Blind But Now I See
I groped around on the floor until I found my cloak. Finally my fingers closed on the hem and I lifted it, draping it around me to ward off the cold of the morning. I swung my feet off my mat and slowly stood, stretching my tired muscles. I had slept in the alley not far from the temple last night, my usual sleeping spot was already taken, and I had had trouble finding somewhere to stay. The air was still chilly as I began to make my way to the market. That was usually the best place to try to beg, people often would just purchase a little more than they needed and hand it to me on their way by. It was a difficult way to try to survive, but what choice did I have? I couldn't work...no one in the community was willing to hire a blind man. I had lived with my parents until recently, but they struggled to feed my many siblings. So as soon as I was old enough I set out on my own. Most days I ate enough to keep my stomach from churning too much. Many days I slept with the ache of hunger gnawing at me. Every day I asked the God of Israel to be with me, to help me to find a way to help myself and my family.
I arrived at the market early, I could hear the merchants still setting up their goods. Laughter mixed in with shouts of greeting as the merchants good naturedly joked about who would sell the most that day. I could hear Jacob, the fisherman instructing his apprentice which fish to lay out to be sold first. Marcus the man who sold fruit; figs, dates, apples, and pomegranates was talking to Esther, the lady who made soft cloth to make into clothing. I could smell the fresh baked bread of Martha and Ezekiel. So many smells and sounds surrounded this place. I couldn't imagine what it might look like.
I had never seen anything. My birth had been the cause of much celebration, being the first son. My father had received many congratulations and happy wishes from the townspeople when he announced that his wife had borne him a son. The happiness was short lived, for just before my dedication it was discovered that I was completely blind. Those who had just a week before smiled and rejoiced with my parents now turned their backs to them. My parents were young, confused, and ashamed. To have a child born without sight, surely they must have committed some terrible sin to be punished so. To their credit, they never made me feel ashamed. They loved me just as they loved my five brothers and four sisters. They taught me to do simple chores, my father even tried to teach me his trade, tent making. But other than carrying the material to him, there was little I could do. I occasionally helped scrape the skins, preparing them to be tanned. I could stir the skins as they went through the dying process. Poor Mama! Those days she would shoo Papa and I out of the house to go bathe, the stink of tanning and dying the skins clung to us for days.
I longed to learn a trade. I was sure I could learn to make pottery, maybe not carve the designs, but I could shape the pots. I could learn to fashion furniture, of course I would have to be careful not to injure myself. There were many carpenters who had lost fingers or hands, even eyes, to the sharp tools. Maybe I could even learn to fish. After all, they did much of their work in the early mornings, I could be out there before the sun was even up! The problem was, no one would take me on as apprentice. They said that it would be impossible for me to learn, how could I do any of the things needed to master their trade if I couldn't see?? But I could hear the pity and contempt in their voices. They still believed that my blindness was the result of sin. And they didn't want a sinner in their home or business. They were content to throw me a crust of bread, for the Lord said they were to care for the crippled among them. But to offer me a way to support myself? No thank you, they said. As if my 'sin' were something they would be condemned for!
I heard a voice close by, "here is a piece of fruit for you Silas." I thanked the woman offering it and said a silent prayer to God to bless her that day. As she and her companion walked away I overheard them talking about the young rabbi who was passing through the town. "They say He is a Healer." I briefly wondered what they meant by that, but gave it little thought as I sat eating my piece of fruit.
The next day was Sabbath. No market, so I found another spot, further from the busyness of the town. Today would be a quiet, hungry day. No market usually meant no food for me. I had kept a few bites from yesterday, so I wouldn't be totally without food. And if I got really hungry I could always pay my family a visit. They didn't have much, but they would share what they could. As was my practice I was spending some time in prayer when I heard the sound of many feet traveling the road nearby. I continued my prayers, then realized that the footsteps had stopped in front of me. "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Wait, they were talking about me as if I wasn't even there!
