John 9: I Was Blind, But Now I See
There was an explosion in coal mine in West Virginia some years back. The explosion trapped the miners hundreds of feet down into total darkness. When the rescue team broke through to them and managed to get a light through to them, one of the miners said, “Well why don’t they turn the light on?” His fellow miners realized the explosion had blinded him. In the darkness, in the absence of light, he did not know he was blind. The light revealed that he was blind. The lack of sight does not mean the light is not there. It reveals our condition. What is true physically is also true spiritually. It reveals we are spiritually blind because we were born spiritually blind. This story is another miraculous sign which illustrates the truth of spiritual blindness and how one can receive the Light of the World. This miracle was one of the signs Jesus was the Messiah. For it was said, ‘the blind shall receive their sight.”
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man or nor his parents sinned,” answered Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am still in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:1-5)
This miracle or sign as John refers to them as, is a further illustration of what Jesus claimed in John 8 when he said he was the light of the world, and “ whoever follows him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. “
Now the disciples mistakenly believe this man’s condition was a result of sin, either his or his parents. Jesus says it is neither. He says this has happened so the work of God may be displayed, (made manifest, KJV). In other words it was to bring glory to God. Now to an unbeliever this sounds like a cruel trick for God to play on an innocent baby. This attitude is expected from an unbeliever, but we find as believers we also sometimes question God’s goodness when there is tragedy.
This brings us to a question about WHY God created man. The ‘whats and whys’ of life often bring us to question our very reason for being. For what purpose was I created, and how do we explain why bad things happen to good people? In this case, a baby is born blind from birth. And Jesus has clearly stated this happened for the purpose of glorifying God, and displaying His Wonder and Power in a work only God could do. Only God can turn disabilities into something that will bring good to people and glory to His name.
THE WHAT AND WHY OF OUR EXISTENCE
Genesis 1 tells us God created man in His Own Image. We were created to rule and reign with Him and thus He gave Adam and Eve dominion over all the earth. In Isaiah 43:7 we read: “Every one that is called by my name; for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” Colossians 1 tells us we were created by Him and for Him. And Revelation 4: 11 sums it up: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for thou hast created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
We were created by Him and for Him and for His pleasure. WE exist and received life that God might give Himself to us. Therefore the Westminster Catechism makes this well-known statement on the basis of God’s Word: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Why were we created? We were created to worship Him; to evangelize; to witness; to make disciples, to fellowship with one another and God; and to have a ministry which God ordained for us to walk in using our spiritual gift.
Guess what we do in our spiritual blindness? We seek to glorify ourselves by this fallen world’s standards. Success, wealth, power, looks, fame, popularity, and all that goes with it. Instead of lifting up the name of God, we want to make a name for ourselves. Do you see how we can be conformed by the world which blames God for bad things and tragedies? Jesus told us in this world we would have trouble, trials and tribulations. He also told us to rejoice for He had overcome the world. We like smooth sailing with no storms, but Jesus in His Sovereignty sends us into storms for a variety of reasons. James says these are to mature and expand and strengthen our faith.
This sign is once again a living parable which illustrates spiritual blindness through physical blindness.
The truth is this: anyone without Jesus Christ is spiritually blind. This man was born physically blind so we all are born spiritually blind. John has already laid the groundwork for this miraculous sign. First John told us in John 1: “In Him (Jesus) was life; and the life was the light of men.” In John 3, he told Nicodemus he could not see the kingdom of God unless he was born again. This is because we were born the first time spiritually blind.
Jesus also told Nicodemus and us this truth: “This is the verdict, Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3: 19)
Let us go back to Genesis to understand why we are born this way. What happened when Adam sinned? Adam was suddenly without the Spirit of God in his spirit. Adam was void, empty, spiritually dead. He was a temple in which God could no longer live. For God had told Adam on the day he sinned against God he would surely die. He died spiritually immediately as God’s Spirit departed. He died physically later.
Since the life of the Lord was the light of men, when the Lord went out of Adam, the life went out. And when the life went out, the light went out. Since God created his creation to recreate after its own kind, all born of Adam were born without the Spirit of God. Born spiritually dead and spiritually blind.
Therefore this man in John 9 who was born blind is a physical illustration of the spiritual truth that every man, woman, boy and girl who is without Jesus Christ in their life is spiritually blind. Everyone of us were born this way, with this condition.
We know a lost person can have 20/20 eyesight and yet is spiritually blind and cannot ‘see’, comprehend spiritual things. Ephesians 4:18 say that those who do not know Christ have had their ‘understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through their ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.’ Their foolish hearts were darkened.
