Sermon: Sight to the blind – John 9:1-41

Sight to the blind. 

When he was three years old, Mike May was blinded in a freak chemical explosion in his family’s garage. 

Without his sight, May was forced to do what all blind people must do. He lived his life. 

And he was living a full life. At the 1984 Paralympics, he won three bronze medals in skiing. He also has held the downhill skiing speed record for a blind person, at 65 miles per hour. 

He got married and had kids. 

In 1999, Miller had an experimental eye surgery and his eyesight was restored. More on him later…

     Series context

 In our passage this morning, in John 9, Jesus restores sight to a blind man. An incredible miracle. Certainly it shows his power but as with other signs in John’s gospel, it also points to a deeper reality.

The whole world is blind. Blind to sin. Blind to our unworthiness before God. And during his ministry, Jesus is opening people’s eyes to who he is: God on earth. 

And that’s the main idea of our passage this morning: Jesus came to give sight to a blind world. 

     Body

At the beginning of our passage, Jesus encounters this man who has been blind since birth. 

And the disciples question how the man is in this situation. 

2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

They’re trying to figure out who sinned for this man to deserve such a punishment. x

This is an important theological point. There are still some churches who have such a mindset that anytime someone has an affliction or health issue, it’s a result of punishment for a specific sin they committed or a lack of faith. 

Now it is true that all afflictions are a result of the fallen state of our world. And all of us are part of that. We all sin, so we all contribute to that. But this passage is one of the best examples in the Bible that shows us that just because a person does have an illness, a health issue, a handicap, it is not necessarily that the person was stricken with that because of their specific sins.

In other words, it’s not Biblical to think that if a person had NOT committed some specific sin, then they never would have had such a health issue. 

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. 

The point of this isn’t to just punish the man. Now again, there are times when that might happen. But we shouldn’t assume one way or the other. The response should always be pointing people to Christ. In this particular situation, Jesus is already pointing forward to the fact that he’s going to work in this man’s situation. He says that it is so that the works of God might be displayed in him. It is to bring glory to God in the mighty work of Christ. 

And God does that sometimes. He works through health, he works through afflictions, to show his grace and goodness. People can grow closer to God in difficulties. People who more greatly experience God’s grace. And in this man, Jesus is going to again display a mighty work of God. 

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.

Jesus spits on the ground, makes some mud, puts it over the man’s eyes and tells him to wash in a nearby body of water. 

The man does this. 

And for the first time in his life, he can see. 

He’d never seen anything before. He had never seen his parents, he had never seen a star filled sky, or a sunset. 

He had walked through his entire life in darkness and Jesus opened his eyes. 

Verses 8-9: 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”

9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.”

The people witness the man and see that his sight has been restored, and they’re astounded. Some suggest that it’s not actually the same guy but just someone who looks like him, but he sets them straight. 

“I am the man,” he says. 

So naturally they ask, “how did this happen?”

Using modern medicine, surgeries that restore sight to the blind are still pretty new over the past generation. There is no other account from the ancient world of a person born blind and being given sight. 

So the people are a bit perplexed. They ask him how this happened in verse 10. 

And the man explains in verse 11:

11 “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 

The second major scene of this story is sort of the aftermath. 

II. The healed man is investigated by the Pharisees. 

You must understand that in this Jewish culture, your faith enveloped every aspect of your life. And something so remarkable as a blind man being given sight would have surely warranted the man being presented before the religious leaders, the Pharisees. 

The Old Testament did talk about how the redeemer of Israel would restore sight to the blind. The Pharisees would have undoubtedly been familiar with these texts. They were experts in the Law, and dedicated their lives to studying it. 

13-14

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 

The pharisees will question how the man received his sight. 

 And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.”

We’ve already read this man explaining what had happened. 

And we basically see the response of two different groups. 

Look at verse 16. Some said “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” 

That’s the first group. They see Jesus healing on the day of rest, and so they question him. 

Healing to save a person’s life was allowed on the Sabbath. But restoring sight? They don’t look at that as being necessary. Never mind the fact that the reason why he can see is because Jesus has performed a miracle that has never been done. 

