As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “…Neither…”
The street held no significance. It was not marked by a gate or fountain or a special market. Whether it was crowded, dirty, tree lined, narrow or wide, I do not know. What is known is that a man had taken his place for the day to beg. Blind, destitute, ignored by the masses that past each day, his life consisted of the few coins that would rattle incessantly when he heard the sound of feet passing him by.
He was considered cursed by someone’s sin… a parent, himself… someone must have sinned to cause his forever blindness. After all, blaming his condition on behavior absolved everyone from actually caring for him or taking responsibility to help. That is what they thought, at least, because they had been taught from birth to judge people by their behavior, past offenses and even their family of origin.
They never addressed the man. Only Jesus.
“Teacher, whose sin caused this guy’s blindness, his own, or the sin of his parents?” Jesus answered, “Neither. It happened to him so that you could watch him experience God’s miracle.” John 9:2-3
You know the rest of the story. Jesus spit on the ground and made mud. He smeared the mud on the man’s eyes and told him to go and wash. And the man born blind saw for the first time since he was born! By far, it was the best day of that man’s entire life.
When Jesus began His public ministry, He proclaimed for all to hear that His purpose and intent was to proclaim good news to the poor. He was not making a statement about income, money, wealth or prosperity though. This was God talking after all, and He knew that mankind was bankrupt because of sin. No one could claim the wealth of creation that had been given in the Garden. Everyone of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve were bankrupt and marked for destitute living. The devil made sure of it.
Jesus’ words were a declaration that His full intent was to release the power of God to change our poor state to a blessed state. That is why His response to the disciples as they talked about “who sinned” was not about what happened in the past but what was going to happen now that would change that man’s future.
And the man’s eyes miraculously were changed, healed and recreated as he washed the mud that had hardened on his face. For the first time, he saw what he had only heard… The voice of children laughing and playing, the donkey that pulled the merchants cart, the woman who sold fruit across the way, the face of his own mother. Did tears flow from those new eyes? Did he reach out and touch his eyes to make sure it was all real? Did he laugh and run and watch the dust rise when he jumped up and down? This was more than a new day. This day began a new life.
He didn’t know them until they spoke but when they did he recognized the men who had kicked at him, called him names and threw their trash in his cup. “It can’t be! You can’t be that blind beggar.”
“I am,” he said, “I am that same man! I am healed. I can see for the first time in my life!”
But instead of rejoicing over the miracle, they argued back and forth, completely ignoring the man. Finally, they grabbed his arms and took him to the synagogue where the priests were honoring the Sabbath.
It was much of the same. They asked him what happened, he told them the story, and the room soon erupted into arguing. Again and again they asked him, finally calling his parents.
“Is this your son who was born blind?” His parents were terrified. “Ask him yourself,” they said with their eyes cast to the ground. “He’s old enough to answer without us!”
And so, on the best day of his life, his village denied him, the priests cast him out, and even his family left him alone. No one came along side of him and rejoiced. No one.
The poorest among us are not those without money but those without a friend. They can have all the world’s good, but without relationships, the coins in their pockets will never fill their empty souls. That is why what happened next was so amazing.
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man.” John 9:35
I don’t know how long the man was alone. Was it a day, an hour, a week? The bible doesn’t say. What I do know is that as soon as Jesus heard that the man had been cast out, He went to look for him. He came to proclaim good news to the poor. And that poor man was about to experience the God of all creation who removes aloneness by His very presence.
Remember the beginning of the story? Everyone wanted to know who sinned. But Jesus never mentioned his sin, even though he surely was a sinner. Jesus was more concerned about his aloneness, his poverty of soul, then his sin. Rejected by society, the church and his family, Jesus went and found the man.
If the church is to see people with Jesus eyes, we need to be healed of our blindness. If the church is to fulfill the mission to proclaim good news, more than preaching is needed. If the church is to be the hands and feet of the Master, our preaching needs to be action. Fulfilling the calling of Jesus means we must do what the Master does, and that is coming alongside and entering into the world of the poor in spirit.