A Local Sighting, Part Two


Part One: Local Sighting

Part Two


You’ve just left the pool of Siloam. Your face is washed. Your eyes sparkle. And this time you are leading you mother. You find your way back to your neighborhood with familiar sounds and smells and now with fresh sights connecting the dots through firing synapses. You are almost there and you detect hubbub at the corner of Market St. And Way St.

Your neighbors, gathered, buzzing, are waiting for you. They want to see if you can see. But, they can’t believe their own eyes when you approach leading your mother and you are not hesitating with each step.

There’s a shout. “Isn’t this the man who used to sit here and beg? This is the corner Market St. and Way St., isn’t it?”

“Yes, and yes, it’s sure looks like him,” someone shouts.

“No, it isn’t!” another man shouts back. It’s got to be somebody else. These kinds of things don’t happen, not where I’m from anyway.”

As you approach the crowd you motion with your hand and say, “Yes, it’s me. Here’s my cup.”

“Well, then,” the one from out of town asks you, “how did your eyes get opened?”

“Those around me told me it was the man called Jesus! He made some mud. Then he spread it on my eyes. Then he sent me off to the pool of Siloam to wash. So, I went, and washed, and now I can see! I can see you.”

“And, we see you, but where is Jesus?” several ask you.

“I don’t know. I don’t know where to look. I’m new at this.”

Some men, eyewitnesses in fact, who were scandalized by the fact that Jesus may have broken some particular law on the sabbath, took you to the Pharisees for some jot and tittle questioning. The Pharisees had you start again:

“He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and now I can see!” You looked at them and saw their disbelief. Under your breath you said, “Ignoring reality will not go well for you.”

But they did and it did not go well.

Some of the Pharisees could no longer keep silent. “This man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the sabbath!”

Others said, “Yes, but, how can a sinner do signs like these?”

And so, the fact that you could now see had partys of Pharisees seeing things differently.

So, they questioned you again. This time they questioned the genesis of your sight.

“What have you got to say about him? they asked. He opened your eyes after all.”

“He’s a prophet,” you replied. You say Jesus is a prophet because unquestionable good is sent from God.

Doubting Judeans in the kangaroo court didn’t believe that you really had been blind from birth and now could see. So, they called your parents and grilled them.

“Is this man really your son,” they asked, “the one you say was born blind? How is it that he now sees?”

“Well, “replied your parents, who were very concerned about their synagogue status, “we know this he is indeed our son, and that he was born blind, but we don’t know how it is that he can now see, and we don’t know who it was who opened his eyes. Ask him! He’s a grown up. He can speak for himself.”

You knew that your parents knew how you came to see. You knew why they were holding back. They were afraid of what the leaders of the community would think of this yet inexplicable event. You also knew that you were blind from birth and that you were no longer sightless and that someone sent from God applied mud to your utter darkness. Reality would have to be dealt with at some point.

So, perhaps hoping to trip you up, you were called in for a second time of questioning. Some said the sabbath had been broken by Jesus-he did the unthinkable!

“Give God the glory!” they said. “We know that this man is a sinner.”

“I don’t know whether he’s a sinner or not,” you replied. (You never claimed to be able to see into a man’s motives.) “All I know is this: I used to be blind, and now I can see.”

Incredulous, they prodded you again, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

(At this point you recalled the story of Elisha’s servant: Elisha had prayed, “Open my servant’s eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” The LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and the servant looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. “Don’t be afraid,” Elisha told his servant. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”)

Unafraid, you respond, “I told you already and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again?” With a new-found gleam in your eye you decide to throw a hot coal into the inquiry. “You don’t want to become his disciples too, do you?”

“You’re his disciple,” they scoffed, “but we are Moses’s disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man comes from.”

“Well, here’s a fine thing!” you replied. “You don’t know where he’s from, and he opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners; but if anyone is devout, and does his will, he listens to them. It’s never, ever been heard of before that someone should open the eyes of a person born blind. If this man isn’t sent from God, he couldn’t do anything.”

Rattled to the core, the Pharisees denounced you: “You were born in sin from top to toe. You are going to start teaching us?” They threw you out so as to not to be defiled in the sight of God or man. Jesus did the opposite.

Jesus heard that you had been thrown out. He found you at the corner of Market and Way streets talking to your neighbors. He walked up to you and asked,” Do you believe in the son of man?”

Scanning the face of Jesus, you reply, “Who is he, sir, so that I can believe in him?”


“You have seen him. In fact, it is the person who is talking to you.”

Now it seemed that all of your brain synapses were firing at once. And this came out of your mouth, “Yes, sir, I do believe.”

You fall to your knees and give God the glory. No one demanded it from you, you wanted to worship the son of man, the one sent from God, the giver of light.

Jesus looked down at you and then around at your neighbors and spectators and said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who can’t see would see, and that those who can see would become blind.”

Some of the spectators were Pharisees, the self-styled purveyors of “a light to the Gentiles”. They heard what Jesus said to the crowd. Indignant, they retorted, “So! We’re blind too, are we?” They weren’t expecting a Kingdom of God inversion, one that would turn their world upside down.

