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Now I See


March 19, 2023 |Now I See|John 9:1-41

JD Cutler



In the last couple of weeks, we have been looking at encounters of Jesus, coincidently both in our Sunday morning bible study and in our sermon texts.


In our Sunday morning gathering we have looked at his encounter with Nicodemus, his encounter with a Samaritan woman at the well, and today we are looking at another encounter Jesus had, this time with a blind man.


Now this, in and of itself, is certainly not abnormal within the New Testament, there are many accounts of Jesus healing blind men in the scriptures. This was a regular part of Jesus’ earthly ministry, which makes sense because the bible describes prophetically this will be the case when he comes.


Luke 4:17-21 (ESV) 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”


Luke 7:22-23 (ESV) 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”


The blind receiving their sight was one of the things that confirmed his ministry as the Messiah, or the anointed one.


Sometimes their encounters are recorded and sometimes the authors simply say something like ‘and they brought many blind and lame to him and he healed them.’ As varied as the encounters are, so are his methods for healing blindness. Sometimes the bible says he spoke and their eyes were opened, sometimes it says that he anointed their eyes with spit, sometimes that he touched their eyes, and today we will see yet another unique way in which he chose to heal this particular blind man.

As varied as the encounters are and as varied as the applied remedies, so also is the way that he engages each one.


In Matthew 9 he asks a pair of blind men if they believe that he is able to open their eyes and upon confessing their belief in his ability, he heals them and says it was according to their faith that it was done.

Later in Matthew, 20, with a similar pair of blind men, this time he asks them, what do you want me to do for you?, after asking him to open their eyes, the bible says Jesus in pity touched their eyes and immediately they recovered their sight.

In Mark we find a blind man that he chooses to heal in two stages without any record of him asking the man any question concerning what he desired or whether he had any faith.


Why point all of this out?


Because I don’t want us to get overly stuck on the manner in which this blind man was healed and miss the greater point of our passage. Or to push the manner in which he was healed farther in application than we should. At the same time, we must note that we do not believe that Jesus did anything arbitrarily, but rather in accordance with his father’s wishes, Jesus says as much in this encounter before he heals this blind man. We must acknowledge then that the method may be instructive for us, even if it was not normative or prescriptive.


More than just physically healing this man, Jesus uses this particular encounter to illustrate a greater spiritual truth about the condition of mankind and his purpose as light of the world; we know this because he says so at the end of this encounter. It is those two bookend statements by Jesus, about his work and his purpose that help us make sense of everything that happens in between.


So today while we examine this account we also attempt to look beyond it to see what Jesus would have us see in it.


Open your bibles to John 9 where we will be this morning. This account stretches all 41 verses of chapter 9 and closely related to it, in its immediate context, another 21 verses in chapter 10, so we won’t be able to read it all today, but rather we will touch on the highlights under three divisions.


Jesus heals a blind man. (initial encounter) 9:1-7

John 9:1-7 (ESV) 1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 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 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.


As he passed by- ties us back to the end of chapter 8 (remember there were originally no chapters and verses when John wrote.) (ESV) but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Leaving behind those who refused to see the light, he passes by a blind man, and sees him. The idea here is that Jesus took notice of him, perhaps he stopped in front of the man, perhaps he told the disciples to give him alms, whatever the details, John tells us that he noticed him and the disciples noticed him noticing him, so they ask a question.

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”


There are a number of interesting possibilities that the disciples may have had in mind when they asked this question, ranging from this man sinning in the womb to God preemptively causing blindness for some heinous sin yet committed. But the important thing to note is that they tied suffering, especially this level of suffering directly to someone’s sin. They were right in the sense that God will punish sin, they were wrong to assume that all suffering was punitive in nature.

This man is suffering from blindness, and has been since birth, God must be punishing him for sin, either his or his parents.


What a horrible view of God’s sovereignty and yet this is not so foreign of an idea that we haven’t had it ourselves or secretly entertained it when faced with the suffering of others. When we see someone experiencing some particularly difficult and seemingly unexplainable situation, we may be tempted to say, ‘I wonder what they did to deserve that?’, like some sanctified divine karma is at work. This was the attitude of Job’s friends, right, ‘come clean, you must have done something to be suffering this much’.

Brittany reminded me that when she was diagnosed with cancer, we had a lost friend who said, 'man, what did you do to deserve that?'

When we see someone experiencing some particularly difficult and seemingly unexplainable situation, we may be tempted to say, ‘I wonder what they did to deserve that?’, like some sanctified divine karma is at work.

But look at Jesus’ answer.

Neither.

It was not that this man sinned or his parents that this man was born blind like the disciples and later we learn the Pharisees believed.

But that through his suffering God’s works would be displayed through him.

There is much more we could say here, and maybe in another sermon we may, but due to time we must move on having barely scratched the surface of the disciples misunderstanding about sin and suffering. Having corrected them, Jesus moved to alleviate the very suffering they wanted to stand around debating the cause of it.


