TEXT: John 9:1-11
An article reported, “The blind will be able to see the light with a new bionic eye implant which is said to be available within 2 years. The development of the bionic eye will at last restore blind people’s sight. The prototype high tech implant will be fitted to approx 50 to 75 patients, mow that U.S. researchers have been given the go ahead. The bionic eye device is called The Argus II which is a spectacle mounted camera that sends visual information to electrodes in the eye.” It is amazing what our technology can do. It is certainly a far cry from Jesus spitting in dirt and making mud to put on a blind man’s eyes.
But with all our technology, it is still be far less effective than what Jesus did with a little dirt and spit. Even the miracle of technology cannot hold a candle to the miracles of Jesus.
Our story today unfolds as Jesus and his disciples are walking through Jerusalem on their way out of the Temple area. They see a man who is blind, in fact, they learn that he has been blind from birth. There are many points which this story addresses, and the first is:
1. THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
In the layman’s term, it is called “The question of Suffering.”
It was the common understanding of the day that when some tragedy or illness occurred, it was God’s way of punishing people for their sin. So we are not surprised to hear Jesus’ disciples say, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). From the beginning of time people have been trying to understand what causes suffering in this world. The great thing about this story is that Jesus immediately clears this up for us by saying that this has nothing to do with some sin in this man’s life or his parent’s. God is not punishing them. God is not angry with them. That is not why bad things happen in the world. GOD IS NOT PUNISHING INDIVIDUALS OR THE WORLD AT LARGE. In fact, in spite of the things which happen at times, this is a very good and pleasant world. Every day God shows his love and pours out his blessings, in spite of our sin and the fact that we do not deserve his blessings. GOD’S RESPONSE TO US IS AFFECTION, NOT ANGER! The Bible says, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). That’s good news since we would all be blind, deaf and terminal if we got what we deserved.
- For some, the presence of difficulties and suffering in the world mean that God is punishing them for something.
- But for others, it is the sign that God is not able to do anything about the problems they face.
- Others wonder if he simply does not care.
William Frey, retired Episcopal bishop from Colorado, tells the following story: “When I was a younger man, I volunteered to read to a degree student named John who was blind. One day I asked him, “How did you lose your sight?” “A chemical explosion,” John said, “at the age of thirteen.” “How did that make you feel?” I asked. “Life was over. I felt helpless. I hated God,” John responded. “For the first six months I did nothing to improve my lot in life. I would eat all my meals alone in my room. One day my father entered my room and said, ‘John, winter’s coming and the storm windows need to be up — that’s your job. I want those hung by the time I get back this evening or else!’ Then he turned, walked out of the room and slammed the door. I got so angry. I thought Who does he think I am? I’m blind! I was so angry I decided to do it. I felt my way to the garage, found the windows, located the necessary tools, found the ladder, all the while muttering under my breath, ‘I’ll show them. I’ll fall, then they’ll have a blind and paralyzed son!’” John continued, “I got the windows up. I found out later that never at any moment was my father more than four or five feet away from my side.”
In the same way, Jesus did not promise to spare us from hardships and difficulties, but he did promise to be with us: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
The second thing addressed in this story is:
2. THE EVIDENT REALITY OF SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS.
There are two kinds of blindness in the story:
- One is of the man who was born with a physical defect of blindness.
- The second is of the religious folk who had a spiritual defect and were spiritually blind.
And the story tells us that SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS is worse than PHYSICAL BLINDNESS. Physical blindness can be healed, but spiritual blindness resists healing.
In the story we have this interesting dialogue between the man who had been blind and the Pharisees. The Pharisees begin to question the man. They want to know how he received his sight. They want to know who healed him, and they want to know what the man believes about Jesus. They tell the man who had been healed that Jesus cannot possibly be from God, because he broke the religious law and heals on the Sabbath. They seem to miss the point that the man’s healing is a miracle — a miracle that had never been heard of before. For some reason it doesn’t seem to matter to them. The only thing they can do is to criticize Jesus for doing it on the wrong day. They are not sure they even believe the man was healed, so they question his parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” His parents answer, “We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself” (John 9:19-21).
When their meeting with the parents did not prove helpful, they come back to the man and say, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.” But the blind man said, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:24-25). He didn’t understand how he was healed. He didn’t know all the theology of it. He didn’t even have a real clear picture of who Jesus was. He thought he was only a prophet. But there was one thing he understood — he had been blind, and now he could see. That he knew! This man could see, and we begin to understand that the people who are really blind are the religious leaders, THE PHARISEES. Oh they had good physical eyes, but they were spiritually blind. They approached the whole incident, and Jesus himself, with blind eyes. They were not about to see what was so obvious. It was willful blindness.
The Pharisees claimed that Jesus could not have come from God. But the man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing” (John 9:30-33). Who is seeing and who is blind in this story? Here we have a blind beggar seeing more clearly than the religious leaders. Later on, when Jesus returned to the man, the man fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped him. He not only saw with physical eyes, but he saw with spiritual eyes as well. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39). The religious leaders were those prophesied about by Ezekiel when he wrote, “They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people” (Ezekiel 12:2). For all their knowledge of the Scripture and religious practice, they missed the kingdom, and a poor blind man found it. His eyes were opened; theirs remained closed. You can enter the kingdom if you are physically blind, but you cannot enter when you are spiritually blind. Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41).
