John 9 – Don’t Be Yourself.
Transparency, authenticity, being yourself, keepin’ it real, no games, what you see is what you get. A lot of us think it’s pretty important since Amazon coughs up over a hundred titles dealing with it. We admire and even expect it from others but find it harder to grow in the thin soil of our own life. A suggestion? It’s overrated. If being ourselves, keepin’ it real and no games were that important, this guy and this guy would be doing Christian seminars on it. A few things authenticity is not. First, it’s not turning our soul into a garage sale where friends, foes and their pets can rummage around looking at anything they want. If we’re really transparent, authentic and all that stuff, we should supposedly be able to share our struggles, sins, deepest hopes and those of those we know closely – with anyone. If we can’t, we’re not authentic. Second, if we’re authentic, we can do this on a dime. I remember a student who told me they could rip open the deepest places in their lives at a moment’s notice. This sounded bad to me at the time and I haven’t changed. Authenticity in a TMZ.com culture does not play to the gawking crowd (And Christians love to gawk into others lives as much as anyone – so we can pray for them more knowledgeably.) Some things are too intimate and valuable to be thrown open to public view. The list of those privileged to look runs short. And third, “being real” provides no excuse to brutalize or steamroll others just because “that’s who I am” or “I know I’m hard to get along with.” Let’s do something about that, okay? Before I’m done here, I’ll share two secrets.
Here’s one; transparency, being real, etc isn’t so much a goal but a by-product and result of something else. A guy who discovered a lot more than being who he was pops up in John 9. John must have liked this story; he draws it out, savoring it as he sprinkles the details in the way a master chef would season his signature dish. A number of cues and clues as to being ourselves pop up as we move toward my second secret.
“As he passed by…”(vv.1-3). Jesus Christ takes us in with a glance. Our glances speak of preoccupation interrupted. His speak of loving discernment quicker than lightning. He knew without asking that the blindness went back a long way. A lot of what others think about us is wrong. He or his parents must have sinned. Both probably did but that didn’t get him here. That blindness was a clean canvas waiting for Jesus to make the first stroke.
Jesus treated him like an individual, a person of value. Jesus’ healing methods ran all over the map; He did it long distance, touched, avoided touching. Here He made a poultice with His saliva. He tailored the method to the person. He touched, applied personal treatment and left the man to do part of the work. It worked and then the chatter started (vv.4-12). This is that blind guy who used to beg. No, it’s not, well maybe. I’m not sure. Advice from people who haven’t decoded who they are should be ignored. The healed man didn’t know everything but he had a better grip on it than the others.
They brought him to the Pharisees (vv.13-17). Some who yack into our lives have agendas of their own. They real deal here had nothing to do with a healed man (Isn’t this something to celebrate and praise God about?). Once again, Jesus broke their rules; He was a nasty intrusion into their worlds and a threat to their power. A healed man only represented one more wrinkle in the Jesus problem. Others do this too – they solve and decode us to fix or rescue us, because they know.
Some lose who they are by caring about what others think (vv. 18-23). A friend, a Christian, described how they bristle when anything comes against their family. “In Christian love, I would tear out their eyes and rip them into teeny tiny pieces.” While I don’t recommend the degree of her enthusiasm, I get it. When things come against family, we circle the wagons. We may climb our kid’s case but don’t let anybody else try it. That’s what’s so strange. The parents pull back and let their son take the heat; they leave him in the line of fire. Why? If anyone said anything good about Jesus, they would be excommunicated from the synagogue. In that day, this would be a serious local disgrace. But this is your kid! Who can now see! Throw me out of your stinking synagogue! They stopped being what they were supposed to be because of the opinions of others. They stopped being parents.
This was where John knew the story got really good (vv.25-34). “One thing I know…” (v.25) A touch from Jesus Christ did more for this man’s eyes than just allowing him to see red and yellow for the first time. I can’t help but smile and think “Yeah! Go for it!” while reading his boldness with the Pharisees. Part of this always floated around inside him but never blossomed quite like this. Our best shots at being ourselves, apart from Jesus, still sputter along encrusted and suffocated by our sinfulness. His blindness once defined who he was. This bold brassiness may have been cranky irritability or rude outburst of frustration at his sightlessness. Jesus Christ unlocks, polishes and infuses with power and grace things long-buried. And now this tiger was out of the cage!
“…you are His disciple.” (v.28) “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” A disaster cleanup crew needs to mop up the venom here. Give neither heed nor time to anyone who props up who they are by ripping up who we are. When Anne Rice re-explored Christianity and wrote her novels of the life of Jesus, she found in researching biblical scholars something different from looking into scholarship in any other field. While some may disagree with a scientist or philosopher, it was never personal. But even centuries later, she realized that some of these people just don’t like Jesus! Our newly sighted friend draws the same conclusion (v.27). Sabbath schmabbath – you just don’t like this guy!
Jesus knew the guy had taken his lumps over this and sought Him out with a strange question. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (v.35) Intellectually, every Jew did. Son of Man held the Jewish imagination in a powerful grip rooted in the Book of Daniel. There, not the name, but the Person shows up in both fiery miracle and astounding vision. Jesus simply tells a man with new eyes that the Son of Man stands right in front of him. The man believes (We’ll have to discuss what believing means sometime) and worships. He hit the ground. How could it mean anything less? Now my second secret.
A while back, my wife and I hit the twenty year mark at the church we serve. The people who survived our mistakes thought a celebration was in order. Anytime the people who know your sins still want to throw you a party, it’s a big deal. During the festivities of that remarkable day, a number of people said of me, “This guy is always himself. He’s the same person all the time.” My best efforts at “keepin’ it real” or being authentic could never match what Jesus Christ has made me. When His handiwork shines through my crust, I really like that guy and enjoy being him! Real personhood shines through us, not when we be who we are, but when we be what only Jesus Christ can make us.
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Please return your seat to the upright position and give the infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.