Prayer for Times of Blindness
March 30, 2014
I know that many of you have had, and are having, struggle with eyesight, so you have a personal stake in a lessons restoring vision have a personal. I understand. I know what it is like to hear the eye doctor say, “you have a torn retina. We should operate as soon as possible so you don’t lose your vision in that eye.” I know what it is like to keep your head in the same position for days after the surgery to keep that gas bubble in place to allow the retina to reattach. All to keep my eyesight.
The man in our Gospel Lesson did not have that experience. He had been blind since birth. He had never had known the red fire of a sunset or the glory of the first streaks of light of the morning sky. He never had seen a multi-colored carpet of wildflowers on a meadow. He had never seen the image of a perfect rose, or the innocent, trusting gaze of a baby’s eyes.
So what was his prayer for his time of blindness? Did he ask for healing? No—he didn’t even know what he was missing.
You may remember the story of the healing of Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus had lost his vision, so he knew what he was missing. He was sitting beside the road, pleading for mercy, and Jesus asked him, “what do you want Me to do for you?” Bartimaeus answered, “let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” (Mark 10:51-52). So Bartimaeus prayed two prayers: he prayed for mercy, and he prayed for sight restored.
But this man was different. Since he had been blind since birth, he didn’t have any concept of what sight was. Jesus gave him his sight anyway. He was able to discover a new dimension in living. He could see.
But in a way—in a spiritual way—the man still was blind. He knew that the man called “Jesus” had smeared some mud on his eyes and told him to go wash it off. He had no understanding about who the man was or where he had gone (v. 11). During his interrogation by the Pharisees, as they pressed him for his opinion about who Jesus was, the man first began to experience the limits of his spiritual vision. He answered, “He is a prophet” (v. 18). These words set the Pharisees into a frenzy like swarming hornets. Some kind of prophet he is. If he were truly a prophet, he would have waited one more day to comply with the Sabbath laws.
The man was desperate to get away from them so he could enjoy his new gift of sight. So they turned their interrogating search light on the man’s parents. They readily admitted the limits of their understanding. “This is our son. He was born blind. We don’t know how he sees. We don’t know who opened his eyes.
They go back to the man. “Give God the glory,” they said. “This man is a sinner.” To which the man replies, “One thing I do know, that although I was blind, now I see” (v. 25).
Let me pause here for an observation. Did you notice, that whenever the man tried to engage in theological speculation, he simply invited arguments back by the Pharisees; but when he simply told his story about what the man had done, the scoffers could not argue. Like Sgt. Joe Friday on Dragnet, he offers “just the facts.” “I was blind, but now I see.” The most powerful witness you can make is to tell the facts about what God has done in your life. You don’t need a seminary education; you just need to tell your story. What has God done in your life? How has He touched you?
I fear that so often, I fail to take note of God’s work in my life; perhaps you struggle with that same problem. We take the mysteries of life, breath, birth, consciousness, thought—and we give them scientific explanations. We lose sight of the awesomeness of the God who is behind these mysteries. Don’t get so caught up in the theology, the “head part” of religion, that you lose track of the most important element—the story of what God has done in your life.
We aren’t finished with this man yet. More importantly, God isn’t finished with him yet, either. The man does not have 20/20 spiritual vision yet. He still doesn’t know the truth about the man that healed him. So Jesus gets more direct. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him” (vs. 35-36). As I have told you before, when you read the word “believe” in the Bible, you shouldn’t think in terms of something that goes on in the mind. To believe is not something you do by nodding in agreement to some theological statements. I love the various creeds of the church; but you don’t believe by reciting the words of the creeds. To believe is to trust. To trust so much that you put your trust into action.
So Jesus says as clearly as He can, “I am he.” And the man makes his profession of faith: “Lord, I believe” (v. 38). He says it matter-of-factly, but it is far more than a fact. It is a matter of the heart. He has experienced who Jesus is. At long last, the eyes of his soul have been fully opened and Jesus has revealed to the man just who Jesus is. So the man falls to his knees and worships Him.
I suspect that this is where so many of us get stuck. We can be so much like the religious leaders who opposed Him. If Jesus doesn’t conform to our preconceived notions of who He is, we argue against Him. We remain blind. But when we let go of our speculations and let Jesus reveal Himself to us, when we simply accept Him with simple awareness and trust, He opens our eyes.
The Lesson goes on with a bit of a twist. Jesus then says, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind” (v. 39). I visited one of our parishioners this past week in her hospital room at UVA and we spoke about this Gospel Lesson. She asked the question: “why does Jesus speak about ‘judgment’ here?” As I thought about her question, I had to agree. The tone of the statement seemed out of keeping with the rest of this particular story. We do teach about Christ in judgment. A different writer named John speaks on the Island of Patmos about the final judgment; but it seems like such an abrupt change in direction, from today’s story about healing to a story about judgment. But the Greek word that is used here is clearly one of judgment.
I found some help when I turned to The Message, a translation by Eugene Peterson. Listen to Peterson’s translation of this verse: “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”
In this instance, at least, all that Jesus needs to do as “judge” is to be Himself, bringing “everything into the clear light of day.” In the chapter before this, Jesus had proclaimed these words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Those who have spiritual vision, those who can see the light, will walk in the light. Those who are spiritually blind will not.
So, how is your spiritual vision this morning? Have you been able to see the power and the presence of God working in your life? God may not come to you in ways that seem as miraculous as giving eyesight to the blind man; but keep in mind, that Jesus used some very ordinary means—a little mud and a little spit—to do the extraordinary. Are there ordinary ways in your life that God has touched you?
· Has God given you the ability to open your eyes this day to see “the beauty of the earth and the glory of the skies"? Don’t try to explain it; offer to Him your hymn of grateful praise.
· Has God given you the ability to appreciate the joy of ear and eye, for the mystic harmony that links sound and sight? Then don’t try to explain it, but join in the music and sing your hymn of grateful praise.
· Has God given you the joy of human love—the love of brother, sister, parent child, friends on earth, friends above? Then offer to God your hymn of grateful praise.
But if this is a day when you can’t see these things, if you are struggling with pain this morning, can you sing “Open my eyes, Lord?”
If this is a day when the pain of grief has reminded you of a loved one who is gone, can you still sing, “Open my eyes, Lord?”
If this is a day when you face uncertainty about who you are, and about who God is, can you still trust and sing, “Open my eyes, Lord?”
So what are the prayers for times of blindness? I can think of three of them:
· A prayer for revelation: “Open my eyes, Lord. I want to see Jesus.”
· A prayer of trust: “Jesus, I trust in You.”
· A prayer of thanksgiving: thank you, Lord.
May these prayers be in your hearts and minds this day!
Copyright © 2014 by Thomas E. Frost
 Preached at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia.
 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 2002), 1939.
 Folliot S. Pierpoint, “For the Beauty of the Earth,” in The United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989), 92.