When I was a little girl riding the school bus, my friends and I would close our eyes and point our faces towards the warm sun. As we did so, we described the tiny bursts of color that streaked across the darkness. Sometimes I would “see” white flashes; other times I would “see” splashes of red and pink and green. If we then pressed the palms of our hands gently on our eyes, we’d “see” an even wider variety of designs and colors.
Even with my eyes closed, I was not blinded; my brain perceived pressure and light even through closed lids. I wonder…does someone who is born without sight perceive the same flashes of light and color? Can they describe the colors or the shapes, having not seen anything before? If a blind person’s optic nerve is missing or is somehow not operational and has been so his entire life — what does he see in the darkness behind closed lids?
In the news today is a story about an eight-year-old girl who had an underdeveloped optic nerve which rendered her unable to see anything beyond light and dark. She underwent experimental stem cell treatment and now, after four treatments, she is beginning to see.
Such miracles in the past only happened by the touch of the Master’s hand or through the hands of those to whom he gave power (still does!). In one case, a man who had been born blind (the Bible doesn’t say if he was able to see light and dark, as the little girl in the story was able to see) was standing along the way where Jesus was walking. As they walked by, the disciples asked Jesus why the man was blind. In that day, people believed that disabilities were directly the result of sin, either of the parents or of the person. Jesus said,
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.
And then Jesus did a very remarkable and decidedly unsanitary thing. He leaned down and spit on the ground. Then he stirred up his spit and the dirt to make a little clay-like mud and smeared the mud over the man’s eyes. I think it is important to know what word was used here…it was not just mud or dirt. The Greek word here is pelos, and it is the word for clay — the kind of clay that potters use.
Before we move on to what happened next, let’s go back, way back, to the beginning, when God created man. In Genesis 2 we see God playing in the dirt for the first time. But His was no ordinary mud pie! He stirred up that dust and formed Adam, a living, breathing, seeing person…
Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.
That’s not the only reference we have in Scripture to clay. Actually, we learn in Isaiah that God is himself the Potter, and we are the clay.
What sorrow awaits those who try to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their evil deeds in the dark!
“The Lord can’t see us,” they say.
“He doesn’t know what’s going on!”
How foolish can you be?
He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay!
Should the created thing say of the one who made it,
“He didn’t make me”?
Does a jar ever say,
“The potter who made me is stupid”?
So now Jesus, the Son of God, who formed man out of mud, who is referred to as the Potter in Isaiah — we see God once more, this time in the form of Christ, bending down and making clay. Can you see it?
I’ve tried my hand at sculpting with clay, and if there’s one thing I can say about it, it’s that I’m never satisfied with the finished product. I can always see something else that needs to be tweaked. So in that vein, we hear Jesus say that the man was born blind not because of any sin…but so the power of God could be seen in him.
The power that turned dust into man, that molds us like clay, bent down, made some more clay, and tweaked that blind man’s eyes. To our scientific viewpoint, it may be that the miracle was in the content of his saliva. Surly the creator of the world has exactly what it takes to make the imperfect perfect. Some might even say that Christ’s saliva contained…you guessed it…stem cells — the basis of human cells, at least as far as we know it.
Jesus told the man to go wash off the mud, and as the man did so, he was suddenly able to see. This happened on the Sabbath.
Going from darkness to light like that — what must that have been like? The wide-eyed wonder of a baby, drinking in all the faces and sights, must have rushed in like a freight train in that man’s brain.
Was there a celebration after this miracle? Did the Pharisee GrapeVine News report on this event with awe and wonder? Nope. Afraid not. This miracle of restoring sight to the blind threw a big monkey wrench in the Pharisee’s worldview.
You see, they didn’t know what to make of Jesus. They had their little comfortable world where they were the know-it-alls as far as religion went. They knew all the laws and obeyed them even to the point of denying food to a poor person if it meant they had to lift a finger on the Sabbath. They even made more laws. They looked at the world through their know-it-all glasses, but Jesus did not fit in their picture. Yes, he somehow made it look like he did a miracle, but surely it couldn’t have come from God because it happened on the Sabbath, and everybody knows that no one is permitted to work on the Sabbath!
They just couldn’t get over it. They questioned the blind man not once, not twice, but three times — and they questioned his parents as well because they thought it impossible that a man outside their realm had the power to do such an amazing thing.
Here’s a snippet of their exchange, from John 9:
So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this,[b] because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”
“I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”
“But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”
“Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses! We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”
“Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”
34 “You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.
Hmm. Even after his testimony, they refused to “see.” Jesus knew this about them, and he used the example to talk about what could be called spiritual blindness. Though they had been blessed with sight, were respected members of society, and were people to whom others went for answers, they did not possess the kind of sight Jesus was looking for. He was looking for people who would see him for who he was…and he found that in a man whose only occupation was that of a beggar…the lowest of the low, according to the Pharisees. Remember, it was common thought in those days that the blindness was a punishment for sin. So it was easy to look down on that blind beggar — his parents must have sinned big-time for that to happen, they thought.
Jesus sought out the blind-man-who-now-can-see, and he asked him about the Pharisees’ interrogation.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?[c]” The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”
“You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”
“Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.
Then Jesus told him,[d] “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see[e] that they are blind.”
Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”
“If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.
The Pharisees thought they knew it all. They thought they understood and “saw” spiritual truths. But they were wrong. They did not see. What jumps out at me here is that Jesus came not just to restore sight to the blind…but to show those — like me — who think they can see how truly blind they really are without him.
There is so much about my Lord that I don’t know! So much of the Scripture just rolls right over my head and onto the floor. I am just a piece of clay that hasn’t even been through the kiln…and like that pottery, I am blind unless and until my Potter gives me sight. Rather than feeling sad at that, I rejoice because it means there is so much more to learn! And Jesus speaks a special word to those of us who realize that we are blind. I’ll quote it again here:
If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied.
Those beautiful bright bursts of lights I saw with my eyes closed on the school bus years ago were only a foretaste of the glory I will see one day when I see the Lord. Until then, I humbly walk depending on him to lead me on, as surely and as trustingly as I would if I were blind and he was my guide.