“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

– Hebrew 11:1

A CERTAIN FAITH THAT IS HUMBLE

I admire people who carry a certain faith. It is humble and sure. Despite life’s normal up and downs, they carry on unmoved by the tug of the world. They help when it is needed and are carefully respectful, much like the centurion. For some people faith is also their  job, and they use this certain, humble faith to perform it well.

I met Gary as I was trying to become a pastor for the Methodist Church, an extraordinarily complicated and fussy process. While there were many rules and steps to becoming a licensed pastor, they were unevenly followed and there was no clear path to achievement. Gary was the district coordinator and was given the difficult task of helping navigate those of us trying to fill the job. For many, after three to five years of study in a Master’s of Divinity program, another three to five years existed of passing through this gauntlet. Gary was our shepherd.

After my first meeting with the Church board, I was left frustrated and stunned. During the meeting I had received many messages about why I wasn’t ready to be a pastor. First, my theology was too “folksy.” When asked what my personal theology was, I had replied, “To love God and love my neighbor.” During my studies, I had found myself attached to this command by Jesus in Matthew 22:36–40, and it became the cornerstone of my faith. Life and my faith is simpler for me when I view it through loving God and my neighbor. The command is short and to the point, but it keeps me anchored. I built many of my term papers around and on this statement as our purpose for being Christians. My classmates had warned me not to bring it up in my meeting with the ordination board. They would tell me it was too folksy. It was apparently, and one of the board members told me that I must not believe in God.

They also probed me about my business background and questioned, how could a businessperson be faithful? Despite my assurance to them that I was, I never fully got the board to believe I was a serious candidate.

After the meeting, Gary called me, sensing my frustration. He had seen this many times in the past. I didn’t quite fit the image that the board was looking for. I wasn’t like them. I didn’t speak like them. I was too plainspoken and action oriented. They were used to more flowery language and bigger words. Gary knew this and wanted to make sure the church didn’t lose a good candidate, so he counseled me as to what to do next.

In this counseling, I discovered something different in Gary. I discovered a certain and humble man. A man who long ago had given up the pursuit of fame and possessions. His speaking style was quiet and unhurried. He listened closely to what people had to say. We all knew him as a wonderful pastor of a small church.

I kept probing him about his life, to learn more about why he was so certain and humble. I discovered that he had a second job, in which he worked at an addiction clinic. Each morning, he would get up at five and drive to his clinic. There he would prepare the medicine to help those addicted to drugs. He did not judge them; he quietly listened to their lives. Always looking for a way to correct their fractured existence. Looking for any foothold he could find. He didn’t judge them, he helped them.

His mild manner and the certainty of his faith were evident in all he said. He was quiet, unassuming, and caring when he talked to people about their lives. He didn’t want the fame he could have earned elsewhere, he wanted to love God and love his neighbor.

We will never see Gary on a national TV show, nor will he make the news. He isn’t pretty or shiny, nor does he want to be. For me personally, he is a hero, because he cares, listens, and is a humbly certain man of faith.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

(Matthew 18: 4)

OUR FAITH MAKES US HUMBLE

Bob showed up at my door to fix a few things around the house. After many weeks of trying to make an appointment, he had been able to fit me into his very busy schedule. What I noticed quickly was his humility and the certainty that this humility was his way of living. A quiet man of Mohawk heritage, he lived among us without fame, but he was sought after.

He looked at my work, took pictures, and was remarkably thorough with his inspection. As our visit wore on and he got comfortable with my openness, he told me about his heritage. The heritage of being one of the very few Native Americans who lived in a mostly white community. A heritage where he and his brothers served their country faithfully, despite a history of broken promises by the country he loved. A heritage that made it hard for him to understand why a gas pipeline had to be constructed through a besieged group of people land in South Dakota. Bob was not judgmental, but he sought answers.

“We always paid him more than what he had assumed we would, because Bob was good at his craft and humble in his requests.”

Bob worked most days for fourteen hours. As I said, he was highly sought after. His request for payment was always “Pay for my materials and whatever else you think I am worth.” The friend who referred him to me, Chris, explained that this was Bob’s way. We always paid him more than what he had assumed we would, because Bob was good at his craft and humble in his requests. I am sure this unusual way of billing exposed him to being taken advantage of by a few. But I am also sure that his humility and the high quality of his work inspired most to overpay. Bob was humble, thorough, and busy.

