This is a post relating to the creation of the shirt called TELL THE TRUTH and what is possibly the most effective way to speak about our Christian faith.
Inspiration for the elements of this shirt come from John 9, where Jesus heals a man born blind. The front elements feature a finger pointing at the words TELL THE TRUTH.
I chose a finger pointing because of what the Once-Blind man endured before religious leaders. They were confrontational and sour, and demanded that he tell them what happened. The old style hand with the modern, all-caps typeface present various contrasts. They link old and new, old ways and new ways, and the all-caps is synonymous with raised voices.
The back of the shirt is meant to call to mind the charts at the eye doctor's office. Why? Because the man was once blind, but now he sees. Not only does he see, but he testifies about Jesus, so I used a quote from him to do the same.
So, let's look at this awesome chapter.
John 9 is so interesting to me. Who was Jesus? Really! Look at the way he acts. Listen to the things he says. He is NOT normal. Yet, somehow, as we read the scriptures and they form mental pictures in our minds, we want to be like him. He is not normal and his abnormalities are so attractive to us that he has become the central figure in human existence. He has become the ideal, the standard, the model human. Fascinating for someone who acted, spoke, and judged so differently - who is so UN-like us in many ways.
That we "normal" people find Jesus so attractive is curious to me. In John 9 we have Jesus walking with some followers who ask him a question that is pretty standard from the questioner's standpoint. My paraphrase is this:
"Teacher, did that guy bring his problem upon himself by sinning or did he inherit the problem because of his parent's wrong doing?"
I admit that I don't think this way because modern thought does not count "sin" as a cause for much of anything. We, myself included, would go through a list of environmental factors and genetics - not "sins." I'd answer something like, "Well, who knows. Being born blind could be genetics or the result of trauma in the womb, but it can't be his fault if he was born that way. Maybe his mom consumed alcohol or other drugs while pregnant. Who knows."
Then someone would Google it.
Jesus answers the question without guessing. No surprise there, but his answer is a surprise to me. I don't expect Jesus to say that this man's blindness - blindness from birth - all of the troubles caused by it - all of the inconveniences, the pains, all of the shame and exclusion - all of that was so that God could do a wondrous thing. "That the works of God might be displayed in him."
Man, that seems ... terrible. Really? All of his very challenging life has been a setup for this moment? I don't know of another instance (off the top of my head) where Jesus teaches anything like this.
THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
(Leave comments if you do know of another instance, because I am typing this as a response, not as a researched work. Kind of free-flowing, so no looking stuff up...)
The next picture we have is Jesus saying, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Who speaks like this?
THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
Then Jesus spits on the ground to make mud with his saliva, takes the mud and applies it to the man's eyes.
THIS IS NOT - (ok, Old Testament prophets did some weird stuff, so this kind of thing was not unheard of in their culture, but still...) THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
The man born blind gets up, goes to wash off the mud as instructed, and came back with sight.
So we enter into the meat of John 9.
To make it short, the man is noticed by his neighbors who don't believe it, so they take him to the religious leaders who ask him what happened, call in his parents who kind of distance themselves from him, ask the once-blind man again, and get a classic response. The Once-Blind man says to the leaders,
“Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
The religious leaders did not appreciate is reply.
Jesus did. Jesus found the man and revealed to him directly that he, Jesus, is the Son of Man, (a beautiful reference used throughout Scripture).
Jesus goes on to say something that is NOT NORMAL (but is kind of standard for him).
“For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains."
Imagine that. Seriously. Sit there wherever you are and imagine that someone you know just spoke like that.
Now imagine that statement applied to politicians. How they claim to know! How clearly they claim to see!
Jesus calls humanity to humility. He upsets the apple cart by trying to set the apple cart upright.
Jesus believed in sin. He did not go through lists of possible environmental and psychological factors to arrive at a conclusion. Sin and Death are the real enemy, the real root, of most of the maladies of man. No sugarcoating. He spoke plainly about how sin separates us from God and that we need to repent. The blind man did what Jesus said. He allowed dirt and spit on his eyes and then followed the crazy sounding directions - and received his sight.
THIS IS NOT NORMAL
I love John 9, for in it we glimpse an unhidden Jesus.
"We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
1 CORINTHIANS 1:18-24 relates directly to this:
"Brethren, the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
The Once-Blind man's response is possibly the most effective way to relate the magisterial, mysterious, yet powerful way that Christ, the Mystical Lamb, the omnipotent Lord of All, encounters us - we who are dust and life.
He spoke simply and honestly about what he knew of Jesus. No cited sources. No backup. "I once was blind, but now I see." Beautiful.