Oh, Now I See!

By: Brian Robertson

"He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

-John 9:24 (ESV)


There is quite a bit of humor in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, although we often think it improper to giggle. Still, if the particular scene the above quote comes from was put on screen, we'd find ourselves laughing.

Here's the scene: Jesus is passing through the temple area and a blind man is there. The disciples, always eager to ask questions but seemingly incapable of understanding any of the answers, have a dialog with Jesus about the source of the man's blindness. Then, Jesus spits on the ground and makes clay with the saliva in an echo of the creation of the world from Genesis 2:7.

He applies this mixture to the eyes of the blind man and says, "Go wash in the pool of Siloam." The symbolism here is obvious -- Siloam translates as "Sent", thus referring back to Jesus' status in John as one sent from the Father.

When the man returned from the long walk to the pool, he could see. Put yourself in the place of someone watching this -- a man with mud and spit in his eye wanders off out of sight. You know this man, you've seen him every day, asking for alms. Now what is he doing with this silly mudpack on his face?

Bewilderment deepens when he returns from the pool, suddenly able to see. John has those standing around say, "Isn't this the beggar who was blind?"

Some say, "Yes." Others say, "Well it kind of looks like him." A crowd gathers around and demands to know who did this thing.

"A man called Jesus took mud and anointed my eyes and told me to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. I went, I washed, and now I can see."

"Wait a minute," comes the response. "Where is this guy?"
"Where?" the man asks, puzzled. Here he is able to see for the first time in his life and they brush over that fact. "I don't know where he is."

So, the crowd drags him to the Pharisees and they're less than thrilled to hear this story, since it offends their sensitivities. It's the Sabbath, after all, and there are rules about healing on the Sabbath and rules about who can do it and rules about...well, you get the idea.

"How did this happen?" they demand.

The man repeats his story again, saying, "A man called Jesus took mud and anointed my eyes and told me to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. I went, I washed, and now I can see."

The Pharisees react with what we now would say as, "that does not compute." They reply, "Well, now, this isn't possible. It's the Sabbath and if he healed he's not keeping the Sabbath and therefore is a sinner and therefore, as a sinner, couldn't heal. So you must still be blind. But you're clearly not." It is like the great character in Princess Bride trying to pick the poisoned cup, trying to show logic in the face of utter confusion.

This Monty Python scene continues. "So who do you think this guy is?" the Pharisees ask.

The man reaches for something that might help him answer and tries, "A prophet."

The Pharisees then decide to question the mother and father, who are brought, no doubt, trembling in fear. The word's out -- don't talk about this Jesus fellow or you'll be out of the congregation. The Pharisees ask the parents, "Is this your son?"


"Was he born blind?"

"Er, yes."

"Then how is it he can see?"

The heat's on and they answer, "We don't know. He's old enough to answer. Ask him!"

You can almost hear the aggitation. "Doh! We DID ask!"

The now-seeing man is collared again. "If you were healed, you were healed by God because this man Jesus is a sinner and, according to what's written, only God can heal, certainly not sinners who heal on the Sabbath."

Exasperated, the man probably takes a deep breath and then says with some steady, quiet force, "Look, pal, I don't know if he's a sinner or not. You have your Law and your books, and I'm saying I couldn't even SEE those books fifteen minutes ago. Your Law may say this isn't possible, but I only know one thing -- I was blind, but now I can see."

The Pharisees at this point probably do a slow burn in the tradition of Moe of the Three Stooges or Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy. "So what did he do to you?" they demand.

The man is probably fuming himself now and barks out, "I told you already and you didn't listen."

That's the 1930's version of, "I told you already! We've been through this thing 100 times!" to which the frustrated cop usually responds, "Yeah, and we'll go through it 100 times MORE till I like what I hear!"

The man who had regained his sight tosses out one more comment, "Why do you want to hear it again? Are you thinking of becoming one of his disciples?"

That was the wrong thing to say. The Pharisees respond in a snip with, "You may be his disciple, but we're the disciples of Moses, of the Law. We know nothing about this Jesus."

The man finds this amazing and says, "This is astonishing! You know the Law and religion, but you don't know where this man is from? Yet he opened my eyes! You ever hear of a blind man receiving sight? I haven't. And if it's happened, this chap must be from God."

The Pharisees, of course, don't appreciate being confused with facts. "You were completely born in sin and you're trying to teach US?"

And with that, they throw the man out on his ear. Case dismissed.

It's a wonderful story. On one hand we have a person who has, quite literally, seen the light for the first time. On the others are those who are so wed to the literal reading of the scriptures that they are in utter darkness, unable to handle one who has the scriptures written in his heart. One can almost picture the man with his newly acquired sight saying, "I thought I knew blindness, but you guys take the cake!"

The entire incident seems to be summed up in 1 Cor 1:27, where Paul writes, "but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong..."

Then, later, in the second chapter, he states, "And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."

The point of this for the Christian mystic is evident and a common theme -- one must begin with an experience of the presence of God, the Inner Christ, the Holy Spirit -- and from that one can understand and, with discrimination, know the words of scripture because they coincide with the scripture written in the heart.

I'm frequently in conversations in chatrooms with people who find it easy to toss up verses judgment. To them, the idea of actually experiencing the Spirit behind the words is somehow heresy. You can try to explain, you can speak to that of God which is in each of us and still come up short. Those who have put their faith in words use words and have their arguments mapped out in advance in a circular logic that can leave your head spinning. Finally, in trying to explain that arguing verse with verse or doctrine with doctrine just won't get one spiritually fed any more than reading recipes out of a cookbook will save a man dying of hunger.

At that point, it's simply best to just bow one's head, take a deep breath, and say, "You may have your opinions, you may know the Letter of the Law, you may dance on the surface all you wish. All I know is this -- I once was blind to the presence of God, unable to see the Light. Now I can see by the light that came into the world and enlightened all."