Certainty – not all it’s cracked up to be…

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John 9:35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out (the man born blind whom Jesus healed), and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

This chapter relates the story of a man born blind whom Jesus heals on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are angry because this took place on the Sabbath. Talk about burying the lead. In this passage the formerly blind man “sees” Jesus by recognizing him as “Son of Man” (v.35). Yet the Pharisees, who have sight, are blind to Jesus.

While it’s easy to be unsympathetic to the Pharisees I’m not so sure I would do better. In fact if Jesus were to appear in an inconspicuous manner as he did the first time I wonder if I would recognize him. I’m pretty sure he would defy my expectations. Seems that biblical “certainty” may not be so helpful here.

As I’ve gotten older I find I’ve also gotten less “certain” about many things of faith. As a young seminarian I thought I would get the answers to my faith questions and then teach those answers to others during my years of ministry. I remember asking my systematic theology professor (Dr. Faye Schott at Lutheran Seminary Program in Austin) to give me the answer to a particular question of theology. She said to me, “Ernie, if a professor offers to give you the answers, run the other way.” I remember being a bit miffed by this. I wanted the shortcut. I wanted to skip the hard work of study and prayer and experience and inter-personal dialogue that shape one’s theology. I mean, if you can’t get the answers at seminary, where can you get them?!

Of course over the 20+ years of life as a pastor I have developed a great appreciation for the way theology grows, moves, is torn down, is built up – over time. I’m less concerned with certainty than I am with an openness to be surprised by God. To see God in the unexpected places. And so while I may not recognize Jesus when he comes again, I pray the Lord will give me grace to be found by him. Lord let it be so. Amen.

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