Yesterday we finished John chapter 8 and today we move into John chapter 9, where we see Jesus heal a man who was born blind. The healing of the man born blind is the sixth of Jesus’ seven signs. It illustrates the differing effects of what it means that Jesus is the light of the world. As the chapter progresses, the man comes to have a clearer understanding of Jesus’ identity. On the one hand, the blind and received both physical and spiritual sight, and on the other hand, the religious leaders rejected the light and were confirmed in their darkness.
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 nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.—9:1-7
Blindness in the Old Testament was more than just a physical ailment. It was commonly used as a metaphor for spiritual blindness. The Messiah was to bring light and sight. Jesus addressed the ultimate purpose of the man’s affliction rather than its cause. Jesus used the opportunity to challenge his disciples to join him in the work God sent him to do. There is a note of urgency in his words. The miracle itself is reported with brevity. Jesus made mud on the ground and applied it to the man’s eyes. The action of kneading dirt on the ground was strictly forbidden on the Sabbath according to the rules of the Pharisees.
Now let’s go back and talk about the mistaken idea that Jesus had to correct about physical blindness being a result of some sin. What we see in verse 2 is that the disciples had some incorrect ideas about the cause of afflictions, and Jesus had to correct these incorrect ideas. The disciples though that every serious illness or difficulty was the result of some sin or offense against God. At times, sickness and suffering can result from a serious sin or foolish choices, but not always. Sometimes God allows suffering, which naturally affects everyone in our God-defying world, because he has a greater purpose that is not always understood at first. Through difficulties, God is able to show his mercy, love and power. Suffering also may cause people to turn to Christ for help and spiritual salvation. What we must remember is that often in the world the innocent suffer while the wicked do not.
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
“Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”—9:8-17
The man’s neighbors questioned his identity because they had never known him to be able to see. After they were convinced of his identity, they questioned him about how he had gained his sight. Their questioning gave him the opportunity to recount his story in detail. He identified “the man” Jesus as the one who healed him. The Pharisees were the next people to question the man. For a second time he recounted his healing, though his reply this was much briefer than before. The critical issue, once again, was that the healing took place on the Sabbath. As a result of the man’s testimony, the Pharisees were divided over their beliefs regarding Jesus’ identity. But the man considered Jesus to be a prophet.
They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”—9:18-23
The religious leaders then interrogated the man’s parents, hoping to prove that the healing was a sham. While the parents affirmed the fact that their son was born blind, they had no idea he had received his sight. The parents put the burden back on their son to explain his healing. And we see that John notes that the parents feared expulsion from the synagogue.
A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
He answered, “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 too?”
Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
The man answered, “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 person 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.”
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.—9:24-34
The religious leaders summoned the man a second time and wanted more information. The man responded with his own testimony of what had taken place. While the leadership tried to intimidate the man with their knowledge and status, he refused to be bullied. The Pharisees questioned the man with the hope of finding evidence to condemn Jesus. The back-and-forth between them became increasingly intense. The more pressure they put on him to denounce Jesus, the more he spoke in defense of Jesus. Eventually, everyone became polarized into one of two camps: followers of Jesus or of Moses. When the Pharisees’ frustration reached its boiling point, they put the man out of the synagogue.
Now let’s talk about the fact that the man was thrown out of the synagogue. The fact that he was thrown is one of the best things that happened to this man who was born blind. Why you ask? Because, if he had remained part of the synagogue, he could he have easily drifted back to the traditional beliefs that kept many people from accepting Christ and his message of truth, spiritual salvation and a personal relationship with God. Today the same thing can happen to those who are in spiritually lifeless churches or unbiblical religious organizations. If you remain in that church or situation, you may lose your hunger for true Christianity based on solid Bible teaching. As a result, you would likely return to your old, spiritually harmful ways. So, in order to grow closer to Christ, we must separate ourselves from things that seem to be spiritual but are really not in agreement with God and his Word. And we will pick from here tomorrow as we finish John chapter 9.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
2 Samuel 9-11, John 15, Psalm 119:49-64 and Proverbs 16:1-3
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