“If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied, “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.” – John 9:41 NLT
This entire chapter deals with the interaction between Jesus and a common peasant man who had been blind since birth. It all took place on the Sabbath, which usually meant that Jesus was going to do something that would put Him at odds with the religious leaders, who were always looking for more excuses to attack and discredit Him. Jesus didn’t disappoint. His disciples were the first to point out the man in question, using him as a visual aid to assist them in asking Jesus a theological question: “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins? (John 9:2 NLT). They were expressing a common viewpoint among the Jews that all physical suffering, illness or trouble of any kind was due to sin. From their perspective, this man was blind because of either something he or his parents had done. But Jesus shocks them by saying the man’s blindness was for a totally different reason – “so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:3 NLT). The man’s blindness was an opportunity for God to reveal His power, but no necessarily just through healing. Paul expressed it so well when he wrote, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong: (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT). Weakness of any kind, whether physical, emotional, financial, or psychological, can be a place where we can discover the power of God in our lives. And Jesus was going to display His Father’s power in this man’s life as an illustration to His disciples.
Interestingly enough, Jesus chooses to heal this man in a manner He had not done before. He could have simply spoken a word and the man’s eyes would have been opened. But instead, Jesus spit on the ground, makes mud and spread it over the man’s eyes. He then instructed the man to go to the Pool of Siloam and wash the mud away. The thing to remember is that this was the Sabbath, and what Jesus did (according to the legalistic religious leaders) would have been construed as “work” – a direct violation of the Sabbath laws concerning rest or cessation from work. And Jesus knew exactly what He was doing and for whose benefit. When the man comes back from the pool completely healed and able to see for the first time in his life, it didn’t take long for the word to spread. This brought the religious leaders, who began to question the man regarding what had happened. They are incredulous, disbelieving and choose to deny that the man had been blind at all. They question his parents in an attempt to discredit the man’s story, but fail. When the realize that they are not going to be able to debunk the reality of the man’s miraculous healing, they demand that he give the glory to God and not Jesus, “because we know this man Jesus is a sinner” (John 9:24 NLT). The man, while just a common peasant and a former beggar with no theological training, is astute enough to respond, “I don’t know whether he is a sinner, but I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” (John 9:25 NLT). What a great line!
The religious leaders reveal that they don’t believe in Jesus because they don’t know where He comes from. In other words, He had no authority. He had no credibility. He had no right to say what He said or do what He did. He was not one of their own. But once again, the man who had been healed by Jesus simply says, “Why that’s very strange! He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from? We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it” (John 9:30-33 NLT). From this man’s limited perspective, it was clear that Jesus was from God. And the debate over whether He was a sinner or not was cleared up by the very fact that God seemed to be on His side. This formerly blind man could see the truth clearly. His spiritual eyes were opened and he was able to perceive the truth of who Jesus was and who He came from. But the religious leaders were blind. In a rage, they threw him out of the synagogue. Jesus heard what had happened and found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35 NLT). The man replies, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him” (John 9:36 NLT). This man was still learning to see spiritually. He was not yet clear on exactly who Jesus was, but he wanted to know. So Jesus tells him, “You have seen him, and he is speaking to you” (John 9:38 NLT). The man responds with a resounding statement of belief and heartfelt worship. Then Jesus makes a statement to him that sums up this entire chapter. “I entered into this world to render judgment – to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind” (John 9:39 NLT). In the spiritual economy of that day, this man had been viewed since the day he was born, as a sinner who was being punished by God with physical blindness. The religious leaders were viewed as righteous, holy and the personal favorites of God because of their position and their strict adherence to the law. God was “blessing” them for their righteousness and punishing this man for his unrighteousness. But Jesus destroys this paradigm, revealing that it was the religious leaders who were truly blind. If they would simply admit their need and confess their own weakness, they could receive healing from God through Jesus. But they remained blind and guilty because they claimed they could see. They thought they knew better. Their own self-righteousness blinded them to the truth and prevented them from seeing the Son of God standing in their midst. Their refusal to admit their spiritual blindness condemned them and left them stumbling around in darkness. Jesus had already said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12 NLT). This man had been blind, but now he saw. He had also been spiritually blind, living in spiritual darkness. But He had had His eyes opened and was now living in the light of the Son of God.
Father, You sent Your Son into the world to shed His light in the midst of the prevailing darkness. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. There are countless millions who continue to choose darkness over His light. They prefer sin over salvation. They refuse to admit their own spiritual blindness, all the while arrogantly claiming that they can see. Thank You for opening my eyes. Thank You for exposing my blindness and shining the light of Your Son into the darkness of my world. Help me be a light in the dark to all those around me. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men