Rejected and ejected.
But also dejected?
The man who had been reduced to begging to seek his bread because he had been born blind now could see. But had his life been made better? Far from it! His parents had backed away from supporting him, fearing his restoration from Jesus would get them banned from the synagogue, and from the temple. God-fearing people of little means, they simply could not afford the hardships and isolation that would bring.
Now, the man who had had his sight restored had his religion revoked . . . as it were. For without temple privileges, without synagogue meetings, fellowship, and community, he was little better than a gentile, for all intents and purposes, among his own people.
A man alone, now rejected and despised, acquainted with sorrows and grief. Who could comfort him? Who would dare risk it? Another man who understood—deeply—what he was going through.
Do You Believe?
The man who could now see had stuck up for Jesus at great risk to himself, and now Jesus came to give him full faith, courage and comfort.
Jesus listened and heard that they had driven him [the man with restored sight] out, and finding him said, “Do you believe in the Son of Humanity?”Jesus to the man with restored sight, John 9:35
Or Son of God as some ancient manuscripts have it.
The sound of Jesus’ voice was already the sound of authority and truth to the man who had once been blind. The man trusted that voice, even though he had never seen Jesus before.
This [man] answered and said, “Who is he, sir, in order that I might believe in him?”The man to Jesus, John 9:36
I wonder if the man was already thinking this voice, the voice of the one who had put mud on his eyes, was indeed Messiah. That is how it is when we are in something big and new. We need reassurance. He had just finished risking—and losing—all for the sake of the healer.
He needed to be sure.
Jesus said to him, “Yet you have seen him and he speaking with you is this one.”Jesus to the man, John 9:37
I literally have tears in my eyes, typing this. You and I can be so tough on people. But not Jesus. Jesus understood how vulnerable and exposed this man felt. He had just been stripped of everything he held dear for the sake of Jesus.
I Do Believe
Jesus drew the man to what he knew. He knew the sound of the healer’s voice. “My voice,” Jesus was saying to him, “The sound of love, kindness, healing, that voice is speaking. You know me.”
Later in this gospel, John would write of Jesus that his sheep know his voice. Here, in this conversation it was all the man needed, and he broke.
He just broke.
It does not say so in the text, but I see him falling to his knees, his legs already trembling with emotion anyway. In just a few hours he had gone from the life he knew, not a wonderful life, but a life that worked okay, anyway, a blind beggar seeking his bread by the temple, where worshippers passing by might tend to be generous . . .
To a life he had no idea how to navigate in. He gained sight, but he lost everything else. Everything. Else.
Remember, to be expelled from the temple/synagogue was a very serious penalty that would last the rest of his life, preventing him from associating with anyone who was in his community of faith ever again. Even with his own family and closest friends, he would be completely cut off, not able to eat with them, or celebrate holidays, or special occasions, or anything. And he could never again go into the temple.
Now, he was seeing what Jesus had given him along with his physical sight. Spiritual illumination.
Now he affirmed [this], “I believe, sire,” and he worshiped him.Man to Jesus, John 9:38
That is the last we hear of this man’s story.
How did he survive, after that? Did he have enough coins to wash up in a local tavern (since the mikvehs would be barred to him)? Did he continue begging, or did he find working that a sighted man could do? Did he every marry, raise a family? Did he become a member of the 120 close followers who stayed with Jesus through the resurrection, who waited and prayed in the upper room? Who were the first to receive the Holy Spirit, Whose tongues of fire gave them the tongues of every language group in Jerusalem?
I want his story to end well, to know that by God’s grace he was embraced by those who could help him start his new life. Maybe the disciples came to his aid, since they kept a common purse meant for just such occasions.
Jesus was revealing God’s purpose for the world, to restore the world by grace—to infuse and suffuse the world with God’s powerful healing restoring grace.
Remember what he had said about the man’s blindness? This is not about sin and judgement. This is about God’s glory.
And then rather than tell, Jesus showed what he meant: bring light into the darkness, make whole what is empty and lacking, restore what is marred, heal what is ailing.
You would think we would embrace grace wholeheartedly, we would be mad in love with grace. But, we are not.
We have made a life that works in the world we know. Grace disrupts all that, and we can be just as prone to resist and reject as to revel and receive.
What is the Gospel?
When you hear a gospel that promises everything will be amazing once you receive Jesus, do not believe that story. It is way more complicated than that. The blind beggar who brazenly believed then was banned could tell you different.
But! When you hear a gospel that assures Jesus will find you and be with you through thick and thin, who will restore you with God’s glorious grace, who will be the voice of love, kindness, and healing to you, who will know you and love you fully, and will give you new and everlasting life, who will shine his light into the darkness all around you and even within you, believe that with everything you got.
That is the true gospel.
[Cover Art, The LUMO Project | http://www.freebibleimages.org]