Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lead us from Darkness to Light!

A summary of the talk given at St. Mary's Orthodox Church in Houston on Mar 25, 2012. Listen to the talk in Malayalam here.

Today we heard the interesting story of a blind man given eyesight by Jesus. There is a very important lesson in this story for us. In order to understand what happened there, let us fly back to the first century in the wings of our imagination. Let us get inside the blind man and try to understand the events through his perspective. I want you to imagine for a few minutes that you are that blind man who received eyesight. You are going to look at the incidents given in John’s Gospel (ch. 9) from his perspective.

You were born blind. It means that you were born with only four of the five senses people usually have. You can hear sounds, you can smell, you can touch and feel, and you can taste. But you can’t see anything at all. You don’t even know what it means to see. You can’t tell the difference between red and blue. You can’t distinguish between black and white. You don’t know how night is different from the day.  You have managed to grow up with your four senses, and you have learned to live with them.
You are very much dependent upon the help of other people. You sit by the side of a street and stretch your arms at the passersby. People often feel pity for you and give you a coin or two. Sometimes they give you a piece of bread to eat. One day as usual you stretch your arms at some people who pass by. Someone approaches you and asks you if you want eyesight? You don’t know what to say. He kneels down, spits on the ground, and makes a little paste out of it and places it on your blind eyes. You feel confused. Why would anyone want to do this to a blind beggar? Watching your confusion, this man places his hands on your arms, introduces himself as Jesus, and tells you that you are going to gain eyesight. All that you need to do is to walk up to a nearby pool and wash off the mud. You get up and start walking. You reach the pool, bend down, get some water, and wash your eyes.
The world transforms before you. Your brain takes a while to interpret what your eyes see. Bewilderment turns to excitement. You don’t think this is real. You think that this is probably a dream. You take quick steps to reach your home to share the excitement with your family. Reaching there, you are even more excited to see your family members for the very first time. With tears of joy you share the good news with them – you can see.
But soon you notice that none of them finds it easy to believe what has happened. Even your parents and your brothers and sisters fail to recognize you for a while. The man standing before them is not the blind man they have known for years. Hearing the loud voices of excitement, some of the neighbors come to your house, and they are also very much confused about you. They listen to your story. People keep coming, and you keep repeating the same story of how you got sight over and over to everyone you meet.
Your situation looks like a puzzle to some of them that they decide to take you to the local community leaders, the Pharisees, hoping that they might solve the puzzle. The Pharisees are learned people. They are able to read the scriptures, and they claim to know the laws that govern human life and the history of the world. However, your story is even more baffling to the Pharisees. They conduct a thorough investigation of the incident.
First they cross-examine you elaborately to collect all the details. They probably want to find out if it really happened to you or if this is a story you have made up. Then they interrogate your parents to confirm your identity. Once they confirm that you are telling the truth and that you are truly who you say you are, they turn to the real issue that gives them a headache—Jesus, the man who gave you eyesight.
You notice that the Pharisees engage in a fierce argument among themselves. A couple of them think that Jesus must be a man of God to have done such a healing miracle. But the others fiercely yell at them that Jesus must be a sinner for he has broken the laws of Sabbath.
Your curiosity rises, and you listen intently to find out how Jesus broke the laws. You hear one of them explaining that when Jesus made a paste of soil and put it on your eyes, he was breaking the Sabbath. Jesus “worked” on Sabbath by making the paste. According to the Sabbath rules, no one is supposed to work on Sabbath.
Well, if Jesus is a sinner, God would not listen to his prayer. Then where does he receive the power to do miracles? They probably mean that Jesus is an agent of Satan. You hear someone else explain that you were created blind by God as a punishment for an unforgivable sin committed by your parents or grandparents or great grandparents. Now by opening your eyes with the power of Satan, Jesus is rebelling against God.
Hearing this argument, you feel pity for them. Here is a man who has done a miracle no one has ever heard of—he gave sight to you who was born blind. Now these learned community leaders are trying to prove that this man is a criminal for making a paste to put on your eyes. It looks like they don’t even have the common sense. Their conclusion about Jesus is outright stupidity. You also feel anger toward them.
After long arguments among themselves, now they turn to you and ask what you think of Jesus. You tell them what you know about Jesus and what you honestly think about him. You explain that you have never had an opportunity to see Jesus although he talked to you kindly and applied some paste on your eyes. Now that you can see, your life has radically changed. It was Jesus who made it possible. So you honestly believe that Jesus must be a man of God.
Hearing this from you they get mad like anything and their leader declares that you are excommunicated from the community. This declaration comes down on you like a thunderbolt. Now you are no more a part of your own community, and no one in your community is supposed to talk to you or associate with you in any way. Your parents, brothers and sisters sadly move their faces away from you for fear that they also might get excommunicated along with you.
From the height of excitement you have descended to the depth of despair. Nowhere else to go, you go back to the place you usually sit to beg. Sitting alone, feeling depressed and devastated, you wonder if you have got your eyesight to see yourself getting excommunicated. ”God, why did you give me eyesight,” you complain. Tears start rolling down. You spend a few hours alone in utter hopelessness. You notice that everyone is avoiding you. No one is even coming closer to you. As soon as they see you, they walk away.
Recovering from the depth of despair, you begin to make an analysis of the situation. Why did this happen? All the events of the day pass through your mind one after another. It all happened because Jesus gave you sight. So can you blame Jesus? Not at all! He was merely helping you to live your life like everyone else. Can you blame yourself for honestly admitting your belief that Jesus must be a man of God? Not at all! So who is to blame? The Pharisees!
They claim to be men of God, but their actions show that they are not. Compared to Jesus, they do not care for you. When you were in pain, they did nothing for you. When you got eyesight and you were rejoicing, instead of rejoicing with you, they excommunicated you as if you were a criminal. They want you to remain blind and lead a miserable life.
It seems that the Pharisees lack the common sense. It is like blindness. They can’t see something that is obvious to others. It is commonsense that rituals and rules exist for human wellbeing. But they seem to think that human beings exist for the sole purpose of preserving rituals and rules. It is like a man carrying a donkey instead of a donkey carrying a man. Jesus only wants to do good to people, but these Pharisees call him a criminal.
You don’t know how long you sit there with your depressing thoughts and feelings. You feel a soft touch on your back. Surprised, you turn around to see a man with a pleasant face. It seems that this man hasn’t heard about your excommunication. If he had, he wouldn’t have come so close to you.  An excommunication prevents people from making any kind of contact with an excommunicated person. While you wonder who this person might be, he tells you that he knows about your excommunication. You assume that he must be someone who has already been excommunicated like you or someone who doesn’t care for excommunication. He introduces himself as Jesus.

