HOW TO EXPERIENCE A DRAMATIC LIFE CHANGE

We know that in John’s gospel all the miracles were actually signs pointing to Jesus as the Messiah to facilitate belief in Him.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.[i]

In John chapters 8 and now in 9, we discover the reality of Jesus’ great proclamation that ‘He is the light of the world.’ When we put our trust in Jesus it means that we receive spiritual sight that leads to eternal life.

This miracle is a sign that Jesus can open the eyes of the spiritually blind so that they can receive the complete sight which constitutes perfect faith. Faith means passing from darkness to light.[ii]

One of the great challenges that we are faced with is the spiritual blindness and deep hostility that is directed toward Jesus and all those who follow him. D. A. Carson perceptively points out:

Jesus did not come to a world of sinners aware of their need, and eager to be rid of their sin.[iii]

Actually, most people don’t want to be corrected. They consider themselves to be okay, and don’t see a need for God’s intervention in their lives. The tragedy is that when we don’t see ourselves in need, we end up forfeiting the grace of God in our lives. It often takes a crisis beyond the scope of human ability to cause us to look beyond human resources for help.

Here in John 9:1-41, we see the sign of a blind man being healed. Kenneth Gangel points to something very fascinating about this miracle.

Many Bible students are amazed to discover that the Old Testament contains no story of the giving of sight to the blind. The only New Testament example outside the Gospels is the encounter between Ananias and Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9. But when we examine the ministry of Jesus, there are more instances of the healing of blind people than any other type of miracle.[iv]

Why? The healing of the blind was one of the key signs of the Messianic Age prophesied by the prophet Isaiah.

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.’

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.[v]

While in prison, John the Baptist questioned Jesus regarding his ministry. Was Jesus really the Messiah? Jesus’ response was simply to continue his healing ministry and remind John of this text from Isaiah. In John 9, we see how John addresses the miracle of both the healing of physical and spiritual sight. This miracle has profound lessons to be learned so that we do not live in spiritual darkness.

THE FIRST LESSON WE LEARN IS THE PRIORITY OF MINISTRY TO THOSE IN NEED RATHER THAN TO UNDERSTAND THE CAUSE

We are constantly wondering and asking the ‘why’ questions. Why does God allow suffering and sickness? Why does God allow bad things to happen in our world? I’m sure today there are many who are asking the ‘why’ questions about some issue in their life. However, the better question we should be asking is what we should be doing about it. How does trusting God make a difference? Maybe, another question we should be asking is how we can be part of the solution.

A. Dealing with Retributive theology: Who sinned?

Retributive theology is a very simplistic and mechanistic view of the world. It is simple cause and effect. If you are suffering, it is because you have sinned. That was the theology of Job’s friends and God rebuked that idea. The idea of God’s justice is far more nuanced than that.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.

His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.[vi]

While the disciples were focusing in on the cause of this man’s condition, Jesus’ concern was about transforming it and using it as a powerful vehicle to reveal the need for spiritual sight.

To the disciples he was a subject for a theological analysis. …The disciples were bewildered by the seeming irrationality of an affliction which had befallen the man at birth, and which could not be traced to a definite retributive judgment.[vii]

In other words, they wondered who was at fault. They had a simple theology of cause and effect. They equated illness with some act of sin. Jesus explained that sin was not necessarily the cause of these things on a personal level, so that it was neither this man’s sin nor his parents’. There is a general sense that all evil and human suffering are a result of sin in our world.

But once theologians move from generalizing statements about the origin of the human race’s maladies to tight connections between the sins and the sufferings of an individual, they go beyond the biblical evidence… That a specific illness or experience of suffering can be the direct consequence of a specific sin, few would deny. That it is invariably so, numerous biblical texts flatly deny (e.g. Job; Gal. 4:13, 2 Cor. 12:7).[viii]

Sickness may be a result of an individual’s sin, but not necessarily. We can never jump to that conclusion. The best corrective for this simplistic approach is the book of Job. Job was afflicted, but not because he had sinned.

B. Needs are potential opportunities to minister to others.

Jesus includes the disciples in stating that ‘we’ must do the works of God while we have the opportunity, because opportunities can be lost. I think we have all had moments when we realized that we had missed an opportunity to serve others and failed.However, there are certain needs that we neither have the skill nor resources to meet, except the willingness to pray to the One who has both.

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.

‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.[ix]

Just as Jesus was sent by the Father to bring light to the world, we have here a very specific example. Jesus sends the blind man to the Pool of Siloam which means ‘sent’. True faith must be acted upon. We must act upon the word of God, and receive God’s provision. These provisions are always found in the person of Jesus. 

C. Jesus’ methodology in healing the blind man. 

Colin Kruse explains why John gives a detailed account of his method.

On two other occasions Jesus used saliva in acts of healing (Mark 7:33; 8:23). Here he used saliva to make mud, mixing it with dirt. This becomes significant later in the story when we are told he performed the healing on a sabbath, because the act of kneading (which is involved in making mud from saliva and dirt) was regarded as one of the thirty-nine forms of work that violated the Sabbath.[x]

This is the second healing on the Sabbath that John records for us, while in John 5. The emphasis was on the authority of Jesus to heal on the Sabbath. This miracle addresses the issue of human blindness to our spiritual condition.       

THE SECOND LESSON WE LEARN IS THE CHALLENGES FACED AS WE EXPERIENCE AN ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS

When we give our life to Jesus, we will begin to see things differently than before and as a result, the responses of people around us will change. The changes that happens within us affects the response of those around us.

A. The challenge begins with those who know us best.    

Here we are going to see how his neighbors and family responded to the miracle. His identity was simply the ‘blind beggar.’ Often when we are healed, the labels remain, even though we are now a new creation in Christ. We often keep the label of how people used to relate to us, but Jesus sees us differently and sets us free.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?’

Some claimed that he was.

Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’

But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’

‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they asked.

He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’

‘Where is this man?’ they asked him.

‘I don’t know,’ he said.

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.[xi]

It is amazing that some thought he couldn’t be the same man because of the miracle. When they asked what had happened, he gave them a brief synopsis. When they asked who healed him, he answered, ‘the man they call Jesus.’ When they asked where Jesus was, he didn’t know. What are they to think? So, they bring him to their local religious leaders, to the Pharisees, to ask them what to make of this outstanding miracle. What does this all mean? 

B. This brought him to the attention of the religious community.

In this case, it was not a favorable situation as they were threatened by what had happened to the blind man. People are often threatened by what they don’t understand. We want answers. What we have is an interview with these religious authorities and as a result they become initially divided on the authenticity and authority of Jesus.

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 perform such signs?’ So they were divided.[xii]

In trying to determine if this was a sign from God, some of the religious leader’s focused on the fact that Jesus had performed this on the Sabbath and therefore, Jesus was a Sabbath breaker in their understanding and this could not be from God. Some of the other Pharisees argued how can a sinner perform such acts.

We know from Scriptures that miracles alone do not attest to being solely from God, as the enemy can counterfeit some miracles in order to deceive.

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie,[xiii]

The first group presents an argument that is logically far more compelling, provided their interpretation of the Sabbath is correct. John’s sympathetic readers know that the first group’s conclusion is wrong: Jesus is indeed from God, in ways far more profound than the religious authorities of Jesus’ day could imagine. Inevitably, that means their understanding of the Sabbath is also wrong.[xiv]

C. The growing confession of the man who was healed.  

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.’

They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents.

‘Is this your son?’ they asked. ‘Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?’

‘We know he is our son,’ the parents answered, ‘and we know he was born blind.

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.’

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.

That was why his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’[xv]

The blind man is asked once again to repeat his story and then asked what he thought of Jesus. Having considered the miracle that happened to him, he acknowledges that Jesus must be a prophet. Now as they reviewed the case, there must be some mistake. Maybe the neighbors are wrong. How can this man say that he was born blind, so the parents are sought and asked. They acknowledge two things, That this was their son and he was born blind. However, they were afraid to testify about Jesus because this would bring about excommunication from the synagogue. What they did say regarding the miracle was that they were not eye-witnesses.

What had happened, no one could deny; a man born blind was healed and could see. What was being denied was the meaning of this miracle. We now see that the Pharisees arrive at the conclusion that Jesus is a ‘sinner.’ They never consider that possibly their understanding of the Sabbath and what was allowable was incorrect. 

D. The attack upon the blind man with the experience with Jesus.

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.’[xvi]

That is quite the confession made by these Pharisees. How can they know that? They are so blinded by their own religious bias, that they disavow what has transpired. Jesus, who was sinless, who came to save the sinner, they accuse of being a sinner. Whereas they who had physical sight were spiritually blind; but the blind man now sees not only physically, but is developing spiritual sight. Listen to his growing confession.

