First Mennonite Church
January 24, 2021
An Increasing Vision of the Son of Man
To most of us, if not all, the name Ray Charles might sound familiar. Ray Charles is famous for the song “Georgia In My Mind.” Ray grew up without a father. He lost his younger brother when he was five. He became blind at the age of seven, due to glaucoma. While attending the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, in St. Augustine, FL, Ray’s mother died. He was only 14. Ray learned to play the piano using braille. His teacher, Mrs. Lawrence, taught him how to use braille music, a difficult process that requires learning the left hand movements by reading braille with the right hand and learning the right hand movements by reading braille with the left hand, and then combining the two parts.
A haunting question Ray’s life raised in many people’s mind and one which even comedians wondered was, why a black child, already born into poverty, would become blind. Why was this allowed to happen? Did he deserve to be blind? Was it something he did or didn’t do? Was it something his parents did or didn’t do?
During a tense moment between Ray and Bea, his loving wife, according to his biography, Bea tells Ray that the only thing that can help him is God. Ray quickly turns to her and says, “You have any idea how it feels to go blind and still be afraid of the dark. And every day, you stand and pray just for a little light, and you don’t get nothing. Cause God don’t listen to people like me.”
Many people, now and of long ago, in our culture and of cultures far away, think there is a correlation between sin and suffering or disabilities. For those familiar with the Bible, they believe they find such correlation in the Holiness Code found in Leviticus 17-26. Violation of those laws will not only result in bearing the “guilt of their actions,” but will also suffer the devastation and “fever that waste the eyes and cause life to pine away” (Leviticus 26:16).
Therefore, when Jesus met the blind man, the disciples’ religious belief about the causes of disabilities surfaced. They knew the man had been born blind and so they asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Perhaps the man’s parents were not the most exemplary human beings. The disciples, sort of, presented Jesus with a test with only two options.
Blindness is caused by
- Parents’ sin
- Blind man’s sin
But then Jesus added two more options.
Neither parents’ nor blind man’s sin.
He was born blind for God’s work to be revealed in him.
John tells that Jesus made mud with his saliva, spread it on the man’s eyes, and sent him to wash it off in pool of Siloam. The man did and recovered his sight. However, his healing soon became an issue of controversy to others. His neighbors were puzzled as to whether he was the same who had been blind but that was seeing. The religious authorities were jealous to know that it was Jesus who had restored the man’s sight. The man’s parents limited their involvement regarding their son’s source of the healing. But as for the blind man, he was consistent about his witness: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (v. 25).
The blind man’s story, here in John Gospel, is one with theological meaning. First, it is about the faith this man acted upon. The man had no idea what would happened, but he obeyed. He literally acted on “blind faith.” Upon being questioned about the identity of the person who gave him his sight, the once-blind man said, “Who he is and where he is from, I do not know.” Upon further questioning by the Pharisees, the man said, “He is a prophet.” But after his outing from the Synagogue, Jesus found him and asked the man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The once-blind man answered, “Who is he, Sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him. And the Jesus told him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped him.
My dear sisters and brothers, we have the ongoing challenge of developing our ability to listen and discern the voice of God when he speaks to us. This was the matter of my sermon two weeks ago. We have the ongoing need of realizing and acknowledging the presence of God in our daily lives which I addressed in last week’s sermon. But, we also have the ongoing challenge to increase our vision of the glory, holiness, love and righteousness of God in our lives.
The healing of the blind man by Jesus presents us with two aspects about perception, sight, and vision. The first is that of the disciples, which we should try to avoid. The disciples saw the man’s disability as evidence of God’s punishment for either this man’s parents’ sins or his own sin that he was born blind. Their judgement was based on the presumption that those who have good sight were not as sinful as those who were blind. It was likely that the disciples felt a little holier than the blind man.
We should be reminded of the words of Jesus who said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Luke 6:41-42).
We can be blind to our own faults and prejudices. So let us ask the Lord to help us see our biases and prejudices.
On the other hand, healing of the blind man is a good example of what should happen us also. His vision of who Jesus was came to him gradually. First, he had no idea who Jesus was nor where he had come from. But then, he came to the realization that the healer must be someone with a right standing before God in order to do such a miracle. “He is a prophet,” he later said. In the end when Jesus came face to face, the man said, “I believe, Lord” and there he bowed down and worshipped the Lord.
What is your vision of Jesus? Based from this story, we can be excellent examples of Jesus’ beneficiaries. We can rejoice in his love, compassion, and blessings, just like the once-blind man did. He recovered his sight, but he did not know yet the source of his blessing. The once-blind man even gave faithful testimony about his blessings: “I do not know who he is or where he is from, but he put mud on my eyes, sent me to wash and now I see.” We can also tell others how good God has to us, even when we might not know him personally. It was until Jesus came face to face with him and pose the question directly: Do you believe in the Son of Man? The happy and thankful man not only readily believed, but he also surrendered his life to the Lord. The word “worship,” literally means, to throw oneself to the ground in full surrender to someone greater than ourselves. To worship means to fully surrender to God.
My dear friends, the Lord is asking us, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Our testimony, “I was once blind, but now I see,” does not only come to a full circle when we believe in the Lord, but it becomes even more complete when we cast our lives before the feet of Jesus and invoke him as our Lord and Savior. And this is also an ongoing call. We must surrender to him today, tomorrow and every day, as long as we are alive. We must yield every aspect of our lives to his lordship. It is in that process of continuous surrendering to the Son of Man that our vision of who he is will grow in us. Amen!
 Ray Charles. www.wikipedia.com