The Blind Leading the Blind
In Luke 6, Jesus asks, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?” This painting by Netherlandish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder shows us what this situation might look like. The leader of this hapless group of gentlemen has already fallen into the pit and his buddies are about to meet the same fate. Each man has a different eye affliction and holds his head slightly aloft to make the best use of his other senses. The diagonal composition reinforces the off-kilter motion of the six figures falling in progression. This painting is considered a masterpiece because of Bruegel’s accurate attention to detail and composition. It inspired many literary works and other artistic interpretations. Notably, 50 years later, Flemish artist Sebastiaen Vrancx used this canvas as his inspiration in interpreting the scene seen below.
Notice in Vrancx’s version a small dog clings to the path, desperately trying to get back on steady ground. The first man is carrying a beer pitcher, the second a musical instrument under his cloak, and the third has a purse over his shoulders. This is to signify the trappings of this world that may lead us down the wrong path.
We all have our blind spots. We all have areas in our lives where we deny our culpability, make excuses for our bad behavior, or get so caught up in our busyness that we pay no attention to the path we’re on. We all, at times, believe lies about who God is and who God says we are, which blinds us to the truth of what has been done for us through Christ. And sometimes we relate to the little dog, just trying to find some footing in life.
In Revelation 12:9, Satan is called “the deceiver of the world.” He sows lies like a farmer sows seed and those lies blind us.
I remember when my mom was in her 70s and had cataract surgery. Cataracts are when the lens of your eye become opaque and the result is blurred and cloudy vision. After her surgery, she was downright giddy about how well she could see. You don’t realize how blind you are until you are not.
The lies of the world may act as a cataract—blurring, clouding, and blinding. St. Paul says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).
Perhaps we could say that worship, God’s Word, and prayer act as cataract surgery. Each clears our vision, changes our perspective, and helps us see the way forward.
Being Human connection: May we have cataract surgery today. May our soul be full of light. May we receive the grace to see our blindness. May we also remember how God sees each of us. He has full vision of who we are—and loves us still.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Blind Leading the Blind, 1568, Museo de Capodimonte, Naples, Italy
Sebastiaen Vrancx, The Parable of the Blind: The Blind Leading the Blind, 17th century, private collection