Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Blind leading the Blind

This is the first in my series on parables, proverbs and biblical myths (as some people would say).

Jesus said "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again, and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest; for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.

"For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

"And He spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?"

"If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." 
When a person lacking in understanding or expertise attempts to guide another like himself, both will suffer serious consequences.
"There are none so blind as those who will not see."
It is pointless reasoning with a person who does not want to listen to sense.

Spiritual Blindness
Physical blindness gives people an image of helplessness and despair, but no one seems to recognise fully what spiritual blindness is.

Figuratively, blindness refers to an inability to recognise the truth. It can range from people who simply do not want to know to those who exercise it as a culpable condition, such as the judges whose judgment is perverted because of bribes.

Such blindness to the truth results in mental confusion where an individual has forfeited the ability to perceive truth at their own cost.

Paul in the New Testament describes gradual blindness when he writes of those whose 'foolish hearts were darkened.' (Roms 1:21). In another view he talks of seeing poorly now in contrast to seeing perfectly in the life to come (1 Cor 13: 12); as in dim glass.

Jesus described in the religious leaders and teachers of his own generation in terms of blindness (Mt 15:14, 23: 16-17, 19, 24, 26). The irony of their situation is that in their spiritual ignorance they assumed that they understand perfectly.

Similarly, Christian believers who revert to their pre-Christian ways are described as blind, not perceiving the contradiction expressed in their behaviour, (2 Pet 1:9, 1 Jn 2:11).

The Pharisees and Pharisaical Actions
Commonly thought of as hypocrite. Pharisaical means marked by hypocritical censorious self-righteousness. The etymology of hypocrite suggests 'a pretender'. In Hebrew culture the Pharisees pretended to be the authoritative opinion on righteousness and the law.

They are model citizen of Israel, accepted leaders simply by virtue of their zeal for the law. Sound familiar?

So why did they hate Jesus so? If you read the parable above, the Pharisees did not follow the spirit of the law, but the letter. The Pharisees did not act like that parable. Jesus challenges their right to their assumed position and exposes their pretense and emerges as a higher authority than them.

The pharisees had zeal but no knowledge of the mystery of the kingdom. Even the prophet Isaiah has spoken about the Pharisaic ardor for the details of the law when he said "So then, the word of the lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there – so that they will go and fall backward, be inured and snared and capture." (Is 28:13 NIV).

They are foremost interested in the restoration of Israel. They are politically influential. For this reason we find them to be the foremost inquisitors and dialogue partners of Jesus. Jesus accuses them of abusing their power: "devouring widows' houses" (Mk 12: 40), taking the best synagogue seats (Mt 23:6), expecting dutiful marketplace greetings and the title Rabbi (Mk 23:7).

Jesus says they are blind guides. Blinded by pride to the complete perspective. Their myopic vision of the law leads eventually to a decline in popular opinion and immediately to the harsh judgement of Jesus "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel" (Mt 23:24 NIV).

Thought they are considered expert exegetes in the nuance of the law, Jesus condemns them as teachers of the law for expanding its intentions. While they take offense to this sabbath healing of a man with a withered hand (Mk 3:1 - 5), he refers to the written law and scorns extrapolations (Mk 2:27). He claims their traditions make void the word of God (Mk 7:13) by focusing on minute details and missing the larger purpose.  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness." (Mt 23:23 NIV).

The Pharisees are offended when Jesus eats with tax collectors and prostitutes. Intent on separation from all defilement, the Pharisees have applied to their table fellowship the laws prescribed for priests and sacrifices. To emphasise their insufficient efforts at purity, Jesus call the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but on the inside … are full of the bones of the dead." (Mt 23: 27 NRSV).

It was the pharisees that used their political and religious cloud for revenge; with priestly roles and political connections, they encourage his trial and crucifixion.

For those in spiritual blindness Jesus said "Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Lk 23: 34).

Please check my visual narrative As Blind as a Bat (Phantasmagoria.thecomicseries.com/comics/pl/97574). It has another story about Jesus healing on the Sabbath Day and will give you a clear idea of what self-righteousness really is. The pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. To the clear moral vision of Jesus the attitude implied in this objection showed a radical depravicty of nature, an inability to discriminate between fundamental ethical distinctions. The former blind man says "Whereas I was blind, now I see. This man has done good to me, and for me, therefore, he is good." It is not the function of the prince of darkness to give sight to the bound.

Blind leading the Blind

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