The Blonde Leading the Blind

Jesus’ imagery of a blind person leading a blind person (Matthew 15:14) is so familiar to most of us that it hardly elicits more than a quiet yawn. Altering the characters as in the above title just may create enough of a jolt to kick-start the engine of Jesus’ intention. Of course, it also risks offending all my fair-haired siblings in Christ, so for that I offer in advance my sincere apologies.

The general (perhaps even secular) point of this figure of speech is this: if you want to arrive at a destination of your own intention, make sure you have a reliable guide. Example: You find yourself stranded in an unfamiliar city, and you want to get back home. What do you do? Right! You ask for help. But you don’t just blindly pick the first chump you bump into (or who bumps into you!). You have certain criteria in mind: What evidence do I have that this person can be trusted to help me and not do me harm? Does this person know where I need to go? Does he or she know how to get from where I am now to where I need to go? A negative answer to any of these questions generates no small degree of anxiety.

What we are talking about here is the necessity of critical evaluation as opposed to blind faith.

Wisdom urges us to judiciously evaluate not only those whom we follow but every piece of advice they offer along the way.

Jim Jones expected people to follow him mindlessly. Jesus did not. He earned our trust by a life entirely faithful to God’s will, and he demonstrated his competence as our guide by showing us that (1) He knows where we are (estranged from God by our sin); (2) He knows where we need to go (God’s eternal presence); and (3) He knows how to get there (not only does He know the map, HE IS THE MAP!! (John 14:6). As the very embodiment of God’s Word, Jesus is our very own interactive Map!).

Jesus uses the ridiculous one-sentence mini-parable of a blind person leading another blind person in order to show that following the lead of the Pharisees is equally ill-advised. His point could not be made any more vividly: your highly respected religious leaders, the Pharisees, are not reliable guides at all. True, they know where you are (“sinner-ville”); and true, they know where you need to go (“Saint-town”), but they do not know how to get you there (rules and regulations?). You see, according to the Pharisees, we are sinners because we sin. Our sinful acts make us sinners. Stop the sinful acts and, voilà, we are no longer sinners. This approach fails on at least two fronts: first, it misunderstands the sin problem, and second, it suggests that we can solve this problem ourselves.

Jesus’ deployment of the “blind leading the blind” mini-parable is sandwiched between two very similar aphorisms (sayings) that are almost certainly addressing the Pharisaic approach to Jewish dietary restrictions. The first is the more subtle of the two: “What defiles a person,” Jesus said, “is not what goes into the mouth; it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11). What’s His Point? Surely it is this: The Pharisees are so concerned about external compliance with various rules (here, specifically, dietary restrictions, i.e., what goes into the mouth), but what comes out of the mouth is the true indicator of spiritual condition, because the mouth speaks “from the abundance of the heart” (Matthew 12:34).

What this suggests is that sin is ultimately a matter of the heart, which is the center, not of the emotions (as in modern Western thought), but of the will, intention, or decision. Put bluntly, sin is a mindset or posture against God. Thus, we are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. Sinning is what sinners do. The solution, then, is not to stop sinning, that is, to perfectly live up to external rules and regulations; the solution is to stop being sinners, that is, to keep on being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

Jesus’ point seems almost obvious from our vantage point, but the disciples appear to have missed it at first. They come to Jesus and inform him that his dietary saying has unnerved the Pharisees (who, by the way, meticulously follow the external law code that even includes rules they themselves created). Jesus immediately portrays the Pharisees as blind guides, chides His disciples for missing the point, and, in a kind of last ditch effort to bring the disciples to understanding, extends the dietary aphorism to its VERY graphic lower limit: instead of pointing to what comes out of the mouth, He lowers Himself to alluding to what comes out of the . . . . well, other end of the digestive tract (Matthew 15:17).

The disgusting nature of this illustration actually compounds its rhetorical force.

A heart set against God always generates disgusting and immoral behavior. Only a heart transplant wrought by God’s grace through repentance and faith will solve the sin problem both on an individual and a global scale.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with the Pharisees that mankind's sinful acts make us sinners or with the view that the reason mankind sins is because we are sinners in need of salvation? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

This blog was originally posted at www.robstarner.com. It was reposted here with permission from the author.

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