The Pastor’s Pen – March 26, 2017

img_0343…‘seeing’ Eran…a short story

March 26, 2017

Scripture: John 9:1-38

Certain stories in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry lend themselves well to being shared in the form of a story.  As many of you know I like to write out such fictional accounts, holding close to the scriptural line but feeling free to inject a full measure of imagination on occasion.  And I would like to share today’s story of the blind man Jesus healed in John’s gospel that is found in chapter 9 in just this way…

For as long as he could remember his life had been pretty much the same.  Each day he would rise from his mat, wrap his cloak around himself, grab the piece of bread his mother gave him on the way out of the door and slowly, cautiously make his way through the winding alleys of the old city to his corner near the Temple where he would sit cross-legged for the whole day begging for coins from passersby who happened to notice him. Unlike many others he was a quiet beggar…hoping his silence would be less off-putting or perhaps more appealing to those who drew near.

Blind from birth, Eran whose name meant the same had lived this way for almost all of his eighteen years.  However, as with many who suffer from such a limitation, Eran’s other senses had grown very keen and though he could not see, he could sense his surroundings and navigate them fairly well after such a long time.  His hearing was acute and his overall sense of all that was around him gave him a picture probably filled with as much if not more detail than that of those who walked through the city with perfect sight.  Eran just seemed to know what was going on in his small corner of Jerusalem each day.

But he also knew the deep hardship his condition had caused his parents from the very beginning.  They were devout followers of Yahweh and faithful participants in Temple services and festivals.  However, when their son was born blind, a dark shadow was cast over them as Temple teachings taught that such a calamity was due to sinfulness and disfavor with God.  At first his parents were set back and blamed themselves, but as they could find no area at all in which they might have displeased the Lord, and as they were sure that their little baby boy was innocent as well they decided to ignore the taunts and stares of those who silently accused them and who chose not to include them in their circle of friends.  There were a few however who had been close friends before Eran’s birth and who knew his parents Gavriel and Maya who in fact remained friends, choosing as did Eran’s parents to let the issue go and to remain as something not fully understood.  

But even still Eran, from the time he was old enough to understand and definitely when he was old enough to go to the corner to beg, surely knew the feelings of those who passed him by, often mumbling under their breath that either he or his parents should be begging for forgiveness rather than a few coins.  As a young boy, Eran did not understand their meanness and bitterness but was careful to keep his own reactions to their poor behavior to himself, so as not to jeopardize whatever sympathy they may have had for the slight little boy sitting blind and all alone on the side of the road.

But as he grew older he began to understand that the way others felt towards him was just a part of the way the Jewish faith dealt with such a disability, and so while it still hurt to hear the comments, he somehow found a way to forgive those who uttered them for surely they had been taught to behave that way towards him.  For their part, Eran’s parents had taken great pains over the years of raising their blind son to instill in him a strong sense of self-worth, as well as a clear understanding that in truth his condition was not at all a result of God’s disfavor of him or his parents but rather just an unfortunate part of his life.  Somehow they taught him to love God very deeply and to rely on him in all circumstances…which his parents were sure was the reason he had so far been kept safe from harm throughout his young life, as well as the reason he seemed to have such a strong, almost sixth sense of his surroundings and of what people were thinking or feeling as they passed him by.  Truly, if one could be said to have a ‘blessed life’ without sight, Eran was just such an individual.

Lately though he had felt a new sense of urgency about the city, almost as if people were anxious or excited about something new going on.  Eran had not heard too much about it specifically but had come to understand that there was a new prophet in town about whom amazing things were being claimed.  It was reported that this man’s name was Jesus and that he came originally from the region of Galilee.  He had a small band of loyal followers and had been credited with performing some miraculous deeds of healing and deliverance.  

However, Eran also caught in the snippets of conversation as people walked by that this Jesus posed a threat to the Temple Authorities whom he seemed to oppose at every turn.  It seemed that no matter what Jesus did or said, they were not happy with him and great were the debates around town as to whom this new prophet or worker of miracles truly was.

