A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I saw my very first spaghetti western. We had just moved to Florida, and my stepfather took us all to a drive-in theater to see The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It was that night that I was first exposed to “the man with no name.” You see, in Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, his characters were nameless, anonymous drifters without a past or a future. Sure, the credits sometimes listed names like Blondie or Joe, but for those of us who loved his movies, he will always be “the man with no name.” As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth… (John 9:1) This is how the Gospel of John introduces us to a different “man with no name.”
Amazingly, in the 41 verses that John uses to tell the story, the man’s name is never mentioned. Instead, he is called: “blind from birth,” “this man,” “a beggar,” “formerly blind,” “son,” “of age,” “disciple,” and “sinner.” In the NRSV, within those 41 verses, the central figure is unimaginatively called “man” at least ten times. I didn’t even bother to count the number of times he is called the even more mundane, “he.”
In the entire story, from the first encounter with “the man,” through Jesus’ healing of his blindness and all the way to the end where “the man’s” neighbors run him out of town, we never know what to call him. Even in the scene with his parents, they mention him by using the phrase “he is of age.” I felt like screaming: call him by his name! At least call him Blondie or Joe before he drifts away from the story.
There was a time when I couldn’t figure out why John did this. Now I can see just how brilliant he is. You see, since the blind from birth beggar is “the man with no name,” I can enter the story and give the man my name. Sure, there are times when I am like the Pharisees and try to use power to put people in their place. And yes, there are times when I am like the parents, refusing to take responsibility for anything. But most of the time, I am that man with no name at the beginning of the story, blind and in need of healing.
Maybe I should pray every day a very simple prayer, “Help Marty see.” Then I just might be healed and will be able to echo the man with no name, “This one thing I know, I was blind but now I see.”