I just can’t get over this story.
I close my eyes, and I can see him.
Face dripping with mud, eyes blind, feet walking… groping, feeling, falling, stumbling.
I wonder if he hears laughter from those around.
Or if it’s just silence. That awkward, long silence when no one knows what to say or do.
And I don’t know why I’ve never seen it before in all the times I’ve read this story, but there is a detail hidden here that has changed the face of it for me. And brought it to life in a whole new way. John 9 tells about a man born blind. Jesus is leaving the temple after a toxic confrontation by the spiritual leaders, and here sits this man. Many who study this think Jesus’ encounter with the blind man happens as He is leaving the temple grounds. I’ve read many commentaries and discussions about Jesus strangely making mud with spit and rubbing it on the man’s eyes. But what follows is what has captured my mind lately.
After making the strange mud paste and applying it to the man’s eyes, Jesus tells him to wash in the pool of Siloam. Having never been there, I had never realized how far away that was. Jesus asks this man to walk 1,000 yards, or more easily understood, one half mile! Picture in your mind something that is ½ mile from where you are sitting right now. Try to imagine what it would be like to walk that entire distance – with everyone watching while the mud drips down your face, not sure of what is actually happening.
I wonder what he’s feeling. Is he hopeful? Embarassed? Or just plain confused? I’m sure he’s heard the mocking before. He knows what everyone’s thinking – but right here, right now, he walks on. This walk must have seemed unending. One half mile of walking in the darkness towards an unknown future with hope alone carrying him.Hope in the form of mud. He must have walked this road many times before – but today, 1,000 yards must have taken forever!
I think about my own long walks toward healing. Times when the road seemed too long and there was no guarantee of what lay on the other side. When my own swirling thoughts threatened to keep me trapped in a darkness of my own making. The voice of Jesus was so quiet – but it was there. Speaking through the mud, through the confusion, through the pain – saying “walk on”.
I think about a long walk of obedience – down the longest jetway of my life onto a plane to take me to Amsterdam. I had never felt so alone in my life, but I could hear that still small voice whispering in my ear, “walk on”.
I think of sitting in a NICU ward by my baby boy – scared, confused, unsure of where this road was taking me. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
Or times when I couldn’t even see a road, and the darkness screaming at me threatened to engulf me – but still His voice was there. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
So the blind man walks on – and so do we. Towards our Pool of Siloam – our pool of healing.
I can’t get over this story. Because it’s my story.
I don’t understand the mud. Many people smarter than me have pontificated long and hard about the meaning, literal and abstract, of Jesus using mud to heal a man’s blindness. I don’t understand His messy ways in my life either. I have tried, and I’m sure I will continue to try. But when the dust settles, I think the greatest truth comes from the mouth of one simple man who was born blind… “I don’t know. One thing I do know – I was blind, but now I see!”
What long hard road are you on?
Do you feel the heat of the stares of those around you? Does the mud sting your eyes and confuse your senses? Please don’t stop on the way to your healing! Listen – it’s His voice, saying “walk on, my friend. Walk on.”
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16