Humor and the Man Born Blind

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There’s not a lot of humor in the Bible. I’m not talking about the fifth-grade boys’ Sunday School kind of humor. (You remember: Who was the shortest man in the Bible? Bildad the Shuhite. Please don’t send me your best example.) No, I’m talking about real humor. I guess people were too busy in the serious business of living, avoiding the marauding hordes, and finding ways not to render unto Caesar to have much time for laughter.

But there is one story that gets me. It’s not roll-in-the-floor, slap-your-knee kind of humor, but it does have more than its share of irony, and it gets pretty close to outright sarcasm.

It’s a story you probably know from the 9th chapter of John. Jesus’ disciples see a man born blind and want to affix the blame for his blindness: “The man or his parents?” they ask, not realizing the absurdity of blaming a man blind since birth for his condition—a prenatal sin nature I guess. Jesus waves off their foolishness and heals the man.

But the healing is really not the most interesting part of the story (try telling the blind man that!). After he is out and about, seeing just fine, he runs into the Pharisees—the religious hierarchy of the day. They’re not buying the, “Jesus healed me” thing. They question the blind man, then they go to his parents, then they come back to him saying, “Give glory to God by telling us the truth; we know this man [Jesus] is a sinner.”

This is where it gets good. An impoverished, uneducated, formerly blind beggar is about to take the Pharisees to school. Hear the irony: “Whether he is a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know, I was blind; now I see.”

So they make another run at him, and he responds again, “I have told you already, and you did not listen. Do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

Now they are enraged; they blast the blind man, blast Jesus and invoke Moses.

But this guy has been made to see, and he’s not going to let the Pharisees get under his skin. So finally, he decides to give them as good as they are giving; the poor beggar versus the religious hierarchy becomes a mismatch. Read with sarcasm: “Now that is remarkable. You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.”

These Pharisees are too interested in preserving their places in society, in the temple. They want nothing to do with this outsider, this Jesus, who has not been properly vetted.

And now to the moral of the story: making sure that we have crossed every doctrinal T and dotted every dogmatic I does not mean much to a world that is blind, hurting, lost. What they need from us is not proclamation from the pulpit nearly so much as they need to find us healing their blindness, feeding their hunger, and introducing them to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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