Open Your Eyes
Our own vision is blinded by a world where people look down on those who have any form of disability, but let us realise the greater disability is when we are not able to see ourselves for who we are and are unable to recognise God for who He is.
Often when we meet or pass by someone who has any sort of disability, how do we react to that person? Do we overlook them, look at them curiously, feel a tinge of pity, wonder what caused their disability or do we go out of our way to be loving to them? Sadly, in many cultures of the world, there is a widespread belief that disability is a consequence of sin, or the result of some curse on the family, or the individual. There are also those who go so far as to think that the differently-abled were not even created by God.
John Chapter 9, I believe, opens our eyes to see things from a different perspective, and help us understand the heart of God towards those struggling with disabilities, and in the process have a better understanding of where we stand before Him.
Follow the series on John here
- Follow Jesus
- Jesus’ Authority
- Looking for Truth, He Must Become Greater
- Living Water, The Second Sign
- No More Lame Excuses, Testimonies about Jesus
- Supernatural Overflow, Walk on Water, I Am the Bread of Life, Do not be driven by selfishness
- Trust God’s timing, ”Right Judgement”, ”Who is the Jesus you trust?”, Rivers of living water,
- A stones throw away, I am the light of the world, Like Father Like Son, I can see clearly now
Excuses and Criticisms
This passage describes the Pharisees’ reaction to Jesus’ healing of a man born blind. Rather than being swayed by an obvious sign of divine power, they look for excuses and criticisms. Seeking to discredit the miracle, they interrogate the man’s parents, who timidly defer back to their son. The healed man knows nothing more than this: ”though I was blind, now I see.” His matter-of-fact responses to the Pharisees highlight their obvious prejudice. As a result, they excommunicate the healed man from the synagogue. Jesus will meet with the man in the next passage to give more context for the miracle.”
God’s grace to those who least expect it
Jesus chose a man who was blind from birth (John 9:1–2) and granted him sight (John 9:6–7). This echoes the way in which God, through His grace, offers salvation to those who would otherwise never have had it. It also gives a potent example, proving that not all suffering is a punishment for that person’s wrongdoing (John 9:3–5). The people of the city recognize the man and are shocked that he is now able to see. Though a few doubt that this is the same person (John 9:8–9), most are more interested in knowing how he came to be healed. The man—who left Jesus to wash his eyes while still blind—knows little about how his eyes were cured, other than the fact that it was Jesus who spoke to him (John 9:11).
As with other incidents, it’s important not to automatically condemn everything the Pharisees do, just because. The religious leaders of their people, these men are supposed to investigate these kinds of incidents. As was the case with John the Baptist, the Scribes and Pharisees are completely justified in asking what has happened, and why. The problem is not in asking questions—it’s in the hardened hearts and hypocritical attitudes they bring. And there are those within this sect who are more open to the truth.
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 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.”
16 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 perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then 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.”
18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 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!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 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?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out. John 9: 13-34
The sixth miraculous sign
This man will be the subject of Jesus’ sixth miraculous “sign” as recorded in the gospel of John. Almost every aspect of this story has spiritual implications, which is why John devotes an unusually long passage to the miracle and its immediate aftermath. The important detail is that this man is blind, a condition often used in Scripture as a metaphor for those who lack saving faith in God. The Old Testament predicted the Messiah would cure blindness (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7). In all of Scripture, only Jesus is seen miraculously healing the blind—further proof of His identity (Matthew 11:5; 12:22–23).
It’s also key to notice that this man was born blind. He’s not about to regain something he lost at some point in the past. Jesus is going to give this man an ability that he has literally never had. This provides a powerful parallel to the role of God in bringing us to saving faith, and to salvation by grace.
Be consistent and truthful
This is the second time that a man, born blind and healed by Jesus, has been asked to explain “how” he was healed (John 9:10). He’ll be asked yet again in this story, by these same Pharisees (John 9:26), and after his parents have posed the same question (John 9:19) – his answer is consistent and truthful: Jesus put mud on his eyes and told him to wash, resulting in sight.
