Summary: Jesus comes to us, and anoints us, Christ opens the eyes of our hearts, our eyes are opened. With our eyes opened, we are no longer blinded by the dark.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to what the fairly new movie Ray, staring Jamie Foxx. It is the life story of the soul and jazz musician, Ray Charles. The movie touched on Ray Charles’ life growing up and losing his younger brother in a tragic accident, an event that he blamed himself for during much of his adult life, as well as him losing his eyesight and the struggles that resulted for him as he learned to deal with his handicap.
By far, however, most of the movie dealt with Ray’s professional life, both his achievements and the dark side of his life. As we watch this film, again and again, we see a man who is struggling with the demons inside him, demons that manifest themselves in illicit sex but even more in severe drug abuse. There is a telling scene in the movie where he is involved in a confrontation with his wife. He has just been arrested on federal drug charges and he and his wife argue over his heroin habit. He believes that it affects no one but himself. She argues that it affects everyone around him because the habit has completely consumed him, to the point that his drugs are more important that his mistresses, his employees, his family, and even his music. Following this scene he does admit himself into a drug rehabilitation facility and straightens his life out once again.
As I was watching this movie, the life story of a blind man, the thought occurred to me that one could be blind in more ways than losing the ability to see. Such was the case for Ray Charles. Such is the case for many in the world around us. And, sadly, such is the case for many who are in the Church.
In our lesson this morning we see two kinds of blindness. The first is the obvious one, physical blindness. Jesus and the disciples were traveling, as they often are when they encounter a man who had been blind since birth. The disciples, whom I could make an argument for having a blindness of sorts themselves, see this as an opportunity to ask a theological question. They ask Jesus, whose sin caused this man to be born blind, the man or his parents?
To our more modern sensibilities this would seem like an ignorant question. You see, during the Biblical era, handicaps and illness were believed to be the result of somebody’s sin. We don’t tend to think that way as much any more.
Jesus responded that the man wasn’t blind because of sin, but instead to show the power of God. Then Jesus proceeds to make a mudpack of dust and saliva and spreads it on the man’s eyes and instructs him to go and wash the mud away.
It resulted in a rather shocking situation for the Jews. Many of these folks had known the man since birth. They knew he had always been blind. When they saw him, no longer blind, they questioned if it actually was the blind man. Many refused to believe it was the same man.
As a result the man ended up facing the Pharisees. That brings us to the other blindness in our lesson. It really is the same blindness that the disciples had when their primary interest was in asking a theological question rather than seeing the need in a rag-tag beggar, blind man. The Pharisees were more interested in knowing how the man got healed and that he had been healed on the Sabbath, a violation of Sabbath law, rather than joining the man in celebrating his new found sight.
Whenever the Pharisees were more interested in the law than they were in the effects that the letter of the law had on people they showed their own blindness. They were blinded by the darkness of their own world, by the power and prestige of their position. So are we. Whenever we overlook the needs of people we are blinded by sin, most likely in our day, the sin of apathy. We are blinded by the dark.
There is blindness on our lives. We are often blind to ourselves. In the movie Ray, Ray Charles was really blind to the real Ray Charles. He was so caught up in his drugs that they controlled him and his actions rather than Ray being in control of himself.
Whenever we allow the things of the world and the things around us to gain control over us we become blind to ourselves. It is up to us to get our own lives in order.
We are also often blinded to the needs of others. The Pharisees were blinded to the needs of the man that had been blink since birth. Ray Charles was blind the needs of many around him, most importantly his family. In one scene in the movie Ray comes home from being on the road and is met by an excited Ray Jr. dressed in his baseball uniform talking about how well his baseball team is doing and about a big game they had coming in a few days. It is obvious that he wants his father to come and cheer for him in his game. Ray responded as too many parents do, he didn’t have time, he couldn’t go. But, he would give them some money to buy them new uniforms. His response to the needs of his son was to throw money at a problem that money really couldn’t solve. He was blind to the needs of his son. All too often we too are blind to the needs of others.