questions
§ Who did it
§ How was it done
§ Where is this so-called healer now
o You would think that people would be glad, but everyone seems quite disturbed that this poor fellow is no longer blind
o Arguments ensue
§ No joy
§ No thankfulness
§ Only divisive quarrelling
· Scene three – The cross-examination
o Healed man questioned before religious authorities
o Crime has been committed
§ Healing on the Sabbath
o The man testifies to what happened
§ Calls Jesus a prophet of God
o His testimony is rejected
o Further investigation is obviously required
· Scene four – The Parents get involved
o Parents questioned by authorities
o Threat of punishment
o They “choose” not to be involved
§ Who wouldn’t?
o Healing has isolated the man from friends, neighbors, family
· Scene five – The re-examination
o Authorities again interrogate the healed man
§ Tempers grow short
o Man testifies two ways
· I was blind, but now I see
· Jesus did it, therefore he must be of God
o Now the authorities are cornered
§ Accept the healing and the healer
· Evidence is clear
§ Reject the healing and the healer
· Which do you think they do?
§ Man is excommunicated
· Thrown out of the church because he received a healing he never really even asked for
· Blessings from Jesus bring trouble from the enemies of the good news
· Scene six – final scene – Jesus returns
o Disappeared after scene one healing
o Jesus had heard that the man had been kicked out
o “finds him”
o finds him alone
o possibly angry
· because he thought regaining his sight would be such a positive
· such a boon
· such a blessing
o only been trouble
o possibly even thinking, “I would have been better off staying blind”
§ at least I’d have friends
§ at least my family would associate with me
§ at least my neighbors would tolerate me
§ at least I’d still have a church
· what good are these eyes, anyway?
§ Question: Is he still blind?
· Two kinds of blindness:
§ From birth
§ Cured by mud, saliva
§ Harder to cure
§ Takes a special healer
· Jesus finds him
o Asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
o Answer: Who? Tell me more, so that I can.
§ Translation: Not yet I don’t. I just got my eyesight, but to tell you the truth, sight has been one big pain in the rear end. As crazy as it sounds, getting my sight cost me my church. I’m all alone now. Tell me more, so that I can believe.
o Jesus’ response
§ You have seen him; it’s me.
§ The man: Lord, I believe.
· He worships Jesus
· Now he can see
o Blindness cured