John 9:1-41 (NRSV) As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”
10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”
12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided.
17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
This man had been born blind, yet by the end of the story he is the only one with clear vision. Sometimes, although all of our senses may be properly functional, we can easily miss things that are so clear- so apparent because of how ordinary it is to have our senses bombarded from all angles- I’d like to introduce you to a man named Ralph Teetor.
In 1902 a reporter in a Manhattan newsroom tapped out a story about a 12 year old boy from Indiana that had built, on his own, a fully functional automobile from a discarded engine and self-machined materials, that could reach speeds of up to 25 mph. What the reporter did not know, or mention in that report is that Ralph Teetor, the 12 year old boy who was the subject of this article, had become blind in an accident when he was 5 years old. Teetor graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912, and went on to accomplish many extraordinary feats, including a method to balance steam turbine motors in submarines, a new type of fishing rod and reel that would fit comfortably in your hand, with a locking mechanism so you could cast with one hand, and he invented one of the first powered lawnmowers. All this while he was blind. But the inspiration for his most successful invention came when he was riding in the car with his lawyer. During their back and forth conversations, the lawyer had a habit of slowing down when he was speaking to Teetor, and then when Teetor would begin talking, the lawyer would accelerate quickly. The rocking motion that he was experiencing was annoying, so he set his mind to creating a speed control device. It took him 10 years to complete the project and have a patent issued, He called it controlomatic, then touchomatic, then pressomatic, before finally settling on speedostat for the name of his patent. It wasn’t long before Cadillac installed this device on all of their cars, and today we know this feature as, you guessed it, cruise control. A rocking motion that was unnoticed by a person with 5 fully functioning senses, and was completely annoying to another who couldn’t see a thing with his eyes- was the reason we have this standard feature on every automobile that is made today.
So as we look into this text this morning- what did this blind man in John chapter 9 sense or experience- that should have been clear to everyone else in this story- AND what can we can learn from this encounter with Jesus about ourselves and our church at Forsythe Avenue in 2018?
LESSONS FROM THE FAITH OF THE BLIND MAN
HE OBEYED JESUS. The most glaring is that He faithfully followed Jesus instructions- and we see the man recall this several times throughout the passage- Jesus said go- so I went is what he keeps saying. In this debacle of interactions- and personalities- and with the knowledge that these Pharisees, and these neighbors, and his parents had- the blind man is the only one who faithfully went where Jesus said to go. He did not distort or manipulate Jesus words, he did not question whether it was necessary for him to do what Jesus said, but instead he practices the most basic idea of discipleship- Jesus said go, so I went.
HE SAW JESUS CLEARLY. The blind man is the only one who sees Jesus clearly. There is great irony in that all the people in this story see Jesus with their eyes, but the blind man sees him more clearly than anyone. You can trace the progression of his growing vision of Jesus. At first he refers to the Lord as “a man named Jesus”; later he says that Jesus is a prophet (17). Toward the end of the story he says that Jesus is a man of God (33) and ultimately he refers to him as “The Son of Man” and he confesses his faith. But in all of it he has clarity that a miracle has happened – a sign as John would call it – pointing to Jesus. No one else in the chapter seems to see it. The blind man saw Jesus clearly.
HE WORSHIPS JESUS. He is the only one who worships. Verse 37 tells us that he sees Jesus, and in verse 38 he believes, and he worships. Beggars were despised and we see that from the beginning of the chapter, there is a general assumption that blindness is a curse, or punishment for a sin of the parents- this man who was blind is in no way qualified, he has never seen worship before, he does not know How to worship- all he knows is WHO restored his sight. The method is irrelevant- but the MAN, the Son of God means everything for his new life.
Since the blind man had such clarity for who Jesus was and what Jesus did in his life, what are some things the healed blind man would say to us today. He might tell us Here’s how Jesus works in our lives!
WHAT DO WE BELIEVE ABOUT JESUS?
John 9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. To be blind in the early days of the first century Judaism was to be considered cursed. Even the disciples wanted to talk about his sin or his parents sin. But he was born blind. Blind people in the first century could not work, were ineligible to become priests, and often ended up as beggars. Almost no effective treatment was available to those who suffered from diseases of the eye and blindness. There were no antibiotics, no effective surgical procedures for most problems, and no eyeglasses. Even today blindness is not a curable problem. Last Fall MIT reported testing a bionic eye implant. So research is coming along. Stem cell transplants offer some hope.
