Isaiah 49:1-7; John 9:12-27
In his book, Catching the Light, quantum physicist Arthur Zojanc writes of studies which investigated recovery from people born blind. Thanks to cornea transplants, people who had been blind from birth could suddenly have functional use of their eyes; however, success has been rare.
Zajoc quotes from another researcher who observed: “To give back sight to a person born blind, is more the work of an educator than of a surgeon.” To which Zajoc adds, “The sober truth remains that vision requires far more than a functioning physical organ. Without an inner light, without a formative visual imagination, we are blind.”
Our Lord in chapter 9 of the Gospel of John dealt with both types of blindness: a person born blind, and people who could see, but could not understand what they saw.
This is what John writes in all of his Gospel: light shining in darkness, but darkness which could not comprehend it. That light is Christ, and the light He brought into this spiritually dark world is like light bringing forth life.
The work of God on display
People in the time of Jesus was generally of the opinion that a particular sin leads to a particular sickness. We understand that since sin came into the world, sickness entered into this world, but we certainly cannot draw a straight line between sin and sickness.
So, when the disciples saw the man born blind, they wanted to know who it was who sinned, him or his parents. There was even the idea that a sinning mother could carry the curse of her sin over onto an unborn child.
Jesus Christ did not go into the merit of this unbiblical theology; instead He saw the state of the blind young man as God’s way to display his sovereign grace.
Christ was the One who the Father sent to seek and to save the lost. Through the miraculous healing of the man’s blindness Christ demonstrated that He reigns over the darkness of this world.
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.” (John 9:4–5, NIV)
The work of the Father who sent Him was to bring light.
It strikes us that both the man and his parents did not show any desire that our Lord would heal his blindness. Can we see any natural inclination of any sinner to not even seek God for redemption?
We need to say it over and over again: the fact that I may call myself a Christian has absolutely nothing to do with me seeking the Lord. In spiritual blindness I couldn’t see the kingdom of God; in spiritual blindness Nathaniel knew nothing about Christ, who knew everything about him even before he saw Christ. He then heard the words of our Lord,
“Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” (John 1:51, NIV)
The way Jesus opened the eyes of this blind man, calls for different ways of interpretation. Why did He mix spit and dirt to form a mudpack to go over the eyes of the blind, we cannot be sure of. One commentator points to the fact that according to Jewish ceremonial interpretation, everything discharged from a person must be considered unclean. So, when Jesus spat onto the dirt He very dramatically wanted to point out that He is not bound by the ceremonial laws cooked up by the Pharisees.
All of this happened on a Sabbath, to which the Pharisees added innumerable laws as to what they considered work and what not.
Christ saw contact with the blind as continuing the work of the Father. Maybe the dirt was a reference to how God made Adam. The fact that He did it on a Sabbath was to indicate that He came to heal the whole person. This was He said in John 7:
… why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? (John 7:23, NIV)
Point is, all the ceremonies of the Old Testament had their fulfilment in Christ – one could say they found their “rest”, or Sabbath, in Christ – so that He who was one with the Father, and God Himself, could introduce a new creation through his own body.
It was not a problem for Him to make the blind man see. He send the blind – who at that point of course have not seen Christ – to the pool of Siloam. The Bible tells us that the meaning of that pool was “Sent” (9:7) The One whom God sent to bring healing, was the One who sent the blind to the pool with the same name. And it was there that the blind man’s eyes opened so that he could see. That water did not heal Him; the One sent by the Father did! Now that his eyes were opened he could see his Healer.
I was blind, but now I see
On his way back, he picked up some trouble from another type of blindness: the religious leaders. They wanted to know more about what happened, but their concern was not the fact that the man could see, but that he was healed on the Sabbath. Because this happened on a Sabbath, they in their spiritual ignorance concluded that Christ was not from God.
The healed blind man had no problem. When they asked him, “What have you to say about Him?”, they set a trap before him; either this, or they asked the question because they themselves could not argue against those who said a sinner could not do such a miracle.
What the Pharisees then did parallels very neatly with people who are spiritually blind even in our day: this was not miracle! The man was not born blind. Call his parents. No, he was, we know, but how he can see and how it happened we don’t know. Ask him.
These poor parents actually represents another group of spiritually blind people – corresponding with Nicodemus, who just could not openly side with Christ because his spiritual eyes were not fully opened yet too. They stood between the fact of the miracle and the fear of being ostracised from worship.
“Tell the truth. We know this man is a sinner.” Man condemning their Maker! How many times have sinful man tried to make the sinless Christ like them. If this is possible, He either cannot be a Saviour, or man do not actually need a Saviour.
You cannot help but love the fellow’s response: “One thing I know. I was blind but now I see.” You cannot dispute this fact, and I know the difference between being blind and having sight. Even he got the Pharisees in the corner: they might not know where Christ came from, but denying his presence does not take away that He miraculously healed him.
In self-righteous fury they threw his out of the synagogue,
“You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. (John 9:34, NIV)
In other words, sin caused your blindness; we can see and have no sickness, which means we are better than you. He was not disfellowshipped for any other reason but the fact he dared to return their own theology in their faces. This reminds us of the words of Isaiah 66:5,
Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word: “Your own people who hate you, and exclude you because of my name, have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ Yet they will be put to shame. (Isaiah 66:5, NIV)
No-one as blind as he who does not want to see
Our friend with restored faith left the synagogue, but Jesus found him. This is pure Gospel! Listen.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35, NIV)
This was the first time the man saw Christ – now with eyesight restored. Christ’s work was not done yet in this man. His spiritual eyesight had to be restored. Do you hear the echo of the words of our Lord in John 6,
All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37, NIV)
“You have seen Him, He is the one speaking to you.” (9:37
He opened your eyes to physically see Him, and his Spirit is opening the eyes of faith to believe.
Do you see Him? Do you hear Him speak? Do you see Him standing before you, offering eternal life?
What did the man do then? He just said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshipped Christ. His eyes were opened so that he beyond the carpenter of Nazareth could see his Saviour.
Then our Lord said,
“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39, NIV)
These words hit the Pharisees hard. “Are we blind too?”
“If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. (John 9:41, NIV)
Let’s unpack this statement: Jesus said to the Pharisees that with their own eyes that have seen Him and what He came to do. They saw the blind man’s sight restored, and they saw him worship our Lord. If they did not physically see this they could be forgiven. But now that they saw it, yet they remain spiritually blind and rejecting the Son of God who came to seek also them, they stand condemned, spiritually without eyesight.
This brings us to the question again, “What have you to say about Christ?” Do you believe in the Son of Man? Do you hear Hom speak? Are your spiritual eyes open, and your spiritual ears able to hear? Listen, He is the one speaking to you.
There will be a day that we might hear this question asked in maybe a different way, but we will not be able to escape a proper response.
“What to you have to say about Christ?”
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 11 December 2016