Have you ever tried looking for something and you can’t find it while the whole time it’s right there in front of you? It happens to me often and I find it really frustrating (especially when someone is right there to point it out!). For some people however, it’s a real problem. They have a condition called scotoma. A scotoma is a blind spot in your vision. The spot may be in the centre, or it may be around the edges of your vision. It is caused by a problem in your brain, a problem in your eye, or a problem in your optic nerve.
But there’s another form of scotoma and it’s related to our belief system. Beliefs are powerful. They limit what we can see and what we can’t see. They filter our perceptions. For example, my wife is always seeing strange spots on my body. That’s because I’ve got skin cancer in my family and she is always looking for a reason for me to go and get it checked. I, on the other hand don’t like taking unnecessary visits to the doctor so I tend not to see anything. And so we both have “seeing” issues. She often sees what’s not there and I don’t see what might actually be there.
Well in this story we are looking at today, we find some people with various problems with seeing. A wonderful miracle is performed in their midst – a blind man receives his sight. But those who are watching have difficulty believing what they see. There’s nothing wrong with their eyes. The problem lies with their hearts – their belief system. At the end of the story it’s all reversed: the blind man is able to see (physically as well as spiritually) while those who claim to see remain in spiritual darkness. So let’s have a little look at this story.
The blind man receives his sight
On the way out of the temple Jesus sees a man – a blind man, on the side of the road. The disciples see him also and they say, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). You see the disciples had this view – which was very common in their day, that all suffering was a direct result of sin. As one of the Rabbis of their day put it, “There is no death without sin; and there is no suffering without iniquity.” The man who was born blind has suffered from birth, so therefore some sin must lie at the back of it. They want to know who’s sin it was.
Jesus however makes it very clear here that this mans’ suffering is not because of some specific sin. Rather it is an opportunity for God’s mercy:
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.” (v.3)
Interesting. There’s a man who can’t see. The disciples look at him one way while Jesus looks at him entirely differently. The disciples saw the man as the subject of a theological discussion. Jesus saw the man as an object of mercy. They want to talk about his sin. Jesus wants to meet the man’s need.
There are people in this world with great needs. There are people who have special needs – disabilities, not of their own doing. You pass by them every day. Do you see them? How do you see them? Do you see them as objects of curiosity, or do you see them as Jesus sees them – real people whom God wants us to notice and love and minister to? The question is not, “Why is this person that way?” but rather, “How can God be glorified through this situation?” God did not cause this man’s blindness, but he has a purpose for it. Jesus said He wants to display his glory through it.
What happened next is amazing. Jesus spits on the ground, works with his fingers to make some mud from his saliva, and then spreads the mud over the man’s eyes. Then he said, “Go, and wash in the pool of Siloam” (v.7). So the man went and washed. And he came back seeing.
The blind man receives a hearing
Well it didn’t take long for word to get out that something very remarkable had happened to this man. The first one’s to notice the change were his neighbours. They react in the same way you would react if someone reported they saw me driving a Ferrari down the main street of Richmond. “Are you sure that was Peter? It can’t be him – he must just look like him.” Then you see on your Facebook page with a picture of me in a Ferrari, parked outside Richmond Mall with the caption, “Like my new car?” All doubt is removed.
They ask him, “How then were your eyes opened?” Now I like the guy’s answer, because it’s very much like that of a new Christian. He just tells it how it is. No embellishment; no fancy spiritual lingo. He says the man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes and told me to go to the pool and wash. So that’s what I did and I received my sight. “Where is he?” they ask. He replies, “I don’t know.”
They think to themselves – this is not getting us anywhere. We need to verify what has happened here. So they take the man to the Pharisees – the ones who were experts in accessing things of God. The Pharisees look at the man. They ask him, “How did you receive your sight?” The man answers, “He put mud in my eyes, I washed and now I can see.” Their conclusion?
“This man is not from God, for He doesn’t keep the Sabbath!” (v.16)
Brilliant! (not). That’s makes perfect sense – right? Well not all of the Pharisees necessarily agree with this. And let me tell you why. The Pharisees who made this statement – they are using what is called syllogistic reasoning. We all know what a syllogism is, even if we don’t use that term. A syllogism is a deductive argument with two premises and a conclusion. Here’s how it works:
All cars are machines (first premise)
All machines wear out (second premise)
Therefore, all cars wear out (conclusion)
Are you happy with that? That’s good deductive syllogism. Here’s another one:
All politicians are terrible liars
Donald Trump is a politician
Therefore, Donald Trump is a terrible liar
That’s bad syllogism. Why? Because the first premise is wrong: not all politicians are terrible liars. Some of them are very good liars. So that doesn’t work.