But it’s hard to escape that there is no hope for this man to ever see… but two words give hope: “he saw” … Jesus saw the man. Jesus notices hurting people and that’s why there is hope for the hopeless. You may not be struggling with blindness, but there are many situations in life where we feel hopeless – no way out, no way to recover, no way to endure, no way to face the consequences, no way to get beyond it. Jesus sees our hurts and, more, he is moved by them.
Rick Warren: No tear has ever been hidden from him. No hurtful word said to you has ever passed that he missed. No abuse has ever occurred that he didn’t see and grieve with you. He sees it all. “God never overlooks a single sparrow. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head!” (Luke 12:6-7 MSG).
Another thing that this blind man who can now see would say to us is that the grace of God is not subject to our rendering of what we need. Grace is available to the helpless- again he was a blind beggar- blind from birth. If you’ll notice in the interactions that kick off chapter 9- the guy is just sitting there. I picture him with his hand out, hoping somebody would drop some coins or food into his palm. The disciples walk by and the man doesn’t say “Hey guys, will you spare me some spit mud so my sight can be restored?” He was completely oblivious to the world around him- and doesn’t even realize that God will be glorified through his present crisis- this is beyond anything he could have ever imagined. Again, he was born this way- He didn’t know faces, he didn’t know color, he couldn’t read or write, he was completely helpless- So in essence- Jesus could be saying- “You want money or food, or enough resources to get you through today so you can return to the exact same state that I found you in- this is what you are begging for blind man- but I have bigger plans for you. My will for your life is far greater than your plans for this day. I am going to bless you with something that you have never imagined was possible. This is reminiscent to Jesus encounter with the woman at the well- she wanted water for that day- but Jesus offers Living water to her. Perhaps sometimes we seek God to meet our demands, or to remedy our situation, and tell Him what we think we need- but in His infinite love and grace- perhaps we should open our eyes to what he has in store for our lives – things that are beyond measure and imagination- that will change every single aspect of our lives, not just remedy the messes and tragedies we find ourselves but to be completely renewed and restored.
Jesus as healer is one of the signs that signaled the Messiah. We continue to appeal to the healing power of Jesus. We appeal to Jesus for healing for loved ones who are sick. We seek the healing of Jesus for the hardships and struggles of daily life. The greatest healing we experience is the healing of sin … the forgiveness we find only in the blood of Christ.
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
Healing is not that all challenges are removed from our life, but that God is drawn to our side and He gives us eternal promises to strengthen us.
There is sight for the blind- If he did tell us this- He would tell us this with ambiguity. In John chapter 9- we see a man who could not see, and we see people whose eyes work, but have no vision. How can this be, you may be asking yourself. I had a calendar one time that was called a magic eye calendar- that looks like a geometric pattern of tye-dye colors- but if you are able to look at the design from the proper perspective- a brand new and different picture jumps out of of the paper and forms this 3D image that makes you swipe your hand in front of you because something that was seemingly nonexistent now can’t be unseen. You know something is there- but it is just beyond your vision- and you have to literally change the way you look at it. In John 9 we see these neighbors who know something happened, and the parents who can attest that this is their son that WAS blind since birth, and the pharisees and jews who become divided on how this happened- they all know that there is something that happened but are either selfishly or fearfully unwilling to change their perspective. I believe that this is what the blind man would tell us- that there is sight for the selfishly or fearfully blind.
The Blind man believed Jesus and Worshiped Him, but there were other people in this text who seemed to remain in their blindness. You don’t want to be one of these people
BLAMERS. The first person that we want to avoid being or becoming is the disciple of Jesus who is trying to attribute blame to the condition of this man. He brings up a religious topic to Jesus, and we can almost hear the intellect in his voice when he says- “Rabbi, who sinned, his mom, or his dad, or him to be born blind?” The question itself is illogical- because the man was born this way, how could this be a punishment pinned on an unborn child’s sin. Secondly- we see the lack of vision that these disciples had- a person in need was sitting there- in a helpless, hopeless state- and they chose to analyze HOW he came to be like this. First of all- what difference does that make to them? Second of all- how blind and self-righteous can you be that you would rather have a theological discussion about those in need instead of seeing that God has given you what He has given you so that you could love on others. Whether or not you feel that this man is the result of a sinful choice by his parents, or because of his own poor decisions- he is still loved by God, and we see evidence of what matters most here when Jesus diverts his attention away from this silly discussion topic, and focuses his love, and his grace to this man… while he schools the disciples by answering their question in verse 3 “It was not that this man sinned, or that his parents sinned- but that the works of God may be displayed in him.”