“If you were blind,” replied Jesus, “you wouldn’t be guilty of sin. But now, because you say, ‘We can see,’ your sin remains.

The Pharisees walked off in a huff. The crowd, in wonder, remained around you until sunset.


The next morning your father wakes you up. “C’mon. Get up. Now that Jesus has put things right for you there is work to be done. But first, come and see the sunrise.”



The above account is found in the Gospel of John chapter nine. My retelling of the account has been embellished. The scripture passages are referenced from, “The Kingdom New Testament, A Contemporary Translation”, N.T. Wright (I highly recommend this NT translation over the NIV or any other translation.)

A Local Sighting, Part One


You were born the same year as Jesus. Thirty-one years later you are a beggar, a blind beggar at the corner of Market St. and Way St.

When you were born cataracts covered your little dark eyes. No one knew how to remove them. No one dared. “God has ordained this”, the neighbors whispered.

The neural construction of your visual cortex at the back of your brain did not develop.  You received no visual inputs. You could not see your mother’s face during the first nine months of your life. Photons came and went unnoticed. You would not see “the heavens declare the glory of God”.

By twenty-six weeks you could perceive sound within your mother’s womb. By thirty weeks you could respond to the sound of tambourines at a wedding. While neurons were still migrating to their assigned location you could differentiate sounds. You began to learn through sound and touch.

After you were born, in the absence of visual stimulation, your brain reorganized the almost one-quarter of your brain devoted to visual image processing toward high-level cognitive functions:  language processing, memory function and auditory abilities greater than those of sighted persons. You were born blind but now your hearing is acute, able to hear the slightest echo off a nearby object.

You heard feet shuffling by. You heard whispering and gossip. You heard people talking about a man called Jesus who does great wonders in the name of God and yet the Judeans wanted to stone him. You wondered what sight would be. You had felt your mother’s face and a donkey’s snout. Texture and sound. His mother’s voice, a donkey’s bray and his father’s exhausted return home at the end of the day.

On the Sabbath you sing the words of a Psalm:

“Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face.”

The synagogue leader asks you, one of ten men required for public worship, to hold the scrolls open, one for the law and one for the prophets, as he reads them to the gathered.

You hear the prophet Isaiah read:

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,     and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you     to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land     and to reassign its desolate inheritances,  to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’     and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!

Then the scrolls are closed. There is prayer and then synagogue leader speaks. “The time of the Messiah’s appearance must be very near. When he comes he will throw off the shackles these Roman tyrants have placed on us and set his people free. Then, and only then, can we be a light to the Gentiles.” One of the men bestows a blessing on the gathered and they leave.

At festival time, as you travel along the road to Jerusalem, you are told about the Roman crucifixions. But the telling is nothing compared to the sounds you hear. Women are wailing, whips crack and anguished voices cry out for mercy. The repetitious hammering brings jolting screams and then moans and then almost utter silence as you walk past cross after cross. Your mother is crying inside her shawl and your father says “We must take comfort in the hope of the Messiah”.


One day the weight of a drachma hits the bottom of your cup. You are about to say “thank you” when you smell fish and hear a brusque Galilean accent.

“Teacher, whose sin was it that caused this man to be born blind? Did he sin, or did his parents?

The sounds of crucifixion come rushing back. You say to yourself, “They are talking about me and my family. What do they see that I don’t? And, who is this Teacher?”

“He didn’t sin, “replied another Galilean voice, “nor did his parents. It happened so that God’s works could be seen in him. We must work the works of the one who sent me as long as it’s still daytime. The night is coming, and nobody can work then! As long as I am in the world, I’m the light of the world.”

You tell yourself, “Night is when our family sleeps.” You scrunch up against the wall, hoping all this talk will pass you by.

But then someone spits. You hear the crowd murmur. Suddenly you realize that someone is touching your eyes and you put your hand up feel. There is a hand applying wet dirt to your eyes.

“Off you go”, says the Galilean. “I am sending you to wash in the pool of Siloam.”

You struggle to your feet. You reach for your walking stick and your cup. Your eyes, and now your head, feel weird.  “This is like a dream. Could this be night? Could I be sleeping?”, you ask yourself.

Your mother grabs your arm and tells you that Jesus has done this. Almost running she pulls you toward the pool of Siloam. You stumble along wondering what is going on in your head. You don’t understand that resources are being reallocated from sound processing to sight processing.

You stop. Your mother, out of breath, tells you to wash your face. You feel for the water and begin to splash your face. You splash more and more water on your face. Each time you do there is a change: as mud comes off it is replaced by a glow and then by a brightness that hurts your eyes. The glare of the sun’s reflection in the pool blinds you for a moment but you welcome it. You turn toward your mother’s voice and then you trace her wide-eyed smile for the first time with your eyes. You tell her that you can see her. She screams with delight. “We must go back,” she says. And so, you return to the corner of Market St. and Way St. where your neighbors are waiting.


To be continued…