Two Things They Knew
He had always been there, stationed by the side of the road. Grubby, tattered, hands always open, mouth always moving. He seemed always to be looking at something, but then again looking at nothing.
Folks passing by saw him as a fixture, just another part of the village scenery that had been there since they were small, like the well or the synagogue or even the Pool. They’d seen him so many times that most days, they didn’t see him at all.
So it may have come as a surprise, after all these years.
The blind man had parents.
It’s unclear from the story in John 9 just when it was that they gave up. I imagine they cared for him until he was of age. But when his able bodied peers began to make their own way, and he did not, they sent him off to the streets to scrape together what he could with the only asset (they thought) he had: pity.
But I also imagine they wrote him off far sooner. In their day, birthing a child with a disability was like hanging a neon sign outside your door announcing your sin to the world. Mothers nursed shame on one breast while the blemished baby suckled at the other.
The father couldn’t look his wife in the eye again, nor could she look straight at him, each supposing the other hid secret disgrace under their robes and brought this tragedy upon them.
And late at night, now and again, they wondered if their own veiled indiscretions set such punishment in motion.
But in the light of day, they could bear no such loathing of themselves and each other, and so they imputed this dispossessed shame instead onto the child that grew before them, this daily reminder of guilt — someone’s guilt.
Perhaps it was his own.
The tradition so allowed. And to think as much enabled them to detach themselves from the shame, to bolster themselves against the pain, and slowly cease to love him who sprung from between them.
It came as relief when he turned to the streets to sustain him.
Less is More
It’s difficult to hold sway with a man set free just a moment ago from the darkest prison he can imagine. He’s not likely to believe you offer any worse than he’s lived his whole life.
The Healer made it so.
That one thing he knew made him stubborn and unbending at the other end of their finger jabbing between his eyes.
But those who’d already done their own share of crooked finger pointing might prove more flexible, and so they called in his parents, who knew more.
They didn’t know one thing.
They knew two.
And their two things alongside his one proved for all time that less is more.
This one over here, they demanded, pointing those craggy fingers again. Is he your son? Was he really blind? (vs. 19)
And the parents — in measured words that bore shrieking witness to the fearsome power of the Pharisees and the crushing weight of shame — told them the only two things they knew.
They did not come to his defense. They did not affirm his credibility. They were too frightened the inquisitors would cast them out that they did not even pause to marvel that this man, their boy, in that moment saw them for the first time in his life.
He gazed upon them, and they looked away.
We don’t know how he sees. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself. (vs. 21)
He’s not our problem.
They Knew So Much More than He
In the same moment that the Healer gave the blind man his sight, He wiped away all their disgrace.
Never again would anyone look at their son, see his milky eyes, and turn to scrutinize them, imagining the scandal that brought this about.
Never again would there be sidelong glances at the temple gate, whispers from the shadows. Do you suppose she . . . Perhaps he . . . I heard they both . . .
Never again would their son sit in the dust at the roadside, not knowing when a stranger approached if he’d feel the cool metal of a coin in his palm or the hot sting of spit on his cheek.
Yes, now he could see. But more than that, shame would never again define them because of what he could not.
It’s a shame they knew so much more than he.
They really knew nothing at all.
Related: See more on John 9 here.