Then another voice. A soft, but strong voice that send shivers through me. "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world". What on earth was this man talking about? He spoke with such gentle authority, my heart started to race as I leaned forward, what was going to happen? What works of God did he speak of? And who was he to talk about the Holy God as if he knew His will? The next thing I heard confused me. I heard the sound of someone spitting. Spitting? Why would this man be spitting. Then I felt his hand on my head, and something warm, wet, and gooey on my eyes. I pulled back in surprise. Then his quiet words, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam."
I didn't dare disobey. Something in me told me this man was not like the rabbis at the temple. Not that I had had many dealings with them, but even I knew the difference between their aloof indifference and this man's certainty and peacefulness. Even his command seemed to be filled with acceptance and love. I stumbled my way to the pool and plunged in, scrubbing my face and eyes. When I emerged from the water I slowly opened my eyes.
I could see. I could see.
PRAISE GOD!!!! I could SEE!!!
I spun around in amazement, drinking in everything around me. For the first time in my life I could see... buildings, people, trees, shapes and sizes and colors... so many colors!! Things I never imagined could bring such a feeling of joy, just to look at them. I knew where things were, just from simply memorizing the layout of the town, but now I could see them. And it was amazing. I walked around the town, slowly making my way back to where I had encountered the men. Along the way I stopped many, many times to touch things, putting the feel of everything together with the look of everything. Making the connection between what I knew things were, trees, walls, carts, horses; with what they looked like.
Along the way I heard people talking. They were talking about the young rabbi the women had spoken of the day before. They were saying that He was said to be the very Son of the GOD of Israel. The Son of GOD? How could that be? It confused me, how could a simple man be the Son of God? But... I could see! I couldn't explain that, except to simply believe that only GOD could heal me. So maybe this man...JESUS, they said His name was... maybe He was more than just a rabbi. Maybe....
When I reached the small group of men I knew right away which one it was that had healed me. He stood in the middle of the group, talking to them, and when I approached the group He looked up and smiled at me, a joyous grin that spread quickly to include His dark eyes. I smiled back and He nodded and turned back to continue His discussion with the group. I watched Him for a short time, wondering... who was He? Was He simply a prophet? Or was He the Son of God, like so many were saying? He certainly wasn't one of the Pharisees. They would never think to do anything resembling work on the Sabbath. Might even be angry that this man had healed me on this day.
I walked then to my parents' house. As I neared the courtyard I slowed. My mother was sitting in the courtyard with my sister Anne. Their heads were bent together and I heard Mama laugh softly at something Anne said. Around them some of my other siblings played . Josiah held something he had been carving out of wood, not working on it of course because of Sabbath. Miriam was teaching our youngest brother Micah how to walk. Bart and Isaiah were throwing a ball back and forth. I drank in the sight of them. When my mother looked up and saw me watching them, I could hear her breath catch. She stood up slowly and stared at me. "Silas?" I could see the tears in her eyes as she struggled to understand what was different about me.
"Hi Mama." I looked right into her eyes, and she knew.
"Oh LORD, what...?" She fell to her knees and put her face in her hands. "How, son, how? What has happened?"
"The man JESUS, Mama. He has healed me!" I reached down and lifted her. " I can see Mama!"
"ooooohh. My son! Praise GOD! But how? What did He do?"
I explained to Mama what had happened, how I had just been sitting there and JESUS had chosen me to show the power of GOD to His disciples. I tried to tell her what it had been like to open my eyes and see for the first time, but I guess for someone who had always been able to see it was too hard to understand how amazing and overwhelming it really was to suddenly be surrounded by things to look at. My siblings took turns coming up to me and making funny faces, which I obligingly made back at them, causing the younger ones to break out in fits of laughter. When my father arrived home from temple I had to repeat the whole story as he somberly listened. "you know son, this JESUS is going to be in for some trouble. It is against Law to work on Sabbath. He shouldn't have done it." I looked in surprise at my father. Wasn't he happy I could see now? "well, he shouldn't have. It is against Law." he turned his head away from me, shrugged his shoulders and got up. "I am sorry son. But the Law is the Law, and we are expected to follow it. Even if it means our son is not to be healed." My heart sank as I watched him walk away. I hugged my mother and left.
