It has been suggested that the origins of denominations occurred when all the healed blind men in the bible met each other. At first they were all excited about the miracle of sight that Jesus had given them, but as they talked about how Jesus had healed them, they began to discover some significant differences. For some, the healing came with simply a touch from Jesus (Matt 9:29; 20:34). Another proudly boasted that he had enough faith so that Jesus didn’t have to touch him to perform the miracle (as recorded Mk 10:52).
Another meekly exclaimed that Jesus not only touched him twice, but also “spit on his eyes” in order for him to see clearly (as Mk also records 8:23). The final one really felt embarrassed to admit that even though a touch wasn’t part of his healing, Jesus’ “spit” wasn’t enough. Jesus had mixed his saliva with dirt and put the mud on his eyes and then told him to go and wash in some pool of water (Jn 9:6-7). Since each one thought his healing was normal and better than the others, they divided into spittites and non-spittites; muddites and non-muddites; touchites and non-touchites. Denominationalism was born.
Isn’t it funny how we often admit we are not an authority on one particular thing; we don’t have all the answers; we are prepared to take another opinion or view; we are, as the saying goes, more a ‘jack of all trades, and master of none’. But when it comes to God, and who he is and how he works…well, we are all experts; we’re masters and everyone else is a jack of all trades.
Like the spitters or the non-spitters, we know best and we know exactly how God acts or would act in every situation. We know he worked in our life in this way, therefore he must work in the same way for everyone else; we have our religion down pat and God all squared off; there is nothing new about God we don’t already know.
We all have religious glasses through which we look at God and understand him. You through the lens of the Uniting, me and others here, through Lutheran lenses; each of us, looking at God, seeing him work within the boundaries and scope of our glasses. We are confident, and we are sure that we have the right glasses because surely after 2000 years, we aught to know God; know his ways; know how he saves.
But has God ever surprised you? Has he ever done something so radical in your life, that he left you gob smacked; unable to say for certain that this is God working? Have you even been confronted with a situation that made you realize, that when it comes to God, we are not masters, but rather a jack of all trades? Why is it that God sometimes shocks us? Could it be that we are so darn certain we know God, so focused on our glasses through which we see God, when some miracle, or some tragedy happens in our life, we are actually blinded to God; we cannot see him in our situation and think it cannot be from him; he just wouldn’t do that; its fate, or good planning or just luck…but not God.
This is how it was for the Pharisees and the Jews in general. They had God down pat. He only works within the focal range of their glasses; through the confines of their lenses; the perimeters set by the laws of Moses. After all, God spoke to Moses and told him everything the people of Israel needed to know. The Pharisees’ glasses where not bifocals, they didn’t have another view of God; another way to see him. They were certain they knew God the only way.
Then, a man turns up, a man who was blind but now sees; a man who was once a beggar but is now free. A man that claims God did it; a man named Jesus did it.
How can this be they exclaim! This cannot be so, God doesn’t work this way. ‘”How were your eyes opened?’…‘Where is this man?’…‘How did you receive your sight?’… ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath?’… ‘How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?’… ‘What have you to say about him?’………………………
‘How is it that now he can see?’
Jesus spat on the ground, made mud, put it on the blind man’s eyes, he washed and he could see. Simple, powerful… a miracle; A God action. Yet they found it hard to believe, because God does not work this way, healing on the Sabbath, mixing with sinners and welcoming the unclean. It just doesn’t fit the glasses through which God is understood. And because of this, they can’t actually see Jesus is God. How ironic is that! The blind man sees and the seeing are blind! This is why Jesus says to them “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Yes, we can be so sure of God, so sure that our glasses are the perfect lens to see God, that we are actually blind to him.
Let us then contrast this sort of faith; this sort of certainty about God that actually blinds to the truth, to faith of the blind man.
Did he claim to know everything about God? Did he claim to have all the answers; the perfect ‘theology’ about God? No, all he knew was this ‘I was blind, but now I see’. His healing by Jesus; the opening of his eyes, did not give him the final and ultimate answer to God. And neither was it the end of his relationship with Jesus. Rather it was the beginning; the start of a journey of discovery about God; to discover who God is and why he did such a thing as heal him of his blindness.
Jesus never gave him all the answers, and with good reason. He wanted the man to grapple with the God questions; to struggle with why and how faith is relevant in daily life, and to debate and discuss with others the questions about Jesus, who he was and why he come. Jesus wanted the blind man to not only see the world, but to also see him; to have eyes of faith that are not dependant on others and their vision of God, but to have eyes of faith that are his own and that are dependant on him alone.
The man had to struggle with all the questions and doubt, the fears and persecution, the confessions and ultimately, the isolation of being kicked out of the temple. But as he took each step in his journey, as he made a confession about Jesus, God was opening his eyes of faith. From ‘I don’t know who he is’, to ‘he is a prophet’, to ‘he is from God,’ to finally ‘Lord, I believe, you are the Son of God; his eyes of faith are opened.
From the day of our baptism; the day we received the miracle healing of Jesus; the miracle of forgiveness and eternal life, to this present day, we are on a journey of discovery; a journey to discover the wonderful and glorious mercies of God; and to discover what it means in everyday life. We did not receive all the right answers about God that day. Our healing by Jesus did not give us the final and ultimate answer to God. Every one of us needs to grapple with the God questions; to struggle with why and how, to debate and discuss with each other the questions about Jesus, who he is and why he did such a thing as save a wretch like me.
And as we continue to do this, to confess out faith to others, to admit we don’t have all the answers; to allow ourselves to be surprised, to be baffled, to even be disappointed and persecuted for the sake of Jesus, then our eyes are opened to see God; our faith is strengthened to see him as the God who saves and redeems us from the grave, through the death and resurrection of his Son. To see him in Jesus Christ, who comes to us to give us his body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion.
And when our eyes of faith are open, we can confess our own faith, together with the healed man and together with each other, and we can say ‘Lord, I believe’ and we can join with the blind hymn writer, John Newton, and sing ‘Once I was blind, but now I see.’