Religion is often abstract. There is a vagueness to describing the spiritual. There is an empirical fuzziness to matters of faith.
For the man, born blind, healed by Jesus, there was no vagueness. He was sure.
He wasn’t sure how it had happened, or who exactly Jesus was. He couldn’t resolve all of the theological arguments swirling around him when he met with the religious leaders. He couldn’t clarify all the rules. But there were a few facts that were clear to him:
- I was blind.
- Jesus smeared mud on my eyes.
- I washed my face.
- I can see.
It is hard to argue with those facts. But argue the religious leaders did. They called in the man’s parents. They verified his blindness. They refused to verify his story.
If his parents had acknowledged the role Jesus played, they would get kicked out of the synagogue. If the religious leaders acknowledged the role Jesus played, they would lose the crowds. If the man refused to acknowledge the role Jesus played, he would lose his mind.
Every time I read this story, I laugh. He was so unafraid of their position that, when asked to repeat his story, he said,
“I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
What would make a beggar argue with people who held his religious community, his family life, his livelihood in their hands? Certain knowledge of his experience.
Not everyone is healed this way. Not everyone has his experience. Sometimes the “religious establishment” is more empirical than spiritual. Sometimes the experience that removes all doubt comes after years of believing. Sometimes it waits even longer.
But when it comes, if it comes, it is anything but vague.