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Circles of Light

April 22, 2017

An exploration of John 9

By Rev. John W. Nupp

This article originally appeared in Fragment 3: Sight of the 2017 Annual Conference Devotional, MOSAICS.

What is the first thing you open every morning? The medicine cabinet? The refrigerator door? Your Bible? How about your eyes?

We cannot even imagine all that our eyes take in. Maybe you’ve heard that the colors we register in our minds are only a fraction of what we might perceive. For all the abundance of light waves which reflect the countless flowers and various skin tones in the faces around us, there are countless other realms of light that we cannot even begin to perceive. This adds whole new meaning to the promise of scripture, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love God” (see Isaiah 40:13 and I Corinthians 2:9).

Still, this lack of perception does not keep us from wondering and from asking questions. When Jesus and his disciples are walking along and see someone who is blind, they ask a question based on their limited perception: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus, as he is apt to do, sheds new light on the “problem” at hand (which, in all actually, is not a problem but a person, precious in the eyes of God!). Jesus speaks of night and day – things that we and the disciples can understand – to reveal something that we cannot see: this man’s life will become a canvass for displaying the work of God. The very reason, in fact, that Jesus has come, is to shine a light on this canvass, to draw attention to this work of God. As long as he is in this world, he says, “I am the Light of the world.”

In these words, Jesus says something remarkable; but even more remarkable still is what Jesus does. E. Stanley Jones points out in a series of devotions on the life of Christ that we follow the Concrete Christ. Not “concrete” in the sense of immovable or unfeeling, like a stone statue casting blank eyes above a suffering landscape, but “concrete” in the sense of real and living and active.  And so, Dr. Jones points out, Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world” and then promptly causes the one who was born blind to see. What he says, he does. Who he is becomes manifest in his actions, in loving deeds that touch the lives of others. 

You would think that this miracle would stand alone. In the other gospel accounts it might. But then again, John’s gospel is not like the others. For one thing, it does not contain any parables. If you don’t believe me, just look for yourself. You won’t find Jesus teaching on the Good Samaritan or the Sower and the Soils, the Prodigal Son or even the shortest parables, like the Mustard Seed or the Yeast in the Dough or the Pearl of Great Price. Instead, John’s gospel presents us with Jesus transforming people’s lives in the light of his life.

This transformation is not always as easy as changing water to wine, or as sudden as the woman at the well, whose life overflows into the streets of the Samaritan town of Sychar as Christ touches her heart. This new birth takes place more slowly in other lives, like the leader Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus by night (see John chapter 3) then speaks up on Jesus’ behalf again later (see John 7:50) before finally acting on his faith by taking Jesus from the cross to prepare for proper burial (John 19:39). There is so much going on in John’s gospel that we do not have time to trace it all!

Indeed, there is more than enough happening just in this Ninth chapter, where the Light of World opens the eyes of this man.  His transformation is met with questioning and confusion, then opposition, and even outright rejection. In the end, when he finally sees Jesus for the first time, he has been excommunicated from the synagogue and disowned by his family. All he gains is this simple trust in Jesus, the gift of seeing him face to face. Of all that we might see, of all that we can possible comprehend, what more could we ask than a glimpse of that face? 

The life of Jesus is marked by Miracles, by Overflowing, by the simple, profound gift of Sight. Jesus sees us. Jesus notices you, not you as a problem, but you as a person. Jesus is Light and Jesus brings Light. Open your eyes and you will see a lot of things wrong with this world. But I pray you can find the grace to see that smile, those eyes, full of love for you.

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