“When we humble ourselves, we invite God’s recognition of our humanity.”

Jesus makes an important life statement in Luke 14:11: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He instructs us to be careful with how we view ourselves. To not make our successes higher than they are, and to be humble in acknowledging who we are. My friend Dick explains it by saying, “It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.” Jesus also issues a warning that when we act higher than others, we invite downfall. When we humble ourselves, we invite God’s recognition of our humanity.

Jesus describes this certain and humble faith by saying “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 4) A childlike faith, one that believes without compensation, a faith that has become innocent and untarnished—this faith of humbleness is the attitude Jesus desires for us to achieve. Those who possess a humility in which they put aside their earthly desires and allow the world to dim away are sure of their faith and move throughout their day focused on doing good and helping others. Bob had this certain and humble faith.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

– John 20:21

FAITH INSPIRED BY GRACE FILLED AND INSPIRING LEADERS

Dr. Kevin Miller was my mentor at Drew University as I worked on my doctoral thesis. During this time, Dr. Miller had a busy two semesters while he helped myself and four others complete their work, preparing us for the difficult task of finishing the hardest part of getting a doctorate, our theses. He also taught classes, and was the theological school’s admission director and a pastor of his own church. Dr. Miller was a busy person.

Mentoring us required reading our lengthy work and traveling thousands of miles to visit with us, from New Jersey to Texas to Arizona. All to help us formulate our thoughts and put together a coherent document that would pass the rigid standards required of a doctoral candidate.

Each e-mail or call I received from him was filled with grace. They all started with “Grace and peace, Bruce” and ended with “Remain blessed in the Lord.” Simple words that meant a lot. Words of caring and a certain faith in our Lord. They weren’t said or written mechanically, but with a sincere gesture to remind us of our Lord and his concern for us. When I would see Dr. Miller in person, he looked me in the eye, caring about me and my progress. He didn’t give a superficial handshake, but one of welcoming. When he listened, he listened to learn. He probed to know more. And his listening was never judgmental.

Somewhat terrified that we would not complete the hardest educational task, writing a thesis, all of us would talk with him here and there, by phone, e-mail, or in person. Each of us knew Dr. Miller had the goods and that if we followed him we would be okay. He wasn’t easy, he was hard. Invariably he would discover a spot where we were off track and suggest that we do our best—not in a “command and control” fashion, but through an intellect that was inspiringly deep. Not one of us wanted to let him down.

While he was very tough, he was also equally kind, never forgetting to tell us what he liked about our work, always knowing the context of the thousands of words we had written. Sometimes he would draw out things we should had written but had forgotten. Other times, through his analysis of our work, he showed us there was a different path we should explore. But always the presence of God was with him, bringing to Dr. Miller’s students a comforting knowledge that our work was sacred. He showed that to us, and required of us that we remember it in return.

When he arrived to meet with my thesis advisory board, he had traveled that day over a thousand miles and I was his last meeting. He said few words, but he listened and asked very pointed questions. Never harsh or intimidating, his questions made us all think. His very presence raised up all. Then he was gone to travel many more miles.

We were all left in wonder: who was this man, so sure of himself? So comfortable with listening and helping. His very presence lifted the standards of all in the room. His quiet nature cared more about the task at hand than about his long day. He came to help, but left us all aware of the presence of grace.

In John 20:21 Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Dr. Miller left us with this feeling. He came with the peace of our Lord and passed it on to each of us. Those of us who worked and spent time with him were all left with this sense of grace. There was never any doubt about the certainty of Dr. Miller’s faith, of the grace he brought, not with flowery words or commands, just with his presence. His faith is certain and trusting in the Lord.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

– Matthew 23:12

JOYCE, THE NEVER FALTERING SAINT

Each year at a church that I attended in New Jersey, the Morrow United Methodist Church in Maplewood, they conduct a two-week yard sale. The largest I had ever seen and certainly larger than most. For well over eight decades the Morrow church was turned once a year into a department store. The sole purpose was to raise money to help others. For two weeks in July, you can go to this church and find anything you wanted: radios, books, any type of clothing, china, toys and even furniture. It was all there.

