There’s a story in the book of John that I absolutely love. Like all the gospels and their recounting of Jesus’ life, it’s a powerful reminder of what it takes to follow God and what we have to lose. In John 9, Jesus comes across a man who has been blind since birth. His disciples wonder what could have caused the man’s blindness, asking Jesus if the man or his parents had sinned and caused his disability. Jesus though, as he so often did, takes things to a next level and far beyond the simple wonderings of his followers. He steps up, heals the man of his blindness, and sends him on his way.
We often stop our examination of the story there, basking in the miraculous love of Jesus to heal. But in my opinion, the story really takes off in the next movement.
To be blind in that culture was to be a second-class citizen. You were not a full member of society. You were unable to provide for yourself, which was everything. This was a time and society that placed incredible value on your functionality and ability to provide. To be unable to take care of yourself or serve the one taking care of you made you an outsider in every sense of the word. Our blind man wasn’t begging on the side of the road because he thought it would be fun. It was his only means of survival.
So when Jesus healed him, our beggar not only gained his sight, he also gained a place in his community. Jesus gave him the chance at a normal, whole life. If it all seemed too good to be true, it’s because it was.
As people in his town saw him, healed and walking about whole and healthy, they were astonished. No one believed he could be the same man they’d always seen on the side of the road, but he insisted and told anyone who would listen what Jesus did for him. That caught people’s attention, the religious leaders included.
In no time flat, our healed man found himself called in front of the leaders and given an ultimatum: Either stop telling people it was Jesus who healed you or be thrown out of the synagogue. It was a cruel twist. To be put out of the synagogue was to be turned out from Jewish society. Our miraculously healed blind man, who’s just received a chance at life, is having that same life threatened, possibly all on the same day.
Imagine you’ve spent your whole life unwanted and looked down on. And imagine you’re given that all back. And then imagine someone threatens to take that all away and the only way for you to keep what you just gained back is to denounce the one who healed you.
I think of it in terms of myself and my brain injury. If Jesus came and found me, healed my brain, and gave me the chance to participate in life without any limitations. If in a single moment my life was transformed to one of equal standing, with full capabilities and nothing holding me back or keeping me down. And then I think if I’m that very same day people with enormous influence threatened my standing unless I denounced Jesus and said my brain was healed another way.
It’s heartbreaking just to think of having to make that choice, but our man didn’t hesitate for a second. Knowing full well the consequences that were about to come crashing down on him, he took his chance to give Jesus the credit and praise him one more time. For his troubles, he was thrown out of the synagogue and back into his old life as an outsider. His glorious new life and it’s all taken away from him.
So what was it all for?
The answer lies in Jesus’ answer to his disciples when they first wondered why this man had been born blind. “...This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This man’s blindness had nothing to do with being deserved and everything to do with giving glory to God, and by golly did he give Him the glory.
There will be great costs for your following Jesus. Mark my words, you will lose things you desperately want in this world. And it will hurt, bitterly. Following Jesus absolutely means sacrificing things you thought would mean the world to you. But those sacrifices will not be without purpose and that changes everything. There is something to be said for losing your life but gaining eternity.
We all face the choice of the blind beggar. It will look different for all of us, but we certainly face the same choice. It’s something we all need to be keenly aware of. What promises does the world use to threaten your relationship with Jesus? And are you ready to say no? It matters what you do.
And you will not be left behind in that choice for a minute. The last we see of our healed blind man is not abandonment. Jesus hears what happened to him and comes back just to find him. “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” (John 9:35-38)
In choosing Jesus, the man chose what could actually give his life meaning, despite his losses. The same is true of you. The cost of the world will never be greater than the care and love Jesus has in mind for you. Choosing him will always be the right choice, no matter the worldly cost.
Let’s find some joy,