In the spaghetti westerns that established Clint Eastwood as a global star, his characters were known as “the man with no name.” The credits listed names, like Blondie in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly or Joe in a Fistful of Dollars, but Eastwood’s antiheroes were really anonymous drifters, like high plains wraiths without a past or future.
The 4th Sunday of Lent – for April 3, 2011
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth… (John 9:1)
The ninth chapter of John’s Gospel depicted a different type of “man with no name.” And yet one thing is decidedly the same because for forty-one verses—for what is one of the longest stretches of Gospel covering a single person’s story outside of the Holy Week events—the “hero’s” name is never mentioned. Instead the hero is called: “blind from birth,” “this man,” “a beggar,” “formerly blind,” “son,” “of age,” “disciple,” and “sinner.” In the NRSV, within those forty-one verses, the central figure is unimaginatively called “man” at least ten times. The print’s so small in the Bible I use for study, I didn’t attempt to count the uses of the more mundane “he.”
Poor fellow. We never know his name!
In the vast sweep of the 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—his parents!—they mention him by using the phrase, “he is of age.” I felt like screaming: speak his name! At least call him Blondie or Joe before he drifts away from the story. Continue reading →