Blindness is a dreadful affliction. A blind man begging on the side of the road was a familiar sight in ancient Israel. But the man we read about in John 9 wasn’t blind because of the dusty roads and disease-laden air: he had been born blind. In answer to the disciples’ question about who was to blame, Jesus responded by pointing to the purpose of the man’s blindness – it was so that God’s power through Jesus to give sight might be revealed. Here and elsewhere Jesus implies that physical blindness is an outcome of living in a fallen world.
Sight. Jesus’ stunning miracle is told simply. Significantly, it was another occasion when he didn’t expect ‘faith’ before he acted. He took the initiative. The faith Jesus called for was in response to his command to go and wash. It was only when the man obeyed Jesus’ word of instruction that he came back seeing.
In the neighborhood conversations that John reports (9:8-12), we get the sense that when the man went home, everyone was talking about it. ‘How can you see?’ they asked when he affirmed that he was the former blind beggar. His response is simple and direct: ‘The man Jesus healed me.’ It’s a moving, straightforward testimony, a wonderful model for us all.
Spiritual sight. As John 9 unfolds, it becomes increasingly evident that the miraculous healing of the man’s physical blindness becomes a metaphor for the way God heals our spiritual blindness. The flow of John’s Gospel and the cumulative impact of his narrative, gently but firmly challenge us to ask, ‘Who is Jesus’?
In John chapter 9, four conversations unfold in the aftermath of this healing. The healed man was ejected from the synagogue by the religious leaders. But Jesus sought him out. ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ Jesus asked. The man’s response was candid: ‘Who is he that I may believe?’ ‘You have seen him,’ Jesus said. ‘The one who is speaking to you is he.’ We can only begin to imagine the awesome implications of Jesus’ words that day. And the man responded: ‘Lord, I believe.’ John tells us the man worshiped Jesus as though he were God.
There are few mountain peaks higher than this in John’s Gospel. The healed man had progressed from speaking of Jesus as the man (9:11); to calling him a prophet (9:17); and then, this man must be from God (9:33). Finally, he worshiped Jesus as Lord. Jesus had not only given this man physical sight but had opened his spiritual eyes.
It’s a picture of the road many travel in coming to faith. Because Christian faith involves a relationship with Jesus Christ, it takes time for us to realize who Jesus really is. We come to see that he is a man – he did live; then we see that he is more than a man – he’s a prophet; then we see he’s more than a prophet – that he is from God, that he is God.
Open our eyes Lord. There is something else here. Just as Jesus took the initiative to heal the blind man, so we need him to open the eyes of our hearts. In our willfulness we are blind to the truth that he is from God, come to restore our spiritual sight and to give us life.
Revivals occur when God’s people pray, not just for themselves, but that the Lord in his mercy will continue his work of opening blind eyes. Let’s commit to pray, and also to playing our part, helping family and friends along the path to a faith that worships Jesus Christ as Lord.