So here’s what the Pharisees are saying: all people who are of God keep the Sabbath (major premise). This this man Jesus does not keep the Sabbath (minor premise). Conclusion: this man is not from God. Now that would be a sound argument if the premises were true, but unfortunately the premises are not true. And the reason they are not true is while all people who were pleasing to God kept the Sabbath at that time, what they mean is keep the Sabbath as they understand the Sabbath is to be kept. And one of the things they said was that a man could not be healed on the Sabbath day. God never said that.
A couple of Pharisees pipe up: “Wait a minute, “If he’s not from God and he’s a sinner, how can he perform such signs?” Well now they’re stuck, you see. In frustration they turn to the blind man. “What do you say about him?” Without any hesitation he answers, “He’s a prophet.”
Well this answer was completely unacceptable. Perhaps the parents can shed some light on the matter. So they call in the parents. The parents stay very tight-lipped. And John tells us why: they were afraid. Because if anyone confessed Jesus to be the Messiah they would be put out of the synagogue. Removed. Excommunicated. Expelled.
Now you have to understand back then that is a serious thing. It’s not like getting thrown out of a church today. You can simply go down the road and find another one. When you’re put out of the synagogue you are also put out of the community. That’s spiritual disaster. You lose your job. You wouldn’t be able to make money. That’s financial disaster. You lose your family and friends. That’s social disaster. This is exactly, by the way, what happens when many Muslims convert today. It’s a serious thing. And for many of them, they risk their very lives to do it.
So these Parents answer very carefully. They acknowledge the man is their son and that he had been born blind. But as to who healed him and how it all happened, they would not conjecture. If they wanted to know more, they could ask him, since he was old enough to speak for himself. In other words, they pass the buck.
So the Pharisees summon the man a second time. They say to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner!” They can’t deny the miracle – they realize that now. But what they can do is get the man to deny that Jesus is the one who did it.
Now when you think about it, the man could have weaselled out of this. He could have said to himself – well I know Jesus did this but I’ll just ascribe the glory to God. I can stay in the synagogue, I won’t be disgraced, I’ll be accepted by everybody. But he doesn’t do that. He tenaciously holds to the facts. He won’t be controlled or manipulated. Whatever the Pharisees decided to do with him, these were the facts.
The Pharisees won’t give up. They are like a dog on a bone. They keep pushing and questioning. Finally, in exasperation the man turns to them and says,
“I already told you, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?” (v.27)
He exposing these guys for what they were. They weren’t seeking the truth. They just wanted to discredit Jesus. So they hurl insults at him. You imbecile. You moron. You idiot. What do you know?
He answers: “Well isn’t this an amazing thing – you are the religious authorities of the land, you know everything there is to know about spiritual things, and you know how to interpret God’s Word but you don’t know where this man is from. And he’s opened my eyes. You guys like your syllogisms; I’ll give you a little syllogism of my own:
First premise: God does not hear sinners.
God has listened to this man, because he’s healed me. Second premise: God heard this man.
Conclusion: this man is not a sinner
I like this guy, I really do. God doesn’t hear sinners. God heard this man. Therefore, he can’t be a sinner. Beautiful.
“You were born entirely in sin,” they replied, “and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.” (v.34)
On the outside this may look bad. Disastrous. He’s just been cut off – socially, financially, and spiritually. He has no home. He has no family. He has no friends. But as we are going to see, he does have Jesus.
The blind sees and the seeing are blind
When Jesus heard that they had thrown out, he went looking for him. And when he finds him Jesus says to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Son of Man” is a Messianic title. It is the title for the Promised One, the descendant of David who will bring about the restoration of all things.
“Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?” he asked.
Jesus answered, “You have seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.”
“I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped Him.” (vv.36–38)
Jesus then concludes with these words:
“I came into this world for judgment, in order that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.” (v.39)
Some of the Pharisees hear these words and respond by saying,
“We aren’t blind too, are we?”
“If you were blind,” Jesus told them, “you wouldn’t have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see’—your sin remains.” (v.41)
In other words, “If you were honest with yourselves and understand your own spiritual blindness (and thereby seeing your need for Me), you wouldn’t have sin because it would be forgiven. But since you claim that you can see and have no need of Me, your sin remains.”
We cannot escape the impact of this can we? We must either confess our blindness – that we are in spiritual darkness and humbly seek for understanding, or we must embrace the light that has already been given to us and respond in faith by walking in it. But sadly what many of us do is hear the truth and even acknowledge the truth in some degree, but make no real response to the truth in our hearts. We remain in darkness.
I don’t know your spiritual condition. I don’t know where you are at. My only concern is that you respond to the light that is given in the word of God concerning Jesus. He passed by that blind man. He saw him. He found that blind man after he was cast out of the synagogue. He opened his eyes. He brought him to the place where he had no sin. That’s the same love that sought Adam in the Garden of Eden after the fall.
It’s the same Saviour who seeks to save those that are lost and who through the preaching of the gospel seeks to provide an opportunity for men and women to respond to that message.
Do you see?