People from all over the community both gave and shopped. Each night of the sale it was exciting to see the many months of preparation pay off. Each night we left exhausted and tired. But we all worked. In the preparatory phase I was the truck driver, who went out with two youths and picked up the furniture from homes where the furniture was no longer needed. Each day, I was given a to-do list by Joyce Stibitz, who was the mastermind coordinator for this wonderful event. Each day, Joyce was tugged from here to there, all of us wanting to know what was next. And each day Joyce showed up with a smile and a certainty in her direction. Never faltering, Joyce kept moving us forward.

Because of my size and background, during the sales period I was put in charge by Joyce of periodically rounding up the money from all departments throughout the church. I would bring the money to the counting office and in the quiet there, I would talk to Joyce. In these private moments I discovered a richly faithful woman. Beyond being a powerful leader and coordinator, she held a faith that wasn’t movable by those more famous or by the latest theories. Her faith was simply to love Jesus.

Joyce didn’t have great theories or thoughts about theology. She just did what she thought was right. Sure, she wasn’t the best sayer of prayers, or the most eloquent speaker. She just did. She knew the Bible and taught Sunday school. She did wonderful things for her community. She was a force because she kept moving forward with a certain trust in the unseen. Joyce had a good life; her husband was extraordinarily supportive. She was a marvelous schoolteacher. She was extraordinary because she was wonderfully ordinary. She has no blemishes.

Her faith life was certain and humble. She went to church faithfully every Sunday. She served on committees. She ran the largest yard sale known, which in itself was a year-round job. Everyone knew her and she knew everyone. We all liked her.

She moved through life following the path provided by her faith. She wasn’t a famous person, because she didn’t see why that was important. On an evening where she knew I was exhausted from life, my studies, and the world, she told me, “You have done enough, go home. I will pray for you and your life.” A moment that told me she cared more about me than her mission. That moment when I was at my weakest. In a small gesture, her magnificent glory shone.

I always envy those with a certain faith. It makes them humble people. They aren’t looking for something that is bigger or better. They are certain their life is being led by God, and they know no other way to be.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”

— Luke 7:50

ANOINTING THE BROKEN

Jesus is invited by Simon, a well-known Pharisee,  to his house for dinner. Soon after Jesus arrives, a woman of questionable repute also arrives at Simon’s house. She heard Jesus was going to be there, and because of her low social status, she had a limited opportunity to meet with him. This was her chance. A chance to be redeemed. She’d had a difficult life; some of her bad luck was her fault and some the circumstances of life. She desperately wanted to change the course of her life. A compelling feeling inside of her knew Jesus was the answer. She  only had to barge into Simon’s house and move quickly.

She arrives at the house with a jar of expensive ointment and quickly walks over to Jesus. Standing behind him, she begins to weep. Weeping hard enough to wet Jesus’s feet, which she wipes with her hair. As she is bent over wiping her tears from Jesus’s feet, she begins kissing his feet and applies ointment. She is in front of God crying and in complete submission. Completely and fully she bares her soul.

Simon the Pharisee, seeing all this, thinks to himself, if this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner. Jesus, knowing what he is thinking, asks the man, “A certain creditor had two debtors, one owed five hundred Denarii, and the other owes five hundred Denarii. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replies, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.”

Jesus says, “You have judged rightly. Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”

Jesus goes on to say, “Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Jesus then calls the woman over and tells her, “Your sins are forgiven.” This surprises the other dinner guests, who remark, “Who is this who even forgives sin?”

Ignoring this comment, Jesus looks back at the woman and says, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” -Luke 7:41–50 Her brokenness healed. She now knew that despite her lowly and difficult life, God loved her. The deep yearning to receive God’s acceptance and change her life had been answered. This yearning to see God and be with God, created a flood emotion that rose to the surface and expressed itself through tears and adoration.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.”

– Romans 15:1

GIVING OF OURSELVES

I had seen him earlier in the afternoon, hovering close to my book outpost. I was doing a book signing in a small town in North Carolina. Because I am a relatively unknown writer, in a few hours not many come to have a book signed. However, I love doing them, because I get to see and meet real humanity. People who have stories that inspire and teach me. Near the end of the day, he finally came forward and introduced himself. Mark was at one time married, but he had lost his wife to an affair with a local minister. He had at one time been a traffic reporter, but now he was a part-timer, a filmmaker. And now he was also mostly lonely, but he had a story to tell.

