"Blind Man Receives Sight"
Lesson Text: John 9:1-17
Background Scripture: John 9:1-41
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 29:17-21
1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the orks of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.
8 The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12 Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
14 And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.
To recall the documented events involved in Jesus' healing the blind man's eyes and the immediate aftermath.
To understand the significance of Jesus giving the blind man his "eyesight" as a metaphor to the deeper reality of Jesus opening "spiritually blind eyes".
To add to your prayers a request for God to help you identify and overcome "personal spiritual blindness" in your life; so as to strengthen your daily faith walk with Jesus.
Is Seeing Really Believing?
When we need an explanation for something, we may fall back on familiar sayings as a kind of self-defense mechanism. “Seeing is believing” is a good example. But recall how some common phrases seem to contradict other phrases? As soon as we say “Seeing is believing,” someone can respond “I can’t believe my eyes!”
The truth is that we generally believe what we see, but only when it fits what we expect. Neuroscientists tell us that our brains interpret signals from the eyes according to our previous experiences and established beliefs. So if we see a dark liquid in a mug, we interpret it as coffee, not motor oil. If we see a large object in our rear view mirror, we interpret it as a truck, not a jetliner.
So when we witness something truly unusual, that is, something outside our previous experience, we may have trouble "believing our eyes". We may try to find some other explanation for what we have seen. In effect, we may trust what we have experienced in the past more than what we see (that is unusual) in the present.
Today’s passage is about such an instance. In it, Jesus does something that is contrary to everyone’s prior experience. Some could not believe their eyes as a result. Ultimately, Jesus proved something about those who can truly see (perceive) and those who refuse to do so.
Time: A.D. 29
Like many episodes in John’s Gospel, the events in today’s text took place in Jerusalem. John shows Jesus in continuous conflict with the religious leaders there, a conflict that results in Jesus’ death.
Another key to the story is that it occurred on the Sabbath Day. God gave Israel the Sabbath as a celebration of two great events: God’s own “rest” at the end of six days of creation and his "liberation of Israel" from slavery in Egypt. A main feature of Sabbath observance was to rest on that day.
Sabbath observance was especially strict among the Pharisees, the most influential group among the Jews of Jesus’ time. The Pharisees followed a practice of “fencing the law,” that is, establishing traditional rules that, if followed, would supposedly prevent a person from violating the laws of God. So to build a fence around the Sabbath, the Pharisees had defined 39 kinds of “work,” describing them down to the smallest instances and forbidding all on the Sabbath except in a case of dire emergency.
Yet, Jesus was notable for performing healing and engaging in other activity on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14; Luke 13:10-17; 14: 1-6; John 5:8-18). Each instance was marked by controversy, as today’s story is also.
Controversy marks the section of John’s Gospel to which today’s story belongs. Prior to John 9, in today’s text, Jesus had engaged in a sharp debate with his opponents. In the midst of that controversy, Jesus declared himself to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12). That idea is crucial to today’s study.
Prelude to Healing (John 9:1-5)
1. Why did Jesus’ disciples believe that the blind man’s condition was due to sin (vs. 1,2)?
Jesus and His disciples encountered a beggar who had been born blind. About the only thing a blind man could do in that day was beg, and that is what this man was doing when Jesus passed by (John 9:8). It is not hard to imagine him sitting on a straw mat and holding up a saucer into which sympathetic passersby could drop their coins. His disciples asked him, “Master,” who sinned, “this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”
In the first century A.D., it was widely believed that sin caused all suffering, especially such a serious condition as blindness. Some of the rabbis of the period speculated that one could sin in the womb before birth, thereby causing one to be born blind. Others suggested that possibly one could sin in a preexistent state and thereby cause an affliction at birth. The disciples did not look at the man as an object of mercy but rather as a subject for a theological discussion.
2. How did Jesus challenge the disciples’ judgment (v. 3)?
Jesus challenges the disciples’ assumptions even as he accepts their confidence in his authority to answer. This case has nothing to do with any individual’s sin, he says. Rather, it provides an opportunity to display what God is doing in the world (compare John 11:4).
This episode, like the book of Job, cautions us against jumping to conclusions about the reasons for tragedies in people’s lives (compare Luke 13:1-5). While sin may be the cause of some affliction, as clearly indicated in Scripture (see John 5:14; 1 Cor. 11:27-30), it is not always the case necessarily (see Ezek. 18; 2 Cor. 12:7).
In the final analysis, all physical problems are the result of our fall in Adam, for his disobedience brought sin and death into the world (Rom. 5:12). But afterward, to blame a specific disability on a specific sin committed by specific persons is certainly beyond any man's ability or authority. Only God knows why babies are born with handicaps, and only God can turn those handicaps into something that will bring good to the people and glory to His name.
3. How did Jesus stress the urgency of His work (vs. 4,5)?
Jesus has just said that the man’s blindness is an occasion for the display of God’s power. Now he states that he has been sent by God to do God’s work (compare). This provokes anticipation: will Jesus perform a work of God for the blind man?
Jesus stresses the urgency of his work with his day/night analogy. The shortness of life creates urgency for all of us. For Jesus, who comes into the world to bring God’s work to fulfillment, that urgency is especially sharp. There can be no delaying God’s work if the time is short.
Having declared himself to be “the light of the world” in the previous chapter, Jesus now repeats that provocative title as he stands before a man unable to perceive physical light (v. 5). Again, Jesus underlines the urgency of what he does. He is in the world only a short time: his death, resurrection, and ascension will bring his work in the world to a conclusion. So as the light of the world, what shall he do as he stands before a man who is blind?
Jesus’ Actions in the Healing (John 9:6,7)
4. Why did Jesus use clay to anoint the eyes of the blind man (vs. 6,7)?
Evidently, while the Twelve stood by and watched, Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the blind man’s eyes. This action appears very curious to us, but it is vital to the development of the story.
Our Lord's method of healing was unique: He put clay on the man's eyes and told him to go wash. Once Jesus healed two blind men by merely touching their eyes (Matt. 9:27-31), and He healed another blind man by putting spittle on his eyes (Mark 8:22-26). Though the healing power was the same, our Lord varied His methods lest people focus on the manner of healing and miss the message in the healing.
There were at least two reasons for our Lord's use of the clay. For one thing, it was a picture of the Incarnation. God made the first man out of the dust, and God sent His Son as a real Man. Jesus has spoken of himself as sent by God (v. 4, above). Now He underlines that point by sending the man to a pool named “Siloam,” which also means Sent (v. 7).
The man miraculously receives his sight when he washes. Thus the man does not see the one who has healed him as he receives his sight. That fact will create a dramatic point at the end of the story.
Responses to the Healing (John 9: 8-12)
5. What did the blind man's neighbors wonder about his identity (vs. 8,9)?
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” The sight of the blind man begging is familiar to many. Now some look with wonder on the one they recognize as suddenly being able to see. Theirs is not the only opinion that appears, however. Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
For some, this is clearly the man of whom they know. Others, however, are unwilling to believe that a man born blind can now see. So they reach for another explanation, suggesting that he merely looks like the well-known beggar, but is not the beggar himself.
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” Finally the man himself speaks, clearly identifying himself as the beggar formerly blind. This is the first time the man speaks in the story, and he delivers vital testimony. As the story develops, we shall see his testimony become even more significant.
6. How did the former blind man explain his healing (vs. 10-12)?
Once the man is identified clearly, this question follows naturally. For a man born blind to receive sight is unheard of (John 9:32). So everyone wants to know how such a thing can happen.
The man now recounts the steps that led to his healing. At this point, the only thing he apparently knows about his healer is his name, “a man that is called Jesus.” He testified to them in a simple and straightforward manner what Jesus had done (v. 11). Then, when asked where Jesus might be, the man said he did not know (v. 12). Evidently, the onlookers wanted to speak to Jesus themselves (as did the neighbors of the Samaritan woman at the well; see 4:28-30).
As the narrative in John 9 develops, there is a corresponding increase in the cured man’s understanding of Jesus’ identity and commitment to Him as the Messiah. The former blind man first referred to Jesus as a “man” (v. 11), then as a “prophet” (v. 17), and finally as an emissary from God (v. 33).
Debate About the Healer (John 9:13-17)
7. How did the Pharisees respond to the man's healing and what was the once blind man's response to their question (vs. 13-15)?
