none so blind…

1 04 2009

 Scripture:  John 9: 1-12

 I love the disciples –the more I read about them and really try to put myself in their shoes, the more I see myself in them.  They are full of enthusiasm to be with Jesus.  They know that Jesus is something special and they are willing students – disciples that are doing their best to embrace what they are learning from their Master.

And so on this day, I wonder if the disciples were trying to show that they were starting to “get it”.  That the lessons that they had learned so far were not lost on them and they could now apply some of this learning.

As they walked along, they saw a beggar – a man that had been born blind.  They wanted to show that they knew that sin was the root of such problems and that sometimes children would suffer for the sins of their parents, other times people suffered for their own sin.   That was what it said in Scripture as God spoke from Mount Sinai that he punished children for the sin of their fathers “down to the third and fourth generations.”  (Exodus 20:5)

And so they asked the teacher who was to blame for this man’s condition – whether it was his sin or the sin of his parents.  I don’t know how the disciples figured that his condition could’ve been from the man’s own sin since he was born blind.  But in spite of their best effort to show that they were paying attentions to the lesson, Jesus points out that this case was an exception.  When Jesus responds that neither him nor his parents sinned, he is not saying that they were without sin, but that the blindness the fellow suffered wasn’t a punishment for the sin of either.  Instead this was an opportunity for the work of God to be carried out. 

Do we ever look at problems that way?  As an opportunity to see the hand God in our lives?  It’s not always easy for us to try to put a positive spin on it like that is it?  It is Biblical to believe that many health related problems are due to sin in our lives.  Remember all the times that Jesus healed people with the words “your sins are forgiven.”

But if there is no un-confessed sin in your life and the problem is still there, then perhaps the purpose of us having to suffer through it is to make us dependant on waiting for God to come along and help us.  And if there’s someone else we know with a problem, perhaps we should be looking to see if the difficulties they face give us an opportunity to do God’s work.

And so Jesus does what he came to do and makes a simple compound of mud made from dirt and his spit, applies it to the man’s eyes and tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.  Now some people might miss the point here I think by thinking that the Pool of Siloam had some mystical healing properties, and perhaps you could more rightly point out that even the spit of Jesus when used for healing could perform miraculous results.  But I think that the faith of the man was just as active a part in his healing as what Jesus put on his eyes.

He must’ve had faith to allow Jesus to put mud made of dirt and spit on his eyes – it doesn’t exactly sound like advanced medicine – and he must’ve had faith to follow the directions by going to the Pool of Siloam to wash his eyes.  This man had the faith to follow through with what Jesus told him to do.  Would we be willing to do the same even though we might not understand the reason for the instruction at the time?

I am a person who likes to know the “why” for doing things.  If it was me, I would be wanting to ask:

“Why the Pool of Siloam?  Is that a special water there?  And was that dirt significant?  Was the spit really necessary?” 

I usually like to have all of those kind of questions answered beforehand – with as much detail as possible.  But we don’t read anything like that from this fellow.  Jesus sent him and he went.  And like Jesus said of others who believed in him – his faith cured him. 

When he returned he was seen by local people and his neighbours and they began to discuss whether or not this was the guy that they knew that had been born blind.  You think that they would recognize this guy after him begging there for so many years.  Maybe the shock of seeing him wander around, obviously now being able to see, would be enough to cause some doubt in the minds of some.  And so he speaks up to confirm that he’s the one and he tells them of his simple and yet amazing story of healing.

But the story does not end there.  Those people then bring him to the Pharisees – a customary act to verify a healing. 

Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath.  Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
      But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.

Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
      The man replied, “He is a prophet.” (John 9:14-17)

At this point the blind man did not know everything about Jesus – he figured that he was a prophet – a man of God who healed him.  But when he was brought to the Pharisees to recount his story, they were divided.  Some argued that only a man from God could give sight to the blind.  It was a specific sign of the Messiah, prophesied in Isaiah.  At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he read those words in the synagogue:

 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
       my chosen one in whom I delight;
       I will put my Spirit on him
       and he will bring justice to the nations.

 He will not shout or cry out,
       or raise his voice in the streets.

 

 A bruised reed he will not break,
       and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
  “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
       I will take hold of your hand.
       I will keep you and will make you
       to be a covenant for the people
       and a light for the Gentiles,

to open eyes that are blind,
       to free captives from prison
       and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 47:1-3a, 6-7)

And here Jesus was doing one of the very things that signified him as the Messiah, but some of the Pharisees were more concerned about someone breaking the Sabbath by “working” on it, than they were excited about the man getting his sight back.

This was not the first time either that they reacted this way about Jesus healing on the Sabbath.  On an earlier occasion he was eating at the house of a prominent Pharisee.  Other Pharisees were there watching his every move.  It was a Sabbath, and the Jewish leaders had developed a very short list of what would not be considered work on a Sabbath – and to work on the Sabbath was to break it.  Jesus knew their hearts, but he was more concerned about the need of a man that came before him suffering from a condition known as dropsy.

