Seeing the Real Jesus
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” – which means Sent –. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said “I don’t know.”
They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a Sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does ne now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” Has parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”
So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sins; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.”
Have you ever met someone who changed your life? A blind man encounters Jesus in the Gospel this week and his life is forever changed. Let’s take a glimpse at this powerful event.
John the Evangelist begins this encounter by stating: “As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.” Our Lord sees a person in need. Jesus initiates the encounter. God always knows our needs and pursues us like the Good Shepherd seeking out the lost sheep. He comes to the blind man who, like others in the Gospels, must decide if He will respond positively or if he will turn away from the one who will change his life.
Then Jesus “spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, ‘Go wash’ … He went and washed, and came back able to see.” I know that I can’t possibly imagine what it is like to be blind — to be unable to see my mother’s face, the blessing of a sunset on a warm day at the sea or a Christmas table prepared by my sister Winnie. Nor can I imagine what it would be like to be healed of this affliction. But I can imagine that it would be a dramatic and life-changing experience, especially since he had been blind from birth. Such a cure was unheard of in history. Only God could do such a thing.
This moment in Jesus’ public ministry reminds us that Jesus cares very much about our physical well-being and our daily, material needs. We know that Jesus feeds the hungry crowds, casts out demons and raises the dead. But Our Lord came to heal us and feed us on a much deeper level; He came to heal us from the blindness of disbelief and to feed us with the bread of life.
Later Jesus follows up with the blind man after the initial healing. God does not stop pursuing us. He wants to bring us to the fullness of life. Jesus goes in search of the blind man and asks: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” It is a far greater blindness to fail to see Jesus with the eyes of faith, to fail to know Him and to love Him. It is the greatest tragedy to see the beauty of a spring tulip and the face of your newborn and yet to be blind to the magnificence and glory of God who draws near in Jesus. It is to miss out on what we were created for, what completes us and what brings us to the deepest of joys
The sad irony in
our Gospel this week is that the religious leaders are the true blind ones in
this story. They refuse to “see” Jesus. They know the law and the prophets but
their pride and stubbornness keep them from seeing that God has done something
truly remarkable. God the Father sent His only begotten Son to earth, and His
Son just restored sight to a blind man. And so, our humble Lord says to them, “I
came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and
those who do see might become blind.”
As a final step in the healing process, Jesus sends the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam, a foreshadowing of the healing grace of baptism. In baptism, God pours out an abundance of life, almost like a fire hydrant. Not enough can be said about the enormous effects of baptism. It is an encounter with Jesus, the Divine Physician, who heals us from original sin, restores our relationship with our heavenly Father, makes us brothers and sisters of Jesus, incorporates us into the body of Christ, the church, and fills our hearts with the Holy Spirit, the love of God.
One distressing element to this story is the reaction of the blind man’s parents. The Pharisees approached the parents because they were skeptical that he had been blind from birth. The parents agreed that he was born blind and admitted that they did not know how he came to see. When pushed further by the religious leaders, they said, “Ask him, he is of age.” Instead of responding to their son’s healing with overwhelming joy and a burning desire to find and thank Jesus for the unheard-of miracle, the parents respond in fear because the Pharisees could expel them from the synagogue. They allow fear to overshadow their joy.
I offer a few questions as we draw nearer to Holy Week and Easter. Do I accept the reality of my own blindness? What do I really need today from the Divine Physician? Do I grasp in faith that Jesus is seeking me out today to offer me the gift of His healing love? Do I believe that Jesus wants to look me in the eye right now and say, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” What fears are keeping me from truly encountering Jesus, the One who will change my life?
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