Blindness

March 23, 2010

Blindness

Near Jericho, a great scribe was sitting one day quietly reflecting by the roadside. As he contemplated life and faith, a large and noisy crowd stumbled by. The scribe became intrigued by all the activity, as this was usually a relatively relaxed and quiet place to sit, so he called out to one of the passers-by, “What’s happening?” the man he addressed didn’t stop, but shouted excitedly, “Jesus of Nazareth is approaching the city.”

This wise man had heard much talk of Jesus, and so he eagerly joined the crowd. After some walking, everyone came to a halt, and silence descended upon the crowd. As the scribe looked up, he saw Jesus walking through the masses, talking with people and healing them. As he watched, a cry welled up from deep within him, and he began to shout, “Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but the scribe shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

As Jesus came near, he stopped and asked the man to approach. When the scribe came near, Jesus touched him and said, “Your faith has healed you.” At that moment, the scribe was blinded and began to cry out like a fool.

When all the people saw what had taken place they were horrified, but Jesus paid no heed to them. Instead, he put his hand on the shoulder of the scribe and whispered, “You will be blind for a while.” To this the man replied with a smile, “Oh, Lord, it does not matter in the least, for the moment you touched me I saw all that I ever needed to see.”

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On the face of it, this parable appears perverse. Instead of healing someone, Jesus leaves the scribe stricken with blindness. The scribe’s words reveal the truth of the encounter, though, and the experience of this scribe can be spooled out into a metaphor for the way we encounter the divine.

In this telling, the incoming of God is a luminosity, an impenetrable mystery, so bright that rather than illuminating and making clear, all is obscured and we are rendered blind by the presence. I don’t think this blindness is something to be feared, however. If God is known as unknown, defined as undefinable, then this blindness, this brilliance, should be expected. Our Western, post-Enlightenment minds want to make everything intelligible, but there are perhaps some things that elude description and must simply be experienced. Instead of attempting to name and articulate this inpouring of the Divine, perhaps we should instead quiet ourselves before it and let it blind us.

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One Response to “Blindness”

  1. Evan said

    Well said Christopher. This reminds me of a quote from Kirkegaard that has quickly become one of my favorites, “Faith is the highest passion in a man. There are perhaps many in every generation who do not even reach it, but no one gets further.”(Fear and Trembling, pg. 117)

    I would like to suggest that this is how we should approach the concept of Providence as well. We see all the horrific things that occur in this world and cannot fathom that God could allow this to happen (let alone be “behind” it). Of course, this is also part of our Western, Post-Enlightenment mindset and the concept of morality that has arisen from it. Actually, Kirkegaard has another quote in regards to this but I’m having trouble finding this, so I’ll just summarize it as best I can. Basically, what he says is that universal(moral)find its meaning in relation to the absolute (God). As hard as it may be for us to grasp, God isn’t constrained by our concept of what is moral.

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