And so he asked them straight out:

“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?”  But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.

Then he asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?”  And they had nothing to say. (Luke 14:1-6)

The Jewish leaders were pretty unbelievable really.  They were so blinded by pride and obeying every little letter of the Mishna – the rules they added to the law – they were so full of their supposed self-righteousness that it became all they cared about.  But Jesus saw through their hypocrisy.  And as Jesus continued to heal people on the Sabbath and his popularity grew, he was seen as a threat to their authority.

When Jesus healed the blind man, this was when the tide had started to turn against Jesus and the Jewish leaders were poised to kick Jesus out of the synagogue.  When Jesus first began to teach, it was in the local Jewish synagogues, like the other Rabbi’s of the day.  But Jesus had spoken out against them often enough and now they were at the point where they no longer were willing to put up with him criticizing them.

I think at this point the Pharisees that opposed the healing starting grasping at straws – surely they should’ve recognized this fellow but part of them still does not want to believe it and so they send for his parents.  This man’s parents weren’t much help – they knew that to confess Jesus as Messiah would mean that they would be kicked out of the synagogue and they were more concerned about social standing than honouring Jesus.

Unlike those parents we need to remember that Jesus told us not to fear people, but rather only fear God.  He has the ultimate say and will be the one that we eventually have to give an accounting to for our lives – the decisions we’ve made and how we’ve stood up for the truth.

So instead of supporting Jesus and their son, they simply affirm that he was their son and he had been born blind, but that was all they could really say.  And so Pharisees bring the son back in again in an attempt to try to disprove what Jesus did that day. 

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”

Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses!  We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. (John 9:24-34)

I have to admit that I like this fellow’s response.  At this point he obviously must be a little exasperated by the Jewish leaders.  They are stealing the joy out of his new experiences being able to see.  I can almost see the smirk on his face as he asks them why they want him to repeat the story- if they wanted to become disciples of Jesus too.  That was just one step too far.  Although as he was kicked out of the temple, I doubt that he had any regrets for that.   It’s hard to feel bad about being kicked out of a group that you wouldn’t want to be part of anyway.

The Pharisees claimed with pride to be disciples of Moses and yet Jesus had this to say to them one time about their lack of understanding with what they studied:

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.  I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.  How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.  If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.  But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:39-47)

There is a saying that goes, “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”  Although the man Jesus healed had been physically unable to see, it was the Pharisees who were truly blind that day.  Although they claimed to be Moses’ disciples, they could not see that Jesus was the one that the Scriptures pointed to.  Although all the signs were there, the Pharisees had closed their minds to the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah.  They had closed their eyes to the truth. 

Jesus found the man after they threw him out and revealed himself to him as more than just a prophet, but as the very Son of God.  And this man responded by saying that he believed in him and by worshiping Jesus.  Then Jesus 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)

And some Pharisees that were there realized that he was talking about them, so they said “We can see, can’t we?”  And because they were unwilling to openly admit their blindness, Jesus said that they were still guilty of sin.

Isaiah gave us three clear signs of the Messiah, but Jesus not only gave physical sight to the blind, he also healed those who were blind to the sin in their lives.  And those who were the captives that he came to set free were not only captive to self defeating sin, but also to sins of arrogance and lack of compassion.   And the dark dungeons that he came to set his people free from are not only those of despair and hopelessness, but also those of meaningless and empty tradition.  Jesus came to set us free from all of those things so that we can have a life that is full of meaning found in him as this man did on that day.  

Close your eyes for a moment. 

Now close your eyes tighter.  Cover your eyes and try to block out all the light.  Imagine what it would be like if this was all that you had ever seen…

Now uncover your face and open your eyes slowly and as you do, try to imagine what it would be like to be seeing for the first time in your life.  Look around you.  Look at the people sitting next to you.  Look at the colourful stained glass windows.  Think about the first time that you saw some of the most beautiful sights:  a gorgeous rainbow… a beautiful country scene…the lake after a storm…the smile of a child…some of your favourite things to look at…

When Jesus gave sight to this fellow, I wonder what he did after his encounter with the Jewish leaders and Pharisees – what impressed him the most.  Whether he found a quiet spot to watch a sunset, whether the stars that came out that night and the moon that shone, were so mesmerizing that he found himself staring up at them until they began to fade into the new day.  And when the sun’s first rays cut through the dawn how enraptured he was by the whole amazing scene.

While the night was passing as he reflected on the day’s events, I wonder whether he chuckled, reflecting on his bold and only thinly veiled insult to the leaders at the synagogue.

And as he marvelled at all he saw, no doubt he would also wonder at the marvel of meeting Jesus.   He received sight twice that day as his spiritual blindness was also removed.  The eyes of his heart were opened to the very Son of God.   This morning my challenge to you is that you would have the faith of this young man to do what God asks of you without hesitation.  That you would seek out any areas of blindness in your own life and ask God for healing.  And that you would live with a boldness that seeks to please God first and foremost in each and every day of your life. 

 

 

None So Blind…

   Scripture:  John 9: 1-12

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