March 10, 2005 John 9:1-41
Don't Confuse Me With the Facts
For years, Emily had begged Tom to take her hunting. But he kept putting it off. He took his hunting seriously and enjoyed his time alone in the woods. But finally he gave in to his wife's pleading.
He took her to one of his favorite spots where deer were usually plentiful and instructed her on the rules of hunting. He set her up where she could get a good clear shot at any deer that came along. Then he trudged on, but before he could get into position he heard two shots.
"Oh no!" he thought. "If she gets a deer before me, I'll never live this down." Then he heard his wife screaming, "Now, step back. That's my deer!" As he raced through the woods he could see Emily aiming her rifle at a man whose hands were raised above his head. She yelled again, "I said, step away! That's my deer!" As Tom arrived at the scene the man yelled, "Okay, Lady. You can have your deer. Just give me a minute and let me get my saddle off of it." For this man at gunpoint, it was not a time to try to explain the truth. Emily seemed to have her mind made up.
Have you ever been frustrated by someone who just doesn't seem to see the truth, but doesn't want to hear the facts either? The story from John 9 is about healing a man who had been blind since birth, but centers around an inquisition conducted by religious leaders who seem to have no real desire to uncover the truth.
In the first chapter of John we are told that "In the beginning was the Word" and "All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being." Jesus was there at creation and was involved with creating.
So when he spit in the dirt and made it into mud and rubbed it on the blind man's eyes, he was only working on the creation that he had helped to form. He was completing the job. For Jesus, it was a natural thing to do. This man's blindness, which Jesus says was not the fault of anybody's sin, existed only so that Jesus could complete the work that God had started.
We look at this story and say, "Of course, it's so easy to understand. Jesus, the Son of God, gave sight to a man who had never seen. What's so hard about that? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out."
But that's because we already have our minds made up. We believe that Jesus was the Messiah. We believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Therefore, he could do those kinds of things because he could draw direct power from God — end of story.
The Pharisees who encountered the now-seeing man had their minds made up, too. Only they believed just the opposite. They believed that Jesus was getting his power from the Enemy, not from God. So they did what any upstanding organization, church or even government might do: They formed a fact-finding committee to study the situation. Only it becomes quite evident that they are not all that interested in the truth — if the truth does not uncover incriminating evidence against Jesus.
We've seen this in our own world, even in our own country, as when, in the early 1950s the Committee on Un-American Activities approached each targeted witness as though guilty until proven innocent. Similar things happen today too. We have all too often seen investigations become inquisitions in which the outcome was already decided before the questions are asked.
The Pharisees were already convinced that Jesus was evil. They knew that anyone who did not obey Sabbath law as they thought it should be obeyed could not possibly be working on the side of God. They knew that the enemies of God had powers to deceive the innocent and theologically ignorant into following false doctrines. All they had to do was to prove that Jesus was a fraud working for the powers of evil.
And so it began. The man that Jesus allegedly healed was brought before this council. They questioned him. Some of the Pharisees themselves wondered out loud how "a sinner" could "perform such signs"? But the consensus was that this man was never really blind, therefore Jesus had not performed any miraculous sign at all. It was an outright demonstration of a "don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts" attitude.
Not happy with this first interview, the Pharisees called in the parents of this man. They confirmed that the man was really blind, so the Pharisees had to deal with that fact. But this ad hoc committee intimidated the parents. The parents don't want to be thrown out of the synagogue, which they understand this group of Pharisees has the power to do. So when they are pushed into a corner to give their opinion of "whose" power opened their son's eyes, they plead ignorance and tell the Pharisees that their son is of legal age and that they will have to ask him.
Consequently the Pharisees have to bring in the formerly blind man a second time to answer more questions. Instead of the answers they want, the man actually starts preaching to them of Jesus' irrefutable connection to God. So they give him a good tongue-lashing and throw him out into the streets, out of their sight so they don't have to look at him.
The Pharisees failed to find what they were looking for in order to condemn Jesus. It seemed evident to everyone else who saw what had happened that Jesus was a servant of God who possessed great powers over the things of this world. The Pharisees just couldn't see it, however. They were the truly blind, and not even Jesus could give sight to those who refused to see.
Sometimes we refuse to acknowledge the facts because we've already made up our minds to the contrary. We might decline to offer friendship to certain persons because of the color of their skin rather than anything having to do with their personality or character.
We label someone "conservative" or "liberal" and base our acceptance of him or her accordingly. And people whose theological stance is diametrically opposed to ours cannot possibly contribute to the kingdom of God, even if they do have a good idea for helping the homeless or feeding the hungry.
It's true that Jesus interpreted things differently from the Pharisees, but in practice he was a good, law-abiding Jew. What he did was never for personal gain, and he went out of his way to help people. He preached love of God and neighbor.
He taught through a life of giving and sacrifice. He demonstrated that the term neighbor included the next person you met. He brought healing to the sick, sight to the blind and life to the dead. He hurt no one, but helped multitudes. Ultimately, he gave up his life for his beliefs, and for the people he came to serve.
Jesus was a peaceful, loving individual. Yet the Pharisees did not want to be confused by the facts. Their verdict was already in and nothing Jesus could do or say in being true to his purpose would ever convince them otherwise.
Two thousand years later, some of us still do not want to be confused with the facts about who Jesus really is and what he calls us to do. But those of us who are convinced about Jesus can live the truth. Stick to the game plan that Jesus set before us.
Love God and neighbor as we love ourselves. Respect and treat all people as being created equal in God's sight, for every person is our neighbor. Tend to the sick, offer sight to those who cannot see and life to those who are spiritually dead. Hurt no one, but help many. Ultimately, invest our lives in what Jesus taught, and serve those people for whom Jesus died.
Don't confuse people by arguing the facts. Simply love them with the truth.