Do you see what I see? Do I see what you see? The necessity of ‘eyes to see’ looms large in Christianity. While Jesus healed the physically blind, he simultaneously heaped criticism on pharisaic types suffering spiritual blindness. The problem was not they couldn’t see, but that as spiritual teachers, they were sure they could.
How can one possibly perceive the 'Light of the world' without spiritual eyes—without an ability to see beyond the physical? John 9 succinctly reveals these truths, and in likely the most memorable way in scripture.
“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world", Jesus announces to those around him, including a fellow he’d just met who had been blind from birth. What follows may be the strangest of Jesus’ recorded miracles. He “spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the [blind] man's eyes. 'Go,' he told him, 'wash in the Pool of Siloam' (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing" (vv. 6-7).
Preaching and reflecting on this on a recent Sunday, our rector Anne wondered how on earth a man born blind—and now with his eyes full of mud—could, as Jesus commanded him, make his way to the pool of Siloam to wash away the mess. We know he did of course, and perhaps some supernaturally endowed spiritual sight helped him to. After cleansing, he gained physical sight as well, sending the hyper-critical Pharisees into religious overload.
Jesus had worked a miracle on the Sabbath, and so violated the Sabbath ‘no work’ laws. But he really tangled up their taut tidiness with his next statement, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind" (John 9: 39). A better summation of Jesus’ ‘doing away with the Law’ may be hard to find.
"What? Are we blind too?" the incredulous Pharisees replied. To which Jesus answered, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9: 40-41).
Anne then illustrated the whole 'how do we see?' concept with a Sherlock Holmes story Conan Doyle may or may not have actually written. But her love of camping, and that it so lights up the topic, make it worth sharing.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of red, they lay down for the night and went to sleep.
Some hours later Holmes woke up, nudged his faithful friend and said, "Watson, I want you to look up at the sky and tell me what you see." Watson said, "I see millions and millions of stars." Sherlock said, "And what does that tell you?"
After a minute or so of pondering Watson said, "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets, and I also observe that Saturn is in the constellation of Leo.
Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day today. What does it tell you?"
Holmes was silent for about 30 seconds and said, "Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!"