I rewrote and added a bit to this post.
We have an old desktop computer someone gave our family a few of years back. The previous owner built it himself and at the time of its creation, it was constructed with the latest technology. As the years have past the computer has started to show its age. It’s glitchy, slow and running Windows Vista. We don’t use it much, so I didn’t really pay much attention to it. But one day, my youngest some (8 years old) was complaining about the computer’s “idiosyncrasies.” To help solve some of these issues I was going to erase and reformat the hard drive. This task never happened.
While looking for the CD needed for the reinstall, I came across 30 other CD’s full of pictures! Pictures of our boys. Pictures of family. Picture of friends. Knowing computers are moving away from disk drives I loaded the 5000+ pictures onto my computer and stored them all in the cloud. I am still trying to figure out how to save the old Hi-8 videos we took 16 years ago too.
As I was loading one disk after another of pictures onto my computer, it struck me as crazy to see how my sons have grown, changed and developed. Round cheeks have thinned out. Buzz cuts have given way to shaggy mops. Little fingers and toes have grown long and lean. Shoulders have broadened. The baby faces we once loved to squeeze, now need to be shaved. We no longer have infants or toddlers or even boys, we have crossed over into raising men. Jacob, our first son, was 6 pound 11 ounces when he was born. Now, he is 16 years old and racing to 6 feet 11 inches!
What a treat to be able to look back over the years of parenting and now see, in retrospect, the growth of one’s children. It give perspective and a unique vantage point that could not be possible in the moment. This trip down memory lane caused me to reflect on growth and develop of another kind, not physical growth, but spiritual growth. One of my most interesting discoveries in Scripture deals spiritual formation. It is one that allows the reader to see the developing stages of faith and growth within the context of one story.
The story can be read in John chapter 9, where Jesus heals a blind man. However, taken has a whole this story reveals something often missed when cut up into chunks for Sunday sermons. John’s account of Jesus’ interaction with the blind man is not about sin or healing. The true subject of this story transcends both of these topics, although these are the entry points into the deeper revelation.
In John 9 Jesus meets a man “blind from birth.” This encounter prompts Jesus’ disciples to ask a question about sin that he reveals is misguided. Jesus teaches his disciples this man’s blindness is not a result of personal or parental sin, but an opportunity for God to work out his method and purpose. The word “work” in verse 3 has a general meaning relating to the activity of industry with a social or ethical bent. God’s industry is rescue and restoration. With this in mind, Jesus tells his disciples to stand by because is exactly what they are about to witness.
Jesus proceeds to speak about his work (and dare I say, our calling too?) of bring light into a dark world. This is not a reference to opening closed eyes, but one of salvation and sanctification. Jesus says, “We must work (same word as vs. 3) the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” Then Jesus heals the man’s blindness in an unconventional manner and it is at this point the story really takes off. The blind man’s or should we say the formerly blind man healing leads to not only his ability to see physically, but also spiritually.
As we read through the rest of the story, we see the blind’s man has several conversations with the religious leaders of the day about his healing. It is in these subsequent conversations we can watch this man’s faith develop right before our eye. In these conversations notice what he says about Jesus. Notice how he describes Jesus. Notice the progression.
When asked by the religious leaders about his healing, particularly around the question of, “How then were your eyes opened?” (vs. 10, 17, 26) the man replies:
- a man named Jesus made some clay and anoint his eyes. vs 11.
- this Jesus was not only a man, but he is a prophet. vs. 17
- the blind men turn the tables on the religious leaders asking why they keep questions him about Jesus, wondering if they are interested him becoming Jesus’ disciple too (inferring he was a disciple and Jesus as his teacher). vs. 27
- he points out the obvious to the religious leaders reminding them no one can doing anything apart from God (inferring Jesus is from God). vs.33
- the blind man acknowledged Jesus as Lord. vs. 38
Here is the blind man’s progression of faith simplified from John 9. He saw and understood Jesus to be:
a man→ a prophet→ a teacher → from God→ Lord
The final destination of this blind man’s journey in John 9 ends or rather begins in worship (vs. 38)! Not just in confession (praying a pray, partaking in a ritual or showing up on a Sunday), but in the recognition that Jesus is more than a man, a prophet, a teacher and not just from God, but he is the “Son of Man.” The man evicted from his community of faith and worship, now worships at the feet of Jesus. The blind man moves from unfamiliar (calling Jesus a “man”) to intimate (worshipping Jesus).
Too often I believe we get stuck in one of the designation of Jesus:
- Jesus the good man.
- Jesus the fortune cookie spouting poet.
- Jesus the life coach.
- Jesus the cosmic consciousness.
But in our own lives we need to move past these designation or help other move past them to a place where we able to say with this man (and Thomas later in John 20:28), “Lord, I believe.” In the end, the blind man’s eyes were healed and his sight restored. But more importantly, this man’s soul is restored to its proper union and communion with its Maker. The blind man can not only see Jesus but he sees Jesus for who is and responds accordingly in worship.
Rarely, in Scripture are we afforded such a complete view of spiritual growth and transformation in one story. Such an unfolding of spiritual transformation, though not the only progression possible, is helpful to seeing the difference places people could be or need to be, even ourselves.