I recently was standing in line at the bank behind a couple who where both legally blind. Did they wonder what the room looked like? Did they care about the colours, the advertisements, or the well dressed bank tellers? I wondered if they had any clue how handsome the man behind them was, or how long the line was ahead of them. The two dogs that led them safely into the bank were so well behaved. These dogs are trained to be so non reactive to people and even other animals. I wondered what life would be like to be blind-in fact I have discovered I am.
As they left the bank, I opened the door and watched them slowly saunter over to one of the busiest intersections in the city. I wouldn’t even cross this intersection on a good day. I think it was their vision impairment that allowed them to be so bold.
In Mark’s biography of Jesus he records a story that two others tell with their own variations – it is the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus*. Laying by the city gates of Jericho this blind man hears that Jesus is coming by so he shouts to get his attention. All of the accounts of this even record that he was rebuked for his boldness. Luke adds that it was those who were leading the procession Jesus was in, that were telling him to be quiet. Mark records that Jesus stopped and asked his disciples to ‘call the blind man’. They approach the man and tell him to ‘cheer up, Jesus is calling’. The man immediately jumps to his feat and throws off his coat and runs in the direction of Jesus.
It’s sad that those who have found Jesus are often not helpful in helping others discover him. I think there is this idea that we know how to manage God’s time. The gospels are filled with Jesus messing up the agenda’s of his handlers. If it was up to the gatekeepers Jesus wouldn’t have fed the multitudes, or stopped to heal the blind, the sick , or the lame. The biographies give us a glimpse of a different sort of God. If God is like Jesus then he is full of surprises. In fact I would say that Grace is always a surprise. It almost always appears when your running late, or are behind and ill prepared.
I have come to discover that I often better represent the hope and good news of Jesus in my apologies and humble posture than in my appearance that I have it all together. Why is this? Grace…surprise! Isn’t it funny that the same people who are telling the blind man to shut up are most likely the ones who are to bring him to Jesus
Jesus asks the man what he would like. “I want to see” he exclaims. ‘Then go, your faith has made you whole’ Jesus says. The man then joins the same crowd that rebuked him only moments earlier and follows Jesus into Jericho.
What a great story for all of us…what a great story of all of us.
A story that reminds us that there are two kinds of blind. Those who can’t see, and those who don’t see. Bartimaeus cannot see because of circumstances beyond his control. Those leading the way are deaf to the cries of this blind man because they don’t really care.
When the blind man says to Jesus he wants to see again, it is implied that he once could but no longer can. I have to believe that whose who where following Jesus, the disciples included were also once blind in some way. The fact that they were following him is because they now saw in him something they hadn’t before.
This story is about two groups of people, both blind, both who need to see again. It is a story that reminds me that some are blind, and others just refuse to see.
The question it raises for me is which one am I?