For Eran however, of greatest interest to him was a story he had overheard regarding another blind beggar named Bartimaeus.  Evidently Jesus had happened upon him in Jericho and had somehow miraculously restored his sight by simply talking with him.  Eran was fascinated by the prospect of perhaps finally being able to see.  Not only would it open up the whole world to him, but it also might remove the stain of supposed sin that had overshadowed his parents ever since he was born.  And truthfully, the latter was almost more important to him than actually gaining sight.  He knew how hard his parents had worked, both to raise him in the love of God, as well as to constantly fend off the accusations that forever hung in unspoken conversations and furtive glances cast their way.  Eran so loved his parents that he longed to be healed of his blindness pretty much solely for their sake…after all he had no real concept of what it would mean to be able to truly see with eyes wide open.

These thoughts of who Jesus might actually be and whether or not he might be able to help him had filled Eran’s mind for several days.  He mentioned what he had heard on the street to his parents and, while his father Gavriel was a bit skeptical his mother Maya secretly hoped her son might come into contact with this strange preacher they too had heard so much about.  Somehow in her heart Maya was able to sort out the truth of who Jesus might be, separate from all the talk of the Temple leaders, probably due to the fact that she had long dealt with the same punishing questions and insults herself.  Maya had always had a close relationship with God.  From the time she was a young girl she had learned to call on and to wait on the Lord whenever she was troubled or had a deep need.  And so she was convinced that Jesus was more than the religious authorities were letting on and quietly encouraged her son to seek Jesus out if he came near to him.

And so it was one Sabbath morning, shortly after Eran had settled into his spot on the corner for the day, that he heard a somewhat boisterous crowd coming his way down the street.  He had no idea what it might be about but somewhere in all the confusion and excitement of voices he heard someone mention the name of ‘Jesus’.  Immediately he sat up straighter and tried to discern if what he had heard was just an incidental remark or if in fact the man named Jesus was actually drawing near to him.

He did not have to wait long however for as the crowd drew closer, suddenly they grew quiet and instinctively Eran knew they were all focused on him.  He heard someone say, “Rabbi, why is this young man blind?  Was it because he himself or his parents sinned?”  Eran felt an old sickening feeling begin to well up within him as he recalled previous accusations.  His distress was short lived however as he heard Jesus reply with the words he had only heard previously from his parents.  

“Neither”, Jesus replied, “neither he nor his parents sinned; this young man was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him today, in your presence.”  Eran’s heart almost skipped a beat as he listened to what Jesus was saying and a surge of hope that he might actually be delivered from his blindness began to cautiously form within him.  Jesus continued addressing the crowd saying, “We all must do the works of him who sent me while it is still day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

There was now an even deeper silence as the crowd believed they might possibly witness another miracle at the hand of Jesus.  For himself, Eran could barely breathe, not knowing if he should reach out towards Jesus or sit quietly and just wait.  He didn’t have to wait long however, for as soon as Jesus finished talking he bent down and spit into the dust at the side of the road.  Then picking up the dampened soil he made a paste of it and reaching out towards Eran spread it on his eyes.

Not knowing exactly what was going on, Eran drew back surprised but Jesus said to him gently, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam.”  And that was it…after saying that Jesus simply walked away and continued on his way down the street with the crowd following along behind, many of them curious as to why the young blind man was left behind apparently unhealed.

Eran however felt differently.  As soon as he felt Jesus’ touch on his eyes he knew something profound had happened.  He knew where the pool Jesus referred to was and quickly but carefully began to make his way over to where it was located on the other side of the Temple.  Arriving at the site he made his way down the stone steps and over to the edge of the rectangular shaped pool that had been carved out of the rock.  Fed by a couple of aquifers the water was refreshed constantly and as such was cool and clean.  Reaching the edge of the pool, Eran sat down and slowly eased into the cool waters.  Bending over he splashed water up onto his eyes and face.  Immediately Eran was able to see, and quickly shielded his eyes from the brightness of the newfound daylight.  Gradually his eyes adjusted and as he looked around and saw the world for the first time in his life, his heart was filled to overflowing with gratitude for what Jesus had just done for him.  Easing up out of the water he started shouting and joyously dancing about, unable to contain himself in his newfound freedom.

