Jesus Confronts Two Kinds of Blindness
|"Healing the Man Born Blind" by Vasily Surikov|
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Once there was a man who walked in darkness. It was not that he chose to, just that he was blind from birth. And people had all sorts of theories why. Many assumed that terrible punishments came on certain people because of their own sin or the sin of their parents. But Jesus explained to His disciples that God had a different reason in this case. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world” (John 9:3-5).
It was a puzzling statement. But Jesus made it clear that though suffering is a result of sin in this world, not all suffering is a direct punishment for specific sin. In this case, God allowed the man’s affliction so that Jesus’ work might be displayed. The man’s darkness was an opportunity for God’s light to shine.
In 1 John 1:5, John tells us that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” Here, Jesus said that He is the Light of the world. That means that Jesus is God and has come into the world to make Himself known. If we want to know what God is like, if we want to see His goodness, His compassion, His power, all we need to do is watch Jesus. In Jesus, God is present and active in a way that people can see and relate to. He is the Light of the world; in Him is no darkness.
Darkness is everything that’s wrong with our world and us. Suffering, disability, sin, unbelief, death—these are the work of God’s enemy, the devil—the prince of darkness. These are ways in which he torments us and tries to destroy us forever. Jesus came to undo, to reverse, the work of darkness. Jesus would drive away the darkness that surrounded this blind man—both the physical and the spiritual darkness. And in the process, He would teach us about the true Light.
With spit and dirt, Jesus made some mud and applied it to the man’s eyes. He told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. The blind man, found his way to the pool, washed the mud from his eyes, and came back seeing. His neighbors and the other people who knew him were astonished. “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” they asked. Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”
“Then how were your eyes opened?” they asked. The man offered the scant information he knew. “The man called Jesus made some mud and anointed my eyes and said to me. ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They demanded proof, “Where is he?” “I do not know,” he replied.
Unsure of what all this meant, the neighbors brought to the Pharisees the man who had once been blind. Jesus had already angered the Pharisees by healing the invalid at Bethesda on the Sabbath (John 5:1-9). Now, He had done it again. This insubordination could not be tolerated. They were going to have to deal more decisively with Him. So, they asked the man who had been blind to explain what happened, “How did you receive your sight?” “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see,” the man explained again.
The Pharisees were clearly divided in their opinions about Jesus. Some said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” Others asked, “But how can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” Unable to arrive at a decisive conclusion, they turned again to the formerly blind man. “What do you have to say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” The formerly blind man shocked both the Pharisees and himself with his courageous answer: “He is a prophet!”
Disgusted with what the investigation was turning up, the Pharisees dismissed the man and called his parents before them. They were still not convinced that the man had been born blind. His parents could settle that question and perhaps explain the alleged healing in a way that was more to their liking.
The Pharisees fired their questions one after the other. “Is this your son? Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that he can now see?” The man’s parents were cautious. They knew the leaders were out to get anyone who in any way suggested that Jesus was the Christ. They offered only the basic facts. “Yes, he is our son. He was born blind. Now he sees. But we don’t know how this happened. Ask him. He is an adult and can speak for himself.”
Still unsatisfied, the Pharisees brought back the man who had been blind. They pressed him hard. “Give glory to God! Tell us the truth! We know this man is a sinner! If he healed you, he broke the Sabbath! Tell us what really happened!”
“Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know,” he said. “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see!” There he stood with his bright, shining eyes, looking right at the Pharisees. The work of God was being displayed in his life. But they would not see it, and because of unbelief, they could not see it, even when the results were there right before their very own eyes.
It’s strange how God works, isn’t it? He often uses opposition to His Word and work to accomplish His purposes. By their bullying, these Pharisees inadvertently started the man toward doing his own simple, straightforward thinking and drawing his own truthful conclusions. In opposing the truth, they only helped to further the cause of truth. Emboldened with this newfound truth, the man faced their questions with growing courage and conviction.
