John 9 provides four responses to a day in which everything changes. It asks of us, what sort of beholders are we?
In the first episode, the limits of Jesus’ disciples’ vision is shown. When they encounter a blind beggar, they see a problem to be diagnosed; something imperfect in their path that their enlightened experience might parse.
In the second episode, the healed man’s neighbors’ minds cannot come to terms with what their eyes are seeing. Is this or isn’t it the man they know? When they cannot resolve how this could happen, the man is taken to the authorities.
In the third episode, the authorities begin their attempts to keep what has happened within the borders of what can happen under their watch. They prod and badger to produce an answer that satisfies their egos and secures their positions.
“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” says Jesus (9:3). We like that part. “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (9:39). Yipes.
Judgement, but not the knee-jerk reaction of an enlightened crew of do-gooders who come across the less fortunate and condescend on their behalf. In the case of encountering the blind beggar along the way, in the light of Christ, the purposes of God are revealed.
Judgement, but not the fear-launched circling of the wagons that the neighbors and religious leaders enact when something out of their experience and beyond their control occurs. When the healed man is thrown out of the community, the light of Christ seeks him out.
The light of Christ reveals the possibilities of God’s work. The light of Christ reveals the boundaries of God’s Kingdom. The light of Christ shows how dark it is in the places where others have attempted to reign by fear, abuse power, and administer value to their advantage. To these, Jesus says, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
On 9/12, the words and images of the weekend rattle around in my head, and responses compete for my nerve and my energy. Jesus offers this, I think: the light of Christ makes possible our participation in the life-giving work of God. It resists despair. It resists defensiveness. It resists strengthening the borders of our hospitality or our hearts. It resists the judgement that comes from fear of the dark, and holds each encounter under the lens of how I might draw out God’s creative, redemptive intention here, now. Whatever now is; despite my inability to define and control now; ten years ago, ten years from now.
As long as it is day, may we do the work of the one who sent Christ, our light.
What is the work of 9/12 for you? How do we show ourselves to have unblinded eyes, to be those who now see Christ and are able to do the work to which the Father calls us? As individuals? As communities? In anticipation of future anniversaries, of other liminal moments or potential national disorientation?