when I was in college, I went through a time of complete indifference toward God. I’m sure maybe some of you have experienced these periods of apathy or complacency. I had been a believer for a few years, and over the course of about 6-8 months I fell into some pretty serious sin. Some of you may know that as a Christian, falling into ongoing sin usually brings about a deep-seated apathy toward God and toward your faith. Why? Well, because when you are in sin, or when you are indifferent toward God, thinking about your faith and about Jesus makes you feel guilty, so you don’t want to think about those things. And so that’s where I was.
So the way I responded to my own hypocrisy was by pretending that everything was just fine. I pretended, and even convinced myself, that everything was going fine, that there was no urgent need in my spiritual life. There was nothing wrong with my life and my relationship with Jesus. I had become blind, yet again, to my need for Jesus.
It wasn’t until one of my very closest friends, who was also one of my roommates—it wasn’t until he came to me and asked, “Hey, what’s going on?” That anything changed. I remember saying, like, “What do you mean?” Then he proceeded in telling me how he had noticed that I was not taking almost anything in my life seriously. Nothing was important to me, particularly when it came to my faith.
He had also noticed that I had started turning every conversation I had with anyone into a joke. I mean, you guys know that I think I can be pretty funny. I think I have a great sense of humor, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a sense of humor. But he had noticed that this had almost become an escape pod for me. As soon as things got serious in conversation, especially having to do with faith, I would make some joke and laugh it off. And most of my friends didn’t think anything of it. But Eric noticed, and he asked me about it.
I had no idea just how apathetic and indifferent I had become with regard to my faith. I was blind. I had so convinced myself that everything was fine, that I was unlikely to ever figure it out on my own, unless someone came to me and made me see—kind-of helped to open my eyes. And I am very thankful for Eric Ellis who, by God’s grace, did that for me.
In John chapter 9, Jesus makes a blind man see. In and of itself, this is an incredible miracle of God, yes? But Jesus uses this event of reversing physical blindness to point his disciples and the Jews listening to the far greater affliction we have that we sometimes don’t even know we have—that is, spiritual blindness. So let’s work our way through John chapter 9, and I want us to split up the text, as we read it, into three scenes. And then after these three scenes, we’ll briefly look at two main takeaways. So, scene #1 is the miracle. Verses 1-12:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 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 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
8 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?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”11 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.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
Alright, so, Jesus and the disciples pass by a man who’s been blind since birth. And they ask, “Jesus, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Now I want you to notice, they didn’t ask whether or not the man’s blindness was because of sin. They asked whose sin caused it! What we see in their question is an assumption that was pretty common among the Jewish people during this time. And the assumption was that all suffering could be traced back to particular sin.
This is a pretty common way of thinking nowadays also, isn’t it? Aren’t we all tempted at times, when something bad happens, to ask, “Is God punishing me?” That’s often where we go in our minds.
The truth of it is this: Yes, speaking generally, all suffering is the result of sin, as in a result of the fall! Right? There was no pain and suffering before the fall, and now, because we live in a broken world marred by sin, there is pain and suffering. So, in that sense, yes, suffering is due to sin. But, when we get to specific people going through specific illnesses or pain—we must never assume that it is due to some specific sin in their life. There are too many examples in the Bible of blameless people who suffer. Most notably would be Job. One of the major lessons we learn from the book of Job is that pain and suffering is not punitive in the sense that God is punishing for specific sin.
So, Jesus debunks their thinking with that, and says, “No, neither he nor his parents sinned, that’s not why he’s blind; but that the works of God might be displayed in him!” Totally different reason for suffering there, isn’t it?! Wow! What a glimpse we get there into God’s mysterious providence, yes? God wasn’t punishing this blind man; he was choosing him to experience his kindness and power! Think about that for a second! I don’t want to get onto too many rabbit trails this morning. But this is something that we just can’t miss.
Your suffering, your illness, your pain, whatever it is and however it manifests in your life. Do you see it merely as something to be eradicated as quickly as possible? Or, do you see it possibly as God’s providence in him wanting you to see his mercy and kindness, either in delivering you, healing you, or in the midst of your suffering?! I know that’s a difficult thing to grasp. And I know that that may not be comforting at first. But, I would argue that to rest in the Lord means to give over to him not only your good days and your healthy days, but to give over to him your bad days and your unhealthy days. Don’t attribute all suffering to the Devil, and assume that there is no glory to be revealed in the midst of your pain. This blind man was blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
And then Jesus kind-of reveals to his disciples the urgency of what he’s about to do. He’s saying, “And the works of God in this man’s life are going to start now. I’m going to heal him now. Why? Verse 4: because “we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day, because night is coming!” I’m only here for so long, before I go to the Cross. My light must shine, as I am the light of the world (that’s what he says in verse 5). So let’s get to it!
