There was a man who was born blind, and this man was a beggar out in the streets of Jerusalem. I don’t know what it was like to be a blind beggar in first century Jerusalem, but I imagine there was a routine to it. The man probably woke each morning and went to the same place in the same town, where the same people passed him by and responded the same way each time. He heard people walking, smelled them as they passed, asked them for money, but he had never seen them and they never seemed to take notice of him.
One day the man heard a group of people walking past him, and they asked each other why this man was born blind, because of his parents’ sin or because of his own.
The man was used to hearing questions like this. It often sparked a debate or discussion about the cause of disease, the relation of sin and suffering. The next best thing to being noticed is being talked about, right? The question wasn’t new to him.
But this time was different. Among the men was a stranger, and this stranger took notice of the man. He didn’t reduce the blind man’s existence to one example in a theological debate; he saw the blind man as more than just a beggar in the streets. This stranger told the others, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins. This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
The stranger didn’t blame the man born blind. He didn’t blame his parents. The stranger said, “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
The blind man heard the group of men stop, and he heard a familiar sound; someone had spit. The blind man flinched. He knew this sound all too well. People spit on him often as they passed. He heard one of the men moving around, maybe bending down to the ground. He listened. He wondered what the man was doing. He felt a stranger’s hands rubbing something across his eyes, and the stranger told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.
The man born blind… What could he have been thinking? The stranger’s words were probably ringing in his ears, a concept he’d never heard before: “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” What could that mean? Who was that stranger, and what was he talking about?
The blind man left and went to the pool. Maybe he knew his way there, or maybe he had to ask for directions. Maybe he walked casually, or maybe he ran as fast as he could. Maybe he was confused and curious, or maybe he was eager and determined.
When he got to the pool, maybe he knelt down and cupped his hands in the water and splashed it on his face, or maybe he dunked his head straight in the water. But when he had washed, he could see! This man who had never seen anything could suddenly see! He could see the route he’d taken to the pool. He could see the men who passed him on the street everyday, the corner where he sat and begged, the sun he’d felt warm his face. He could see the clothes he wore, the ground beneath him. The blind man could see!