In the past few years, he had moved to a trailer on a pond. The pond was the habitat of twenty-five ducks, who got free food and health care through Mark. Long ago he had dropped his dreams of riches and instead turned to a life of without material things. When he writes to his friends and family, he uses a typewriter and not a computer, feeling that it is far more intentional than a hastily crafted e-mail.

Our conversation was very one-sided; he went from one story to another. This lonely man had found an audience in me and had an incredibly urgent desire to tell me everything. As I was listening, I prayed for guidance with what I should do. Do I continue to sit and just listen, or do I cut him short? A wave of empathy swept over me, and I settled back and listened for a half hour as this earnest, faithful, and kind man revealed his life story.

Finally, it was five and I had to go, the book signing was over. We exchanged cards, and I will reach out to him again, even though he will be the only one talking. I was giving validation to a lonely man, by listening. A good man with an earnest and faithful heart. Too old now to change his future and spurned by a society that considers age a disability. I gave, but I also received. I learned about what was important. Not how many books I sold, but the uncovering of a wonderful person who understood life.

It’s not just about giving our material possessions. The lesson for me that day was that I could also give my ear to hear and my time, and for that small sacrifice on my part, I received a spiritual gift in return.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27-28

FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED; FREELY GIVE

Jesus is walking on the border between Galilee and Samaria and comes across an outpost that holds a leper colony. He enters this village of castoffs and hears from ten men, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13) Ten men that have been forced to live away from their families and friends.

Because of the devastating nature of leprosy and the lack of modern medical treatment in the first century, people who contracted this disease had to leave their homes. From a precautionary standpoint during the 1st century, any person who had any skin ailment would be considered a leper.

Ironically this leper outpost was on the border that separated two very different worlds. For the most part Galilee was populated by the remnants of Judah, one of twelve tribes who’d settled in Judea. And Samaria was the area that was inhabited by those who had separated from Judah after the death of King Solomon many centuries earlier, the Samaritans, also consisting of part of the original twelve tribes of Israel.

A large gulf therefore existed between these two communities. But in the leper colony both remnants of the original twelve tribes existed side by side, connected by a terrible disease.

The belief in Palestine at that time was that leprosy was caused by God, and the leper was considered unclean both physically and spiritually. The disease itself is horrifying, with boils, disfigurement, and nerve pain being the common symptoms. Most people would be separated from their families for the balance of their lives. Today, the bacteria that causes leprosy is easily treated and has become rare in the developed world. In the United States around one hundred cases occur each year.

These people in the first century, however, knew they were doomed to live a life apart from others, never to be able to hold their children or eat with their families. They knew they would suffer for long periods, as the disease was chronic. The plea of these ten men to Jesus was one of desperation.

Jesus takes pity on them and cleanses them, but he also tells them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” (Luke 17:14) A practical command, so that they can become reunited with their own communities by receiving the priest’s acknowledgment they are now cleansed.

One of the men, from Samaria, went back to Jesus, praising God and fell at Jesus’s feet. Knowing the gift he’d been given, he was overwhelmed with being released from a life of captivity caused by a terrible disease.

Seeing this Jesus asks, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?  Was none of them found to return and give praise to God (Luke 17: 17–19)

We can wonder about the other nine, but the deeper story lies with the one who returned. A remarkable contrast to the nine. We notice that Jesus says to him, “your faith has made you well.” For the others the healing was supernatural, but for the lone person who returned, his faith in God seems to have effected a more profound cure. He was a desperate person, who certainly prayed, and through Jesus had the prayer answered, but also, his return to give thanks, his recognition of how he got healed, show us that he will remember how it happened.

During his time of trouble and isolation it would have been easy to say to the leper, “Get up and dust yourself off.” Many of us have heard this encouragement. But it isn’t so easy to do. Perhaps we have had a major financial setback or are struggling with a relationship. In those silent moments by ourselves, we twist, and we turn, searching for answers. We head down various mental paths and look in each corner. Perhaps we cry out or silently yell that it’s not fair. And it probably isn’t. It is true we should just get up, dust ourselves off, and go on. But it isn’t that easy for everyone.

Others may say, “Just have faith.” But these journeys help us have faith. They allow us to cross off what doesn’t work. They allow us to let our heart catch up with our intellectual knowledge.