Even in the precursor to his healing, Jesus is letting his disciples, and us, know this is more than just a physical healing he is going to do. He came to do the works of the father as the light of the world. In healing this man, Jesus is going to display the work of God in him.

This key phrase ‘the light of the world’ is not the first time Jesus has said this in this trip to Jerusalem.

John 8:12 (ESV) 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Neither is this the first time he has spoken about doing the will of the one who sent him.

John 8:28-30 (ESV) 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

Almost all of chapter 8 is Jesus teaching in the temple, being confronted by the Pharisees, and continually declaring who he is, leading up to his declaration of ‘before Abraham was, I am, which the Jews rightly took as a declaration of equality with God and tried to put him to death right then.

Jesus knew his earthly ministry was coming to an end and he emphasized that as long as he was able, as long as it was day, he would continue displaying God’s power in the works that the Father had given him as the light of the world.


So Jesus makes mud and anoints his eyes with this salve and sends him to wash it off in a specific place. The results of which as we see was that this man who had never seen a day in his life, came back from this washing with a new ability to see. As I mentioned in the beginning, it is best not to make too much of this method because Jesus used so many different ones, but it is interesting to note that the man had a role to play as well, which he later testifies about when he says, (ESV) “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

Jesus could have spoken and his eyes have been opened, he could have touched his eyes and opened them, but for this man, in this context, at this time, he had him participate in obedient faith and go wash, resulting in his healing. A friend rightly said this week that this reminded them of Naaman’s healing in the old testament. Elisha told him to wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be healed and like Naaman, this man’s obedience to the word of God did lead to his healing.


One would think that being healed of blindness that had afflicted you since birth, being able to see for the first time would be a wonderful experience for this man and yet we find his situation after his healing seemingly worse than before. But Jesus isn’t done with him yet. Let’s move down and pick up his story in verse 35 of chapter 9.


Jesus leads the man beyond his healing. (final encounter) 9:35-38

John 9:35-38 (ESV) 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.


35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out-

Let me briefly recap what has happened between his healing and this encounter.

After astonishing those who knew him, and some that at least seemed to know of him, he is brought before the Pharisees to investigate the miracle that has happened. It is a tense interaction where the Pharisees are determined to prove that Jesus is not from God despite the evidence of this formerly blind man, and eventually, after ridiculing him as one born in 'utter sin', they cast him out.


Everything that had changed for the man, he had been put out of the synagogue/temple, ostracized from his people, his parents had failed to stand up for him, and he had been ridiculed before a large audience. But think about all that has changed for the better.


He is now able to see all the beauty of the world that had previously been hidden from him. With his new found sight, he won’t have to be dependent on people leading him around, placing him at the gates to beg for scraps and money, he is now independent and able to contribute and participate in society. Even being cut off from the temple, his life has to be measurably better than it was before, or at least the potential is there, right?


Why does Jesus go out of his way, in the midst of a hostile situation with the religious leaders, to find him? Because the bible says that this man has a more significant problem.

The one thing the Pharisees were right about is that this man had been born in sin, but what they failed to understand is, so had they.

The bible says that in Adam, all sinned, that is we inherited a sin nature and became children of wrath, compounded by our own volition and choices to sin. He was healed by the very son of God and yet he was still separated from God by his sin.

Why does Jesus go out of his way, in the midst of a hostile situation with the religious leaders, to find him? Because the bible says that this man has a more significant problem.

Listen, put yourself in this man’s place, you encounter Jesus and he will fix whatever in your life needs fixing. Sickness-healed, poverty-prosperous, barren-fruitful, whatever your greatest problem is, if you could have everything in your life fixed right now, you would still have a problem…


You would still be hopelessly, utterly, and completely spiritually blind, or as the bible says elsewhere, dead in your trespasses and sins.


This is why Jesus finds the man, to ask him the most important question in the world.

Jesus came crashing into this man’s life, uninvited and unsought, heals him, which leads to his being cast out of the religious systems of his people and then finds him again and confronts him with the only question of eternal consequence. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”


Just a few weeks ago we looked at Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, let me remind you of what Jesus says there so we can see the importance of this question.

John 3:14-15 (ESV) so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

John 3:16-18 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.


Believe and live or do not believe and stay condemned. The man of course does not fully understand this yet, how could he, but he does know Jesus is referring to God’s messiah, his anointed one with the language he uses, son of man. His response shows a faith that is ready to be placed, his answer is, ‘show me who is his and I am 100% ready to believe in him.’


Then Jesus says something especially powerful when you consider this man’s situation up until this day. “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”


You are looking at him, those eyes that have never seen anything before today, those eyes that had previously been unable to even process light, now behold the very light of the world. You have not just encountered a prophet, you have not just encountered someone who speaks for God, you have encountered God in the flesh, and you now stand before him, will you believe in him?

What happens? The man says, Lord, I believe, and from the description here, falls down before Jesus and worships him as God, and Jesus accepts his worship.


From hopelessly blind to beholding the son of God, this man has moved far beyond physical healing and has had his spiritually blind eyes opened to the reality of who Jesus is.


Who cares that he has been mistreated by the blind Pharisees, who cares that his own parents failed to stand up for him, who cares he has been cast out of their religious system, he has found the Messiah!

What an encounter, what a savior! Not content with merely healing his physical ailment but to seek him out to save him from his spiritual blindness. To give him the awesome opportunity to be personally invited to believe in the Son, by the son. And with this, our record of this man’s encounter with Jesus ends.


What Jesus says next carries us beyond this encounter, beyond this blind man, to the need of all mankind and what Jesus came to do for us.


Jesus highlights the need of all men to be healed. (application statement) 9:39-41

John 9:39-41 (ESV) 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.


I think the word judgment, or decree, is best understood in light of what Jesus has said previously.

(ESV) “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

In essence, he says ‘I have come so that this decree may be true, those who follow me will be moved from spiritual darkness to light and those that claim light apart from me will be further engrossed in darkness.’


Jesus takes this opportunity of this picture of a blind man being made able to see to declare that there are two kinds of people, those who do not see and those that do see and the difference between the two is Jesus.


The Pharisees get that he is talking about them, so they ask, are we also blind?

'You’re talking about us, right?'

Jesus says, you are more than blind, you are blind, but you do not think you are, which puts you in a much worse position.


David Guzik says of this passage,

“Those that admit their spiritual blindness can find sight in Jesus, but those who falsely claim to have spiritual sight will be made blind.”

This is the essence of Jesus’ statements here.

If we will truly understand our blindness, we will call on the only one who has ever opened the eyes of one born blind. We will cry out to him, or at the very least, like the man, cry out, who is he that I may believe.

Just as Jesus answered that question to this man, the answer remains, it is Jesus.


Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, he is the light of the world and the only name by which we must be saved. He is the only one that can save you from your spiritual blindness, the only one that can bring life to what was dead.


From this statement, Jesus goes on in chapter 10 to declare that he is the door of the sheepfold and that any who enter by him will find life, that he is the good shepherd that lays down his life for the sheep, that he by his authority will lay it down and take it back up again for the sheep.


What the crowd says next is telling.

John 10:19-21 (ESV) 19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (emphasis mine)

This miracle attests to the claims that Jesus makes, no one else has made a man born blind be able to see. They should have been able to see by this miracle alone that Jesus came from the Father and yet they refused to see.


Conclusion:

The apostle John begins his gospel account by saying that Jesus is the light of the world, that gives light to everyone and that the light shines in the darkness and darkness cannot overcome it and yet there were people who refused the light, rather choosing to stay in darkness.


Here we have that truth illustrated before us in the story of Jesus healing this blind man and the refusal of the religious leaders to see it for what it was.


As we close this morning, as I studied this text, I couldn't help but think of parallels with our own ability to see.

If you have been to an eye doctor to evaluate your vision, you are familiar with the process when the doctor comes in and tries different lenses to see the level of your vision, right?

Big torture looking machine, fitted over your face, better one or two?

If you would allow me a quick analogy, there is a sense in which this text serves as an eye test.

In it, we find two very different ways of seeing.

The Pharisees were quick to say, ‘we know, we know’ while the man was quick to admit there were things he did not know.

Which one better describes you this morning?


The Pharisees were quick to evaluate everything by their tradition, while the man was more concerned with what he had learned from his encounter with Jesus.

Which one better describes you this morning?


The Pharisees were quick to see this man and Jesus as a threat to their power and control and thus pushed him out of their lives, the man was quick to surrender to and obey Jesus at every turn.

Which one better describes you this morning?


We find in Jesus' diagnosis that although they thought they saw, that is they thought they knew God, they thought they had it right, they thought they were in control, they were blind, and worse, willfully rejected the light by which they might see. They did not understand their condition.


There was a brief time period in my adult life that I needed glasses but did not know it.

I did not understand my condition.

After an eye test, the doctor told me that I wasn’t seeing as clearly as I thought, but it wasn’t until I put on my glasses for the first time and everything became clear, that I truly understood how bad my eyesight had been. It is much like that when we talk about spiritual blindness, but that analogy falls short in one vital way.


Jesus says we don’t just need help with our eyes, he says we are spiritually blind, unable to see anything unless he supernaturally opens our eyes. Then, by him, the light of the world we will clearly see, for the first time, how blind we were and by him we will see everything else clearly. This is what Jesus offers those that will come to him admitting that they are hopelessly afflicted by spiritual blindness and that they always have been. To those who claim to be able to see apart from him, there is only darkness now and for eternity.

The question before us is pretty obvious.

an you see, or are you blind?


The answer to that question is not subjective, but rather objective. Jesus says that it is by him alone that we see and unless you have placed your hope and trust in Jesus, you are blind and in desperate need of healing from the only one who can.








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