Healing of the Blind Man by Brian Jekel
(…continued) The story in the ninth chapter of John is filled with assumptions, and most of them end up being challenged by new information. Already in second verse people are assuming the worst. Jesus and the disciples walk past a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” said the disciples, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” This question contains the huge assumption that if there is any suffering anywhere, it is the direct result of a sin, with God in heaven doling out the pain in equal measure to the sin. The more you sin, the more trouble you’ll get; it’s as simple as that. But that was a wrong assumption. Who sinned? “Neither one,” Jesus said. Rather, he said, “This man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” And when Jesus did heal the man a few moments later, the work of God was displayed, and to this day the story proclaims the power and goodness of God.
Then comes another assumption. The man’s neighbors see that he is no longer blind (verse 8) and say, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” “Yes, it is,” said some, acknowledging the obvious fact. “No, he isn’t” said others, refusing to question their assumption that blind men cannot have their sight restored.
I can sympathize with that skepticism. I am skeptical of many of the claims I hear from Christian healers, and am glad when those claims are investigated. If the healing is real, praise God, I believe that can happen. But if it is a fraudulent healing, and I know that also happens, then I am glad to see the con artist exposed. Their deception only hurts the cause of Christ. So I might also have been skeptical of Jesus, at least at first. But Jesus did not do just this one miracle. He gave many evidences of his miraculous power, and in this story, it soon became clear that this indeed was the man they knew had been blind from birth. Still, there remained those who were blinded by their assumptions.
In verse sixteen there is another false assumption. This is the most outrageous. Some of the Pharisees say, “This man cannot be from God for he does not keep the Sabbath.” Talk about missing the point! Jesus miraculously restored sight to a man born blind, and he was criticized for doing it the wrong day of the week! But others said, “Nonsense, for how can a man who is not from God do such miracles?” This reveals another, more solid, assumption.
The false assumptions continue as the debate goes on, and Jesus turns this physical restoration of sight to a man born blind into an illustration of the continuing spiritual blindness of those who will not change their assumptions, even when confronted by a miracle. The blind man, though poor and uneducated, becomes the voice of wisdom and logic and truth, simply by stubbornly stating the facts. After being hounded by the Pharisees, he finally says (v. 25), “I don’t know if Jesus is a sinner or not, all I know is that I was blind, and now I see.” And then when he saw Jesus, the healed man said (v. 38), “Lord, I believe.” Until that day, he was assuming that he would never be able to see. But when he regained his sight, his beliefs underwent a huge adjustment.
That is what faith does as it grows. Faith adjusts. Faith adjusts to blessings and to afflictions. The blind man, when he was blind, could have assumed that there was no God, deciding that he would put no trust in a God who allowed people to be born blind and endure that affliction throughout their life. But while the text says nothing about the man’s religious beliefs before his healing, it is clear that he remained at least open to faith. Jesus made some mud and put it on his eyes, and told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. That does not sound like an effective prescription, but the man had to act on it if he was to be healed. And he did so immediately; perhaps out of desperation, but also on faith. Jesus always showed himself willing to bless even the smallest moves toward faith.
Faith does not shut God out when things do not go well. Faith understands that there might be other explanations. Jesus was asked who sinned that this man was born blind. No one, said Jesus, and then went on to demonstrated that God had a far higher purpose in that affliction than merely punishing sins. He wanted everyone, then and now, to see God’s work displayed in this man.
We ask why bad things happen to good people, how can God allow cancer in a child, why God permits the cruel tyrants of the world to stay in power; and why doesn’t God end disease, bring world peace, and let everyone have enough food? Is it because God does not care? Or, as this text teaches us, are there perhaps other explanations that we cannot, in our limited knowledge, begin to see or imagine?
After many years as an atheist C. S. Lewis, like the blind man in verse 38, said “Lord, I believe.” He did not reach that conclusion because he finally understood everything. Rather, Lewis came to believe in Jesus as the way and the truth and the life. Then, from that foundation of faith in God, he was able to say (paraphrasing), “Now that I have chosen to believe in God, what I do know and do understand about God leads me to TRUST GOD even in those things that I do not understand about the Bible and life in this world.”
When we believe in Jesus, all our assumptions about God and life and other people will be affected. Like C. S. Lewis, we will assume not the worst, but the best about God, as we would do in any good relationship.
John 9:25b — (The blind man replied), “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
II Corinthians 5:7 — We live by faith, not by sight.
II Corinthians 4:4 — The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Open the eyes of my heart Lord. I want to see you. Amen.
To hear Open the Eyes of My Heart by Michael W. Smith:
For the fun of it, listen to I Can See Clearly Now, by Johnny Nash, #1 hit in 1972; performed by Jimmy Cliff in 1993: