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Well, What Do You Know?

How has Jesus opened our eyes?


"Well, what do you know?"

Knowledge plays a huge role in our Gospel reading today. The man born blind repeatedly admits, "I don't know." Where's Jesus? "I don't know." Is he a sinner? "I don't know." Who is the Son of Man? "I don't know."

By contrast, the Pharisees are insistent that they know lots: "We know this man is a sinner. We know God spoke to Moses."

And it begins with the disciples in an in-between place—we know somebody must have sinned to cause this suffering. We don't know who.

This is how I tend to approach problems, too. Or any question, really: I want to know. I keep believing that if I can just gather enough information, it will protect me against suffering. When I'm in pain, yes, I want a shoulder to cry on. But I also want a really good library and access to Wikipedia. There's a lot of truth to the saying that knowledge is power. But it's a lie to think that if we just gathered enough information, then we'd have control.

This happens on a personal scale. If I just learned this "one weird trick" to lose weight or boost my credit score, I'd have power over my habits. And it's true on a systemic scale—if we just collect everybody's phone records and emails, we'll all be safer. We tell ourselves we're just pursuing neutral information. But we start with the wrong questions and convince ourselves we've uncovered the right answers.

In this reading, there are a lot of questions—at least 18—and in the discussion between the man born blind and the Pharisees, you see these questions progress from attempts to gather information to questions that aren't really questions. They're weapons.

The story starts with one big question—a question we all ask in one form or another. "Why is this ...

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Ted Olsen is Editorial Director for Christianity Today and a member of Church of the Savior, an Anglican congregation in Wheaton, Illinois.

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I. The works of God being displayed

II. 'And I washed. And I see.'

III. Learning to see