 He was not sure of what to do or where to go so he made his way back over towards where he had encountered Jesus.  He was so joyous and full of praise for the Lord that many people began to take notice of him.  Some looked at him strangely, not sure if he was the young man who used to sit at the side of the road and beg or not.  Others did not recognize him at all, never having seen him so animated and with his eyes wide open laughing and praising God.  It is sometimes so strange that the things we feel are impossible also prove to be somewhat invisible to the unbelieving heart…

Some of them there began to ask, “Isn’t this the young man who used to sit right here on the corner begging?  You know, the quiet one?”  Others answered, “No, it is not the same man, it can’t be.”  But Eran, hearing their questions kept saying over and over, “Yes, I am he, I am the one who was blind, but now I am able to see.  No longer do I have to sit here and beg for a few small coins every day, I can finally see!”  But many still refused to believe that he was in fact the one previously blind.  All of them however were curious as to how it was possible for someone to have their sight restored, and so they asked him, “How is it that you were blind this morning and now it seems as though you are able to see?  What happened to you that resulted in such an amazing change?”

Eran told them exactly what had happened saying, “the new teacher named Jesus came over to me at the side of the road this morning and made a paste of mud which he spread on my eyes.  Then he told me to go and wash in the pool of Siloam which I did and immediately my sight was opened and I was able to see.”  Hearing his story, those who had not seen Jesus asked Eran, “Where is this teacher?  Who is he?  How can we find him?” “I don’t know where he is”, answered Eran, “I did not see him, I only heard his voice.”

Some however, who had seen the whole thing from Jesus’ act of making the mud paste to Eran’s return apparently fully healed and whole believed and were amazed, and immediately asked him to come with them over to see the Pharisee’s in order to be approved by them.  Some of them however, were concerned about the fact that the day was the Sabbath and they were not sure what the Pharisees might say about that.  Once they arrived where the Pharisees were gathered and told them the amazing tale of Eran’s healing the Pharisees themselves began to question him, asking him exactly how it was that he had received his sight having supposedly been formerly blind.  Once again Eran patiently told them how Jesus had made a mud paste, spread it on his eyes and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.  He told them he had done as he was told and then had received the gift of sight.

Some of the Pharisees, hearing the story began to grumble amongst themselves saying, “This man Jesus cannot be from God for he has refused to obey the laws of the Sabbath, how can he dare to make a paste of mud and then direct this boy to go and wash?”  Others however disagreed asking, “How could anyone who is not from God perform such an amazing sign as this?”  And so they were divided and could not agree.  Turning to Eran once again they asked him, “What do you say about him?  It was your eyes that he opened after all?”

Remembering all of the abuse he and his family had suffered at the hands of men such as these Pharisees, Eran hesitated a moment before answering.  He truly believed that Jesus was from God and had felt a miraculous surge of love when Jesus reached out and touched him, but he also knew that there were many there who simply could never accept that truth, so challenged were they by any possible affront to their authority.  But, also remembering his mother’s tireless teachings on the grace and goodness of God he decided to answer as honestly as he could no matter what might happen.  Answering as directly as he could Eran said simply, “I believe that he is a prophet.”

At this many of the Pharisees began to mumble and quarrel even louder until one of them said, “Let’s go and ask the young man’s parents.  Let’s find out if in fact this young man was actually born blind after all or if this is all just a ruse.”

And so, the Pharisees followed Eran over to his parent’s house where they called Gavriel and Maya out to meet with them.  Overjoyed to hear their voices and now to actually see them for the first time ever, Eran ran up to them and in between sobs of joy and excitement quickly told them all that had just happened to him.  His parents were just as thrilled that their son had somehow received his sight and began to give thanks to God loudly, just as their son had been doing.