Never mind that he’s fulfilling what the Old Testament had prophesied about the Messiah. 

Nevermind the fact that everything Jesus does is in fulfillment of the Old Testament. 

Some want to focus on “but he broke the rules.” 

Well, no he didn’t. Jesus healing on the Sabbath was not breaking the Sabbath. Their understanding of the Sabbath that a man could not be healed was what was wrong. 

The other response is “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”

So for this second group, they kind of took a logical step past the first group. The question isn’t ‘how can a man from God break the rules?’ The question was: “How can a man give sight who’s NOT from God?”

So they go to the formerly blind man and ask him what he makes of the whole situation. And he suggests that he was healed by a prophet. 

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight

The Pharisees are doubting this man and now they ask his parents:

 19  “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.

They go to the blind man who was healed, who told them he was healed. And that wasn’t enough. So they go to his parents. 

Most scholars think that they keep interrogating the man, his family, they keep questioning because they’re trying to get someone to contradict themselves.

21-22: But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 

We see some fear from his parents in the face of the Pharisees. They answered the questions but give no speculation.

They want their son to answer. They fear ramifications if they say anything that will acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. 

So the Pharisees return to the man and ask him what happened.

Anything they can do to find what they want. 

  Joke – doughnuts

Reminds me of the time I was driving in by a Chicago Bakery. I knew I shouldn’t stop there, so I said “God, if there’s an open parking spot in front of the shop, I’ll go in. I’ll take that as a sign.” And sure enough, on my ninth lap around the block, I found the spot I was looking for

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him,

“Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.”

 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 

It’s almost like the Pharisees are shining a spotlight on the guy. Interrogating him. Trying to get him to slip up. Trying to find anything they can use to punish Jesus.

They’re trying to discredit Jesus. They call him a sinner. They repeat the previous question asking how Jesus opened the man’s eyes.

27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 

He asks “do you also want to become his disciples?” Pretty sarcastic response!

Perhaps he senses that the Pharisees aren’t interested in really getting to the truth. They keep questioning.

28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.

 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”

They’re starting to get frustrated. They “reviled him.” They’re insulting and slandering him. 

They point to Moses as their teacher. That’s who we follow. Moses is…Moses! 

One of the ironies is that earlier in this same gospel, Jesus is talking about how Moses and the prophets pointed to him. 

John 5:36-38, Jesus had said: 

the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 

37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

Jesus continues in 5:46:

46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

They were trusting in the wrong things for their salvation. They were trusting the Law, they were trusting the Old Testament, they were trusting moral activity. And in the process, the experts were oblivious to the fact that the one to whom the scriptures pointed was in their midst. 

Instead of seeing Jesus as he fulfilled the scriptures, they spent their time conspiring against him, trying to discredit him.

Jesus heals this man and they question whether that’s violating the Sabbath. Jesus CREATED the Sabbath. No person in history has more perfectly followed the Sabbath.

Jesus is God on earth. And to know the scripture, that should be evident. Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament. Perfectly.

There are hundreds of prophecies about Jesus that are foretold about him. His death and his resurrection are pointed to in the Old Testament. They are the ultimate confirmation of who Jesus is.

Jesus brings glory to God. 

Jesus is God on earth and is worthy of glory and honor but he directs focus to God the Father. Many false prophets are in it to enrich themselves, for their own power. Jesus points us to God. Jesus goes to his death for it.

And he gloriously rises from the dead. 

 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.

32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

The formerly blind man had been a beggar and he’s talking to the smartest people in his community and he’s taunting them for not getting it. 

Culturally, he would have been poorly educated and he’s putting these things together. He’s taking the Pharisees to school. 

He brings up that this has never happened before. Someone born blind has never been given sight. 

Then. He argues that if the person who had healed him had not been from God, that the man could not do anything. 

There’s a logic in the things the man is saying. And it’s not perfect theology from him but he’s understanding things about Jesus. 

He gets it. And he doesn’t understand how the Pharisees don’t. 

If anyone should be able to understand and make these connections, it’s the Pharisees. 

The reason should be obvious. And the Pharisees take the obvious thing and disregard it. They take the only thing that makes sense, and they disregard it.  

