In the ancient world, these three things were the pillars on which the plane of ‘life’ rested. They gave definition, boundary, and, perhaps most importantly, identity. The same is true today: Who/how we worship, the family of which we are part, and the job or career we’ve chosen are what we often use to define us (we’ll have to discuss how far we have(n’t) come since ancient days some other time). But with these three life-pillars, I think we can more easily relate to one of my all-time favorite stories in Scripture. It’s found in John 9–you can click this link or just follow along from here:
Jesus is walking with his disciples when they come across a man, begging, who has been blind since birth. One of his disciples ask why this man was born blind and Jesus’ answer was a paradigm shifting, “So God’s work can be displayed.” And then Jesus heals the man.
Pause there for a second.
In almost every other instance of physical healing shared in the Scriptures, healing from Jesus is solicited. Someone touches him, someone calls for him, crowds gather around him…and they are seeking his healing touch. But not this time: the man who had been born blind has an unsolicited encounter with Christ. Unsolicited. Un-asked for. He’s begging and Jesus spits in the ground, rubs spit-mud in his face and orders him to wash the stuff off. The man does as he’s told, and he can see!
Okay, kind of weird, I’ll admit, but the story continues… the story continues, but not in the way we think it should. When everyone should be celebrating the miracle this man has experienced, things take a dark turn. In one moment, the main gains his sight but seems to lose everything else:
- HIS VOCATION—what do you suppose a blind beggar does? He BEGS. He sits at a temple gate or some other thoroughfare and begs for money. He can’t really do anything else. He’s never learned a trade. He begs.Then Jesus heals him and he can no longer beg. His source of income has just disappeared, and it’s not like he can go to careerbuilder.com to look for some other work he’s qualified to do. That shouldn’t be too bad, though, because he’s still got his family, right?
- HIS FAMILY—when questioned by the religious authorities about their son’s encounter with Jesus, the man’s parents are of little help. In fact, they put a great deal of distance between their son and themselves by relying on the fact that the man was legally able to speak for himself, meaning the parents didn’t have to come to his defense or his aid. When he could have used their support and voice the most, this man finds that his parents are taking a very laisses faire approach to his future. At the very least, his family ties are strained. What happens next will probably break them.
- HIS WORSHIP PARADIGM—The man again is answering questions about his healing and pushes the wrong buttons with the authorities. In verse 10 we see “…they threw him out.” This didn’t mean the man was just kicked out of the building, he was cast out of the synagogue. He found himself “excommunicated” from his religious family. By ‘throwing him out,’ the leaders were assuring he would be unable to join a trade, interact with his family, or enjoy corporate worship.
All because he had an unsolicited encounter with Jesus.
Everything about this man’s life has just been turned upside down. And he never even asked for the thing which changed his life.
But the end of the story is what fascinates me most:
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.
His encounter with Jesus, in a way, cost this man everything. And yet he still chose to worship Christ because, the story indicates, Jesus offered something greater than what the man lost. Think about that: the man has ‘lost’ everything that defined his life… but there was something bigger, greater, more meaningful in Jesus than everything that once defined him.
Jesus offers life, purpose, and hope… but he also shares in his teaching that following him costs everything. Those of us who follow Christ may be wise to ask what following him has cost us lately, because if no cost is involved we probably need to question whether we’re following at all.
What if you had an unintended, unsolicited encounter with God… and in that moment, he changed everything that defined you: who or how you worship, your family, and your job/career/vocation? Would you proclaim, “Lord, I believe”? or ask to be left alone?
I hope I would proclaim with the man in the story: One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I can see! and then leave everything to follow him.