Aristotle is credited with having said: “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others; it is also a sign of genius….”
Jesus was certainly a master of metaphor. I would say He was the master of metaphor and no doubt would have run circles even around Aristotle had they been contemporaries. Whenever Jesus said “I am the…” He was speaking metaphorically, using something in the physical to explain something about Himself. All His metaphors were layered, rich in meaning, and nothing short of brilliant. As an added bonus for the particularly astute in His audience, He sometimes bundled an object lesson with a metaphorical statement, creating something like a boxed set. Check out John 6 and the miraculous feeding of bread to the 5000 right before He said “I am the Bread of Life” and you’ll see what I mean. (You can also check my last blog post Food For Thought for more on that.)
The Master of Metaphor again did a little bundling with His “I am the light of the world” statement in John 8. Right on the heels of this declaration, He gave sight to a man born blind. So just what did the two have to do with each other? Plenty…but first, it must be noted that in the metaphorical world, to “see” is to understand, and we find this throughout the English langauge. The blind leading the blind is an example of something we say when no one in the group has any idea what is really going on. Or, if I’m in the dark about something, I am lacking sufficient knowledge to understand. Maybe you see what I mean, or maybe you just don’t see it that way… Get it? “Ahhhh, I see” you say. To see is to understand.
Upon that foundation we add that sight is dependent on light. Without light we do not see, either literally or figuratively speaking. This is the nub of Jesus’ metaphor, and He again uses something in the physical realm (need for light) to explain a spiritual reality (need for Him). Without light, we do not see. Our eyes can adjust to some degree in the dark, but when it’s pitch black, the human eye ceases to function. So too in the spiritual. Without the light Jesus offers, we walk in the black night of the spiritual death we were born in to, groping our way through darkness, unable to see…or understand…our true spiritual condition. Without the light of Jesus, we can’t see our sin, we don’t understand our value to God, and we certainly can’t perceive our true purpose. The Light reveals all these things. He dispels the darkness that blinds us and we are empowered to walk in the light of life. See what I mean?
This is just what Jesus did for the man born blind in John 9. Remember that light gives sight, right? In John 8, Jesus declared Himself to be the light, and then He went and proved it by giving the blind man physical sight, sight he had never had, opening his eyes and enabling him to see for the first time. This was the object lesson that gave further explanation to the metaphor. (Sidenote: the fact that the discussion with the Pharisees about Him being the light went sideways with them calling Him a demon-possessed Samaritan and Him calling them sons of Satan may have been why He felt further explanation was necessary. Just a thought.) Anyway, what was happening in the physical with the blind man, happens in the spiritual every time someone walks toward the light of Jesus and out of the darkness of death.
Like the man Jesus healed, we are born blind spiritually speaking, unaware even of our blindness until we “see” the light. Once exposed to the light, we can then see; we can understand our value to God, our need for grace, and the great lengths He went to save us from the kingdom of darkness and the clutches of its dark prince.
To shed just a bit more light on this, it’s worth noting that while the blind man received physical sight, proving the claim that the Light of the World gives sight, the true miracle was that his eyes were opened spiritually too. By the end of John 9, he is worshipping Jesus as the Messiah, sent from the Father of Lights to bring the light of life into this hopelessly dark and dead world. He had been truly enlightened.
And for us? Jesus declared in Matthew 5 that we who follow Him are also the light of the world, and the light in us is meant to shine brightly for those trapped in the darkness. How do we do that? It’s not complicated. He said if we do good in a world gone bad, the world will see that good, and they will know we are of children of the light, the people of the God who is light. We will make our God famous when we serve others with grace, when we forgive, when we act in compassion, and when we love with abandon. There is no other way to destroy the darkness, except with the Light.
Do you see?
“It’s a truth that exists in Christ and in you: The darkness is fading, and the true light is already shining.” – 1 John 2:8b (GW)