Notice in verse 8 of this story, his neighbors tells us the man was a “beggar”. Yet the enemy of our soul has convinced us the only riches worth having are the riches of this world, money, fame, power, possessions. Listen to what Jesus said to those who said to those at the church at Laodicea: “You say I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, blind and naked.” The rich man in the parable in Luke 16 lived a life of luxury while Lazarus lived the life of a diseased beggar. Yet it is the rich man in Hades who pleads and begs Father Abraham to send Lazarus with a drop of water and later to send Lazarus to warn his brothers of this place. A beggar for eternity. Do you begin to see what has happened in the fall? Man who was created to be royalty- to rule and reign with God Almighty, Creator of all things, has been reduced spiritually to the status of blind beggars. They have been deceived by the father of lies.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS HEALING OF THE BLIND MAN
Before Jesus acts, He repeats: “I am the Light of the World.” Having said that Jesus spits on the ground and made mud (clay, KJV) and He anointed (put NIV) it on the man’s eyes and said, Go wash in the Pool of Siloam. John reminds us the word Siloam means ‘sent.” What Jesus just said, “I must work the works of Him who sent me.” This whole event goes back to Jesus’ statement in John 8 he was the light of the world, sent by his Father. The significance of the mud or clay is man was created by God from the dust of the ground. Paul calls our bodies, these earthen or clay vessels. The first miracle Jesus did was the turning of water into wine using the water from the clay pots which held the water for ceremonial washing. Clay represents the humanity of man. If you have ever gotten a foreign object in your eye, you know how irritating or painful it can be. You are told to wash the eye thoroughly, to irrigate it. By placing clay in the man’s eye, it encouraged him to obey. The Holy Spirit irritates us sometimes as He convicts of our sin. Clay speaks of our weakness our failure and spiritual inability. We are told our God remembers our frames are dust. Our High Priest, the Lord Jesus understands this. In our humanity, our spiritual blindness is like this clay in the blind man’s eyes. Jesus does not leave this man in that condition, He tells him to go wash his eyes in the Pool of Siloam. Whenever water is used for washing in the Bible it is a symbol of the Word of God. As this man obeyed the word of God, he was healed of his blindness. What had happened to this man physically was his eyes were healed and could now receive light.
The Holy Spirit comes into our lives to impart truth. He becomes the receiver we need to see the One who is the Light of the World. As we will see in this blind man’s story, spiritual understanding comes gradually, it is a progressive process. We are now enabled to ‘see’, that is understand spiritual truth because we have received the Spirit. “No eye has seen, no hear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has planned for those who love Him. But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The mind of sinful man, the man without the Spirit of God cannot see these truths, they are foolishness to him. But we have received the Spirit of God that we might understand(see) what God has freely given us. I Corinthians 2.
THE STAGES OF GROWTH
As the blind man progresses in his knowledge, so will we as we have been enabled to see and hear and conceive what God has in store for us. And as we do we begin to be transformed from the inside – out by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit now lives within us. The Spirit of God now uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God.
Now once again Jesus has healed on the Sabbath. He was deliberately challenging the religious leaders. Let us observe the blind man’s progress. He is asked four times in this story how he was healed, who healed him. When we ask “how” we want to understand the process. Nicodemus asked Jesus ‘how can a man be born again?’ When asked to describe his experience the blind man simply told his story. All he knew was a “man called Jesus” did this miracle. He did not know who Jesus was. He only knew His Name. It is the only name under heaven by which men can be saved. He did not know where he came from or where he had gone.
Next the Pharisees questioned the former blind man. They wanted the details of his miracle. They wanted to make sure this man was really born blind. Also they were gathering facts, about how Jesus did this miracle. When they heard he made clay on the Sabbath, they could accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law. People who do not want to believe, will always look for errors and reasons to doubt and not believe. People today refuse to look at the evidence honestly. The Pharisees concluded Jesus could not be a true prophet of God if he broke the Sabbath law. When the former blind beggar was asked who he thought Jesus was, he replied, “a prophet.”
In an attempt to discredit the miracle they would imply this was not the blind beggar, but someone who looked like him. A clever ploy used by Jesus to deceive them. They asked his parents to verify this was their son. “Is this your son? If he is, how does he see?” He was their son, they answered. They did not know how he was healed or who healed him. The parents then tell the Pharisees, “He (their son) is of age- ask him.”
The former blind beggar is brought before the Pharisees again and instructed: “Give glory to God, we know this man (Jesus) is a sinner.” He replied to them: “Whether he was a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see.” Once again we see the word How- How did He open your eyes? I have told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples?
This reply infuriated the Pharisees. “You are his disciple. We are disciples of Moses. We know God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.’ The former blind man is no theologian, but he knows the truth. Listen to the boldness of his reply: “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.” The Pharisees are furious and cast the man out- excommunicate him.
Jesus heard that he had been thrown out and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Notice Jesus went and found him. He found his lost sheep. The sheep know his voice. This man had never seen Jesus, but he had heard his voice. Blind people have acute sense of hearing. I knew a young man while at Lambuth named Jerry Crook. Jerry had been blinded in an automobile accident. My roommate and childhood friend, Max Lewis, knew Jerry from CMA. We used to eat lunch together and also ran around together for a brief time at Lambuth. Jerry went his way and I went mine. Thirty years later, I saw Jerry in the Memphis Airport wearing the collar of a priest. I went and spoke to him, calling him by name. He recognized my voice after all these years. The Apostle Paul had an accident like Jerry which took his physical sight. We know it was no accident and I believe Jerry has probably discovered the same. Jesus said his sheep know his voice. “Who is he sir, asked the man. Tell me so that I may believe in Him. Jesus said, you have now seen him, in fact, he is the one talking to you”.
Then the man said, “Lord I believe and he worshipped him.” Why were we created? To worship Him. To Tell others about Him and what Jesus had done. To make disciples. To have fellowship with Him and one another and to have a ministry. Observe the stages of understanding: From a man called Jesus to a prophet, to a man of God, to Lord. This man was not a theologian, he could not even read. Yet he had seen the light. And walked in the light.
The Pharisees were like that miner, they stood in the presence of the Light of the World, but could not see. Proof they were spiritually blinded. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood.” (John 1)
“You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men, that they might see your good works and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound which saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”