Canadian Mennonite
Volume 12, No. 9
April 28, 2008


Spiritual blindness

Tim Miller Dyck


Tim Miller Dyck

I’ve been visiting congregations in different parts of the country over the past two months and have been inspired and strengthened by what I have seen and heard. I’d like to share one of those visits with you all, with other stories coming in future issues. It’s such a privilege that my role at Canadian Mennonite brings me into the lives of so many people and congregations I would not meet otherwise. Thank you so much for your welcomes, for listening to me talk about this magazine’s ministry and for sharing with me your feedback on it.

Scripture and the preaching of the Word left a powerful impression on me during my Sunday at Douglas Mennonite Church in northeast Winnipeg. Pastor Don Rempel Boschman preached on John 9 in both services, but took quite different approaches in each one. It was inspiring to hear how he deftly brought out two completely different messages from the same verses by looking at them from different points of view. I was fortunate to hear both sermons.

This chapter in John’s Gospel describes how Jesus heals a man blind from birth and what the consequences are. In his first sermon, Don highlighted the work of testimony: what we do when we tell others of what God has been and is doing in our lives.

This man had his life completely changed by Jesus. He was blind and now he can see. But surprisingly, his life actually gets worse in some ways after this blessing. First, people refuse to believe that he is who he is, then the Pharisees—the religious leaders who are feeling threatened by Jesus—put the man through an interrogation, pressuring him to stop giving Jesus credit for healing him. His own parents distance themselves from him and refuse to support him in front of the Pharisees. Finally, he is questioned again by the Pharisees who say to him, “‘Give glory to God! We know that this man [Jesus] is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ . . . They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.”

Now the healed man has never even seen Jesus, who just put mud on his eyes and told him to go wash them out. When he’s being attacked by the authorities and left to stand alone by his family, Jesus is nowhere to be found. The healed man himself hardly knows anything about Jesus. But in his sufferings and in Jesus’ absence, as he faithfully testifies to what little he knows about Jesus his understanding and faith grow. Finally, when he meets Jesus again—not even knowing yet what he looks like—his response is, “‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him.”

As with Mennonites, our closest times with God are when we are going through hardship and persecution. Looking at the light hurts if our eyes have grown used to the dark—but once the light is seen, there is no going back to darkness.

In the second service, Don described this passage as the scariest verses in the Bible. In it, he reads about people much like him and much like us. They are committed to their faith and to the signs of living faithfully. They honour the Sabbath, meet together in the synagogue and seek to follow the teachings of Scripture. These people are the Pharisees.

Yet, despite all their energy and effort in studying Scripture, when they encounter the living Word of God, they are blind to it. They missed what God was doing right in front of their eyes. Speaking to the Pharisees at the end of the story, Jesus said, “‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,” your sin remains.’”

Don closed with three areas of blindness he felt today’s Mennonites have:

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