The controversy begins to take shape. We wonder about the motives of those who bring the man “to the Pharisees”(v. 13). Do these people believe that the man should be questioned by the religious experts because of the potential violation of the Sabbath (v. 14)? Do they merely seek a comment or an interpretation by the Pharisees regarding an extraordinary miracle?
As the interrogation begins, the man again does nothing but state what he knows (v. 15). The contrast between the plain actions (applying clay and washing it off) and the startling result (being able to see) is all the more dramatic for the simplicity of the statement.
The stage is now set. On which aspect of the statement will the Pharisees focus? Will they accept the dramatic healing as a sign of God’s work? Or will they focus on the actions that violate their traditions about the Sabbath?
8. Why was there division among the Pharisees regarding this miracle(vs. 16,17)?
The crowds are divided about whether this is truly the man who was born blind (vs. 8,9), and now the Pharisees are divided about what this miracle means. For some, it is a clear violation of the Sabbath law. If Jesus performs a miracle while violating the law, then they conclude that his power cannot come from God.
But for others, the miracle calls into question their interpretation of the Sabbath. Surely God alone can bring sight to a man born blind! And surely God will not empower a sinner to perform such a miracle. So since Jesus clearly has done the miracle, he must not be a sinner. Therefore what he does on the Sabbath to perform the miracle does not violate the Sabbath law. The two diverging lines of logic are clearly drawn.
9. What explanation did the former blind man give when asked what he thought of the one who opened his eyes (v. 17)?
Finally, they turned again to the blind man and asked, What do you have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened (v. 17a). The Pharisees continue to question the man who stands before them. He alone is a witness to the event. What can he offer as a conclusion? Although this man is not an expert in doctrine, the Pharisees challenge him to take sides. He does.
The man replied, “He is a prophet.” (v. 17b). The man’s response follows the logic of those who affirm that one who brings sight to the blind must be sent by God. In calling Jesus a prophet, the man affirms Jesus to be inspired by God to be God’s spokesperson (compare John 4:19 and 7:40).
As the story continues in subsequent verses, the Pharisees question the man further. His responses remain firm, growing in conviction as those opposed to Jesus pressure him to recant his emerging faith. Finally, he affirms that Jesus most certainly is sent by God. In response, the Pharisees “threw him out” (John 9:34). This means they exclude him from worship in the synagogue, effectively saying that he no longer belongs to God’s people.
Then will come another dramatic moment. Jesus will find the man and ask him if he believes in the Son of Man (John 9:35). Putting his complete trust in the one who has healed him, the one who must have been sent from God, the man will ask Jesus to identify that Son of Man (9:36). Jesus will then affirm that he is that one (9:37). In response, the man who had been blind believes and worships Jesus (9:38).
POINTS TO PONDER
1.Your role as a Christian is to see man through the eyes of Jesus (John 9:1,2).
2.Jesus can even use tragedies in our lives to bring about good to the glory of God (vs. 3-5).
3.Although we may not understand His ways, following God’s directions always leads to blessings (vs. 6,7).
4.Do not be afraid to tell others of Christ's miracles in your life (vs. 8-12).
5.Strict laws and traditions of man often conflict with God's law of love. It is the risen Lord who sustains us, not our dogged efforts to heed a long list of rules (vs. 13-16).
6. Who do you say that He is?(v. 17; Mark 8:27-29).
A Higher Calling
On the first day of creation, God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3); after six days of creation, God rested (2:2). Jesus declared himself to be the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). He brought light to a blind man on the day of the week that celebrated the completion of God’s creation. Israel had received the Sabbath as a celebration of liberation from bondage (Deuteronomy 5:15), and on the Sabbath Jesus liberated a man who had been bound with blindness. This healing was one of Jesus’ signs that pointed to his greater work. By healing on the Sabbath, Jesus was demonstrating that he was bringing a new beginning to God’s creation and fulfilling the Sabbath’s promise of rest.
Like the man who had been blind, we will meet opposition as Jesus’ followers. But as his followers, we have the high calling to carry out his work of bringing God’s light and God’s rest into a dark, burdened world.
O Lord, You have transformed our darkness into light and our burdens into rest. Guide us to live in Your light, to rest in Your promises, and to share them in Your world. In Jesus’ name, amen!
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Bring Jesus’ light and rest to the world.