As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" John 9:1-2
This story from the New Testament of the Bible has always kind of poked at me. Jesus and His disciples were walking along the road when they happened upon a blind man. Instead of taking action of any kind with the poor and helpless outcast, such as comforting him or praying with him, Jesus's disciples engage in misguided, rhetorical theological debate. Some have even suggested that their dialog and exchange occurred within earshot of the man. This story has always rubbed at me, not because I am shaking my head at the disciples from my ivory pedestal, but because I would have been right there, taking part in the discussion. How can I say that?
The other day I was running an errand on my way home from work. I was just leaving the store and pulled up to the traffic light in the middle lane. There on the side of the road was a panhandler, a man shaking a tin for scratch from passersby. He wore a crude cardboard sign around his neck saying that he had lost everything, "Please help". Normally my instinct is to avoid even acknowledging these people, to stare straight at the road ahead of me. But this time, this time, I looked over and we made brief eye contact. He acknowledged me with a slight nod of his head. As I looked into his eyes, I saw a man, likely in his mid-30s, with a kind face and a mantle of dignity. There was an unmistakeable pain written across his face, but his jaw was set and he was doing what he needed to do to survive.
As the light turned green, I thought to myself what could possibly have happened to bring a man to the point of begging on the street. I wondered if he had brought this upon himself or if he just had some bad luck. As I sat analyzing and creating a story for him in my head, the passage about the blind man in John 9:1-2 came back to me and it became very personal in its meaning. I had taken the trajedy of this man's personal crisis and turned it into an academic exercise to pass the time on my drive home. But as I pulled into my driveway, I could still see his eyes and felt powerless. I that moment, I did what the disciples did not do for the blind man, I prayed. But I prayed for both of us.