“Our faith will make us well. But we have to first move to that place where we can get up and be on our way.”

Jesus says, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Jesus has to say that, because it is right. Pursuing a life of faith will make us well. But we must first move to that place where we can get up and go on our way. It is at this point where we must decide that our progress must be forward. It is faith that we can hang on to after we have investigated every facet of faith, but the investigation process itself can be revealing and strengthen our faith. It is when this strengthening has occurred that we can truly get up and go on our way.

“The journey with Jesus in the inner building of our self will reveal and teach us to have faith.”

With Jesus in our hearts, we can have confidence that our journey will be well. Regardless of our inner investigation, all paths will lead back to faith. All thoughts of ill will disappear. All thoughts of self-pity will wither away. We will return. The journey with Jesus in the inner building of our self will reveal and teach us to have faith. Jesus will be with us on this journey regardless of our despair. And when we are done, we will be able to get up and go on our way.

For the leper life had been hard; he pressed on in his search and called out to Jesus. Perhaps at the moment of his darkest night, he was healed, not just by Jesus, but also by his faith in Jesus. Now he becomes a person who was healed in a moment. In his thankfulness we can now see a committed heart that will be generous.

Jesus provides us with grace and a newness in our lives. A heightened sense of empathy for our neighbor and a redirection of how we look at life. Scarcity and want ebb in this new life. Peace is found through the desire for those things that aren’t of this world. The leper was not only cleansed, but his faith healed him at a deeper level, for which he showed thankfulness and the acknowledgment of where the healing came from: his faith.

This faith will also generate a generosity that is real. A giving back to help others out of our own bounty. Generosity is one of the fruits of the spirit. An indication that our faith and healing are real.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27-28

LOOKING AT OURSELVES AS GOD SEES US

People suffer not just from bad decision making, but also from bad self-images. They feel they aren’t good enough, not even for God. They have been tricked in the past by viewing themselves in false comparisons to other people. Perhaps they have been told they are overweight or not pretty, or in some other way just don’t rate. This path of believing the negative things others say, or the ones we say to ourselves, is just as destructive as the lives of those who never question themselves at all, but have taken the wrong path.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. When we believe what others say, we can be hard critics of ourselves, and lose sight of the beauty of being made in God’s image. In Genesis 1:27–28 it says, So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” When Jesus says, “Follow me,” some people don’t assume he means them. But certainly, he does! They, too, are made in the image of God. Oftentimes a significant life event is required to muster up the strength to know there is another path. A path of believing that we are worthy.

This path to no longer being blind requires a giving up of yourself. In the Gospel there is no better example of this then John the Baptist. In John 3:30, John the Baptist says, “He must increase but I must decrease.” A powerful statement from a man who was already recognized by his community as a major religious figure. At the time of this statement, John and Jesus had an overlapping ministry, but John was willing to give his up to not distract from Jesus’ message of the good news. He knew he was like the best man at a wedding and was more than willing to relinquish his fame.

Those who are no longer blind have had to agree to the same submission. Listening to the words that God speaks about us being created in the image of God erases what the world says about us. We are all worthy and His promises are for us. Believing this means walking away from ourselves and towards walking with Jesus. Ironically in this act of submission we become freed, no longer wedded to the world or what the world tells us.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

time passes

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

(Romans 7:15)

WRESTLING WITH GOD

I met John at a book signing for my book Jesus & Co. He is the pastor of a small church in rural North Carolina. He would drift over to the table and look at my book and then wander away. After a few of these short visits, I sensed he wanted to say more, so I asked a few questions to draw his story out.

He told me about his current life as a pastor and believer. But he also revealed a deeper story. With his homespun drawl, John talked about the many nights when he had wrestled with God. He described it as a mighty fight. He had been prone to staying out late and drinking, and this affected his work and his family. But he persisted in following this river in his life, despite its damaging effect. He knew it was wrong, but he didn’t feel he could change. He would try, only to slip back into what he perceived to be a place of comfort.

Then that moment came when he was stripped bare. He had lost his job and become completely alienated from his family. He had reached his tipping point, and his path had left him broken and alone. His comfortable habit of going out with the boys for long hours, which had affirmed his existence for years, had now left him no place but desolation.

