In John 9 Jesus heals a blind man and creates a stir among the Pharisees. While the Synoptic Gospels report a number of instances where Jesus healed a blind person, this instance appears only in John. This account has a couple of distinctives: nobody asked Jesus to heal the man (even the man), the healing took place away from Jesus’ person and there was an instrumentality involved.
Jesus and his Disciples came upon a man who had been blind since birth and, it seems, began an oddly rude conversation right in front of him. The disciples were sure that the blind man’s condition was the result of sin (a common notion among 1st Century Jews) and asked Jesus if it was the man’s sins or his parents which made him blind. It was an extremely odd question because, since he was blind from birth, he would have had to sin before he was born or the blindness would have to have been a preemptive punishment for sin he would commit after birth.
And Jesus gives an interesting comment on the sovereignty of God. He says that the man was not blind from birth because of sin, but for the purpose of glorifying God. I am almost tempted to say that this is the reason why John records this sign.
In preparation for this lesson I read a study on this chapter form mnphome.net. The author, who’s name I could not find, is blind. He has this to say about the subject:
In my personal case, it is not the healing of physical blindness WHICH God used for his glory. The loss of eyesight, which is generally dreaded, caused me to have fears, doubts, and questions about a loving God. But when I reached the end of my own resources to deal with the difficult issues I faced, I asked God to take control of my life with a most meager faith for a good outcome, and he gave me eternal life! Since that time in 1974, he has sustained me with many blessings, and even some opportunities produced in relationship to the blindness. I am so thankful to have eternal life, which is far better than gaining everything the world has to offer physically or materially.
I can hardly think of a better way to illustrate the otherness of God. That someone could become blind and praise God for the outcome. That someone could be blind from birth for the sole purpose of glorifying God and that it should actually be a good thing boggles the mind.
The NIV quotes Jesus as saying that the man is blind so that “the works of God may be displayed in him.” Jesus then says he must do the work of the one who sent him while it is still day and further that he is the light of the world while he is here (ie, it is day and time to work while he is here).
The, apparently without asking the man’s permission, Jesus made mud from spit, put it on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash it off. If he told the man what he was up to, it is not recorded. Perhaps the man deduced that Jesus intent was to heal him from the conversation with the disciples. In any event the man did as he was told and could see. His neighbors could not believe what had happened and wanted to know who had healed him. The man told him Jesus had healed him but could not tell them where Jesus was, so they brought him to the Pharisees.
Whatever else Jesus was doing here its pretty obvious he intended to provoke the Pharisees, which brings us to the mud. In using and instrumentality, the mud, Jesus was doing “work” as defined by Jewish law, and was doing it pointedly on the Sabbath. As a result, when the man recounts the story of his miraculous healing to the Pharisees, the first words out of their mouths are not,”Praise God for this miraculous healing” they are, “ This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
After being grilled and reviled by the Pharisees, Jesus found the man and asked if he believed in the Son of Man (a clear messianic reference the man, or any Jew, would have understood). The man asks only that he be told who the Son of Man is. Then Jesus claims the title for himself and the man confesses his belief and worships Jesus.
Then Jesus says he has come for judgment, “so that the blind will se and those who see will become blind”. And the Pharisees who where there asked if they were blind (imagine having to ask that question) and Jesus replied that because of their blindness they were left to their sins.
And this, I think, brings us to the crux of the matter and why John may have chosen to record this episode and its importance to the Disciples. This was all about who was really blind. As blind as the man was (and from birth) he was ultimately able to “see” who Jesus was. The Pharisees, presumably sighted since birth, could not see Jesus for who and what he was.
What blinded the Pharisees? I think it was their insistence on believing what they “knew” over what they saw. It was their insistence on their own competency to “see” what was real versus their willingness to trust God to show them what was real. They said,”We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” What is it that we know about the world that prevents us from seeing what Jesus is showing us about himself and truth?