As soon as you hear that name, instinctively you fall at his feet. He cares for you. He has saved you from a life of darkness and misery. You feel fully safe at his feet. Your feelings of despair vanish just like a thick fog disappears in Sunlight. Your heart fills with unspeakable joy.

1 comment:

Jenny Eisenberg said...

Thank you John for sharing your writing with us. This piece was both lovely and thought provoking. There are many types of "blindness" that people suffer with.

Spiritual blindness is one of the most KNOW what you yearn for exists, yet never being able to find it is. I can't help but wonder why the
Almighty allows His children who love and yearn for Him to remain in the dark when all they want is His love.

On the other hand, as one who had a spiritual experience several years ago, I understand too the blind man's plight.

When his eyesight was restored, he rushed to tell everyone thinking they would share in his jubilation, only to learn they did not and that THEY were the truly
blind ones, completely unable to even comprehend what a profound miracle had just occurred!

Since it's occurrence, I've tried not to discuss my experience with most because when I do I only get strange looks or awkward silence. It's too deep and personal to allow others to shame it like I simply don't talk about

Again thank you John! I'm sure your fellow congregants were moved by it as well. The end of the story was particularly sweet...despite being
excommunicated the man still felt overwhelming joy because his love for the Man of God standing with him was more than all the earthly people, conditions and things wrapped together. What could be sweeter?