Public Perception vs. Personal Reality

“I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

-John 9:25

Jesus healed a man who was blind from birth.  The man had sat by the side of the road begging most, if not all, of his life.  In desperation, he cried out to Jesus… and in His love, Jesus healed him.  Rather than rejoicing with this man over the gift of sight… they were jealous of Jesus’ rapidly spreading popularity.  What begins to unfold is one of my absolute favorite stories in scripture.

His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”  Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!” But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”

He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!”

“Where is he now?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him.  The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?”

The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.”

The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents.  They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”

His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.”  His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue.  That’s why they said, “He is old enough. Ask him.”

So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”

“I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

“But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

“Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses!29 We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”

“Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from?  We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will.  Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind.  If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”

“You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.

-John 9:8-34

The Jewish leaders were so concerned with their reputation and strangle-hold on power that they would do anything to discredit the works/teachings of Jesus.  I can’t help but picture this story as a Monty Python skit every time I read it…  the love of Jesus versus the ridiculous pride in doctrine/rules of the church leaders.  The man who was born blind hears the accusations of the religious court and, in essence, says “I don’t know about all the bad things you claim about this guy… but here’s what I do know.”

Have you ever had a friend whose reputation was being undermined?  Have you ever known someone personally, who publicly was perceived as a different person than the one with whom you were acquainted?

I joke with my friends frequently about my being a thirty-one year old, who’s lived through seventy-five years worth of experiences.  Through the course of my odd childhood and my involvement in political and humanitarian activism, I’ve had the pleasure of running across/being mentored by many influential and well-known individuals.  Some of whose personification by the public/elected officials/religious institutions/media is completely different from the person I’ve come to know.

…and sometimes this means public (sometimes, even to the media) rebuttal of misperceptions…

Recently, I had a conversation in which a person who has been sometimes categorized as “controversial” was being undermined… my response?

I said, “I don’t really know about those things… and I don’t want to accuse the person who said them of being a liar. But… let me tell you about my experience with him…”

Call me an eternal optimist… a hopeless loyalist… but, I can love/learn from many people from varied (often opposed) walks of life… those who disagree or simply do not understand each other.

I walked away from that conversation feeling like the man who was no longer blind in the book of John.  However, I can’t help but think… the person with whom I was speaking was at least a little more enlightened to a multi-dimensional aspect of the intended target of the conversation.

“I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

Published by David Moscrip

David Moscrip lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife and three children. He writes and produces music, attends Knox Seminary, and leads worship at his church.

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