It makes a difference

Recently, I saw a collection of before-after pictures in which people showed “What I looked like then,” in stark contrast to, “What I look like now.” They had gone through a punk, goth, or emo phase in their teen years. Some had bright orange mohawks; others had long jet black hair draped across one eye. But a few years changed all that. Many had jobs and kids, and had completely changed their look. If you had known them then, you might not recognize them now.

That’s what comes to mind as I wonder about the almost comic scene that plays out when a blind man whom Jesus had healed returned home. Some of the people who saw him were his neighbors, while others knew him only as a beggar. But they were confused, and began to argue among themselves:

The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.” But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!” (John 9:8-9, CEB)

“Some said…others said…but the man said…” In each case, the verb is in the so-called imperfect tense, meaning that it describes an incomplete action or something without a definite beginning or end. In other words, they keep doing what they’re doing.

Thus, here’s how I imagine the scene. A group of people see the man coming. They recognize him — sort of. Is that who I think it is? some say. Nah, couldn’t be. Sure looks like him, though… The group continues to buzz, but no one bothers to talk to the man himself.

But of course, he can hear them arguing. “Yes, it’s me,” he announces. But he had to keep saying it — probably because nobody was listening. “Hey, people, it’s me!” he says, waving his arms. “Yes, it’s me. What? No, really. It’s me.”

This isn’t the same situation as with the before and after transformations I described earlier. It hasn’t been years since the crowd saw the man. He hasn’t changed his makeup or hairstyle.

But the way they have known him in the past can be summed up in two words: “blind” and “beggar.” Now, he’s neither. He’s no longer sitting in the dust by the side of the road, but walking upright, without assistance, looking about to take in all the newfound colors that greet his eyes. We might even surmise that there was a change in his manner and attitude.

In other words, in many ways, he really was a different person — enough to make people question who he was, even though they supposedly knew him.

He hasn’t even become a disciple yet. But he’s been touched by Jesus. And it makes a difference.