In the early Church this Gospel story of the Man Born Blind was often acted as a play that brought the scene to life for Christians. I took part in staging this Gospel story forty years ago. I was filling in for the sick pastor of the parish attached to the University of Iowa, and a young musician who headed the parish youth program suggested that we stage the Gospel story as a musical drama. He hummed a simple tune for me, asking me to use it for putting the story into verses.
The whole play was staged in a Jerusalem market place, and I had the people sing this verse as they tended their market stalls.
On the south side of Jerusalem, within the city walls,
We people of the marketplace, we tend our market stalls.
The Man Born Blind then stumbled in singing,
Our market and our synagogue are the best that you could find,
We have our very own beggar here, me, the Man Born Blind.
Next, the Pharisees came on the scene, calling Jesus an outlaw who broke the Sabbath by curing people. Anyone following him would be put out of the synagogue. The Pharisees announced themselves, singing,
Make way, make way, for Pharisees, for men who have no flaw.
We have a thing for purity, and the letter of the law.
The Pharisees commanded the people to fold up their stalls, because the sun sinking on Friday evening marks the beginning of the Sabbath rest. The people sing,
The synagogue becomes our home when the sun sinks out of sight
The last day of the weary week, holy Sabbath, Friday night.
They told the Man he couldn’t come, because blindness made him unclean.
Afterwards Jesus and his disciples came on the scene, and Jesus, rubbing mud on the Man’s eyes told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. At first, after he came back seeing the people couldn’t believe it. Then, they saw his cure as a criminal matter to be reported to the Pharisees.
The play turns into a comedy when we identify with the parents. “We know he is our son. And we know he was born blind. But as to how he was made to see we do not know. Ask him, he is of age.”
The Pharisees banished the Man from the synagogue and marketplace. Left alone he laments.
Our synagogue and marketplace are the best that you could find.
Why am I left in loneliness? Me, the Man Born Blind.