A couple years ago, we took a trip with our high school graduates, that included a cave exploration. We were very careful to enter the cave with plenty of flashlights and making sure all of us had a good helmet. We also had a guide who already knew the layout of the cave. During our trip into the cave, our guide had us gather in a circle, holding our flashlights. He then asked us to turn them off, one at a time. Slowly, as each person turned out their light, the cave became darker and darker, until the last person turned his off, and the cave was pitch black. I mean, you could not see your hand in front of your face. It was amazing. The guide then had us pass our flashlights around the circle, and told us to keep passing until we had our own flashlight back. When we all had them, we turned them on to see if we got it right. Then we turned them on again and passed them about half way around the circle. Our guide then told us to set the flashlight in our hand at our feet. Then, one person at a time began to journey around the circle to find his or her flashlight. This exercise was scary, trying to move through the cave, around people, without being able to see at all. Gradually we began to find our lights, but one person could not find hers. Rachel got a little nervous and began to ask if anyone knew where her light was. “What is it like, Rachel,” one of our group asked her. To which she responded, “It should feel yellow.” The whole group began to laugh, because, of course, without the lights on, we had no idea what yellow felt like. When she finally found her flashlight, we all turned our lights back on. It felt soooo good to see again.
Imagine what it must have been like for the man in this chapter, when he washed the clay off his eyes. This man was born blind. He had lived in cave-like darkness for his entire life. Then all of a sudden, the lights came on. “Once I was blind, but now I see,” he would tell the Pharisees. The Light of the world became light for this blind man.
On a spiritual level, this man represents all of us. We are blind, incapable of seeing and finding our way to God and eternal life. We had never seen the light, and didn’t really even know what light might be like. But then the Light of the World, Jesus, came to us and placed the healing power of the cross on our spiritual eyes. Then, like this blind man, we can declare that although we were once blind, now we can see.
The crazy thing about this story is the irony of the Pharisees. John tells this story in such a way as to show us that the person who begins the story blind, ends the story seeing and experiencing the light. But the ones who seem to see are really blind. The Pharisees claim to have the light and be able to see. But in reality, these religious leaders are actually in a cave with the lights turned out, and they don’t even know it. The light is in their midst, but they cannot see at all.
This story has an incredible application in our culture. We live in a time when so many people are seeking some kind of enlightenment, but they want it apart from Jesus. The atheistic enlightenment coming from universities tells people that true light is found in reason in science. The spiritual enlightenment of our culture promises inner peace and light when a person looks inside and embraces the divinity that is within. The dominant voice of religious enlightenment is calling for world religious unity that comes when people will reject any absolute truth and embrace religious pluralism. All of these groups claim a level of light. Yet, in the midst of this are people who have been transformed by Jesus, who, like the man in the story claim, “I may not understand it all, but I do know this. Once I was blind, but now I see.” May the light of Jesus transform your life today.