The Man Born Blind (John 9:1-12)
By Andrew E. Courtis
Can you think of any life changing experiences in your life? We have all experienced things that bring change to our circumstances and lives. In our message we are going to see a man whose life was dramatically changed. He was a blind man, but this condition of blindness was something he experienced from birth. He could not have been able to describe the beauties of creation.I can describe for you the many shades of a blue sky, or the spectacular colours of a sunset – yet he couldn’t. 700 hundred years before the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, Isaiah the prophet spoke of a day when the Messiah would come. He described this event as follows,
“In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see” (Isaiah 29:18) “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped” (Isaiah 35:5) “to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:7)
Jesus is the Sent one who will bring sight to the blind. John 9 records the sixth selected miraculous sign in the Gospel of John. Like all the other miracles, this sign signifies a spiritual reality. This chapter is about the healing of the man born blind.
Study Summary: In this message we will consider the powerful outcome of our Lord’s encounter with the man born blind – the plight, the purpose and the power.
THE PLIGHT OF THE SINNER (John 9:1)
Our passage begins, “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth” (9:1). The words “as He passed by” seem to naturally follow on from the last event in the previous chapter (8:59). So this event is most likely still occurring in the city of Jerusalem. As our Lord walks by, “He saw a man blind from birth”. This is a really sad situation. Due to this condition, this man was not able to hold a normal job and was reduced to begging (cf. 9:8). He was in such a condition that nothing in the world would have been able to change his state. He was blind and at the mercy of other people’s care and generosity. This sets the stage for our Lord to perform an amazing sign, which will result in a sight for all to see! As noted already, this poor man, due to his blindness, had a plight – and that was a condition in which he was helpless. This background information reminds us of what every person is like without salvation in Jesus Christ. We are all just like this man in a spiritual sense. We were all born in spiritual darkness. When writing to the Ephesian church Paul described those who don’t believe by saying,
“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18).
This condition of darkness is also referred to as blindness. In His second letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote,
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:3-4).
All who are without the Lord Jesus Christ are in spiritual blindness, and this leads to a horrible plight of being unable to see or understand the things of God. As Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). It would be foolish to think that the solution to this blind man’s condition was to give him a new pair of glasses. He could put on the most fashionable and expensive glasses there are but this would not help! Incidentally, that is similar to people try to overcome their spiritual blindness. Due to his condition he is totally unable to see. Again, this reminds us of what the Scriptures say concerning the lost. Just as this man does not need new glasses but rather new eyes, the unbeliever doesn’t need to attach external religion to their life, they need a new heart.
THE PURPOSE OF SALVATION (John 9:2-5)
As the disciples gazed upon the sad situation of this poor bind man, with curiosity they asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (9:2). This question presupposed that all suffering comes as a direct result of personal sin. Though it is true that the ultimate cause of suffering is the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, the Scripture does not teach that the specific actions of an individual are the direct cause of human suffering. It is true that this may be the case for some sins (John 5:14) but certainly not all. This question asked by the disciples was sadly a common error. If one was to even go back to the book of Job, this faulty understanding was unhelpfully pouring from the lips of Job’s friends. At the time of the disciples, many believed that suffering was the direct result of personal or parental sin. At first glance, it appears strange that they would ask, “who sinned, this man or his parents” knowing that he was born blind. Interestingly, it was taught by some of the Jewish interpreters that children could commit acts of sin while in the womb. It was said that when Jacob and Esau struggled in the womb they were quarrelling about the inheritance. Others said that whenever Rebecca would walk past a temple of idolatry Esau would struggle to come out! Now this clearly displays poor exegesis of the text. The point is that this whole idea of suffering being closely connected with someone’s personal sin was common. We need to understand that there is a mystery when it comes to suffering. Jesus made it very clear, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (9:3). The suffering that this man has experienced his entire life is completely unrelated to the issue of his or his parent’s sin. In a way that goes beyond our finite reasoning, what was about to happen was so that “the works of God might be displayed in him”. This provides us with an incredible insight concerning God’s purpose in saving us. Think about it, what is God’s purpose in saving people from their sins? The ultimate purpose of our salvation is to magnify the works of God (cf. Eph. 1:4-6). The fact that you are taken from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light is a sovereign act that shows the world the glory and power of God. If you have received spiritual sight, this also becomes your goal. In life there can be many things we strive to achieve or accomplish. But among all those pursuits one is non-negotiable and must be chief: to magnify the glorious works of God. Is doesn’t matter if you are male or female, old or young, this is to be your duty and delight. Jesus goes on to say, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (9:4). That is to say, the time is coming where I will ascend to Heaven, so the time is short. Of course, after Jesus ascends the Holy Spirit empowers the church to do the same, but even then Paul writes,
“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12)
Jesus goes on to say, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5)
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
THE POWER OF THE SAVIOUR (John 9:6-12)
This brings us to our final point. We read,
“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 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing” (9:6-7)
I don’t think anyone saw that method coming including the blind man! This method is rather interesting and there have been all sorts of suggestions put forward in trying to identify the meaning. I think there is a sense of mystery here. As a bare minimum, this method required for him to wash his face in the water. Notice what is happening here. The Lord Jesus Christ seeks out this helpless blind man, places mud on his eyes and tells him to wash it off. Interestingly, John stresses the meaning of the word “Siloam” which is “Sent”. Earlier in this gospel account Jesus had said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). This then would appear to illustrate that if one is to receive salvation, they must respond to the grace of God by trusting in the Sent One of God who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ required of Him to wash his face in the pool. If we are to be forgiven of our sins, we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. This all resulted in a series of interesting conversations which we will see later in this chapter. But for now, consider the initial response,
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.”
If it were not for the power of Jesus, this man would still be blind. If were not for the saving power of Jesus, you would still be lost in spiritual darkness. This is why the most important issue that we need to understand and address to others is the Person of Jesus Christ.
This incredible story of the blind man receiving his sight provides us with a vivid picture of what our Lord does to all who believe in Him. The natural man is spiritually blind and lost in darkness. The only hope for anyone is that the power of God would provide salvation. Once the light of the gospel has taken place, we are to show the world the mighty works of God by living and telling the gospel. If you are still spiritually blind, I want you to know that nothing in this world can help you. You must come to Christ and trust Him alone for your salvation. If you are saved, show the world what He did for you. Show it by your work ethic; show it by your marriage, your parenting, and in your friendships. Magnify His glorious works. I think it would be fitting to conclude with the words from that great hymn,
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see.”