Looking up however, they noticed the stern and disapproving looks of the Pharisees who had come over to the house with their son and so they quickly regained their composure and grew very quiet as the leader of the Pharisees stepped forward.  Looking at them for a moment, the Pharisee began, “Is this your son?” they asked Gavriel and Maya.  “And if so”, he continued, “Was he in fact born blind as some are claiming?  And if that is true, how is it that now he is able to see?”

Maya stepped forward, speaking quietly and cautiously so as not to offend the Authorities.  “We know that this is our son, and we know that he was born blind, which is why in fact we named him Eran in the first place.  We know that when he left the house this morning he was blind, but for as to how he came to receive his sight we do not know.  We do not know for sure how it happened or who it was that was responsible.”  On that point Maya was careful to keep a level tone, for though deep in her heart she knew it had to have been Jesus who had healed her son, she did not want to anger the Pharisees as they had the power to throw both Gavriel and her out of the Temple forever, a place which had become for them their central place for fellowshipping with those few remaining friends they had.  And so Maya responded as honestly and as carefully as she could saying to the Pharisees, “I think you should ask Eran himself.  He is the one who best knows how this change came to be in his life.  And I am confident he is old enough and fully able to answer for himself.”

Turning back around to speak with Eran who was now standing off to one side the leader of the Pharisees said to him, “Give glory to God!”, or in other words, whatever you choose to say next, be sure it is the truth, for we are the only judges here of what is true and not true!  And then, while Eran was sorting through what the leader had just told him, the leader continued saying, “We know that this man Jesus of whom you speak is a sinner!”  Hoping that the faith within him would sustain him in the end Eran replied evenly saying, “I have no idea if he is a sinner.  But what I do know for sure is that I was blind this morning and for all of my life up until then, but now I see!  I must tell you, for me, I still believe he is a prophet sent by God!”

Still frustrated by the young man’s answer which for many of them just could not be reconciled with their previous training and understanding, the Pharisees again asked Eran, “What did this man do to you?  How did he open your eyes?”  Again, patiently but now becoming a bit frustrated himself by their inability to believe, Eran answered, “I have told you already, but you refused to listen to me.  I do not have another or a different story.  Why do you want to hear it again? Is it possible that some of you actually wish to become Jesus’ disciples as well?”

At this Maya gasped, for she knew that her son had just crossed a line in confronting the authorities so boldly.  But she was also so proud of the way her son had stood up for what was right and refused to be cowed by those who would not accept the testimony about this one called Jesus.  The Pharisees also took note of Eran’s rash boldness and were deeply offended by it.  Casting insults and angry looks in his direction the leader of the Pharisees reviled him saying, “You may be his disciple and follower, but we are the true followers of Moses!  We know that God spoke to us through Moses, but as for this man Jesus, we have no idea where he comes from at all!”

Emboldened by the accusation that he was now a follower of Jesus, Eran continued his challenge of the Pharisee leader saying “Isn’t that just the most amazing thing?  You claim that you do not know where Jesus comes from and yet it is he who was able to heal my blindness!  We all know that God does not listen to sinners, but rather listens to the one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the beginning of time have we had such accounts of someone being able to restore sight to one who was born blind and yet here I stand before you as just such a person!  If Jesus was in fact not from God there is no way he would have been able to heal my sight!  I think perhaps it might be you who is in fact blind!”

Now thoroughly insulted by Eran’s logical and truthful dismissal of their argument, the leader of the Pharisees answered back, “Listen young man!  It is obvious to us that you were born entirely in sin!  And yet you stand there and try to teach us?  Get out of our sight, you are a worthless sinner!”  And with that they drove him away from themselves, pushing him back out into the street and almost making him stumble so vehement was their rejection of everything Eran had said, but perhaps even more so because of what his healing seemed to represent, and how challenging this whole event was proving to be to their understanding of how to maintain control in the face of such a flagrant affront to their authority.

