“Then how were your eyes opened?”
Much like, “Who sinned?” the question binds itself to one way of seeing the world. The man is transformed, but his transformation holds little sway in the crowd. Given that they soon bring the man to the religious leaders of the day, it is clear that they recognize the spiritual importance of the event. They are not seeking to understand the mechanics of the man’s healing. Still, something is missing from their response.
The man’s eyes opened, but not people’s remained closed.
Missing the Liturgical Point
Worship formed a central component of Israel’s life. Be it the feast and festivals like the Feast of Booths that just brought so many, including Jesus, to Jerusalem, or daily time in the synagogue hearing and debating the meaning of the Scripture.
Part of that worship included liturgy. Rituals designed to implant ideas, values, beliefs, and images in the minds of the people. A major part of that liturgy included singing from the book of Psalms.
For those not familiar, the Psalms are a collection of 150 songs and poems written by ancient Israelites that explore faith as it interplays with the depth of the human experience. No emotion, fear, or joy is off-limits. Because the words are so personal, they also tap into the whole of human experience.
As curated, the Psalms open with two poems that introduce the entire collection. They are invitations to follow the way of God and to trust in divine sovereignty. The book concludes with five songs of praise that take all of the concerns laid out throughout the rest of the text and place them at the feet of the divine. You could argue that the Psalms are a book that teaches how to live with your eyes opened.
It is believed that the closing five Psalms were a key part of Israel’s morning prayer. If this is accurate, every God-fearing Jew knew the text of Psalm 146, the first of the closing Psalms of praise. They sang it at least weekly throughout their lifetime. If they grasped the liturgical point, they would know what to do when they encounter the now seeing man born blind.
Praise the Lord!Psalm 146:1–10 (NRSV)
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!
Living Psalm 146
If the people marinated their hearts and minds in the words of the Psalm, how could, “the Lord opens the eyes of the blind” not echo through their being as the man born blind returned from the pool with sight? How could they not respond with astonishment that the work of the Lord manifested in their midst? What else might happen?
As a people oppressed by Rome, would they experience justice? Would the orphans and widows in their midst, those most dependent in their society, receive care? Perhaps the wicked among them who thrived as they partnered with occupying Rome would finally come to ruin.
Whatever the case, the only appropriate response at this moment for the people of God is to praise. Maybe that is what some of the people had in mind when they oddly asked the man to locate Jesus, a man he had never laid eyes on. But rather than seeking out Jesus on their own, a task that seems rather easy given his growing popularity, they ignore the words of the Psalm and turn to the “princes” … the mortal Pharisees.
The irony that they turn to religious leaders who thrived as they partners with occupying Rome should not go unnoticed. Their eyes remained shut to the work of God. Instead of watching the religious system built by the Pharisees come to ruin at the presence of the Lord, the people turn to them for wisdom. They go directly to the people who taught them to ask, “Who sinned?”