The next day I was contemplating what I was going to do now that I could see, when a group of men came to me and asked if I was the one who had been born blind, but could now see. I said that yes, I was that man, and yes, it had been the man Jesus that had healed me. They told me that I needed to answer some questions at the temple, so I went along with them. When we arrived at the temple there was a group of Pharisees waiting. The looks on their faces chilled me and I felt sick with dread. But I said a prayer for strength and stood tall. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I hadn't asked to be healed, JESUS had made the choice to heal me on the Sabbath. Oh, I was glad He had, but I would not be ashamed for something over which I had no control.
They asked me, as my parents had, what had happened. I told them the story. I could see their anger growing as I explained how JESUS had claimed to be the light of the world, to be doing the work of GOD. They were silent for a moment when I finished, then began to speak among themselves. Some were certain that no one who was of GOD would do work on Sabbath. Others denied that anyone not from GOD would not be able to heal in the first place. They turned to me, "what do you say about Him?"
"He is a prophet." I knew that He had to be something different than all those rabbis I knew of. So He had to at least be a prophet. I could see that this answer didn't satisfy them. They talked among themselves for a bit, then decided that they needed to be sure that I really had been blind, that I wasn't just making up the healing. They decided that they would call my parents to the temple, to confirm what I was saying.
When my parents arrived I could tell they were afraid. They looked at me and Mama tried to smile, but she was shaking with fear. The Pharisees had already put out the word that anyone who confessed JESUS as the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. For devout Jews like my parents, that was a terrifying thought. Synagogue was such a central part of every Jew's life, that to be put out of the synagogue was to be cut off from God. It was to be cut off from your people, your friends and family. It would mean little or no work for my father. Maybe even hunger and a life of begging for my mother and siblings. I looked at my parents, knowing that what they said next could change all of our lives.
One of the Pharisees looked at my father. "is this your son,who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?"
My father hesitated, looked at me, swallowed. His voice shook a little, but he stood his ground and replied "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age; ask him. He will speak for himself.” So they would not stand by me. They would not take the chance at being put out of synagogue. So be it. I would not deny what had happened! My parents walked past me without looking at me on their way home. I said a quiet prayer that this would not be the end of our relationship.
They turned to me again, anger on their faces “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.”
I shrugged and replied “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.”
They asked again “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?”
Now I was getting frustrated, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”
One of them looked at me with disgust “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”
I met his eyes, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”
Oh now I had done it! They came at me and the one that had asked me first what had happened growled at me,“You were completely born in sin, and are you teaching us?” And they sent me away with orders to not return to synagogue.
Later that day I was sitting near the well when JESUS walked up to me. He had a smile on His face again. He sat down next to me and was silent for a moment. Then He quietly asked, "Do you believe in the Son of GOD?"
I was surprised. So many were saying that it was Him, He was the Son of our GOD. I knew firsthand what He could do. So why was He asking me if I believed?
I took a deep breath,“Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
JESUS looked at me then, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”
My heart began to race. It was Him!! “Lord, I believe!” I bowed my head and praised God for what had happened, for the healing, and for the chance to meet His Son!
And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”
Then some of the Pharisees who were nearby heard what He had said, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”
Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains."
Wow. The Pharisees were speechless. They just stood there dumbly, looking anywhere but at His eyes. Slowly they all began to drift away. Surely this would not sit well, surely they would be back to challenge Him again. But for now it was just me and... The Son of GOD. I looked at Him in awe, and He smiled one more time at me and blessed me before He walked away in the direction He had come from. I watched Him walk away, my mind spinning as I went over what had changed for me in the last few days. My life would never be the same. Never.