Verse 6: Having said these things, he made mud with his spit on the ground. Now, I wouldn’t look too deeply for a spiritual meaning there. I’m not totally sure why he decided to do it like this, but it’s probably just mud made from spit. Maybe he’s making a connection with Genesis 2:7, when “God formed man from the dust of the earth.” In a sense, Jesus is recreating this man’s sight. But he makes this mud, and sends the man to the pool of Siloam (which means Sent). Now, again, I don’t read too much meaning between the lines here, because John, the writer, doesn’t explain much about Siloam other than that it means “Sent.” Jesus is the One Sent by God. That’s probably as far as it goes in regard to a deeper meaning. But the man goes and comes back seeing! He is healed!
Unbelievable! Truly, amazing! He can see! And of course, the people around him are amazed! Some don’t even believe it, they just think this man looks like the blind man; it’s not actually him! But the ones who knew it was him asked, “How did this happen?” Verse 11: “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.’”
A man who has never seen anything, a man who was blind from birth, can now see everything! Amazing. That’s Scene 1, the miracle. Now, Scene 2 gets a little dicey. Scene 2 is the Investigation. Let’s read verse 13 all the way through verse 34. Verse 13:
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 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.” 16 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. 17 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.”
18 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 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 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.” 22 (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.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 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.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 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?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 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.32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
So the Pharisees did not like that Jesus had healed this man. And this is just one of those moments when you’ve got to slap your forehead. A man born blind can now see, and they’re concerned because Jesus apparently broke the Sabbath. That’s what grabs their attention. And here’s the more outrageous thing: you want to know why they thought he broke the Sabbath by healing this man? Because he had to knead the clay into his saliva to make the mud he put over the man’s eyes. And kneading, guess what? Is one of the 39 classes of work that are absolutely forbidden on the Sabbath. And that’s not even part of God’s laws; that’s the Pharisees’ own laws they added themselves!
Do you see the blindness they’re not even aware of? Completely blind to what has happened, and what it means. So they start arguing amongst themselves, and saying that a sinner can’t do these things. So they asked the man who was healed what he thought, and he said, “He is a prophet.” The problem is, they just didn’t want to believe that, nor did they want to believe he had even been blind, so they call his parents in! They ask, “Is this your son?” And they say, “Well yes, but we don’t know how this has happened. Ask him; he’s an adult!”
So then they call the man in again; this investigation just goes on and on, doesn’t it? They just can’t accept what has happened. They’re blind, yes? And they don’t know they’re blind! Jesus can’t have come from God, therefore they still don’t have the truth, at least in their minds. So they bring him in again. They say, “Look, we know that this man is a sinner. That’s probably the only thing we can all agree on. And if he’s a sinner, he couldn’t have done this. So tell us, how do you now see?” They’re asking yet again, because they want a different answer.
Now, here’s the thing: This man whose no longer blind, he doesn’t know much, does he? He doesn’t have all the answers. But he knows one thing. He says it in verse 25: “One thing I know: I was blind, and now I see.” Praise God! This is another side-application that just can’t be missed: Listen, you don’t have to know all the answers to be a bold and powerful witness for Jesus!! Yes?! You don’t have to know everything in the Bible. Stick with what you know: You were blind, and because of JESUS, the Light of the World, you now see!
That’s all he knew. But, oh, the boldness of this man. Verse 27 is hilarious: “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?” Ha! The blind man now realizes, these Pharisees are not interested in the truth. They want answers that fit within the reality they’ve painted for themselves. And so far, they haven’t gotten the answers they want! So the healed man mocks them! They keep asking the same questions, so there must be another reason why they’re asking. Oh! They want to become disciples themselves! I love it. I don’t think this is a genuine question from the man who’s been healed. It seems pretty clear that he’s being sarcastic.
And of course they rebuke him. They say, “You’re one of his disciples, well we’re disciples of Moses! And we know God spoke to Moses, but as for this Jesus, we don’t even know where he came from.” And the man’s boldness comes through yet again. He says, “Wow! This is amazing! You don’t even know where he came from, and yet he opened my eyes.” Again, sticking to what he knows. In verse 31, he goes on: “We know that God does not listen to sinners (you yourselves just said that the last time you called me in), but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” He’s making a point here, right? He’s trying to show these Pharisees the obvious! What is so apparent before them, and yet what they refuse to see!
In verses 32 & 33, he finishes his point: “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.” This healed man gives the Pharisees the truth, the LIGHT, he gives them SIGHT, and yet they refuse to see. They’ll have nothing of it. They say, “What could you teach us? You were born in utter sin, obviously, since you were born blind.” And they cast him out. That’s the end of scene two. I told you it was a bit dicey, right?