This is a dangerous line of questioning from the Pharasies – it is self-centered and bound in “tradition-spiritually”. The Pharisees claim that Jesus’ actions directly violate their traditional interpretations of holiness—and they’re right. Jesus’ actions do conflict with their traditions. This, in fact, seems to be the point – as Jesus purposefully tries to show that their shallow approach is not what God intends (John 7:22–24). Human beings easily choose to equate their own opinions with those of God. John includes seven “signs” in this gospel. These are seven miracles meant to prove that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah. The Old Testament predicted that the Promised One would heal blindness (Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7).
Jesus the Messiah
Jesus’ miracles are meant to prove that He is the Promised One—the Messiah. Since this event is sensational and occurred on a Sabbath day (John 9:14), the people bring the man to be interviewed by the Pharisees (John 9:15).
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees actually had a very positive reputation. They were extremely moral, living by a strict set of rules which had grown out of their traditions. Those traditions were aimed at “protecting” obedience to the law of Moses. In practice, however, the Pharisees treated those traditions as if they were equal to the actual Word of God. Not only did this result in a cold legalism, it led to the arrogance of an “us-versus-them” version of spirituality.
As a result, even when faced with a miracle, these men define right and wrong, and good and evil, according to whether or not the messenger agrees with their interpretations. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon problem even today. Many groups choose a particular “pet doctrine,” such as a particular day of worship, or a translation of the Bible, and use that as the first test of truth. Those who disagree with that stance are immediately dismissed as sinners, heretics, or false prophets. In effect, this makes that tradition, or doctrine, the real “god” of that sect, blinding them even to miraculous evidence of the truth.
The interrogation continues
The interrogators continue to press the formerly blind man for answers. Throughout this story, the once-blind man is consistent, sincere, and honest. He does not pretend to know anything other than what has actually happened. His conclusion, stated here, is common sense. Jesus has done something profoundly good, and supernaturally powerful. Therefore, the man believes that Jesus is “a prophet.” Since he hasn’t actually seen or spoken to Jesus since being told to wash mud off of his then-still-blind eyes (John 9:11–12), this is as much as he can really assume.
What happens next proves how hard-headed and stubborn religious sceptics can be. People in the crowd realise this is a man who was born blind (John 9:8–9). Even those who doubt have to admit that he certainly looks like the same person—suggesting some explanation other than a miracle. The Pharisees, on the other hand, are so cynical that they want to interview the man’s parents, just to confirm that this is, in fact, the same beggar everyone recognizes!
Jesus’ harshest critics and greatest resistance come from the very people who ought to know better.
The fact that this man had always been blind, and was known to be blind, leads to extreme scepticism. The religious leaders of Jerusalem simply refuse to believe that this man has been given sight, so they summon his parents. Their goal is to confirm—or, in their case to hopefully disprove—that this is the same man who was known as a blind-from-birth beggar. The scepticism of these leaders is not entirely unjustified. Their role is to shepherd the people of Israel, and that includes investigating spiritual claims. Where they go wrong is not in asking questions; their error is in taking their scepticism to such extreme levels that they refuse to believe, no matter what.
Controversy and insincerity
The parents of the man born blind are being interrogated by local religious leaders. When Jesus grants the man eyesight, the sceptical scribes and Pharisees want to be sure that the now-seeing man is, in fact, the same person who was known as a blind beggar.
Questioning a spiritual claim is not a problem. These men are charged with leadership over the people of Israel, and they are supposed to investigate these kinds of events. Where they go wrong is not in being thorough. Their error is not being sincere; these men have no actual interest in the truth. They are looking for reasons to reject Jesus and His miracles.
The way these leaders phrase their questions to the blind man’s parents betrays that prejudice. Rather than simply asking, “Is this really your son?” they suggest that the parents themselves might be lying. The healed man is referred to as the one “who you say was born blind.” The hidden suggestion is that, perhaps, the man was not really blind, or not always blind, giving these men further opportunity to discredit Jesus.
This disrespect also includes a sense of intimidation. As further verses show, these same religious leaders had already declared that those who supported Jesus would be excommunicated (John 9:22). The formerly blind man’s parents answers will show they’re fearful of the Jewish leaders and want no part of this controversy.
These parents have been called before a council of Jerusalem’s religious leaders. In an effort to investigate—and hopefully to discredit Jesus—the religious leaders interrogate the man’s parents to see if the person claiming to have been healed really is their son, and if he really was blind his entire life.
