June 16, 1525–Luther sees fit to wed a former nun, soon sees fit to spend many occasions talking with young people ’round the Lutherhaus dinner table. And after Luther’s death these young folks see fit to gather in Luther’s hometown, Eisleben, to publish those dinner table chats. Printed in 1566, Table Talk so opens blinded eyes that Pope Gregory XIII sees fit to impress Emperor Rudolph II to order burning of books and death to book owners. 451 years later a Luther statue sees its way into the Vatican as Lutherans and Roman Catholics together see a path towards greater unity, crafting between them, “Declaration on the Way.”
Someone’s gaining sight, must’ve read in, Table Talk, where Luther says, “’Tis always better to see with one’s own eyes than with those of other people.”
But what if you’re blind? A blind person by the roadside? Perhaps the blind main in John 9:1-41.
Folks gaze at, never see, the been-that-way-since-birth blind man. Everyday folks gaze at this blind man whose begging, sitting, keeps him on display. Folks walk by, gawk, but never see. They never see him, and until this day he’d never seen them: their faces, their clothing, his face, his clothing, his parents, his city, the building, trees, streets, animals, twilight, moon and stars, his home, his food, his bed. This day his God makes everything new. Before it was as pregnant life ripe with a healing hope; a waiting-to-be-born life, a waiting-to-be-seen life, an unexperienced moment-to-shine life. This day everything—absolutely everything is new; a new creation experiencing new creations: the first smile ever seen, the first kiss ever seen, the first sight of steam rising from tasty bread. And a new creation forms with a new story, an illuminating witness to the identity and ability of Jesus.
But did people and systems change? Oh sure, the bind man was made new, and experienced the new again and again in an unfolding world of wonders, but what of the people and systems around him?
The disciples see him, perceive him only as a chance to explore theodicy. Look at what they ask him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They see only a condition, not a person; see a chance for their own gaining of forensic insight into the reality of sin and evil.
Other folks, the local yokels, stay stuck-in-the-mud, stick with the old view of how the blind man had always been: the been-that-way-since-birth blind man view. Therein lies the power of the-way-it-has-always-been thinking mode. Same old same old begging the same old questions. “He’s always been that way,” they say to one another. And this keeps them blinded. So they wear out the once-was-blind-now-seeing-man with the question, “How did your eyes get opened?”
Perhaps the most tragic of responses to the once-was-blind-now-seeing man is that of his parents. They can talk all day about their been-that-way-since-birth blind son, their once-was-blind-now seeing son. There’s a new story here, one they do not know; a new person here, one they don’t know. Oh, he’s the same son alright, but now he’s new. And a new person means a new story must be told. And the parents seem to want no portion in the telling. They prefer the familiar story, the old story, to the new story so they pass off the chance to see by saying, “We do not know how…don’t know who he sees…don’t know who opened his eyes. He’s and adult. Y’all go ask him. Let him tell you his own story.” While healthy of them for not being triangulated, rather unhealthy of them to go stone cold blind through complete denial of what’s right before their eyes. I’ll wager that fear had them by the throat, fear of the new, fear of the unknown, unfolding new adventure that threatens to push them far outside their comfort zone. Fear made ‘em blind. Behold the power of fear!
And what of the religious folks? They haul him in for questioning—it’s almost as if he’s criminal rather than valuable. Perhaps he’s seen by these folks as criminal because the points to Jesus as the source of his healing. The religious leaders are blind to the present day prophet clearly visible in their company, can’t see him, can’t see this healing as a miracle, can’t see this prophet’s God either. Though sighted themselves, they’re choice-fully blind; choose to miss the newness that’s taken shape in their presence. By making the choice not to see, they choose to be blind. Perhaps fear has seized them by the throats as well—maybe fear that a been-blind-since-birth religiosity might be made sighted, too.
All of these folks look, yet do not, cannot, or will not see. And don’t we get it? Doesn’t seeing him mean coming face-to-face with their own blindness? Isn’t this once-was-blind-now seeing man us, all of us? Isn’t the being difference but this guy and us that he realizes his blindness? Can we say the same? And ultimately, are we ever able to see until we’ve realized the depth of our blindness?
Jesus asks, “Surely, we aren’t blind, are we?”
We feel our gut clinch, because we know the real answer as well as the easy answer, don’t we?
Isn’t blindness far more than eye ability, eye condition, and eye vision quality?
Isn’t it really a matter of darkness and light?
The darkness and light at work in us?
And in matters of blindness, let’s own the truth, it’s the darkness.
So our blindness is a function of the darkness in us, and it dims our vision of self, others, the world, God. And it isn’t about how these things are, but how we project them to be, isn’t it? Not so much about what or how they are, but about the what and how of us, right? Everything and everyone gets seen not as they are, but as we are. Perhaps projection of self onto the world? What is seen—and how it’s seen—shows what’s inside of us, descriptively declaring fears, beliefs, and bonds. Things that make us blind. And only Jesus can open such blinded eyes.
To see life, God, others, self, and world as they are, shouldn’t we be in touch with the darkness at work within us? Isn’t seeing is so much more an affair of the heart and so much less an affair the eye? Shouldn’t we be in touch with fears, beliefs, and bonds alive within us? Ask ourselves Jesus’ question, “Surely, we aren’t blind, are we?” Isn’t that question what puts us in touch with our own visual impediment? Scary question that one!
So, when did fear last strike you blind? Home foreclosure? Cancer diagnosis? Pregnancy scare? Coming out of the closet? Didn’t that fear blind you from everything and everyone except that fear. Did it become all you that you could see? Didn’t it shrink your visual acuity to a single terror-filled point?
Bonds are whatever to which we cohere because we are convinced that life would be miserable were we without them. They are the things to which our heart clings and which are oh-so-very-pleasing to the eye. Of such bonds, Martin Luther says, ““Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior.” These bonds blind us and soon, “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. These bonds captivate us, pull us so deeply into themselves, steal our sight by dominating our view.
And don’t we cling to certain beliefs, even when we know they’re irrational or even false? See them as the-only-way-it-can-be? Why? Isn’t it because they makes us feel strong, safe, emboldened? And don’t they often inspire us to create a world vision? a world vision according to us? A world in which God and others function a certain way—the way according to us? As we see it? A world that naturally excludes others for they had no hand in its creation?
Darkness in the depths of us is ultimately a matter of fears, beliefs, and bonds keeping us with mud-caked eye sockets, entirely blind. Mud-caked lenses are how Jesus makes visible the nature of the been-born-blind man’s condition, makes visible our condition, too. Mud-cakes form spectacles of fear, beliefs, and bonds. Maybe even inadequacies, too, eh? Don’t we all have such lenses? And if we know this about ourselves why not go wash in the pool to see anew. The darkness will yield to the Lord who is light. The other option is to disavow any hint of blindness, to opt for mud-caked spectacles, to stay blind. Still, isn’t it, “…always better to see with one’s own eyes?”
So we’ve come to it. Let’s not see fit to gaze around and without. Let’s see fit to gaze deep within. See any anything yet? How ‘bout look for the mud? Where are the mud cakes? Isn’t that the blindness that Jesus intends to heal? See fit to own it, every muddy part of it. See fit to head to the pool of Siloam for a good facial, and then get ready to see! For the world made new awaits the visage of the now-sighted-made-new-you. To opt otherwise is choosing to remain stone, mud caked blind.