Over the previous few months, he had been getting hints to change. Silently he had begun to question on occasion if he was on the right path. His discourse with God had begun, but there was still too much to let go of in his current life. He liked the familiar path, so he wrestled with God and resisted. Then the day came when it all came crashing in and he was in a spot where he was so low could only go up.

“Faith is the consistent choosing of the narrow gate. Many times, following the narrow gate presents itself as a short-term loss, and its benefit is only revealed through a long-term lens.”

At first, John began to read the Bible, and through this reading to set his course to a different path. Over time this extended to his seeking to get an education and to become a pastor. Both of which he accomplished.

I met him in a bookstore, with a devoted wife and a life he was proud of and wanted to share. I saw, within both him and his wife, a faithful love for God. By wrestling with God and losing, John had been healed.

He had been blind but now he saw, and what he saw was a future that only contained a life filled with Grace.  He had been trapped, not because he was bad, but because he was following a path built on bad habits. A path that was familiar, even though it was destructive. He had given into his natural human tendencies to pursue this life in which he found satisfaction, even though it was only momentary. John wanted to do good, as most do, but he believed he wouldn’t find comfort anywhere else. The apostle Paul in the Book of Romans says, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) Even the great apostle Paul struggled with this path and his own natural desires.

So, it is always with our faith. It is a struggle to avoid doing what we shouldn’t do, to turn away from the wrong path and toward the right path. For some this may be easy, but for most it is a hard lesson to learn, that many times the wrong path we choose only reveals itself at the end.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

“One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

— John 9:25

GAINING OUR SIGHT THROUGH JESUS

The backstory for John 9:25 reveals a person who was blind from birth, whom Jesus heals. The man is begging on the side of the road when Jesus sees him. The disciples ask Jesus if the beggar is blind because he was sinful, or were his parents sinful? Here Jesus begins his lesson.

They met the blind beggar on the Sabbath. To begin this lesson Jesus picks up mud and rubs it on the eyes of the blind man and tells him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.”  (John 9:7). The man goes to the Siloam pool, which was just outside the city of Jerusalem. (The pool was recently rediscovered in 2004 by workers working on the underground plumbing systems of the city.) After washing, the man can see, and he returns to his community, the members of which  see the change in him. They are extraordinarily doubtful, wondering among themselves if this could be real, or was it someone else they were meeting that looked like the blind man? Ironically, this same doubt occurs frequently even today with those who are spiritually reborn. Their neighbors and friends, stuck in the past, wonder how the person could have been saved. They are not willing to completely commit to the person’s transformation.

After a long period of questioning, the people of his community ask the formerly blind man where Jesus is now, and the man answers, “I do not know.” (John 9:12) The crowd brings the man to the Pharisees, who also doubt and ask numerous questions. The Pharisees strangely focus on the fact that the healing occurred on the Sabbath, a clear sign to them that Jesus was a sinner. In the minds of the Pharisees this was the path to follow in determining the authenticity of the healing.

The Pharisees then question the man’s parents, who confirm that he was blind at birth. Not wanting to risk their status within the community, they avoid expressing any opinion about their son’s healing and tell the Pharisees to talk to him directly. The Pharisees visit the formerly blind man a second time and question him more aggressively.  Trying to force the man to acknowledge that God healed him and not Jesus, they say to him, “Give glory to God! We know this man is a sinner.” (John 9:24). Still stuck on the fact that the healing was done on the Sabbath, the Pharisees are more interested in discrediting Jesus than in understanding the healing. The man replies, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25)

Frustrated the blind man says, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:30–33)

Unwilling to accept this rebuke from the saved blind man, the Pharisees drive him out of his community. Imagine how we would feel, if suddenly we were physically or spiritually healed and then we were subjected to this kind of doubt and questioning. The blind man, after a lifetime of being blind, no doubt imagined that those that surrounded him would be overjoyed at his sudden regaining of sight. We readers of this story can easily sympathize with the blind man and wonder why the Pharisees or his community could not come to terms with the fact that Jesus healed the man.

For those who were blind and now see, this is a common issue. Many will not believe that the supernatural change and healing in them came from an honorable cause. There must be some trick to it, more than just a change of heart or a healing. With Jesus that is all there is. As the blind beggar said so simply when asked how he was healed, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman