Sapphire Sky

May 3, 2015

Are you blind?

Filed under: theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 2:42 pm

light-bulb

How has Jesus changed you?

How has he challenged you?

The next chapter in John’s gospel account tells the story of a man who was changed after an encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus met him as a blind beggar and healed him by spitting on the ground, rubbing the mud into his eyes, and telling him to go and wash. The man washed and for the first time in his life, he can see!

There is only one problem.

Jesus did it on a Sabbath!

On a physical level, Jesus challenged the blind man. Go across the city to the Pool of Siloam and wash the mud out of your eyes. The man obeyed and he was given sight.

On a spiritual level, Jesus challenged the religious Jews. They believed in the Messiah, and were looking forward to his coming. They believed that they would know the a Messiah because he would make the blind to see. But they also believed in their thousands of religious laws. Now the Messiah has come, but they don’t like him.

In John 8, Jesus challenged their religious preconceptions. They believed that God would save them, simply because they were Abraham’s descendents. But Jesus taught that their family relations do not matter. They needed to believe in Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life.

In John 9, Jesus challenged their religious traditions. Their traditions held a litany of Sabbath laws, yet Jesus broke them in order to heal a blind man. This forced the issue: you can either believe that Jesus is the Messiah or you can believe that he is a criminal.

Some of the people believed in Jesus the Messiah. Most of them would rather believe that he was a criminal.

This chapter is unique in that, during most of the narrative of this chapter, Jesus is absent. Jesus did not directly confront the Jewish leaders in this chapter, but instead, he sent an eyewitness. This eyewitness was a blind man, an outcast from society. Everyone  — even Jesus’ disciples — believed that the man’s blindness was a punishment for someone’s sin. When under pressure, his parents did not even stand up for him.

The leaders brought the man in for questioning. In their minds, Jesus could not have healed the man because he did not respect their traditions. They tried three times to pressure the man into recanting, and then “cast him out” after the man confronted them.

How did the man leave them speechless? He simply told his own story, “Though I was blind, now I can see”. Jesus had given the man sight, yet the leaders were blind to the truth.

As the scene ends, Jesus met the man and showed him who he is. The man was physically blind, but now he could see, both physically and spiritually. The Pharisees, by contrast, had chosen their own beliefs over the clear facts. They thought they could see, but they were left totally blind.

 

Remember!

  • How has Jesus changed your life?  When you are challenged by others, your own experience is more effective than any persuasive argument.
  • When is the last time that the words of Jesus challenged you? If you have not been challenged by Jesus, then you may be on the way toward blindness.

 

So surrender the hunger to say you must know

Have the courage to say I believe

For the power of paradox opens your eyes

And blinds those who say they can see

-Michael Card

 

Previous Post: The Truth Will Set You Free


John 9

​As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “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.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “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.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.


 

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “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.”

It was probably the next day after the previous conflict with the Jews (John 8), near the outskirts of the Temple, where Jesus encountered a blind man. The man had been blind from birth, thus prompting a theological question from Jesus’ disciples.

 

The disciples were simply echoing the beliefs of their day. According to the rabbis, congenital defects were the direct result of sin. Either the parents sinned before the child was born, or the child sinned in the womb [3].

 

Jesus stopped their speculation. You cannot directly attribute a person’s problems to a sin in their life (read Job), and sometimes God allows problems to happen so that he can illustrate a greater purpose.

 

The reference to day and night indicate that Jesus’ time on earth was short. He would be leaving earth soon and returning back to Heaven (in less than 6 months). But Jesus also extends the responsibility to the disciples by using the “we” (“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day”). The time to do God’s work did not end when Jesus returned to Heaven, but we need to take the opportunities to help people while we still have time.

 

The final reference is directly back to Jesus himself. He is the light of the world. This is a direct connection to the previous chapter (John 8:12) where he publicly announced that he was the light of the world. See the study here for more details.

 

 

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Jesus healed the blind man through a very unusual process. Many commentators speculate about why Jesus used these specific steps, but these points are clear:

 

  • Jesus deliberately broke several of the Sabbath traditions with this process, thereby provoking a conflict between the Jewish oral traditions (the Sabbath laws) and the works of the Messiah. See below for more details.
  • The Pool of Siloam draws a direct connection to the recent Feast of Tabernacles, since this was the pool used by priests to draw water for the temple ceremonies (see here).
  • The man could not identify Jesus after he was healed. There may have been spiritual implications with this act (i.e. growing in belief), but main reason may simply have been practical. Jesus was a wanted fugitive, and he did not reveal himself to the man until later.

 

 

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

 

Now that the man could see, his whole expression must have changed. His own neighbors doubted if it really was him! All the man knew about Jesus was his name and that he commanded him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.

 

 

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

One of the Ten Commandments is to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. Six days are available to work, but the seventh is a holy day to The Lord (Exodus 20:8-11). The Jewish tradition, however, had developed a large assortment of restrictions governing what could, and could not be done on the Sabbath. The Jews had elevated their traditions above the Laws of God by building and maintaining this large list of additional laws.

 

Jesus directly challenged the Sabbath traditions by healing the man on the Sabbath. He had broken at least two of their Sabbath laws by healing the man [4]:

  • He spit on the ground to make mud. This was considered illegal work on the sabbath (making mud).
  • He applied the mud to the man’s eyes and healed him. It was against the Sabbath laws to practice medicine on the Sabbath unless the case was life-threatening. Treating eyes for blindness was not allowed.

 

The Jewish traditions also stated that there was one, unmistakable, way to identify the Messiah when he comes. Only the Messiah could open the eyes of the blind! Never in the history of the Jewish people had anyone ever healed a blind man. Actually, healings in the Old Testament were so rare, that they were practically nonexistent [2].

 

Therefore, Jesus drew a conflict in the Jewish traditions by healing the blind man on the Sabbath. One tradition held that he must be the Messiah because he healed the blind man, while the other tradition held that he must be a sinner for breaking their Sabbath laws.

 

This caused a major conflict among the Pharisees, who were the overseers of the rabbinic traditions. Some Pharisees believed that Jesus must be the Messiah because of the signs that he performed. But the majority believed that Jesus was a sinner and refused to acknowledge his signs.

 

One historical note: The Pharisees would not meet on the Sabbath. Therefore, this discussion had likely occurred on the next day.

 

They could not accept Jesus Christ because he did not keep the Sabbath in the way that they wanted.

 

However, the issue for the (formerly) blind man was clear. Jesus opened his eyes. He must be a prophet.

 

“He was acting in utter disregard of the many hundreds of laws that they had made themselves. Jesus was quite indifferent to them, and when men and women were in distress He would help them, no matter what offense it gave to these legalists.” – H.A. Ironside [5]

 

 

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

The Pharisees were both respected and feared by the people because they had the power to “put out of the synagogue” anyone who dared to oppose them. The synagogue was the center of social life, of business, of learning, and the effective means for the people to come to God. Therefore, to put someone out of the synagogue would be to cut him off from the rest of society, and to cut them off from God.

 

Depending of the severity of the crime, there were three ways to put someone out of the synagogue: a person could be put out for a short time ( a week or more) so that they could repent or they could also be put out for longer time (possibly months) while they got their life back on track. But the most severe punishment was permanent banishment. The permanent banishment would effectively consider the person to be dead [4].

 

Note the depth of the hatred that the Pharisees had for Jesus by this time. They decreed permanent banishment for the anyone who would dare to confess Jesus as the Messiah!

 

The Pharisees, now doubting that the man was even blind (was he faking it?), interrogated his parents. The parents acknowledged that the man was blind, but they dodged any answers about how he may have been healed.

 

There has been a lot of conjecture about why the parents did not stand up for their son. These are the same parents who required their blind son to beg on the streets, so they either could not provide for him, or they would not provide for him. One possibility is that the parents, ashamed of the stigma brought by their son’s blindness, had left him to fend for himself and would not be willing to stand with him against the leadership of the Jews. The other possibility is that the parents were in such abject poverty that they could not provide for him, and banishment to these poor people would have been an effective death sentence. Either way, the parents lost the opportunity to share in their son’s new-found faith and they disappear from history.

 

Note also, as shown below, that the blind man knew the scriptures. Given the stigma of his blindness, he would not have been taught in the synagogue, so he was either taught by his parents or by another teacher who cared for him.

 

 

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

The Pharisees used the the spiritual-sounding words of, “Give glory to God”, as they tried to force the man to deny Jesus. Literally, they were saying, “Tell the truth!” They would not believe that Jesus had really healed the man, so they were trying to pressure the man to deny it. Notice that their belief against Jesus was so strong that it clouded their rational thought. In their eyes, he must be a sinner!

 

The man’s response was very direct and simple. He didn’t argue theology with these men, but went back to his own experience: “though I was blind, now I see”.

 

 

They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “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.”

For the third, time, the Pharisees interrogate the man about what happened. Finally, out of frustration (and possibly sarcasm), the man asks them why they keep repeating the question. “Do you also want to be his disciples?”

 

Their reaction was immediate. How dare he think that they wanted to follow this man! They are followers of Moses, who gave them the law of the Sabbath. They knew and trusted Moses, but they did not know Jesus’ origin.

 

 

The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

The man may have been a blind outcast, but he was not afraid to confront the Jewish leaders. Never before did anyone open the eyes of a blind man, and yet these religious leaders know nothing about him! How could Jesus do this if he were not from God?

 

The Pharisees have no response to the man. All they can do is to attack his blindness — the man was born blind, therefore he must be a sinner, and therefore he was not fit to teach them! Since they had no answer, they criticized his past and put him out of the synagogue.

 

“The Pharisees had nothing to answer, and … could only, in their fury, cast him out with bitter reproaches. Would he teach them – he, whose very disease showed him to have been a child conceived and born in sin, and who, ever since his birth, had been among ignorant, Law-neglecting ‘sinners’?” – Alfred Edersheim [4]

 

 

Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The “Son of Man” is the common title of the Messiah (Daniel 7:13). Jesus found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Messiah?”

 

The man received the punishment from the Jewish leaders that his parents feared, yet there is no remorse with him.  Psalm 27:10 says, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but The Lord will take me up”. The man was ready to believe in Jesus and this final encounter with Jesus left the man with nothing left but worship. [3]

 

 

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

Jesus uses the man’s physical blindness as lesson on spiritual blindness. Jesus has come to pronounce the judgement on those who do not believe (see John 3:17-18). He will open the eyes of the blind, by showing them the way to God. But for those who think they do not need forgiveness, they are blinded by their unbelief.

 

We see in this passage that there were Pharisees who wanted to follow Jesus. They were not against him, though they were not ready to believe in him. But since they thought they knew the way to God (thought they could see), they were really blind and unable to follow him.

 


 

[1] John MacArthur, Blind for the Glory of God, John 9:1-12

 

[2] There were only three recorded healings in the Old Testament [1]:

There were also only three recorded events where a person was raised from the dead in the Old Testament:

 

[3] Stephen Davey, To See or Not to See, John 8:12-20, John 9:1-41

 

[4] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, CHAPTER IX. THE HEALING OF THE MAN BORN BLIND


[5] H.A. Ironside, Address 31, FROM BLINDNESS AND PENURY TO ETERNAL BLESSING, John 9:1-41

2 Comments »

  1. […] previous chapter (John 9), shows Jesus demonstrating that he is the Messiah by healing a blind man. This stirred up a […]

    Pingback by The Good Shepherd | Sapphire Sky — May 9, 2015 @ 12:49 am

  2. […] will throw them out of the synagogues, thus excluding them from any social and religious life (see here). They will kill them, all the while believing that they are doing great things for God. The […]

    Pingback by Just a little while longer | Sapphire Sky — September 16, 2015 @ 10:45 pm


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