The 6th ‘sign’ in John’s Gospel is prompted by Jesus seeing “a man who had been blind from birth”. His disciples ask him a question which might seem, to some of us, ludicrous, if not outrageous – “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?” For those who believe, however, in an ‘omnipotent’ creator God, who makes demands on his creatures, and punishes them when these are not met, this has to be an entirely valid question. Happily, Jesus says that this man’s blindness has nothing to do with sin.
Unhappily, however, Jesus is then reported as having gone on to say that, “he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him.” I think, and hope, that it was unlikely that Jesus said any such thing. Can it be in any way acceptable, even if at all credible, that a man would be destined to be born blind, the result being, we’re told, that he was reduced to having to live as a “beggar”, in order that one day, after god knows how many miserable years, he might then be a suitable subject for Jesus 6th ‘sign’? Count me out on that one !
I wonder what kind of glasses some people wear, when they ‘see’ some of what’s written in what they claim to be, the ‘inspired, inerrant, infallible’ word of God? I wonder if they actually, and actively, read through all the Gospels – or perhaps if they are the ones who have been “born blind”. The Gospels demand, and deserve, our full and detailed attention, our scrupulous and open-minded scrutiny, and our honest and unflinching assessment. Their centuries’ long, fundamental spiritual and ethical value and importance is such, that they can stand up to that, and are the better, richer and truer as a result.
It is but fair to Jesus, to acknowledge that reading the Gospels, in some ways, is like participating in an archeological dig. There is a bottom layer that goes back to the man himself, giving us at least the gist of what he believed, said and did. On top of that, however, are successive layers which tell us what his followers, sometimes many years later, thought, or imagined, he believed, said and did. Unlike in an archeological dig, these layers are mixed up among each other, and are very hard, if not impossible, to separate out. We must each decide what we think is right, while being honest and humble enough to acknowledge that we could well be wrong. That would make, in some instances, for a refreshing change.
Why does John tell us this story? Once again, it’s an ‘acting out’ of the claim that Jesus makes when he’s reported as saying, “I am the light of the world”. In English, another word for light is ‘illumination’, and for illumination is ‘insight’. Jesus of Nazareth, whatever his faults and failings as a man of his own people, culture and place, and living at a time very distant from ours, at his superlative best, is certainly illuminating and insightful and challenging ..…
- Love your enemies. If you love only those who love you, what credit is in that?
- What will it profit you, if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?
- As you wish that others would do for you, do the same for them.
- Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.
- Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Let the day’s trouble be sufficient for the day.
Need one say more? Jesus is indeed one of the great teachers, each of whom is a “light of the world”.