Now, before we move to scene 3, which is where we really get to what John and Jesus want us to see. As we move into scene 3, don’t assume you know which party you belong to in this narrative. Don’t assume you’re only the blind man who’s been given sight, and now sees everything perfectly. Don’t too quickly condemn and dismiss the Pharisees, assuming they’re way over there, different from you. Scene 3, verses 35 through 41:
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
If you remember, the man who has been given sight doesn’t know all that much about Jesus. He wasn’t sure if Jesus was a sinner or not, which pretty clearly shows us that he hadn’t believed in Jesus as the Messiah yet. All he knows is that Jesus healed him. And Jesus knew this, and so he went and found him and brought him to genuine and decisive faith. He asks, “Do you believe, do you trust in the Son of Man?” And once Jesus identified himself (because this was the first time the man born blind had actually seen Jesus with his own eyes, which is why he didn’t recognize him), once Jesus told him who he was, the man said, “Lord, I believe.” And then he fell down and worshipped. The word for “worship” there literally means to prostrate yourself.
And in verse 39, we find Jesus summarize the acted-out parable that has happened. The healing of the blind man in scene one, and the investigation that followed by the religious authorities in scene two—these were symbolic of the far more important spiritual blindness and spiritual sight which had taken each of the two parties—the blind man and the Pharisees. So, briefly, here are the two takeaways from Jesus healing the blind man:
- Blind people who don’t know they’re blind, never seek the light.
Why would they, right? Blind people who don’t know they’re blind don’t know that they’re missing the light! This is part of what Jesus is getting at in verse 39: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” The fact that Jesus came to save some in the world means that there will be others who will be judged.
If you remember back to John 3:17, Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” So, Jesus’ primary reason for coming is to save the world, save those who would come to him in repentance and faith! But, that also means others will be judged. This is inevitable when the light of the world comes to expose sin. How do we respond when the Light of the World exposes our sin? One of two ways: we either see our blindness and depravity and turn to Jesus as our only hope. Or we deny our blindness and depravity, and so see no need to turn to Jesus.
This is what he means when he says in verse 39, “that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” To come to faith in Christ truly, you have to come to a place where you recognize your blindness. These Pharisees clearly came to no such place. That’s why we see in verse 40, the Pharisees who overheard him talking to the man who had been healed, they ask, “Are we also blind?” And he responds in verse 41: “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” Here we get to the second takeaway:
- Blind people who know they’re blind, long for the light.
Jesus is saying, if you knew you were blind, you would have no guilt, because you would have seen your utter and desperate need for me! And you would have turned to me in repentance and faith. If you knew you were blind, you would LONG for ME, because I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! But, because you think you see. Because you don’t actually know you’re blind, your guilt remains. You’re stuck in your sin and in your blindness.
No wonder so many in our world today are blind to their desperate need for Jesus. We live in a day and age when human achievement is impressive, to say the least. How far the human race has come with technology and discovery is quite amazing. And this should cause us to humbly worship the God who created us in his image! We are creative and innovative, like God. He infinitely more, no doubt. But we reflect His image!
The problem is that we’ve responded to human achievement and discovery not with gratefulness and humility, but with pride. We think we’re invincible. We think we can achieve anything, much like those in Genesis 11 who built the Tower of Babel, reaching and reaching and reaching all the way to God. It is so easy in our culture to be blind to our own depravity and need for Jesus.
Today may just be the day that God is removing the veil from your face. Perhaps you, for the first time ever, see your desperate need for Jesus to save you. Hear me when I say: he welcomes you with open arms. You can come to him in repentance and faith, trusting in him alone, in what he has accomplished for us in his death and resurrection—taking our sin upon himself in his death and rising again declaring victory and life for us. Believe and he will make you see.
Or perhaps you have been given your sight. Perhaps Jesus has restored your sight. You know of your absolute need for Jesus, and you have believed upon him. But maybe you’ve become apathetic, indifferent. Maybe your attitude toward Jesus is not one of worship, like this man born blind in John 9. Be reminded, yet again: you were blind, but now you see. Do not put the veil back on! Instead, worship Jesus. Be amazed as this man was when he said, “How amazing is this…he has opened my eyes.”
Even in our walks as believers, as those who’ve been given spiritual sight, been healed of spiritual blindness. We must remind ourselves often: We were blind, but now we see, and that is only because of Jesus. How good and fitting to worship him. How good and fitting to kill any apathy or indifference. How good and fitting it is to remind ourselves that we are not our own light. Jesus alone is the Light of the World. To see our blindness and see our weakness is to see God’s strength and God’s light, who is Jesus. C. H. Spurgeon summarizes it best:
It is not our littleness that hinders Christ; but our bigness. It is not our weakness that hinders Christ; it is our strength. It is not our darkness that hinders Christ; it is our supposed light that holds back His hand.
Don’t be deceived. Believe in Jesus, worship Jesus, and you will see.