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Choosing to Remain Spiritually Blind

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: John 9:1–41

When rejected on earth, we need to remember that is the common lot of God’s children. What is important is that, by God’s grace, we are accepted by Him. Jesus’ healing of a blind man offers an encouraging illustration.


In our last Wisdom Journey, we watched as Jesus dramatically claimed to be the Light of the World. He promised to all who were spiritually blind that He could give them sight—that is, He could grant them the light of eternal life.

Their response was to pick up stones to throw at Him. We’re told Jesus hid Himself from these spiritually blind men and slipped away. Now here in John 9 Jesus reveals Himself to a physically blind man, whose response is going to be very different.

The first two verses of chapter 9 set the stage:

As [Jesus] 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?” (verses 1-2)

Now the disciples are simply repeating the popular teaching of their day: if there is sickness, it is punishment for personal sin. Sickness has to be somebody’s fault.

Beloved, we are living in a suffering world, and all suffering can be traced back to the fall of mankind into sin. But every illness someone experiences is not always the result of some specific, personal sin. Sickness or suffering is not automatically the judgment of God in a person’s life. In fact, in this blind man’s case, Jesus says in verse 3, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

In other words, this man’s blindness was designed by God to allow the power of Christ to be demonstrated in his life. And let me tell you, beloved, your sickness today can reveal deeper truths about God’s character and God’s power in your life—whether you are healed or not.

Well, this blind man is about to reveal something about Jesus that was far more important than healing power. Jesus says in verse 5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” You might recognize that expression from chapter 8, where Jesus dealt with the spiritual blindness and the darkness of unbelief. Jesus promised that He could effectively cure spiritual blindness if the people would follow Him.

So, what is about to happen is a link between what Jesus said in chapter 8 with what He does here in chapter 9. Follow this: If He can heal the physically blind, He most certainly can heal the spiritually blind. Verses 6-7 describe the physical miracle:

Having said these things, he spat 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.

We need to understand the Lord’s strange command here within the context of the Feast of Tabernacles, which has just concluded.

During this feast, the pool of Siloam was the place where the priest came and filled a pitcher with water to take back to the temple altar. This was a religious ceremony that symbolized God’s power and presence.

So, Jesus sends this blind man to that very pool; the man obeys and applies the water to his sightless eyes. When he blinks away the watery mist, the light comes flooding in. He can see! He tells curious onlookers that he has been healed by “the man called Jesus” (verses 8-12).

So, here is the point: If the nation of Israel will trust in Jesus, the Living Water, they also will be cured of spiritual blindness and come to see the light of everlasting life. They will be spiritually cured, not through religious ceremony, but through Christ.

Unfortunately, the rest of this chapter records the blind responses of the Pharisees. First, they cross-examine the beggar, who tells them exactly what happened. Some of the Pharisees argue that Jesus cannot be from God because this healing took place on the Sabbath. According to the Pharisees, it was all right to practice medicine on the Sabbath if life was in danger, but this blind man’s life was not threatened.

But now they are in a real fix, as verse 16 indicates. Here they are, all huddled up trying to figure this out, and one of them raises a question: “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” Giving sight to the blind was a messianic sign—this is what the Messiah is supposed to be able to do.

Some of them suggest that the man was not really blind at all—he is just making this up. So, they call in the beggar’s parents and question them. They respond in verses 20-21:

“We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know . . . Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”

They do not want to get caught up in this controversy. Verse 22 says that they were fully aware that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the anointed Messiah, would be put out of the synagogue. This was a terrifying thing, because the people were taught that to be shut out of the synagogue was to be shut out from God.

But this beggar does not seem to be intimidated at all. When the religious leaders come back to him one final time they tell the healed man to “give glory to God” (verse 24). That was a legal phrase that meant, “Tell the truth.”

He replies, “Whether [Jesus] is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (verse 25). They simply cannot get around this man’s personal testimony. And by the way, you might not have all the answers today, but you do have your testimony of going from spiritual blindness to spiritual sight.

This beggar is also quite bold. He asks these Pharisees, “Do you also want to become his disciples?” (verse 27). In other words, do you also want to “see”?

The Pharisees are offended by this challenge. Verse 34 says, “They cast him out.” They excommunicated him from the synagogue. They made sure he could not show up and give his testimony at the next worship service.

I love what happens next:

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. (verses 35-38)

Here is a lifelong beggar, a blind man whose sight has been restored, yet he is abandoned by his fearful parents and attacked by the religious leaders. But Jesus finds him and embraces him.

The man has been told he cannot worship in the synagogue, yet here we see a worship service like no other. And this personal encounter with the Lord gives him strength to carry him through the difficult days ahead.

G. Campbell Morgan was one of the best-known Bible teachers of his generation. In 1888, he applied to enter the Wesleyan denomination as a minister. He had passed his written, theological exams but still faced the test of giving a trial sermon before a panel of scholars.

He did so poorly that his application was rejected. Morgan sent a telegram to his father with just one word, “Rejected.” His father replied, “Rejected on earth. Accepted in heaven.”[1] Morgan would go on to become a powerful Bible teacher, as well as a best-selling author. Great crowds would gather to hear him expound the Scriptures. 

This blind man Jesus has healed might be rejected on earth, but he has been accepted in heaven. His faith in Jesus, the Light of the World, enables him to see spiritually as well as physically. The Pharisees, however, have chosen to remain blind to the truth.

“To see or not to see?” That is the question. What is your answer today?

[1] Jill Morgan, A Man of the Word (Wipf and Stock, 2010), 59-60.

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