Today’s reading: John 9
O Jesus who never leaves us in our loneliness and our pain, grant us the ability to see you in all people and all circumstances. Make us bold, like the man born blind, in proclaiming the ways you have revealed yourself to us. And come swiftly to comfort those who have been hurt by their communities. Amen.
Today we are reading the story of the man born blind.
I am grateful that Jesus immediately dispels the ableist, blindness-as-metaphor-for-sin reading that we, like the disciples, might otherwise be tempted to embrace. “Rabbi,” they ask him, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” What they mean is: Give us an easy theology of suffering. Give us a simple cause and effect. Reassure us of our own goodness and show us how to avoid pain.
Jesus refuses, touches the man, and gives him sight.
Today, I invite us to follow Jesus’s lead, to shed familiar ways of reading this passage, and instead to enter into the actual material circumstances of this text and this man. Let us reflect, for a moment, how thrilling and how disorienting it would be to suddenly encounter the world with an additional sense. And let us recognize how this man experiences what Scripture promises about our collective eventual end: God’s kingdom, for him, comes to earth all at once and makes everything new in the blink of an eye.
And I want us to linger, as the writer lingers, on the aftermath of the miracle. This is the part of the story, I would hazard to guess, that may feel painfully familiar to many of us. The man shares how Jesus has met him and worked in him, and his community and religious leaders reject his story. They take his testimony and twist it to accuse Jesus of Sabbath-breaking. They malign this man’s character and his place within their covenant tradition. They call in his family to refute his witness. Finally, the writer tells us with heartbreaking brevity, they cast him out.
I imagine the loneliness the man born blind must have felt. I imagine it perhaps felt a great deal like the loneliness of the progressive Asian American Christian. How many of us have been questioned, maligned, abused, or cast out of faith communities simply for attesting to how we’ve experienced God in our queerness, our femininity, our disabilities, our politics, our racial identities, and so forth? How many of us have been told that the very places where Jesus meets us and gives us life are unacceptable, are actually sinful?
What comes next in this passage has brought me to tears every time I’ve read it in preparing to write this reflection. When Jesus hears that the religious authorities have cast this man out, he immediately goes and finds him. He brings compassion and certainty into the situation. He affirms his experience and invites him into relationship. He restores his soul. This story shows us a Jesus who goes out to the marginalized, who binds up the brokenhearted, who will never snuff out a smoldering wick or break a bruised reed. My prayer for each of you is that you will experience this Jesus in all the hard and hurting places of your life, today and always.
Friend, where do you find yourself in this story? Perhaps you are a disciple, longing for a theology of suffering that can explain the pain of living in this world. Or maybe you find yourself, like the man born blind, boldly attesting to the radical ways God has revealed God to you. Or perhaps you are in the aftermath of such boldness, cast out from a community and so lonely you think you might die of it, waiting for Jesus to come and find you there. Or maybe you’re in the crowd right now, watching someone else being persecuted for righteousness’s sake, trying to find enough courage within yourself to become an ally, advocate, or accomplice to the marginalized. Wherever you are, what might this passage be saying to you?
Created by: Sharon Hsu
About the author: Sharon Hsu is a writer and graduate student in English literature. Her work has previously appeared on Tor.com and in Uncanny Magazine. She lives near Seattle, WA, with her husband and far too many Modernist novels.
Image by: Steven Lee
About the artist: Hi, I’m Steven, and I’m an 18 year old Taiwanese American. I’ve been doing fine art all my life, exploring digital art at Chapman University, and I also enjoy singing in choir and a cappella groups, playing violin and composing/arranging songs. Music, art, the love of Jesus, and sociology are the main focuses of my life, and I’m dedicating it to connecting the four of them in unifying and healing this world’s injustices along with others like-minded.