1 Samuel 16:1-13/ Psalm 23/ John 9:1-41
Blind As Sheep: True Sight
Finding Hidden Objects
There is a game that I play on my tablet, which is a common and popular game: finding hidden objects. This type of game requires sharp eyes and focused attention. My game has several variations of the classic hidden objects games. My favorite is finding 30 or 50 of the same objects that are peppered throughout the image. I go through the image from corner to corner while picking out the designated object, but almost always, at the end, I realize that I haven’t found all of them. Then, my next step is to zoom in the image and pay closer attention to every inch of it to find what I have missed the first time. Often, I realize that the ones I missed were hidden in plain sight. I am sure we all have similar experiences of not seeing something in plain sight. Sometimes, on TV, we see a character looking for their glasses when they are actually on their head. We laugh at them, but we can also relate to them, can’t we?
Today’s keyword is sight. We will learn today that true sight is not what we can see with our physical eyes.
Healing the Blind Man
We read a very long gospel text. We read the whole chapter without editing because it is an important story. In this story, Jesus heals a man who has been blind from his birth. Since it was on the Sabbath day, the Jewish leaders who already hate Jesus use that as an excuse to criticize him.
They interview the formerly blind man and even his parents to try to get something on Jesus. Also, Jewish people believed that suffering is connected to sin, which is the question his disciples ask him at the beginning. So the people in this chapter think, number 1, the man who was born blind must be suffering for his own sin or his parents’ sin, and number 2, it is a sin to do any “work” on the Sabbath day. The hateful Pharisees get into a theological debate about whether the man who healed the blind man is from God and with or without sin. And they keep their arrogant attitude during the whole process.
The formerly blind man says, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” And the arrogant Pharisees say, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drive him out.
What happens next is the real point of the story. Jesus points out that the Pharisees who claim to see are blind. According to Jesus, they remain in sin because they think they can see, without the humility of the formerly blind man. They can see with their physical eyes, but is that really what matters? They think they know about God, but do they really? To the humble who metaphorically kneel down before God and ask, “Help me see the truth and guide me,” God will grant true vision with which to see the world.
This true vision is the values of God’s reign. If we can see the world through the lens of compassionate love, humility, and a justice-loving mind, we can see the world differently than those who are devoid of those values. Those without these values only see the world as a place to take whatever they can and climb the social ladder, which is called “upward mobility.” Those who aspire to follow Jesus and learn God’s kingdom values pursue “downward mobility”: a life of lowering oneself and humbly serving others. They choose to not to win and dominate. Seeing suffering siblings with compassion and wanting to serve them with humility is the true sight that God only grants to those who are humble and compassionate. Righteous anger against injustice is true sight. True sight belongs to God’s reign. It is like trying to spot a hidden object that is in plain sight but we couldn’t see when we skimmed over the image. It needs focussed attention and the sight of God.
The Lord Looks on the Heart
We saw an example of a true sight in the story of the prophet Samuel choosing young David as the king of Israel. On the outside, David’s many older brothers might look more like king material than the youngest, but to Samuel who thinks other sons might be God’s choice, God says, “The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
True sight does not rely on our physical eyes or our limited human intelligence. Samuel could choose the right person because he was guided by God. Remember the two middle level government officials in the Korean folk tale I told before? They failed to get a promotion because the high-level official that they were trying to flatter came in a humble outfit and they didn’t recognize him. If they had had true sight, they would have been kind to this humble looking man even if they didn’t know he was the one they were waiting for. Then he might have judged them favorably, which might have helped them to get a promotion sometime in the future.
Sheep and Shepherd Metaphor
Speaking of King David, this is not the first time I am telling you that what made him a great person of God, despite his flaws, was his humility and complete trust in God. God took a shepherd boy and made him king, and gave him wealth, power, and glory. Yet, he didn’t become a spoiled brat with an overwhelming sense of entitlement. We see a glimpse of this quality in Psalm 23. His son formed an army and rebelled against him. He is on the run. He is fearing for his life. However, he does not whine and moan to God. Instead, He shows complete trust in God with a shepherd and sheep metaphor worthy of a former shepherd boy.
Sheep are not known as one of the smartest animals. But the reason why the sheep and shepherd metaphor is perfect for Christians is because, with their lack of intelligence, sheep trust and follow their shepherds like we are taught to trust and follow God no matter what. They know their person’s voice and follow no one else. They blindly trust their person. I think of this whenever my cat follows me around the house, just stares at me with love, or knows that I will not hurt her when she lies next to me with her back toward me. That is trust.
We, like every sheep in the world, can sing, “God is my shepherd, I shall not want. God leads me beside still waters and restores my soul. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for God is with me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of God my whole life long.” This is an ultimate song of trust and intimate relationship with God. Being blind like sheep with God can give us true sight that God intends, thanks to our humility.
Our goal for the Season of Lent is to become closer to God, to look more like Jesus, to have his heart of humility and compassionate love. Let us pursue and pray for this humility and compassionate love of Jesus, and we will gain the true sight of God’s reign with which to see the world and God’s people. Only with this true sight can we properly live as God’s children and faithful disciples of Jesus.