The result? A dead deer, a totaled car, a bummed brother, and an injured girlfriend. The injury was a corneal abrasion that she suffered while opening her eyes right when the airbag deployed. So, for the next two days, she was blind in one eye. What's worse, every time her eyes tried to dilate, the pain would increase. Therefore, she remained in complete darkness for two whole days. The silver lining was that she ended up making a full recovery and my brother got a new car, which I again wrecked two years later.
I share this story for a few reasons:
1) To get us thinking about sight, and the undeniable relationship that exists between light and sight.
2) Our capacity to see God clearly and follow his Spirit’s leading is often clouded by our sin or our suffering. In a sense, our view of God is like looking through the lens of a foggy windshield. We know God is up to something, but it’s not always clear what He’s up to and where He’s taking us.
3) Like the deer standing in the middle of K-10, The enemy places obstacles in our path in hopes of derailing us from our destination and destroying our vision.
John 9:1-11 is a story about light and sight, and a particular blind man whom Jesus miraculously healed on the Sabbath. From this passage, we learn three important gospel truths.
Gospel truth #1: Jesus sees us in our blindness.
Verse one tells us that Jesus “saw” a blind man. Ironic word choice. In other words, Jesus saw the one who could not see. This particular Greek word eidon, translated “he saw” in verse one, appears 205 times in the gospels, primarily referencing times when Jesus noticed or sought out someone that others ignored or intentionally avoided.
An alternative definition for this verb is, “to pay attention to,” or, “to concern oneself with.” In other words, Jesus paid attention to the blind beggar when no one else did, even though the blind beggar was oblivious to Him. It’s interesting to note that later on in the story, in verse 17, the blind man calls Jesus as a prophet, which literally translates to “seer.”
If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have a longing to be seen, recognized, and noticed, don’t we? Deep down, no one wants to remain anonymous or feel unimportant.
Perhaps you have felt unseen, ignored or even avoided at certain times of your life – by your peers, or teachers or coaches, or even by your own family. Hopefully you have not felt avoided or ignored by the church, because if so, we are not doing our job. When you feel ignored, I hope you are comforted to know that Jesus has sought you out when others have overlooked you.
Jesus seeing me in my blindness is, on the one hand, quite comforting, because Jesus desires to know me in my lonely anonymity. But on the other hand, it’s also quite convicting. Because Jesus sees into my heart. He sees everything I do and everything I think.
And yet, despite seeing us for who we really are, God chooses to have compassion on us, like he did with the blind beggar.
Your suffering does not go unnoticed by God. Neither does your sin. Jesus always sees you -- in your suffering, loneliness, and pain -- even when you’re blind to his presence.
Speaking of suffering, the disciples assumed that suffering like blindness was the result of personal, or individual sin. They thought this for two reasons:
1) The cultural perspective. In the Greco-Roman culture, most people had an extremely superstitious view of the 'gods'. They had gods for everything, and if they didn’t pray enough or do enough to please the gods, the gods would offer a curse. So the assumption was that if you were afflicted in any way, you must have upset one of the gods (similar to modern day Karma).
2) Religious perspective. In the Jews’ understanding of Torah, many Jews had a legalistic perspective of God. The common perception was that God operated primarily in terms of blessings and curses. For good reason, they assumed that breaking the Law automatically led to God’s wrath, or punishment. It stands to reason, then, that this blind man, or his parents, must have committed some sort of sin that caused him to become blind (see Ex. 34:6-7).
By asking “Who sinned?” the disciples were asking the cause of the blind man’s suffering. In other words, they were actually asking Jesus, “Why did this happen?”
We do the same thing when we ask God the "why" questions. "Why does my friend have cancer? Why did I lose my job? Why is that person homeless? It doesn't seem fair... God must be punishing them/us, right Jesus?”
Notice the disciples didn't befriend the beggar, or offer to do anything to help him. They failed to be compassionate. Instead, they tried and engage their buddy Jesus in a theological discussion about why this beggar was born blind. Like the Pharisees, the disciples preferred to debate theology, philosophy, and religion instead of act in compassionate obedience. While theological conversations can be beneficial, proper theology is worthless if not acted upon in love.
How does Jesus respond to their “who sinned” question? He responds by saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in his life.” (emphasis added).
You see, in this story, physical blindness was not the result of the man’s sin, but rather it was a result of the fallen world in which we live. You don’t have to look far to notice that things are not as God intended them to be. Like all brokenness, blindness can be traced back to the fall of humanity in the garden (Gen 3). Paul refers to this as the sin of Adam (Rom 5:12); we often call it original sin.
That said, here in John 9, Jesus seems to be less concerned with the origin of the sin and more concerned with its redemptive purpose, namely that the works of God might be displayed in this man’s life. Which leads us to...
Gospel truth #2: Jesus restores the broken.