CONFORMERS. You don’t want to be like his fearful parents. Being a part of the synagogue carried cultural, social, and religious implications. The Pharisees were very powerful in the communities of the Jews. Whatever the consequences, the parents of the healed blind man chose to not get involved in the inquisitions of their son. They simply deferred to him when asked about his healing. How often do we find ourselves tempted to downplay our Christianity? When the pressure is on do we choose to conform to those around us … perhaps those we want to impress … or do we take our stand with Christ? Paul warns us not to be conformed to the world … because it’s a great temptation to do that. When we receive the blessings Christ brings into our lives, we also should do our best conform to Him and His Word, not to the world around us in fear of rejection.
CONTROLLERS. You do not want to be like the pharisees here- Throughout scripture, we see Jesus as graceful to those in need, a lover of children, peaceful with those that are seeking. But when it comes to his interactions with the “religious” leaders and the “teachers of the law” and who took advantage of the children of God, we see a different Jesus. Just a few weeks ago, we heard from John 2 when Jesus cleanses the temple. John brought to our attention that this was a difficult interaction to comprehend because of the aggression of Jesus. We see him rebuking these religious folk time and time again throughout the NT. Here in John 9, we see an ironic twist at the end of the chapter- and Jesus tells them because they believe that they have sight- they are guilty, they are blind. This sounds oxymoronic, but if we pick up what is being shown to us is that the pharisees get involved in this miracle and are looking at it without having the correct perspective. Their vision is clouded because of their pretentiousness. Instead of seeing this miracle for what it is, and who it was that actually performed it, they keep saying How v.10, How v.15, How v.16, How v.21, How v.26. In our lives, there will be things that happen that are unexplainable- miracles and tragedies alike- and in our feeble, simple, sinful minds- we want to assign blame, desire to seek vengeance, or be subject to scientific reasoning, control our understanding- but our faith calls us to look beyond the method, and see the bigger picture. The source of our sight is not the How- but the WHO- In verse 36- the blind man who could now see- both literally and figuratively asks the right questions and faithfully accepts the answer. He says “WHO is the Son of Man so that I may believe” .. not How, but Who- and Jesus answers I am, and he believes, and he worships. Don’t be blinded by the Why, or the How, but instead, I urge you today to see the picture that is so clear, if you are able to go of your fearfulness, or your ingrained habitual mindset- and instead see the WHO that is being glorified all around you. 2 Corinthians 3:16 says that when one turns to the Lord- the veil is removed.
The healing of the blind man is one of the seven signs in the Gospel of John – all of them pointing to Jesus. The reality of spiritual blindness continues today. Sometimes we are willingly blind – refusing His love. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re blind. Would you pray today to have your eyes opened to all of the love and healing that Jesus can give you today?
1. Have you ever lost an item and eventually realized it was out in plain sight, you had just overlooked it? Care to share that story with the class? Why do you think we can’t see some things that are right in front of us?
2. Based on the question the disciples ask Jesus in verse 2, how do they view the relation between sickness and sin? What is Jesus’ view of the same issue? Which of these views is more widely held among Christians today? For bonus points read Eugene Peterson’s translation of vs 2 in The Message. How does that help the dilemma between these two positions?
3. In verse 5 Jesus claims to be the light of the world. As he brings literal light into the life of the blind man, what are some ways that the light of Jesus could bring light to our sin-blinded culture? What would you most like for the lost people of the world to know about Jesus?
4. Why do you think Jesus goes through the process of making mud and instructing the man to go wash, instead of simply healing him instantly? What kind of connection to Creation can you see in this text (John 1 begins with the Creation).
5. What is Jesus’ purpose in seeking out the healed man a second time? (V 35-38)
6. The blind man believed in Jesus and worshiped him (John 9:38). What do you think the man’s worship involved? What posture before Jesus did he take? What words did he say? How can you demonstrate a worshipful attitude toward Jesus?
7. Can you think of a time (in your life or someone else’s) that God used a weakness, failed relationship or disability to demonstrate his glory?
Questions from John: The Way to True Life by Douglas Connelly, a LifeGuide Bible Study from InterVarsity Press.