Seeing Is Believing: A Retelling of the Story of the Man Born Blind
I remember this as clearly as the day I first saw light – my parents had taken me to a wise man in my village. I was so nervous. Even my parents were afraid. His voice was gruff. He did not even ask my name. He seemed distant. I could feel the coldness of his
hands… and his heart. He touched my eyes and mumbled. His touch felt like dry wood. “It a punishment for sin,” he said. “But we are good people,” my parents protested. “We follow the law and the prophets.” “Go your way, now!” he said, dismissing us. “God does not do this to righteous people. If you did not sin then your ancestors probably did. Don’t waste your time over this blind boy. Sit him down in the market place to beg. May be someone will have mercy on him. And remember to make him look more miserable than he is. He will have a better chance.”
Now you know why I said that I remember that day as clearly as the day I first saw light. The man’s words hit me like a death sentence. They call him the wise guy but I know in my heart that he was wrong. He only saw my eyes but did not look into it. He did not see my heart. “It is a punishment for sin,” he had said. That is what dumb people say when they cannot explain things.
I have no idea what my parents face looked like when the sentence was passed. I wish I could have. I felt my mother’s arms pull me to herself. I felt my back touch her comforting body. I know she hurt. She was trembling. It was as if she did not want to surrender me to fate. But I also sensed her absolute helplessness. I could sense it as her grip loosened.
Not a word was spoken on the way back home. I felt my mother’s hands. I think was quietly crying. “We start tomorrow,” I heard my father say. “No! We cannot do that,” my mother fought back. But I felt her voice waver. I knew that starting tomorrow I would be a beggar.
Hmmm... The life of a beggar! Let me tell you what that is like. You get dropped at the market place in the morning. And then you sit there all day yelling at the top of your voice till someone picks you in the evening. There are other people yelling too, you see. There are the lame, the mute, the deaf, all competing for the same leftover coins. It is pure luck. No one gives you money because they care. They do it because it will fulfill their own righteousness. The wise man was right in one thing. The more miserable you look the better chances you have. And here is something I do not understand. Why cannot they bend down and put the coin into my bowl? Most of the times, the coin bounces off the then I have frantically find it – that is if the lame guy who can see has not picked it before me. I dislike that guy. I think he sits next to me so that he can get my coins.
Here is the bright side of my work. I get to hear all the local gossip. People think that because I am blind, I cannot hear. You should hear the ‘big guys’ talk. They talk about how they get seats of honor at public functions and how they fast and pray and help other people. There is also a man they talk about often. His name is Jesus. The ‘big guys’ make fun of him. They say he blasphemes. They ridicule him because he claims that he is the son of God. Hey! I have an idea, if he really wants to prove that he is the son of God he could come and give me my sight. Then everybody will believe in him.
Let me tell you who I like. Her name is Maggie. She is the local prostitute. I hear them say nasty things about her too. But I know she is kind. She likes me, I think. She gets me an occasional pastry. I am sure she steals them from the rich guy’s house after they are drunk and asleep. She smells good. If I ever get my sight, I would marry her. “Keep dreaming.” I say to myself. Dreams are all I’ve got.
See, I dream that one day someone will come by, take me by my hand, and make me see. Hey! I hear people coming this way! I’ve got to get some attention before the other guys do. “Help me! Help me! I am blind from my birth, Help me! They are coming this way. I am going to strike it rich today. I hear them talk. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” “I can answer that!” I said to them. “When I was a kid my parents took me to this wise man who told me that my ancestors may have sinned. I thought that he was wrong.” And then I heard a voice that was different from all the other voices that I had ever heard. It said, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” See, I knew I was right! “Hey! Who are you? I like you. You must a prophet. Tell them. Tell them that I have not done anything wrong.”
And then for the first time in all my begging history someone did not throw a coin at me. Hands that did not feel like dry wood lifted me up to my feet. I felt his hands. They were moist… like my mother’s hands after the wise man had told her to send me begging. I think he was crying. I hear someone spitting. “You are not spitting at me are you?” And then I felt his hands over my eyes. He was putting something over my eyes. Gosh! It smells like spit… and dirt “Did you just eat fish?” It smells fishy. He asked me to go the pool of Siloam, wash my eyes and come back. I wanted to rush to the pool. If nothing else I needed to get this fishy smelling dirt off my face. Fortunately, Maggie was around. She took me to the pool and helped me wash up. And then… I could not believe my eyes! The world opened itself to me! Is this a dream? I rubbed my eyes and looked at Maggie. Gosh, she was beautiful. “Maggie, I can see!” I could not believe it. I sunk into her arms and wept. I could not control myself. I am glad Maggie was there.
I need to go back to him. He asked me to. I saw the ‘big guys’ on the way back. “What’s up?” I said. They did not like the new bounce in my steps. “Gosh, they look as weird as they sound,” I said to myself. I got back to the place where I used to beg and this man was still waiting there. I asked his name. “Jesus of Nazareth,” he said. “I have heard about you. They say you are crazy because you claim you are the son of God. Look what you did to me! Now they should believe, right? I’ve got to go and tell my parents. Wait till my mother sees me. “Maggie, will you go with me? I want my parents to meet you.”
“Where are you going, you blind idiot!” I heard some people say, “Don’t call me idiot! I was blind but I was not an idiot. But now I am not blind anymore and I am not an idiot. I know what you guys do to Maggie.” “You can explain that to the big guys. Come with us.” The ‘big guys’ said, “Is this a joke? How can you now see? “Jesus did it for me. He is a good man. If he gave me my sight back, he could be the Son of God, right?” “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath,” they argued. I have heard that kind of coldness before. Maggie had more sense than them. She said, ““How can a sinful man do such signs?”
Even though I hated it, they came with me to my parents. My parents could not believe the miracle but they were marvelously relieved. My mother held me and cried endlessly. Even my father was excited. He called all my neighbors. The ‘big guys’ were clearly mad. They said that Jesus was a sinner. I told them, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” They would not listen to me. They cut me off from the faith of my fathers. They called it excommunication. I also heard them say that they wanted to kill Jesus. Are they blind? They’ve got to be blind.
“What? He is looking for me? Jesus is looking for me? Mom and dad, I will be back later. I’ve got to go. He is calling me.”
You know what the best thing was? Even though Maggie was there, I could go on my own. I could see him. When I got to him, he looked into my eyes. Gosh, his eyes. They could look right through my innermost self. “Do you believe?” he asked. “How could I not? You healed me. You set me free.” I barely whispered.
And then something over took me. I know he lifted me up. But now I’ve got to fall on my knees. “I know and I believe that you are indeed the Savior of the World.” I cannot explain this feeling but it was like the moment I made that confession I could see more, better. I saw Jesus but I also saw salvation. Yes, I see… but I am also free… and also saved.
"Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see."
- Fr. Satish Joseph