Lent 4A – Blind Spots
March 26, 2017
Some of you know that I drive a Toyota Yaris.
For the most part, I love this car –
It’s small enough to park
And yet has a hatchback so I can fit my bike in the back.
Actually those were about the only two requirements I had in a car when I bought it.
As I started driving my Yaris though –I realized there was a problem.
The first time I noticed it was on the beltway,
and just as I was thinking of moving to the right lane,
a car came up out of nowhere…
The car has a huge blind spot.
The story of Jesus and the man born blind
reminds us that all of us have blind spots.
Humans have a literal blind spot of course –
that place on the back of the eye without rods or cones
where we literally can’t see…
But we have spiritual blind spots as well.
There’s a fascinating book by Max Bazerman, called simply Blind Spot.
He says that humans have motivational blind spots because we have the tendency
to not notice the unethical behavior of others
when it is against our own best interest to notice.
This is a spiritual blind spot.
Jesus approaches a man who is blind.
And he sees a problem.
The disciples, the man’s neighbors, his parents and the Jewish authorities see a problem too –
but none of them see the same problem that Jesus sees.
They all have blind spots.
The disciples see the man and they think the man has a problem of sin.
Notice that when they see the blind man,
their very first questions is, “Who sinned – this man or his parents – that he was born blind?”
Jesus isn’t interested in talking about sin.
The man’s neighbors see the man and they see a different problem.
The man who used to sit and beg is not begging anymore
and in fact he’s not blind anymore.
They think perhaps the problem is this man was never blind in the first place;
that he was conning them all this time;
so they bring him to the authorities.
They think the problem is that they have been cheated – and they’re angry.
The Jewish authorities see another problem.
It’s the Sabbath – and if Jesus indeed did heal the man on the Sabbath,
then he was breaking the law.
It’s a legal problem.
The man’s parents are brought to the authorities,
and they see yet one more problem –
it’s a problem of fear.
They’re afraid to be tell what happened…
so they throw their son under the bus.
They say – go ask him.
The man who was once blind now has a different problem.
Because he tells the authorities that Jesus gave him his sight –
“This is what I know,” he says,
“I was blind and now I see,”
he is driven out of the community.
The blind beggar who once was an outsider because he was poor and he was sick…
Is now perhaps even worse off because Jesus has healed him.
The disciples, the neighbors, the leaders, and even the parents,
don’t see the same problem that Jesus sees.
They have what Bazerman calls ‘motivational blindness’
They don’t notice unethical behavior
because it really isn’t in their own best interest to notice.
They don’t notice that if there is a man who is sick and is begging
in your neighborhood…the problem isn’t the man….
It’s the neighborhood.
It’s the community who thinks it’s acceptable for someone who is sick
to need to beg.
Jesus heals the man,
And he confronts them with their blind spot.
Shamed perhaps, they don’t welcome the man into the community.
Instead, they send him away.
They think the best way to deal with sin, anger, and fear,
Is to distance themselves, to separate themselves,
from the one who they think is causing it.
They’d prefer to keep their blind spots.
Jesus isn’t through with the man, though.
Jesus refuses to let us hang on to our blind spots.
Jesus goes out looking – searching for the man.
To bring him back in.
We all have blind spots…
We all have places and situations we’re blind to.
We all have people we tend to distance ourselves from…
either on purpose or unintentionally.
I’d tell you my own …
But of course, the problem is that I’m not aware of them.
Periodically though, a child asks something in a children’s sermon,
Or a youth in confirmation class makes a statement,
Or someone I see on the street does something unexpected…
And then I realize I’ve been living with a blind spot.
A colleague of mine was reading in a coffee shop this week
when a man stopped by her table and asked
what she was reading.
It was a theological text,
that was rather deep so she was trying to figure out how to explain it,
in a way the man might understand.
The coffee shop was across the street from a community center
which during the day offered services for the homeless,
and as my friend looked at this man,
with his duffel bag and beard,
She assumed that perhaps he was someone who was homeless himself; She also assumed that he wouldn’t understand
the theolgical topic she was studying.
So in response to his question,
“What are you reading?”
she responded, “Oh a book about faith and the church in community.”
And the man replied,
“Have you ever heard how Tillich talks about that?”
Paul Tillich is a dense, dense 20th century theologian.
He’s the kind of writer whom you read a couple of pages
and then need to take a break.
As my friend told this story,
She couldn’t help but laugh about how wrong she was about this man….
That she had made assumptions from his appearance,
That he might not understand what she was reading.
Jesus confronts us with our blind spots.
He makes us notice over and over again,
“I was blind, but now I see.”