There are about 97 million myopic people in the U.S., according to the American Optometric Association. I’m one of them. I was fitted for my first pair of corrective lenses in second grade. Because my vision continued to deteriorate (and because I was always finding new ways to break my glasses), I saw the optometrist often.
I changed to contact lenses in my later teens, but when I started work at the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant in Lorain, Ohio, I was forced to wear safety glasses. With their coke bottle lenses, they were almost too heavy to wear.
The myopia continued to worsen and, when the optometrist added astigmatism correction to my prescription, contact lenses were no longer an option. My vision is bad enough now that without corrective lenses I can’t drive, can’t read the clock, and can’t be certain that I know the person sitting across the table from me.
If I had lived before corrective lenses were available, I would have been in trouble. I would have gone through life Mr. Magoo-like, mistaking people, running into obstacles, and unable to join in favorite activities. It is interesting to think what it would be like to live that way for 60 years, and then to receive corrective lenses. What could be better than the gift of sight?
Christians believe that all people need a kind of vision correction. Myopia of what St. Paul calls “the eyes of the heart” is pandemic. “Now,” as he puts it, “we see through a glass darkly.” Humans have trouble recognizing what is important, they hurt themselves on obstacles they could have avoided, and routinely get lost in the tangles of everyday life.
The gospel writers want people to know that God restores sight, and they convey this important idea through the stories they tell about Jesus, who has “come into this world, so that the blind will see…” Each gospel tells stories of how Jesus gifted people with sight, rounding out the Old Testament’s promise that God’s servant would bring “recovery of sight for the blind.”
The Gospel of Luke provides a particularly brilliant presentation of Jesus as the sight-giver. The Evangelist juxtaposes two stories, set side by side, representing very different kinds of blindness. To make sure we don’t miss his point, he employs Greek verbs meaning “to see” so often a reader would have to be blind to miss them.
The first story features a blind man who sits begging on the side of the road as a noisy procession nears. The man, hearing that Jesus is in the procession, begins shouting, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” Bystanders order him to be quiet, but he shouts all the louder.
Hearing him, Jesus stops and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” and the blind man answers, “Lord, I want to see.” Jesus restores his sight, and he immediately becomes a follower of Jesus.
This story is immediately followed by another story about blindness. This time, though, the man’s blindness is not physical but spiritual. His commitment to making money has blinded him, and he has injured himself in frequent run-ins with the people around him.
In both stories, the (physically and spiritually) blind men faced obstacles when they came to Jesus for “vision correction.” The poor beggar was treated as a persona non-grata by the crowd, and ordered to be quiet – why would Jesus be interested in him? The rich man suffered similar treatment. People despised him, and refused to make room for him.
Surprisingly, the people who made it difficult for these sight-challenged men to get to Jesus were religious. Those who might be expected to facilitate a meeting with Jesus obstructed it. How often that proves to be the case. The judgmental church-goer, the holier-than-thou Bible-thumper, and the lapsed believer are blurry obstacles on the path to Jesus, and to restored vision.
John Newton famously wrote of that vision: “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.” I’m not sure I could go that far. What I can say is, “I once was blind but I see better now, and have every reason to expect complete vision restoration in the future.”
First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 6/17/2017