In More Jesus, Less Religion, Steve Arterburn writes: “Some time ago, I read about the work of a Wycliffe Bible translator in a remote village in Papua New Guinea. When the opening chapters of Genesis were first translated into the native language, the attitude toward women in the tribe changed overnight. They had not realized or understood that the woman had been specially formed out of the side of the man. Without even hearing this concept developed, these people immediately grasped the ideas of equality between the sexes and began adjusting their behavior. The people heard. They believed. They obeyed. They changed. Just like that. That change doesn’t mean everyone in the tribe immediately came to faith in Christ, however. While they immediately recognized the respect God has for both men and women, the members of this tribe had their own hard-to-abandon gods and superstitions. One of their practices was to spit on the wounds of the sick. Their medicine men were known as the spitters, and they did not want someone like Jesus to take away their status in the village. However, the attitude changed as more of the Bible was translated into the tribe’s dialect. When translators read the passage where Jesus cured a blind man in a most unusual way, the medicine men pricked up their ears. The Master spit on the ground, made a paste of mud, put it on the man’s eyelids, told him to wash it off — and the man was healed. When these tribesmen heard this story in their own language, they saw that Jesus was not against them, but for them. They found one of their own, a Savior who was also a spitter! And they came to the Lord because of this connection.”
These simple people heard the story and responded. They saw with spiritual eyes, 2000 years after the event, what the religious people who were actually there and saw the miracle were not able to see.
But the most important message in this story is one that is not so obvious. The third point addressed in this story is:
3. THE HOPE OF A NEW WORLD.
It is a hidden message and requires spiritual eyes to see. When the disciples ask Jesus whether the man’s blindness was caused by his sin or the sin of his parent’s, Jesus replies: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). We usually think of those words in relation to what Jesus is going to do by healing the blind man. But I think Jesus has something greater in mind.
The work of God in this man’s life will point to something larger that God is going to do in the world. In this man’s healing there is the promise of the final healing that God will bring to the whole earth. It is the mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the yeast hidden in the dough. It is the treasure hidden in a field. It is what the whole world is moving toward. It is the secret of what God will bring about on the Last Day when he transforms the world and we who are in it. Within the fallenness and suffering of the world there is the promise that something new is about to happen. The healing of the blind man, the raising of Lazarus, the forgiveness of the adulterer are all signs of this promise. Above all, the resurrection of Jesus is the sign that the end of the story has not yet been told. There is more to come. In the restoration of all things, blindness, rejection, death and sin will be no more. We will hear a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” And he who is seated on the throne will say, “I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:3-5).
What happens when blindness meets the Light of the World, when sinners meet the Savior, when hunger meets the Bread of life, when thirst meets the Living Water, when lost sheep meet the Good Shepherd, the rejected meet incarnate Love, and the dead meet Christ who is the Resurrection and the Life? This is what happens:
- The blind receive their sight,
- the sinful receive forgiveness,
- the hungry are filled and satisfied,
- the lame walk,
- the sick are cured,
- people are made whole,
- the disconsolate find hope,
- prisoners are set free,
- those who once mourned are filled with joy,
- the dead are raised and eternal life is inherited.
This is the promise of the risen, eternal Christ. Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
In this present world things do not always work out the way they are supposed to, or the way we want them to. There is hunger, thirst and sickness. The question is: Will we trust God until then, as we go through difficulties and disappointments? Will we live in hope? Will we only see the present circumstances and allow ourselves to sink into bitterness and despair? As surely as sunrise conquers the dark and Spring triumphs over winter, God’s new day will heal all the wrongs of the world.
- Weakness will be turned to strength.
- Rejection will be forgotten in God’s embrace.
- Joy comes in the morning.
- Love will conquer hate, good will triumph over evil and Jesus will reign.
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Jesus said that in the end, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. . . . Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:41-43).
I recently read this story: “Back in the 1920s, when Lou Little coached football at Georgetown University, he had a player of average ability who rarely got into the game. Yet he was fond of him, and especially liked the way he walked arm-in-arm with his father on campus. Shortly before the big contest with Fordham, the boy’s mother called the coach with news that her husband had died that morning of a heart attack. ‘Will you break the news to my son?’ she asked. ‘He’ll take it better from you.’ The student went home heavy hearted, but three days later he was back. ‘Coach,’ he pleaded, ‘will you start me in the Fordham game? I think it’s what my father would have liked most.’ After a moment’s hesitation, Little said, ‘Okay, but only for a play or two.’ True to his word, he put the boy in — but never took him out. For 60 action-packed minutes, that inspired young man ran and blocked like an All-American. After the game, Little praised him, ‘Son, you were terrific! You’ve never played like that before. What got into you?’ ‘Few people knew it,’ answered the boy, ‘but my father was totally blind. Today was the first time he ever saw me play!’”
All of us are blind and in need of Jesus’ touch. And one day our healing will be complete on that Day when God will make everything new. It is the promise of God, contained in a simple story of a blind man who received his sight.
- Rodney J. Buchanan
- Book of Illustrations
- Our Daily Bread