“Twas Blind But Now I See”
Getting to the Heart of Luke
Rev. Tasha Blackburn
September 1, 2019
Do all children go through the phase when they want to walk everywhere with their eyes closed? I know I did. For several years of my youth I loved nothing more than to stand in my house, shut my eyes, and start walking. Looking back, I did it because I was certain that I knew every corner and step in my house and I wanted to test it to prove I was right. So, through the kitchen I would head to the hall, walk past the banister making sure I didn’t fall down the stairs. When I did decide to veer toward the basement I would test out each step, ready for that last one that was a bit shorter than the rest. I did this all the time, walked blindly through my house certain I had all of it memorized—and I gave myself double points if it didn’t even have to touch a wall.
Invariably there were some close calls because, of course, I did not know my house as well as I thought I did. I would forget if it was 8 steps or 9 until the landing. Or I would think I was only halfway through the living room when, all of a sudden, I would run into the wall. No matter how many times I did my little experiment I never did memorize that house completely. As much as I thought I could get through it blind, I couldn’t.
Jesus thought a lot about blindness. In fact, blindness was one of the reasons he gave for why he came into the world. He announces it at the beginning of his ministry when he goes to synagogue and reads Isaiah’s prophecy “the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind.”
Luke tells us that Jesus then puts the scroll away, looks at the congregation, and says, “Today this prophecy has come true right in front of you.” As you can imagine, it caused all kinds of consternation in the crowd. But if you remember back to the Isaiah scripture I read for you you’ll know that Jesus didn’t just quote Isaiah. He added to him. Isaiah mentions release to the captive and good news to the oppressed but he doesn’t say anything about those who can’t see. But Jesus does. He takes the prophecy and he adds to it: “the Lord has also anointed me to recover the sight of the blind.”
Helping us recover from our blindness is one of the reasons Jesus came into this world. It is a core part of his ministry and his work in this world because he knew people were walking around with their eyes closed. So many of the religious people Jesus meets are sure they’ve got their faith figured out, they’ve got God memorized down to the last corner and turn. There is nothing they have missed and nothing more they need to learn. Jesus wants to pry their eyes open so they will actually see.
He has spent the entire gospel, in one way or another, doing this. He has told parables and offered lessons. He has preached and he has healed, all to open people’s eyes and show them they do not yet know everything about God. We have spent our summer hearing his efforts. And now, in this last chapter before Jesus enters Jerusalem, he tries one more time. He tells them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem…where the Son of Man will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; and whipped and killed and on the third day he will rise again.”
We can guess what he is trying to show them, the part they are blind to because of the six things Jesus says are going to happen to him, five of them are horrible. He didn’t have to put it that way. He could have said, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem where the Son of Man will be killed but the grave will be empty and the stone rolled away and angels will speak and he will have a risen body and he will ascend into heaven.” But he didn’t. Because his friends were not blind to the resurrection. They could fit that into their house of faith. What they could not take in, refused to see, was that Jesus would suffer; that God’s only Son—the first and the last, the King of kings and Lord of lords—would be in pain.
So he draws them a picture—five horrible images he shows to them to make his message clear, to help them see; he will be mocked and insulted, people will spit on him and whip him, they will kill him—that is what he wants them to see but their eyes remain closed. For they already know everything about God, about how he works and who he is. That is what they believe because the idea that God could know weakness is unthinkable; that God could suffer is unbearable.
We haven’t changed much in the last couple thousand years. We do not want to see. A literal sign of this can be found in many churches around the country as they remove their crosses and replace them with hearts or symbols of the earth or the sun. That’s all right, there are lots of symbols of our faith. We don’t have to always have a cross in every room. But if we start to leave out the cross in our message then we are slamming our eyes shut to the vision Jesus gives us. We do this when we rush from palm parades to Easter morning with nothing in between or when we talk about Jesus like he was a superhero who was untouched by mere mortality. When we do that we are walking through the house blind.
I guess it really is true that all children go through a phase when they want to have their eyes shut. But Jesus came to help you recover your sight. He wants you to see that suffering is not outside of God. Your suffering, your pain and weakness, it is not beyond him. Your suffering is not a failure and it is not a sin. It is something each of us faces and, depending on how we face it, we can grow closer to Jesus. We can better know him, every corner and step. Because he is going to Jerusalem. He has to. He will not skip the hard parts. He will not sidestep the suffering. It doesn’t make him weaker to do this, it makes him stronger. Don’t you see what he is showing you?
I hope so, even though his closest friends didn’t. Just after they show their lack of vision, Jesus heals a blind stranger right before their eyes. Not to taunt them or to jeer but as a promise of what he can do. He can open our eyes. We don’t have to walk in the darkness of our own shut-eyed making. As hard as it can be to take in that God in Jesus has suffered, has been weak, has died, it’s a wonderful gift for all of us who are struggling to see.
Like all those times when I walked through my house blind. It always began with such bravado but bravado would quickly fade. It usually does in the dark. Noises would jump out at me and I would get turned around; home didn’t even feel like home then and what started as a silly game meant that everything was harder than it needed to be. This is what willful blindness does to us. It closes us off to what is right in front of us and makes every corner and step even more difficult, every suffering is worse.
It also closes us off to who is right in front of us, convincing us that we must walk these steps alone, that we are the only ones in the darkness. So open your eyes and see. Jesus came to recover the blind—and we children do love to play blind—but if you will open your eyes you will see that he is in your darkness with you. He got there before you in fact. For he had to go to Jerusalem. Can’t you see? For you, he just had to. Amen.