Underneath spiritual blindness
Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Evidently Coach Wooden had to deal with the inflated egos of quite a few basketball prima donnas who were beyond his instruction when they arived to play at UCLA. One of his first tasks was to destroy the unteachable spirit they brought from the exalted heights of high school so he could teach them the fine points of competing at the next level.
We all know unteachableness reaches beyond the arena or stadium. Jesus taught his disciples an important lesson about blind guides, appointed to lead others, who refused his teaching about the Kingdom. The setting of Matthew 15 involved why the Lord's immediate circle of followers didn't rigidly keep the precepts of Pharisaism. His comments, as a result, were a blistering expose of the Pharisees unteachable hearts. When he said, "Let them alone: they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:14), he was explaining the harsh spirtual dangers of unteachable, blind guides leading ohers. That he spoke these things to his own followers is a distinct warning to the Christian community. Unteachablness is dangerous.
A couple of things are notable. Remember that the Pharisees weren't the latest trend in first century messianic expectation. Their legalism was based on God's revelation to Moses and the children of Israel during the Exodus. They weren't pop religion or a new wrinkle. Pharisaism was tradition to an extreme. It was layers and layers of man's interpretation that over-shadowed the original teaching of the Torah. He wasn't caling them blind because they didn't know anything. No, he was calling them blind because they didn't learn anything. They has missed in total the new thing promised in the coming Messiah. They were unteachable.
Go deeper. They were unteachable because they were arrogant and prideful. They possesed all that was needed for a reltionship with the Father. It is the root of the most dangerous threats within the church, leaders who pretend to know everything and are, therefore, unteachable. In a giant applicational leap, Jesus fast-forwarded that know-it-all spirit to his disciples. Peter wanted him to explain the meaning of the parable. Obviously his question frustrated Jesus somewhat. He said, "Are you still without understanding?" (v. 16). Evidently he was sensing this same unteachableness in them.
The danger is the pit. Yes, there may be some escahatological reference here, pointing to the abyss of last days judgment. But, more, there's the here and now warning about following unteachable, prideful, spiritually blind leaders. The warning seems more appropriate in our secularized times when thousands of young, basically un-discipled believers are leaving churches to follow spiritual and biblical lightweights who refuse to learn anything. When the blind lead the blind, they all fall in the pit. Amd, the pit is just a metaphor of being out of the flow, a hole where escape is hard, a place of no infuence, no progress, no movement, no growth.
Let me very specific. I really don't think this is a traditional church/contemporary church thing. When I talk about the "new thing" most people jump to the conclusion the real subject is my personal preference for contemporary worship, missional vision, contextual ministry, and Kingdom thinking. That's an unteachable conclusion in itself. I know plenty of high-octane contemporary churches that have blind leaders, and main-line, traditional churches that have great visionary learners who're leading their congregations to effective mission and world influence.
My interpretation of Matthew 15:14 is pin-pointed to these blind leaders---arrogant, prideful, unteachable leaders who won't learn anything from the Spirit, and are leading their churches to the pit of uninformed, unprepared, and misdirected mission. With a blind person out front, there'e usually plenty of sizzle, and little meat. That's what I'm talking about.
The blessing is that Jesus loved to heal blindness. One day his entourage was passing near Jericho. A blind man was begging by the roadside. The man cried out, "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!" (Luke 18: 38). Jesus asked the man, "What do you want me to do for you?" (v.41). He replied, "Lord, help me recover my sight" (v. 41). You know the rest. He recovered his sight and followed Jesus. And, all the people saw it and praised God.
When the blind lead the blind, they all fall into the pit. When they blind ask for mercy, recognize Jesus as Lord, and are healed, all the people praise God.