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?’[xvii]

When challenged in his confession, he abides with the facts, that once he was blind, but now he can see. John is showing us that critical nature of making a public stand for our faith, even in the face of hostility.

E. We need to meet opposition with courage.

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 person 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.[xviii]

Here is a powerful exchange between the man who had received this miraculous healing by Jesus. This man has amazing spiritual perception. It is true that if we regard sin in our hearts, God will not hear our prayers (cf. Ps. 66:18). He was also correct in saying that ‘nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind’. The only response to him was anger, insults, and verbal abuse. Here we see that his simple faith brings conviction into the hearts of these hardened leaders. They now embrace that simplistic retributive theology that a man born blind must be a sinner, and excommunicated him.

III. THE FINAL LESSON WE LEARN IS THE DEVELOPMENT AND RESISTANCE TO FAITH

We are left with only two responses to what happened. We either accept the testimony and the experience of the blind man who now sees, or reject Jesus, the one who performed the miracle. What they could not do was to reject that something supernatural had happened.

A. The spiritual healing/illumination of the beggar.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’

‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’

Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’

Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.[xix]

When Jesus heard of the unfortunate result of the controversy with the Pharisees, He was moved with pity. He sought for the man, and upon finding him, asked a pointed personal question.[xx] 

‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ Once he understood that Jesus, was the Son of Man, he immediately believed and worshiped. This is an important point, as the term must be understood from Daniel’s vision, speaking of God coming to judge.

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was on like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.

He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.[xxi]

The man had amazing perception of that title and realized that God’s King and kingdom stood before him. He worshipped. This is another expression of the Deity of Jesus, that he allows himself to be worshiped.      

B. The essence of Christ’s judgment.

Though Jesus came into the world not to condemn but save the world, when light is rejected, all that is left is darkness. Judgment comes upon those who refused to accept deliverance.

Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’

Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’

Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.[xxii]

The fact that some Pharisees witnessed this transaction suggests that Jesus found the beggar in a public setting. Here we have the summary of the engagement. To the man who was blind, not only physical but spiritual sight was granted. To those who rejected and denied the significance of this miracle, though they had physical sight, they were revealing their spiritual blindness. To make matters worse, in answer to some of the Pharisees’ questions Jesus is saying that the tragedy is that they claimed to see or perceive. Jesus’ response was simply, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim to see, your guilt remains.’ To know the truth and reject it leaves us in our sins.

Rudolf Bultmann explains the nature of the offense of the gospel.

This is the paradox of the revelation, that in order to bring grace it must also give offence, and so can turn to judgment. In order to be grace it must uncover sin; he who resists this binds himself to his sin, and so through the revelation sin for the first time becomes definitive.[xxiii]

What is he saying? To be cured, we must address the problem. In our lives, we must come to the painful point that we acknowledge our sin, confess it rather than live in denial and come to the One who can cure it: namely Jesus.

Christian faith begins when men and women come to see that sin has robbed them of spiritual vision, that in this sense they are all blind from birth and are wholly unable to free themselves from their predicament; and faith comes to maturity when they accept Jesus as the one who alone can recreate in them the faculty that sin has destroyed.[xxiv]    

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[i]     John 20:30-31, The New International Version of the Bible, Zondervan, 2011.

[ii]     R. V. G. Tasker, John, TNTC, (Grand Rapids, Mi: William Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), 122-23.

[iii]    D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Mi: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 378.

[iv]    Kenneth Gangel, John, Vol. 4, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 180.

[v]     Isaiah 35:4-5.

[vi]    John 9:1-3.

[vii]   Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), 152-53.

[viii]   D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 361.

[ix]    John 9:4-7.

[x]     Colin, Kruse, John: An introduction and Commentary, Vol. 4, (InterVarsity Press, 2003), 219-220.

[xi]    John 9:8-13.

[xii]   John 9:14-16.

[xiii]   2 Thessalonians 2:9.

[xiv]   D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 368.

[xv]   John 9:17-23.

[xvi]   John 9:24.

[xvii] John 9:25-26.

[xviii] John 9:27-34.

[xix]   John 9:35-38.

[xx]   Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief, 159.

[xxi]   Daniel 7:13-14.

[xxii] John 9:39-41.

[xxiii] R. Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, (Blackwell, 1971 as quoted by D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 377.

[xxiv] R. V. G. Tasker, John, TNTC, 123.

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