Today’s Reading: John 9:1-41 (additional reading: Psalm 113:1-114:8 & Proverbs 15:15-17)
For some, the presence of difficulties and suffering in the world mean that God is punishing them for something. But for others, it is the sign that God is not able to do anything about the problems they face. Others wonder if he simply does not care. William Frey, retired Episcopal bishop from Colorado, tells the following story: “When I was a younger man, I volunteered to read to a degree student named John who was blind. One day I asked him, “How did you lose your sight?” “A chemical explosion,” John said, “at the age of thirteen.” “How did that make you feel?” I asked. “Life was over. I felt helpless. I hated God,” John responded. “For the first six months I did nothing to improve my lot in life. I would eat all my meals alone in my room. One day my father entered my room and said, ‘John, winter’s coming and the storm windows need to be up — that’s your job. I want those hung by the time I get back this evening or else!’ Then he turned, walked out of the room and slammed the door. I got so angry. I thought Who does he think I am? I’m blind! I was so angry I decided to do it. I felt my way to the garage, found the windows, located the necessary tools, found the ladder, all the while muttering under my breath, ‘I’ll show them. I’ll fall, then they’ll have a blind and paralyzed son!’” John continued, “I got the windows up. I found out later that never at any moment was my father more than four or five feet away from my side.” In the same way, Jesus did not promise to spare us, but he did promise to be with us: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
There are two kinds of blindness in the story. One is of the man who was born with a physical defect of blindness. The second is of the religious folk who had a spiritual defect and were spiritually blind. And the story tells us that spiritual blindness is worse than physical blindness.
The Pharisees claimed that Jesus could not have come from God. But the man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. This man could see, and we begin to understand that the people who are really blind are the religious leaders, the Pharisees. Oh they had good physical eyes, but they were spiritually blind. They approached the whole incident, and Jesus himself, with blind eyes. They were not about to see what was so obvious. It was willful blindness.
For all their knowledge of the Scripture and religious practice, they missed the kingdom, and a poor blind man found it. His eyes were opened; theirs remained closed. You can enter the kingdom if you are physically blind, but you cannot enter when you are spiritually blind. Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41).