In John 9, Jesus encountered a man blind from birth, and he gave him his sight. The Pharisees were incensed that Jesus healed the blind man, and so they interrogated this blind beggar to understand what had really happened. In his own way, the beggar admonished them, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” And this truth greatly angered the Pharisees.
As I read this story, I wondered about something. What was it like to receive sight after being blind all of one’s life? If the first thing you saw were an apple and an orange, what would you think? Would you know color? Or shape? If you saw a pair of twins, would you think they were the same person? Would a beautiful sunset inspire a sense of awe? Would a cliff, inches away, make you step back? Would smoke be a warning? What would you think of the moon at night? Would you know lion is a danger but kitten is not?
It’s astounding when I stop and think about it. I have never been blind, but I have worn glasses most of my life. And being without my glasses for even short periods is very frustrating. In fact, the first thing I lose is the ability to interpret people’s expressions. Expressions are too complicated if you can’t seem them clearly. What would the blind man have seen in the faces of the Pharisees? Anger? Fear? Or did he recognize anything at all? The blind man did not seem to know Jesus was the Son of Man, and had to be told that it was, in fact, Jesus. What would he have seen in Jesus’ expression during this conversation? Love? Patience? Admonition?
It takes years to be able to interpret expressions, and years to perceive depth, and texture, and danger, and beauty. And yet, the blind man sees. He sees well enough that Jesus has to go and find him after his encounter with the Pharisees. Find, I think, in the sense that the blind man was moving about. He was seeking out this new world. He did not seem to be clinging in fear to something he could not comprehend or interpret.
And Jesus went on to explain that it is spiritual blindness that was far worse than physical blindness. As astounding as recovered sight is, and as much as we would receive it with a sense of exploration and wonder and awe and even fear, it’s the spiritual seeing Jesus said we have to have.
Faith is the continuing illumination of that which we could not see. And in a world seen with a spiritual vision, like a person with new sight, where can we not venture?