Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Ezekiel 2 – Ezekiel hears a voice calling him “son of man” (2:1). The term is used in Ezekiel and later Daniel to emphasize the distance between the God behind the vision and voice and the mere man who is receiving them. The first use of the term “Son of Man” [ben-Adam] is in Numbers 23:19, but Ezekiel uses the term over 90 times in his writings.
The voice tells Ezekiel to “deliver my words” to the rebellious people that were his.
“Open your mouth and eat what I am about to give you” (2:8). Yahweh gives him a scroll to eat, full of “lamentations, wailings [and] moanings” (2:10).
Ezekiel 3 –Ezekiel eats the scroll God has given him and finds it “tastes as sweet as honey” (3:3). God tells him he’s not being sent to a foreign nation where people speak a different language; he is being sent to his own people. But then he adds, if he sent him to a people whose language he did not speak, they would listen; but his own people are obstinate. Still, he is to go and speaks God’s word, even if no one listens.
He is lifted up by the spirit, and he hears “a tumultuous shouting” (3:12) - wings beating against each other and wheels turning beside them.
He is transported to Tel Abib, by the river Chebar, where the exiles are living, and his heart is heavy with bitterness and anger. He is with them for seven days. Then God comes to him again and tells him he has been appointed “sentry to the House of Israel” (3:16). When he tells him to warn the rebellious that they will die, he must do it or else he too will share responsibility for their death. If he does warn as instructed, however, then he will not die with the wicked.
Ezekiel tells us that while he was with his people, “the hand of Yahweh came on me” and he was told to go out into the valley, where “the glory of Yahweh was resting” (3:23) and Yahweh’s spirit enters him. It is clear that there will be times when Yahweh will keep Ezekiel from warning others and times when He will “open [his] mouth” (3:27). “Whoever will listen, let him listen; whoever will not, let him not; for they are a set of rebels” (3:27).
John 9:24-41 - The Pharisees call the man again – the man born blind whom Jesus has restored to sight - and ask him to declare Jesus a sinner for having broken the Sabbath. He answers, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (8:25). The Jews are reluctant to believe: “We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from” (8:29). For the man it is simple. God does not listen to sinners, God does not do miracles for sinners, and he has experienced a miracle. They drive the man away.
Jesus finds him and asks him if he believes in “the Son of Man.” Who is that, the man asks? Jesus says, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he” (9:37). “Lord, I believe. And he worshiped him” (9:38). Jesus says, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind” (9:39). The Pharisees don’t get it. It is their insistence that they do see—that they know the truth and can lead others in truth—that makes them sinners, not necessarily their confusion or doubts about Jesus.
Why are we born blind? I think the scripture narrative assumes that blindness is a central problem, maybe even THE central problem at the core of our disrupted relationship with God and with our fellow man. We walk according to how we see, so this mis-seeing is perhaps what we mean by original sin, the innate condition, which it is the work of redemption to overcome. Jesus says the problem is there “so that the works of God might be made visible” through us and in us in the work of redemption that brings us to see differently. This and Jesus’ statement that he “came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind,” are the most interesting things about this reading to me (now). Again, we don’t always like to think of Jesus in these terms, but his coming into the world, and our personal world, brings both a judgment and a light by which the things of God may be separated from the things of the world. And it is the process of redemption in us that brings us to see God and Christ and the light of his judgment. We can’t give glory to that which we cannot “see.”