After World War II, a general and his young lieutenant were on a train in England. When they got on, the only seats left were across from a beautiful young lady and her grandmother. They sat facing them. As the train pulled out it went through a long tunnel. For about ten seconds there was total darkness. In the silence of the moment those on the train heard two things – a kiss, and a slap. Everyone on the train had their own perceptions as to what happened. The young lady thought to herself, “I’m flattered that the lieutenant kissed me, but I’m terribly embarrassed that Grandmother hit him!” The grandmother thought, “I’m aggravated that he kissed my granddaughter, but I’m proud she had the courage to retaliate!” The general is sitting there, thinking to himself, “My lieutenant showed a lot of guts in kissing that girl, but why did she slap me by mistake?” The lieutenant is the only one on the train who really knew what happened. For you see, in that brief moment of darkness he had the opportunity to both kiss a pretty girl and slap his general at the same time.
A burly lineman for the University of Michigan checked into the hotel the day before the game of the year with Ohio State University. The Michigan coach had given explicit instructions that his players were to get a good night’s sleep and were not to leave their rooms. The wayward lineman, however, wanted to go out on the town and see the city of Columbus by night. So he put a floor lamp on the bed and put covers around it so it looked like he was already asleep in bed. It really did look convincing. The lineman left the room with confidence. At 1 a.m. the coach went around to all the rooms and did a bed check. He opened the door and turned on the light. The covers were still wrapped around the lamp, but one thing had now changed: the coach had now switched on the floor lamp. The bed lit up and betrayed the deceptive lineman’s darkness. The light does that. The light reveals our darkness.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:5)A missionary once shared with me that Christians are their own greatest handicap for spreading Christianity. Japan, has a Christian population that is only about 1 percent of the total. The missionary was attempting to explain how it is that Jesus can change our lives to a college student who, though a nonbeliever, had some sketchy knowledge of the Bible. He asked him whether most American servicemen were Christians. He stated rather proudly that they were. Then he asked, “Why then do most all the Christian servicemen use the whorehouses around military bases?” The missionary responded, “And how do you explain Pearl Harbor?” Smiling, he replied, “But we Japanese do not pretend to be Christians.”
We live in a Christian nation and yet we struggle with those who claim to be Christian misreporting earnings on corporate business. Lining their pockets with millions of dollars while depriving thousands of a better retirement income. There is something wrong when we pay the average worker only a minimum wage and the one at the top a hundred million dollars.
Jesus heals us of our spiritual blindness. Sometimes his healing can be a threat, for we love darkness rather than light, yet by His grace, we may live in His light. In John, Jesus heals a man of blindness and causes a controversy among the religious authorities. 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?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. Where did the healing come from? Jesus’ saliva? The mud? The pool? The act of faith? All four? His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” “How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded. They can’t rejoice with the man for his healing!
When illuminated by the light of God, people react one of two ways. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. (John 8:7) None are able to cast the first stone at the woman, they all see their own sinfulness. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. (John 4:15) “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.
Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14)
Others never want to see the light in their lives. They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
Baptism is the Christian’s contrasting of light and darkness, it is not too much to imagine the newly baptized Christian, baptized as the first light of Easter dawned, emerging from the waters of baptism as if moving from death to life, darkness to light. What is so striking in baptism, is that it says to the new Christians, “once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light.” One might have expected it to read “once you lived in darkness, now you live in light.” But no, the believer is being spoken of as light, reminiscent of the way Jesus called his followers “the light of the world”. To be in Christ is to be an enlightened person. The enlightened must live as children of light, new living proceeds from new being. Our lives ought to be transparent, showing forth the light of God, a public witness to God’s grace (rather than those sinister, dark deeds which can be done only in private).
I know someone who is suffering from a sad visual disorder. She has suffered some brain damage, due to a terrible illness. It has left her unable to see. The odd thing is that her particular kind of blindness does not mean that she cannot see anything. The problem is that she sees everything. She has lost that brain function which enables us to sort through the myriad images that our eyes give us and to focus on those images we want to see.
Our eyes are windows on the world. But like any window, they show us everything. It is up to the brain to enable us to see selectively. The brain must filter out all of the visual stimuli that we receive and enable us to focus. When everything rushes in upon us, we see everything and therefore we see nothing.
We have a vision problem. Our problem, though, is not that we see too much, but rather that we refuse to see. Jesus talked about people who had “hard hearts.” Their hearts were so hard that nothing could make an impact upon them.