“What did he do to you?” the Pharisees demanded. “How did he open your eyes?” The man with new sight and insight replied, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciple, too?” The Pharisees had already heard the truth, but they didn’t believe it the first time. That proved something to the man. There were only two logical reasons they might ask him to tell his story again: either they were trying to muddy the truth, or they were hoping to become Jesus’ disciples as well.
The Pharisees spewed self-righteous indignation. “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” By calling the man Jesus’ disciple, the Pharisees imagined they were insulting him; in reality, they could not have offered greater honor. And their own declaration, “We are disciples of Moses!” pronounced their own judgment. The Pharisees had placed their hope for salvation in the keeping of the law through Moses. But the law was only meant to lead us to Christ. All that Moses wrote, he wrote, concerning Jesus and His work of salvation. The Pharisees knew much about the Scriptures, and yet their knowledge was empty because they couldn’t recognize the Messiah in their midst.
Far from shutting the man down, the Pharisees’ opposition only emboldened him. “Now that is remarkable!” he said. 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 ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing!”
“You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” the Pharisees charge. Since the world began, when men have felt the sting of truth and refused to yield, they have resorted to name calling and personal abuse. The man’s blindness proved his wickedness in their minds. He was a sinner! Therefore, nothing he said could be trusted. And so they excommunicated him from the synagogue.
But Jesus had still more light to shine into the darkness of this man’s life. When the Pharisees quizzed the beggar, he had come close to confessing that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus Himself made the move to bring the man to that confession. He looked until He found him. “Do you believe in the Son of Man,” Jesus asked. “Who is He, sir? Tell me so I may believe in Him,” the man begged. “You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the one speaking with you,” Jesus replied. “Lord, I believe!” the man confessed.
What a miracle! An even greater miracle than the physical healing that had come to the once blind man a little earlier. Now, he not only saw the light of day with his once blind eyes, he also saw, by faith, the Light of the world—Jesus Christ—who had come into the sin darkened world.
A little later, Jesus met up with the Pharisees again. “Something strange has happened here today,” Jesus observed. “A man who was blind both physically and spiritually now can see in both ways. Yet others, who are very sure of themselves and the clarity of their vision are, in fact, blind.” The Pharisees didn’t take too kindly to Jesus’ insinuation. “Are you saying that we are blind?” they huffed. “If you realized you were blind, there would be hope for you,” Jesus, answered. “But if you insist that you can see fine on your own, your guilt remains.”
We shake our heads at the Pharisees and their negative response to Jesus. They refused to recognize their own limitations. They refused to listen to Jesus. Thus, those who thought so highly of themselves and their religion continued to stumble in the darkness of unbelief. And sadly, they didn’t even realize the Light of the world was there among them, urging them to believe, too.
Something in us reacts in much the same way, though perhaps more subtly. Even though we believe and trust in Jesus, the forces of spiritual darkness and unbelief are also active in us. We may not reject Jesus outright as the Pharisees did; however, we may push Him into the background of our lives. We may ignore Him or easily get distracted from Him. We may find ourselves living and making our decisions with very little awareness of Him. Our own spiritual vision is far from 20/20. It, too, needs Jesus’ healing touch.
Faith and unbelief exist side-by-side in all of us. On another occasion, a man whom Jesus challenged to believe more confidently said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). We need to respond the way this man did. We need to confess our unbelief and ask Jesus to help our faith grow.
As we immerse ourselves in God’s holy Word and Sacraments, Jesus—the Light of the world—shines the marvelous light of His grace in our lives. His Law exposes the dark recesses of sin in our lives. His Gospel light removes the gloomy darkness of our doubt and despair. It replaces our fear and uncertainty, with faith and certain hope. It tells us how Jesus lived the perfect life that we could not. It tells us how Jesus paid for all our sins with His death on the cross. It tells us how Jesus demonstrated His defeat of the darkness of sin, death, and the power of the devil in His resurrection to life.
When doubts and fears assail you, take comfort in your Baptism. In the water and Word, Jesus has washed away your sins and made you a child of God. Return to your Baptism through daily contrition and repentance. Receive Christ’s very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Hear and believe Christ’s absolution through the voice of His called and ordained servant. For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.