He sat on the ground, blind, minding his own business, trapped in the unwanted and inescapable solitude of darkness. A group of men walked by, noticed him, and wondered philosophically aloud about the nature of God that he was blind. Someone stooped in front of him, and he cringed at the familiar sound of spitting. Instead of it landing on him, however, gentle fingers smeared mud across his eyes and a voice told him to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. Haltingly he unfolded limbs rigid from sitting, and felt his way to the water brought by Hezekiah’s tunnels to prepare Jerusalem for siege. He bent down to the water, drawn during the Feast of Tabernacles in the joyous celebration of the washing of the altar that represented the living water which flows from the greatest atoning sacrifice, and rinsed the clay from his eyes. And in the reflection of the water, for the first time, he saw his own face.
Seven times he was questioned about what had happened, and in that delightful pattern of cumulative perfection that is marked by processes of seven, he grew from redacting his experience to interpreting his salvation. He could only testify what he knew, and he could only know what he believed, and he could only believe what he defended. Each defense against accusers on behalf of the one who had healed him strengthened his resolve, but also added to his understanding. In the end, he was face to face with God, and he said, “Lord, I believe.”
The Lord lived his parables as often as he spoke them, and there is a rich treasure of truths in this simple story told by John. Of the many things one can learn, I choose to see today how the process of descending below is a tool to expose the power and majesty of God (to self and all who see) as one rises above. What wonder that Lazarus was allowed to die so that the power of God over death could be made perfectly clear to any who would believe.
All around us are those who sit in the unwanted and inescapable solitude of blindness, reviled and judged, pitied, or merely ignored. If we have eyes to see, they are an opportunity for the works of God to be revealed. In the beautiful economy of God’s workings, anyone who can see what’s happening is healed. To help people understand what they think they see, Jesus taught, he was sent into the world.
The pharisees were offended and asked if he was accusing them of being blind, because accusation was their only tool to demonstrate obedience. He responded that thinking we see and being wrong was a worse kind of blindness.
I’m haunted by those words and challenged in my soul to evaluate all my proud pronouncements of what, and who, is right… “Are we blind also?”
I need some of the water that flows from the altar of atonement to wash the mortal clay from my eyes too. For all those times I have washed, I can say, after defending my healer, “Lord, I believe.”