God created the blind beggar on purpose for a purpose, just like God has uniquely created each one of us on purpose for a purpose. Jesus healed the blind beggar so he would repent of his sins and testify to Christ’s saving grace in a world that’s largely blind to the gospel.
No matter what suffering you have experienced, or what caused it – whether your suffering was caused by the brokenness of Creation, or by natural causes, or by your sin, or your parents’ sin, or your children’s sin, or by the media, or by the church (God forbid), or by Satan himself – know this: Jesus is actively pursuing restoration so that the works of God might be displayed in YOU.
What sort of “works of God” was Jesus referring to?
Recovery of sight for the blind? Freedom for the prisoners? Justice for the oppressed? All of those are certainly true. But Jesus was not just talking about physical restoration. After all, our bodies will fail us at some point this side of heaven. However, Jesus was referencing something that will never fail, or erode, give out or break down.
He was referring to recovery of sight for the spiritually blind, so that we might see our own sin, bow down on our knees, and ask Jesus to grant us eternal eyesight. Asking God to replace our eyes with Christ’s eyes.
In this story, physical blindness is a metaphor for sin. Like the man born blind, we are all born into sin, and we need a Spiritual Eye Surgeon to restore our vision.
Once you allow Jesus, the Spiritual Eye Surgeon, to restore your eyesight, you will see life differently. You’ll see people differently, through God’s eyes, and you will want others to experience the same healing that you have received.
Jesus restores the broken so that the works of God might be displayed in us.
Moving ahead to verses 4-5, Jesus uses the images of day and night, or light and darkness, to help us understand another important spiritual truth:
Gospel truth #3: The light leads to sight.
Sight and light are themes in John. In order to see, you need light. Light is connected with sight. In fact, light causes sight.
Any ophthalmologist will tell you that to be able to see anything, eyes first need to process light.
The point is that without the light, no one can see. You must have the light if you ever want to see.
So what is the light? A better question is, “Who is the light?” In this passage, Jesus says, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Johns also refers to Jesus as the “true light that gives light” in John 1:9. In addition, Jesus referred to himself as the “light of the world” earlier in John 8:12, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”
Jesus is the initiator and the means by which the blind receive sight. And if we have the light of life in us, we will never walk in darkness, meaning we will no longer be enslaved to our old, sinful ways.
But how did Jesus heal the blind man? Jesus spits on the ground, makes some mud (clay), puts it on the blind man’s eyes, and then tells him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam (which means “Sent”).
This word for mud John uses is more accurately translated “clay.” In the Old Testament, God’s people are often described as clay, such as Isaiah 64:8: “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Jesus’ reference to light and his use of water and clay indicate that this particular miracle is a nature miracle. Healing and nature miracles affirm God’s creation, and God’s role as creator. At the same time, the nature miracles reveal God’s new creation, or re-creation. The act of Jesus restoring, or re-creating, this man’s eyes is a sign of things to come, when God will make all things new – giving us new, resurrected bodies and granting us perfect vision to see the fullness of God in glory forever.
Speaking of creation, keep in mind this miracle occurred on the Sabbath. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was a holy day set aside to rest (Gen 2:1-3). The gospels mention 7 miracles performed by Jesus on the Sabbath (surely that’s not a coincidence considering there were six days of Creation and on the seventh day God rested). From these miracles, we learn that the Sabbath is not just a time for rest and relaxation. It’s also a time of healing and restoration.
The Sabbath is an opportunity for us to spend weekly time with Jesus to renew our eyesight. The Sabbath was made for you and for me. Many people are more stressed out and busy than ever, yet we tend to disregard God’s commandment to take a Sabbath. Every week I need Jesus to wash out my eyes so that I can be sent out into the world and help others receive sight.
So as we see, Jesus redefines Sabbath as a day not just to rest, but a day for Jesus to heal, restore, and re-create you, your vision, your heart, and your relationships. Jesus restores our suffering through his suffering on the cross, and wants to restore our relationships as well. Because of his blood sacrifice, our individual relationship to God has been restored. But it does not end there.
Jesus also came to restore our personal relationships with one another, our corporate relationship with God, relationships of one group to another, the relationship between God and his creation, and the relationship between the church and God’s creation. God can even restore relationships between fans of rival sports teams!
Finally, after Jesus told the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam, he had a choice to make: would he obey, or not? I mean, this man had been blind from birth. He had nearly lost all hope in ever being able to see. No one would have blamed him for lacking faith that Jesus could actually heal him. Or, he could have let his pride get in the way, and say, “I’m good… Thanks but no thanks Jesus. I don’t need your help. I don’t trust you.”
Thankfully, the man responded in faith, and in obedience, and he came back seeing.
Healing, restoring, and re-creating – that’s God’s business. Repentance, faith and obedience – that’s ours.