The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove is one of the most photographed spots in Nova Scotia and certainly the most photographed lighthouse in the country. Which is kind of interesting since lighthouses aren’t as important as they used to be and the majority of them are out of commission. With GPS and radar and sonar, sea craft can navigate pretty well. And yet…there are national and regional lighthouse societies, local groups dedicated to preserving lighthouses, and they are a guaranteed draw for photographs and tours. Even if we’ve never been to sea, even if we’ve never needed a lighthouse, we know they matter, we don’t want them to disappear.
In the days before all our technology, if you were at sea and coming near shore, the one thing you wanted was safe harbour. To sail safely in, you needed a lighthouse—something to alert you to danger you could not see; something to help you see and guide you safely, keep you from crashing into rocks or unseen headlands. The lighthouse had two purposes: to help you navigate and to keep you safe. The lighthouse keeper was entrusted to keep the light, tend alarms, and provide rescue and sanctuary.
One day, Jesus comes upon this man who could not see. It was assumed by Jesus’ disciples that he or his parents must have sinned. We’ve never been comfortable with the idea that things just happen sometimes. But the disciples had got the wrong end of things. And the account proceeds of Jesus healing him—he smears mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to go wash it off. And then he can see!
Of course, this was a bit much for some to swallow. Oh, he hadn’t really been blind, but just pretending. It wasn’t the blind beggar at all but someone who looked like him. Well, if he had been healed, it had been the act of a sinner because it was the Sabbath and things like this just weren’t done on the Sabbath. And, well, we just don’t know this guy Jesus’ origins, where he comes from, what authority he has. And both the man who was healed and his parents are given a grilling. As if what had happened was a bad thing.
Finally, almost in exasperation, the newly sighted man says, “I don’t know a lot about this Jesus. This one thing I know—once I was blind but now I see.” It was an adamant and personal expression of his experience. Here’s a declaration of faith many of us can relate to.
If I asked you to articulate exactly what you believe and why, to explain your faith, what it means, to lay out a clearly outlined statement of God, Jesus, the Spirit and the whole thing, I bet you would struggle or stumble. I know I would, and it’s an area I have a whole lot of practice and experience in. Good grief—there are thousands upon thousands of books about every possible aspect of our faith. So, what do we know?
Here is what we know—what we have experienced, where our lives have been touched, moments or occasions of insight or simply of an awareness of the presence of God, or the touch of Jesus, or the comfort of the Spirit. This one thing I know.
Seeing the Light isn’t about full knowledge and definitive understanding. The Light of Jesus is like a lighthouse—it helps us find the way and steers us past dangers and treacherous places. Jesus is both light and light keeper: he is the light and is the one who keeps the light, who rescues and offers safe harbour to anyone who needs it.
The encounter with this man was a moment of awesome grace. It wasn’t that he was healed of blindness; Jesus saw a person, not a blind beggar that others passed by. It was the grace of being healed without asking; the grace of seeing the light without any payment required; it was the grace of being part of life again.
The brightest light that shone in his life was the light of knowing he had received grace. “I don’t know much about this Jesus, but this one thing I know: once I was blind and now I see.” People tried to get him to deny Jesus, to say negative things about him, or to admit that he was never really blind. He wouldn’t deny his blindness. And even though he couldn’t answer a lot questions about who Jesus was and how he was healed, he knew that grace had touched him and said so.
There’s the lighthouse—just there. A light of direction, rescue and safe harbour, a place of grace for all our needs.