My first real job was in Washington DC. I took the Metro in each morning. A homeless man sat begging on the corner between the Metro stop and my office building. Some mornings I ignored him. Some mornings I nodded at him. Some mornings I dropped change in his cup, only to make myself feel better. I wondered: What happened to this man? Had he done something bad? Was he not raised well?
Jesus and His disciples encountered a man begging too.
He’d been blind since birth. Never laid eyes on anything. He had parents. They knew he sat and begged every day. They knew the way he was born better than anyone. As a parent, what do you do? How do you provide? How do you parent?
The man who had been blind since birth was on his usual corner one day when Jesus was passing by. Jesus saw him. He didn’t see Jesus. It was just another day. Voices streaming by. Shuffling of feet. Darkness.
Jesus’ friends asked him if the man or his parents were bad people, at fault for his blindness. Great question. Jesus answered his friends by simply saying, “neither this man nor his parents.” (John 9:3) Then Jesus spat on the ground and proceeded to make some mud pies with the saliva dirt mixture. He picked up the mud and put it on the blind man’s eyes. The attention from a stranger and the cold press on his eyes were likely a welcome change from the dark and lonely mundane.
His first two days in this new life of sight were not easy. He laid eyes on locals and religious leaders for the first time. He looked in their eyes and observed their mannerisms as they questioned him for a second and a third time. He saw them motion for others to retrieve his parents for questioning. Why do you not believe me? What are you doing with my parents?
The religious leaders didn’t believe it was the same man. A man born blind who can suddenly see after a Jesus mud facial? His parents, out of fear of the authorities, wouldn’t even stand by him through this trial. After the relentless questioning, he simply but profoundly said, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see…Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man Jesus were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:26, 33)
As a parent, this story encourages me and challenges me at the same time. For starters, it’s a resounding example of the life changing power of Jesus. When Jesus intersects in our lives, the old way completely departs from the new. We move from mundane and unhealthy to light and strength. Jesus overpowers darkness in a way you can’t explain; you just see the light and the change.
I’m also encouraged that we have a God who wants to serve us. At this point in his ministry, Jesus is continually surrounded by his disciples and the large crowds who moved with them along the journey. In this human congestion, Jesus still noticed. He stopped. He had compassion. He wasn’t consumed by being the center of attention. He wanted to make the healing of a blind man the center of attention. Grace was on display, in all its splendor and mystery.
Most of us do not face the issue of blindness in one of our children. But we do face children who are blind to the peace Jesus so freely gives because they are beaten down socially. We face children who are blind to adventure and the true joy of knowing God’s plan for their life because they are consumed by video games. We face children who are blind to the love and compassion of their parents and friends because they are swimming in the deep end of drug addiction. We all have our blind spots and our kids have them as well. As parents it seems we often lose sight of the blindness because we accept it as the norm. Or, we simply give up.
These stories from Jesus’ time on earth show us that He desperately wants something more for us. We, as parents, cannot overlook the power of God’s unfathomable grace. Jesus wants us in a posture of prayer, seeking for God to deliver a greater change in our kids and families, even if we’ve given up. He wants us to stare down hope and faith with a fervent passion to see God’s grace administered in fresh and dynamic ways for our households.
Jesus says to his disciples, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3) I really feel for the parents of this man. Not because they distanced themselves from their son and his newfound gift of sight under the heat of the religious authorities, but because they missed the opportunity to celebrate in this unfathomable miracle with their son.
Ultimately, God’s greatest display of grace is exemplified in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Light overcomes darkness for all of us when we accept this truth. Because of Jesus, God’s grace is active and alive. Sometimes it shows up in unexplainable ways in our kids. I don’t want to be blind to it; I don’t want them to miss it either.
No matter our response as parents, Jesus continues to love and to pour out grace. At the end of John 9, after our friend from this story is completely rejected by his parents, the authorities, and neighbors, “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when He found him…” When He found him. It’s easy to miss this part of the story. Jesus came back. Jesus came back to find him in his loneliness. Even after the miracle.
Maybe our greatest weakness is being blind to who Jesus really is.
I want mud to fall from my eyes.