"he went and washed, and came back seeing"
The 9th chapter of John is a miracle chapter. One of those events that changed a life, amazes and astounds us, and frustrated the heck out of the Pharisees. The Pharisees, in this case, responded to their frustration by accusing Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, accusing the blind man of not having ever been blind, and accusing his parents of... well they didn't really accuse them of anything, but they questioned them about the whole situation as if they'd done something wrong.
But the thing that was most interesting to me about this story, is not the Pharisees, or even the blind man, it was the "bystanders".
I know there's more than one instance of Jesus healing someone who was blind, so for clarity, this is the instance where Jesus made mud out of the dirt, and put it on the blind man's eyes. Then He directed him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, and when the man did as he was told, he found he could see.
And when he came back from the pool, and his neighbors saw him, they said to each other, "Is this not he who sat and begged?" Some said it was the same man; others said he was just someone who looked like him. And the blind man had to tell them: "I am he."
Now, to be honest, I'm slightly perplexed by this reaction. How can they not know him? All that was different about him was his eyes! Now granted, that's a big change, but still, it was the only thing that had changed.
So I think one of two things is happening here. First of all, the people were judging him, in a way. If I died my hair a starkly different color, but carried on with all my regular routine, the people in my life would still know it was me. I'm the same height, I'd be wearing clothes they'd seen me in before, my voice sounds the same; whatever. My hair would be a pretty drastic change, but the only change.
The people that know me, know a lot about, and the color of my hair is just one part of me. I think the blind man's neighbors were content to just know that one, main fact about him: he was blind. They had labeled him ~ which always gives us some sort of contentment or satisfaction ~ and moved on with their lives. They didn't need, or care, to know anything more, like the sound of his voice, or the way he smiled, or the color of his robe.
Everyone is the sum of their parts. Only God knows all of us, and all of every one of us, and the best we can do for one another ~ the most love we can show to those we love ~ is to know and understand them the best we can, and love them in and out and through their flaws and strengths.
Now, for the other explanation that came to my mind for why his neighbors didn't recognize him. But first ~ a question: Have you ever been camping? And I mean, "roughing it" ?
My family camps the old-fashioned way. We sleep in a tent, cook on a fire for some meals, and on my dad's Coleman stove for other meals. We sleep on the ground, or on air mattresses that are not much better.... And we wash our hair with a big bucket of ice-cold river water. Although, we generally leave it sitting in the sun until it's somewhat warmer.
There are flush toilets and running water within walking distance. But you know what's missing from those bathrooms? Other than electricity? Mirrors.
But there are really nice bathrooms up at the General Store. So when we drive up there to supplement our groceries a little bit, we stop off to use the facilities. And let me tell you, when you walk into the ladies room, before you even head for the stall you came in to use, you can't help but take a glance at the mirror, and you think, "oh my goodness, I had no idea..."
This man went to wash in the pool of Siloam. He was bent down, splashing water on his eyes and on his face, washing off the mud that Jesus had put on him. And when his eyes were open and the splashing stilled, I think he saw his own image forming in the water, and he took a good long look at what he had never seen before. And maybe then he stood up, and looked down, and brushed off his beard, and straightened his robe. Maybe walked back with joy in his eyes and a glow on his face.
I think what happened was that his eyes weren't the only thing new about him. And I love that. People should be able to see the difference in us, shouldn't they? In Exodus 34, Moses face shone so, after being with God, that the people couldn't even look at Him. How do we look, after spending time in His word, or in prayer? What are we like, in appearance or attitude, after being changed by Him?
What do we see in others, and what do they see in us?
~ "Then he said, 'Lord, I believe!'
And he worshiped Him" ~