Escaping their grasp and heading down a side street so as to get away from the absolute fury of the Pharisees, Eran stood still for a minute.  Taking a deep breath he tried to compose himself but all of his emotions finally caught up with him and he began to weep quietly.  Here, in the midst of the greatest gift he and his parents had ever received he was being told all over again that he was worthless and totally unacceptable in the eyes of God.  All of the old insults came flooding back into his memory, along with all the taunts and the whispered curses and not-so-inadvertent kicks to his feet or legs there where he sat by the side of the road.  

Eran just stood there and sobbed and sobbed until it seemed as though he had finally run out of tears.  And then, almost as though the brightness of the afternoon sun had finally begun to shine on him, Eran remembered as well all of his mother’s loving words and whispered assurances and slowly came to realize that God truly was good and that Jesus was everything he had hoped, and slowly his heart began to fill with joy and gladness as it had when he had first washed off his eyes that morning.  So what if the Pharisees did not or could not believe him, he knew the truth of what had happened and knew the true source of the wondrous power that had finally given him the ability to see.  Now he only longed to find this one who had given him such a wondrous gift…he so wanted to be able to express to him his gratitude and joy.

Suddenly he heard the same commotion as he had earlier that morning.  A crowd of people were following after a slight young-looking man, asking him questions and trying to draw as close to him as possible.  Not sure at all who this was who was getting all of the attention, Eran just stood still and watched as they came closer, down the street to where he had stood sobbing just moments before.  And then, with a start Eran suddenly realized that this man was actually coming to meet him, as Jesus raised his hand and motioned for Eran to draw near.  

As the two of them came together the crowd once again grew quiet.  Some among them recognized Eran from earlier in the day as the blind beggar.  “Eran”, said Jesus.  Totally taken aback that this man knew his name, but more so because he recognized the voice of Jesus, Eran could only stand and stare at the man standing before him.  Jesus continued, “Eran, do you believe in the Son of Man?”  Not sure what to make of the question Eran answered, “Who is he sir?  Tell me so I may believe in him.”  At that Jesus looked Eran straight in his eyes saying, “You have seen him, I am the one who placed the mud on your eyes this morning, I am he.”  

Overjoyed at what he knew in his heart to be the truth Eran could only murmur, “Lord, I believe.”  And with that Eran fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, worshipping him and giving loud glory to God.  The crowd quickly caught on to the fact that Eran was indeed the blind one begging by the roadside earlier and who had now been fully healed by the loving actions of Jesus, and as if picking up on Eran’s enthusiasm, they too began to praise God with great joy and emotion.

Reaching down and lifting Eran to his feet Jesus said to him, “Eran, please take me to meet your parents.  I have so long loved them for their faithfulness and deep love of God.”  Wiping the tears from his eyes, Eran looked at Jesus and said, “Please come with me my Lord.  Come and meet the ones who first taught me that true seeing came from believing…and that truly believing would result in truly seeing.”  Smiling, Jesus looked at Eran saying simply, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”  Grabbing Jesus by the hand and leading the way home Eran knew in his heart of hearts that in fact Jesus had said it himself…for he had heard it each time his mother shared her love of God with him.  And as they turned the last corner and approached the doorway of his house both Maya and Gavriel came and stood to receive them in the doorway.  And seeing the look in their eyes as they gazed upon Jesus for the first time, and the exact same look in the eyes of Jesus, Eran knew that theirs was a relationship that had been first kindled long ago.  And in the depths of his soul Eran was overwhelmed with gratitude for what he now knew was the greatest gift of all…the gift of truly ‘seeing’ the love of God showered down on all around in the person of Jesus.

…and you know…that young man just sat there the rest of the night while a grand and glorious celebration carried on all about him…just looking…just seeing…as though for the first time…

…amen  

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