The parents’ response is timid and short for a reason. The religious leaders of Jerusalem have already declared a punishment for anyone who follows Jesus: excommunication. The formerly-blind man’s parents seek to tell the truth, but they’re clearly not willing to say anything beyond the bare facts which they, themselves, can know.
The parents pointedly state that they don’t know “who” healed their son. While this is almost certainly true, it might also be part of their effort to avoid trouble.
Give Glory to God
The command “give glory to God” here is a way of demanding that a person speak the truth. Typically, using it implies that the other person needs to confess some sin or deception (Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 6:5). In modern days, this is somewhat like a judge telling a defendant, “come, now, tell the truth…” The religious leaders further prove their prejudice by stating “we know…” Jesus is a sinner. This echoes their initial rejection of the miracle: they refused to accept it because they had already decided that Jesus didn’t agree with their traditions (John 9:16). By hinting that the man is lying, and claiming to “know” that Jesus is false, the scribes and Pharisees are trying to intimidate the formerly-blind man into changing his story.
Spectacular faithful response
This effort backfires spectacularly. The healed man will produce a profound summary of saving faith, and his simple, common-sense approach to facts will embarrass the hard-headed, willfully ignorant religious leaders. The man’s response here is an excellent summary of how saving faith operates. Scripture often uses sight—or light—as a metaphor for faith. This man is not a trained scholar, or wealthy, or well-read. He knows nothing about Jesus’ prior ministry or the details of Jesus ministry. But what he does know, he knows for sure:
The profound, inexplicable change brought by an encounter with Christ was beyond debate. For Christians, this is the cornerstone of our testimony: the influence of Christ in our own lives. This is what opens our conversation with others about the reality of the gospel (Mark 5:19), and which leads into all of our other evidence and arguments
1 Peter 3:15–16 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
The repetitive, casual, confident response from the man sends the religious leaders into a tantrum. Rather than acting as impartial judges, these men will resort to insults (John 9:28; 34). Unfortunately for them, this will only make the situation worse, as the beggar continues to counter their bile with common sense truth.
The same man who sarcastically challenged the scribes and Pharisees earlier now responds to their insults. Once again, his tone is sardonic, biting, and confrontational. All the same, his point is much the same as the one he previously gave (John 9:25). Despite what people might claim they don’t know about Jesus, what we do know about Jesus is more than enough to make the right conclusion! The religious leaders are trying to dismiss Jesus for being an outsider—the healed man is pointing out that this is a poor excuse.
The once-blind man isn’t done, either. In the face of abuse and interrogation by the religious leaders of his home, this man will proceed to teach the self-styled teachers of Israel what they ought to understand.
The beggar is pointing out that even if they don’t know everything about Jesus, the fact that He’s performing healing miracles is evidence enough.
This man will continue to apply this theme by pointing out that Jesus’ miracle is not only a potent sign—it’s a unique sign which no other prophet had accomplished before.
The “bottom line”
The formerly-blind beggar, for his part, responded with bravery and remarkably clear thinking. His overall point, delivered with heavy sarcasm, has been that Jesus’ miracles themselves ought to be evidence enough that He’s been sent by God.
Here, the healed man makes this statement in clear and direct terms. This is almost identical to the conclusion Nicodemus brought to Jesus earlier in the gospel of John (John 3:1–2). This verse is the summary of the man’s response to the insults of the scribes and Pharisees, who tried to reject Jesus as a “sinner” instead of accepting His miracles.
At this point, the religious leaders of Jerusalem have been thoroughly embarrassed. They have failed to debunk Jesus’ miracle. They have responded in angry insults to one of their witnesses. And, they’ve been “taught” some common sense spiritual truth by a man they consider beneath them.
In a very practical sense, this man’s experience is a compressed version of what it means to convert to Christianity. He has given a “sight” he never before possessed (John 9:1–2), by someone he had never before known (John 9:11–12). The only thing he knows for certain is the effects of this change on his own life (John 9:25). And, when he stands up for the truth of his own experience, the world insults and abuses him (John 9:28, 34), much the same way it did Jesus.
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