In children’s movies there are jokes intended only for parents. Children don’t possess the necessary categories to understand a parents grasp of reality. It’s another way of saying that reality (as it is for kids) is not reality as it actually is. There is an innocence to this.
The same principal applies to adults. Like children, we only live at the height of our conscious awareness and never beyond it. As we gain wider aspects of truth, the bigger picture emerges which displaces our previous (smaller) version of reality. We call this maturity, spiritual growth, enlightenment, or salvation. Most people don’t realize this to be a deeply spiritual process especially when viewed in everyday frameworks. Gaining truth is always a spiritual process.
Spiritual blindness then is the inability or unwillingness to see beyond one’s reality. It’s a blindspot and we need help from the outside in order to see it. Blindness is when we lack the necessary light (help) in order to see.
The story of Jesus healing the man born blind (John 9:1-41) is more about spiritual sight than physical sight. The healing illuminates some who witnessed it (v.17), but casts a shadow on those who reject an alternative reality to their own (v.18). The entire story is a debate over the mechanism of healing with religious leaders who reject that mechanism. Many times in scripture, a physical healing is a means to new levels of spiritual seeing.
This story (like last weeks) is embedded within a larger discourse. John 8:12-9:41 explains Jesus’ claim to be the Light of the World. Light is what makes sight possible. World here is the Greek term “cosmos” referring to “all people.” This means it isn’t limited to a particular religion, tribe or strata of humanity. Spiritual light is all moments of seeing truth, whether the subject is drywall or God. Everybody gets this.
Religion’s main commodity is it’s exclusive claim to know the truth. It has created competitive religions. This fallacy is seen in this story as well as our modern age. If your church, temple, or mosque claims it has the only valid cinnamon roll recipe, then it sees about as well as the pharisees in the story (not very well). Jesus seemed to be pretty convinced of two things: First, that those who think they can see actually can’t (v.41), and second, that if anybody, anywhere has any spiritual sight at all, it was because he provided the light (John 8:12). Following the light (John 9:12) doesn’t produce the seeing (as religion claims), but vice-versa.
Jesus is revealing a cosmic dimension of himself. “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). This proves Jesus is not establishing a new religion, rather that if anyone ever has a transcendent moment with their creator, it was possible only by the cosmic work of Christ. All experiences with truth are valid, they are all Christ experiences.
Surgeons use bright lights. Light produces good judgement (John 7:24, 8:16, 26, 9:39), which is not only the backbone this entire discourse, but the entire purpose of Jesus coming into the world. The light of the world allows all of us into a bigger reality once we (who were also born blind) gain eyes to see.
One of the most famous verses in the bible is: “The Truth will set you free…” (John 8:32). Like the surgeon, truth is the by-product of bright light. Truth discerns shadow from the real shape of reality. What most people don’t realize is that this passage is directed toward the religious who started to relax their rigid interpretations of reality. The promise of freedom is offered to those who stay the course (“abide” meno v.31) “of relaxing” and remain students (“disciple” mathetai v.31) of the truth (“word” logos v.31). This is a much wider, inclusive message than “Only Christians will be set free.” Freedom comes when we see the light of God shining within every perspective.
What if the surgeon sees cancer but doesn’t cut it out? What if we ignore the weight limit on our bridge? Truth, like bright light, exposes aspects of reality we would prefer didn’t exist. Dim light makes us all appear better than we are. Once a blind spot is illuminated, we are no longer blind to it. Light then, also makes us responsible and accountable to the truth it reveals. What light have you rejected today?
What would Islam say to a prophet arising who was not Muslim? What would science say to a theory of the cosmos that undermines evolution? What do Republicans say about reform that comes from Democrats? And vice-versa? What do the proud and elite say to those who promote humility and equality?
These questions prove the point within this passage. We often choose our blindspots. “People love darkness rather than the light, because their works were evil” (John 3:19). When we hide from the light (like a cockroach) we prove that we don’t really want the truth like we say we do. If we can reject the truth by undermining the messenger, then we don’t have to undergo its transformation process. As someone who should know better (the church), our rejection of the truth is an enormous indictment. ” If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘we see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:10).
Jesus reveals universal reality (God) as synonymous with Truth. With every expansion of truth, there is a corresponding lift and benefit to humanity. Conversely, with the truth that we fail to apprehend or apply, there is a corresponding decline and increase of human suffering. Spiritual sight reveals that every problem is ultimately a truth (theological) problem.
We all have some truth, yet none possesses all truth. Thus we are only partial believers (followers) of the truth. The antidote is to humbly exchange our truth (not debate) and learn from one another (disciple/student).
The worst thing we can do to ourselves and this world is to reject the truth and close our eyes to the light of the world. Rejecting Truth is easy, just insist that the truth you possess is all there is.
Arguing our truth, rather than exchanging it, is the most godless thing we can do.