Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (John 9:1-41) transports me to a fictitious snow-covered Ecuadorian mountain in the Andes, where a climber named Nunez ventures out from his camp site one day and falls down a slope. He keeps falling down the icy cliffs for what seems to be miles and miles, until finally he lands in a soft snow mound, uninjured. He sees a village, and soon discovers that he has landed in the legendary County of the Blind. This provocative short story by H.G. Wells describes a village cut off from the outside world by geological shifts in the mountain’s rock formations, an isolated village that many generations ago had succumbed to an illness that left them all blind, and all babies that would be born to them blind as well. Nunez feels the sudden euphoria of power, as he remembers the old saying, In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king. He has so much to teach them. But his ambitions for power among these villagers soon get cut down. They take him for an idiot, as his efforts to convince them that there is actually a fifth sense called sight sound like nonsensical gibberish to them. Their other four senses are so much more keen than his, he appears to be a bumbling fool to them. After many frustrated attempts, he decides to give up the effort to convince them of the reality of eyesight and the beauty of the world. He becomes a servant in a household, and over time he and the master’s daughter fall in love, causing great scandal among the villagers. No one can bear the thought of their race being polluted by this inferior being. Finally, a village doctor comes to the elders with a proposed solution. Nunez is obviously suffering from a brain disorder, and the doctor is convinced it is because he has deformed eyes; their constant movement is bound to be what has agitated the brain to the point of madness. A simple surgery would remove the eyes, and provide healing and sanity for Nunez, allowing them to bless the marriage. The elders are excited about this possibility and communicate the proposal to Nunez, who reacts less than enthusiastically to the idea. He is deeply in love, but is that enough to sacrifice his vision, and all the beauty in the world? It’s quite a dilemma, and I won’t spoil the ending by revealing how he works it out.
When the cosmic Christ made his descent from heaven to earth and made the soft landing in a manger of hay, we could say that he, like Nunez, found himself in the country of the blind. His actions and his teachings were so far outside the norm, the elders of the community deemed him crazy, a fool, a danger and threat to their way of life. He tried to communicate to them what real sight was, what the Kingdom looked like, though eyes of faith, but since they didn’t have the capacity to see what he saw, they heard his words as gibberish and his actions as foolhardy. Here in today’s passage, he uses some mud to dab on the eyes of a physically blind man, and has the man wash off the mud in a healing pool. When the man returns to the community, looking around at the world for the first time, he is not met with shouts of joy and celebration and thanksgiving. He is met with an interrogation squad, intent on getting the dirt on Jesus and finding out what kind of threat he really was. All the blind man can say in response is to quote a line from Amazing Grace- I once was blind, but now I see. Later on, Jesus adds a new twist to the Country of the Blind story, confessing his true threatening nature to the Pharisees of the day: I came into this world so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind. The Pharisees had enough insight to recognize that this riddle was in some way a judgment on them.
We all have our blind spots in life, especially in our spiritual lives. We tend to gather with people who only see what we see, and treat the rest of the world as bumbling fools. Our blindness could be described as a type of myopia, a myopia of homogeneity, and lack of peripheral vision. Our brains have a difficult time processing those things that cross our horizon which don’t fit in with our preconceived notions of how the world is. So we seek out people who see what we see, and who don’t see what we don’t see, and we form fortresses. Over time we adjust to our blindness, and perceive anyone who enters our fortress and starts describing a different world as a grievous threat. Perhaps Jesus’ ministry of taking away sight involves blinding us to the world we have created in our minds, so that we then can be healed to see the larger, broader, more beautiful world that exists outside our fortress. We can raise a glass to that newly perceived world, and make a toast to all those who wish to see it – Here’s mud in your eye.
How about you? Where does this Primary Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.