In Christ we have seen the light by Rev Ikani Vaitohi
Some years back, I attended the Christian College presentation night at Costa Hall, and I remember being quite intrigued by the children in grade 2 presenting the Christmas story by way of a shadow-play. I suppose some of you know what I am talking about. The shadow-play takes place in the darkness. There’s this big screen with a bright light, the small figures of children acting their part, and moving around in the background telling their story by casting shadows on the screen. The audience is oblivious to the full details, are they male or female, what colour of clothes they wear, what expressions on their faces as they move through the story. The audience is left with a lot of guesswork to fill in the blanks and to make sense of the whole drift of the story.
Now, the story we have read from John’s gospel works a bit like a shadow-play. Our story does not contain all the fine details that one needs to know to understand, but the reader or the hearer is invited into the story to be a part of it. The hearer or reader is being encouraged to be an active participant in what will unfold in this drama.
Very little we know about the blind man but just enough information to highlight the significance of his role in the story. It is the same with the disciples, the Pharisees, neighbours, the parents because for John the character’s role - act as means by which FAITH - means here as doing God’s work, is fully revealed.
The story begins with Jesus and his disciples walking along, coming upon this blind man, most likely sitting alongside the road, his cup or hands held out, begging for food or money or whatever others may give him. The disciples then ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The sentiments expressed here by the question is reflective of the common understanding of the time that illness is a result of one's sinfulness. But Jesus was quick to dismiss the concept altogether, in verses three saying that it was neither the fault of the parent or the young man that he became blind, but really so that God's work may be revealed.
Jesus is signalling here to the disciples and his listeners, that what they are about to witness will reveal the true nature of God’s work and its purpose for the world. Most fascinatingly, God’s work is to be revealed in and through a beggar, a blind man, a nobody in society. Sound familiar, doesn’t it?
So it goes without saying that the role this blind man plays in this story, therefore, is quite central to the revelation of what Jesus is referring to regarding God’s work and nature of faith.
There are others of course who would say that this is just a story about a man who was healed by Jesus and as a result he became a believer and that's it. Just another story! Full stop!
But if we are to look closer, two instances of encounters in this very long story where Jesus speaks directly to the blind man and out of these two meetings revealed something quite profound about the nature of faith demonstrated by the blind man. The first encounter at the very beginning of the story, Jesus spat on the ground, mix with dirt and put over the blind man’s eyes and told him to go and wash it off in the pool of Siloam. Then the second time, is towards the end of the chapter after the blind man have been interrogated by the neighbours and the Pharisees, even disregarded by his parents, and then banished by the authorities for merely telling the truth about his encounter with Jesus.
Why this is important - because the sequence of the healing in both encounters gives us a clue to the kind of faith that drives the blind man to respond the way he did. You see, at both contacts, the blind man was oblivious to who Jesus was and what he was capable of. When he was asked by Jesus to go and washed off in the pool in Siloam, this blind man obliged even if it includes taking him out of his comfort zone.
Similarly, at the second encounter, the blind man did not recognize Jesus. First, he was still blind, if you like, blind to the fact, that the man who had healed him earlier, is the same one standing concerning of him and he is the “Son of Man.” This is what Jesus said to the blind man “Do you believe in the son of man? The blind man replied – who is he? Tell me so that I can believe. I mean - this is after all that what Jesus had done, the blind man supposedly can now see who Jesus is and what he had done for him yet his faith is only restored when he heard that Jesus is the Son of Man.
Now, why am I telling you all this you may wonder? After all, faith is faith, and no matter how it comes to us either by seeing or by hearing, the important thing is that we have faith? Well, it is quite important how it happens because if we attain faith through seeing than one would argue that it is not faith at all! If it is through seeing, it seems to me that our version of God would be limited to that of our experience or that we could comprehend. We will end up with a God that is remotely the Christian God of the Bible but one that is confined to one's imagination. We will end up with an understanding of God we can control and domesticate. The too nice kind of God who never asks us to change. What’s remarkable about this story is that it was only when the blind man sees things from Jesus’ perspectives he immediately dropped to his knees and worshipped God for only THEN he truly experienced what it means to have true faith.
Samuel was called by God to go to the house of Jesse to anoint Israel’s next king. God advised Samuel on how he was to go about this process, but the chosen one is only to be revealed by God in God’s time. We know the story well. Jesse’s seven sons are paraded in front of Samuel who had already made up his mind on the most appropriate one based on their physical appearances. But God sees deeper and will not entrust kingship to any of the seven. Until the youngest son of Jesse, a mere beardless teenager is summoned in from herding the sheep. And God says to Samuel: “Stand up. Anoint him, king. This is the one.”
Friends in Christ, I am under no illusion that our faith, our religious identity – what it means to live a life of a Christian person has never been under so much scrutiny and stress at any given time and age - then now!. In a technological era where tangible reality and scientific know-how are seen as the prism by which we interpret and understand life.
To the contrary, we as Christians are called to the kind of faith displayed by both the blind man and Samuel which Apostle Paul alluded to in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that as Christians whose life has been transformed and made new in Christ, we counter the force of secular narratives by affirming that “We walk by faith, not by sight”. That the life of faith in Jesus Christ will never be a full colour, 3D cinema-style kind of experience. As Christians who both bear witness to and the puppeteers in the Christ drama of salvation to a broken world, we will continue to act out the one story that is both front and back, both light and darkness, both full colour and shadowy play - about a God who gave up all that is of God for the sake of all that is from God, YOU and ME!!.
In response to that free, gracious and unmerited gift of God, we are confidence to dance in the silhouette of God’s light in Jesus Christ revealing to the world that our faith will forever be strong for we live and breathe in the shadow of the CROSS in which our Saviour died so that we can see and know with certainty that IN CHRIST WE HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT AND THE EYES OF OUR HEARTS ARE OPENED and will never be closed again no matter what the rest of the world says about us. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Ikani Vaitohi