How do they not see it? 

 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

And he struck the last nerve.

Again, this man has said some pretty reasonable things. Do they want to engage with him? Do they want to be thoughtful? 

No. They say “YOU were born in utter sin, and YOU would teach us!?” and throw him out of the synagogue. 

Who are you?! We follow Moses, you follow this guy no one has ever heard of. How do you follow this supposedly Godly person who can’t even observe the day of rest? 

The story continues in our third scene. Faith of the blind. The blindness of the Pharisees.

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. 

Jesus comes to this man. Remember, he’s never seen Jesus. He was told to go away to this pool when Jesus put the mud on his eyes, so he’s seeing the Lord for the first time. Up until this point, the man had suggested Jesus was a prophet. He didn’t exactly understand who this man was but he believed that Jesus was from God. He believed it to the point of not being intimidated by the religious teachers and thrown out of the synagogue. 

The text says he worshiped him. 

This is the only place in the gospel of John where someone worships Jesus. People worship God, but only here is Jesus the one who is worshiped. 

Jesus discloses who he is and the man trusts in him. 

This man had his sight restored physically. But more importantly, he’s being given sight Spiritually. Jesus came to give sight to a blind world.

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.

Jesus says in verse 39 “for judgment I came into this world.” That’s not meant to say that his primary reason for coming was to judge, it was to give sight to the blind. But in the process of giving sight, there will be people who don’t open their eyes.

The judgment that Jesus is speaking of is dividing believers and unbelievers. People who will have faith in him, and those who won’t. Those who are blind and those who see. There’s no sitting on the fence with Jesus. 

The Pharisees ask if they’re blind. 

“If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

They had knowledge of the law, but when light was cast on the person to whom the Law pointed, they were blind. 

It’s not the sin that is keeping their eyes closed, it’s their refusal to accept that they need it and that they are blind. It’s their refusal to recognize Jesus for who he really is.

We live in a blind world. And we can’t see if we don’t know we’re blind.

Jesus came to give sight to a blind world.

People can talk the talk about faith and still be blind, spiritually. 

Let’s say you say you’re going to start running. And so you buy running shoes, you subscribe to runner’s magazines, you start wearing spandex, like all the time. And then six months goes by, and you still haven’t taken your shoes out of the box…

Okay?

You’re not a runner. 

Having all of the things a runner has doesn’t make you a runner. RUNNING makes you a runner!

Just because you’re in church, or know all of the right Bible answers, or listen to Christian music doesn’t mean that you’re walking in faith.

 Just knowing a lot about the Bible and following all the rules doesn’t mean you have faith. The Pharisees knew the scriptures like the back of their hand but were ultimately clueless about God. They thought they knew. That’s what the last verse of our passage gets at. Jesus tells them “If you WERE blind, you’d have no guilt.” But they’re the ones who think they can see.

Sometimes the hardest people to share the gospel with are the ones who think they already know it or don’t need to hear it.

They’re not guilty of anything that we haven’t all been guilty of. For all of us, either we are currently blind or we were blind and the fact that we see isn’t because we suddenly put it all together. It’s because of Jesus.

As we wind down, I want to focus on the man whom Jesus healed. 

Jesus came to give sight to a blind world.

But when a blind person is given sight, that isn’t the end of the journey. It’s just the beginning.

I think of Mike May. The man who was blinded as a child. He’s been part of studies and research.

When a person is blind and is given sight, it’s not simply flipping a light switch.

I think that’s kind of how we imagine it.

But we have two eyes. And when we look at something, we are looking at things from two different eyes, two different points of view. But we don’t think of it like that. We think of it almost like a movie camera.

But the fact that I can look out to you guys with two eyes, and it still makes sense is because my brain makes sense of it. But if someone was blind and their sight is restored, your brain hasn’t learned how to do that.

You wouldn’t have depth perception.

You wouldn’t know what different facial expressions meant. With sight, there are so many things that we take for granted and things we learned since infancy. 

You wouldn’t have hand eye coordination. You wouldn’t know what was what. And you’d also be constantly exposed to new stimuli with which you have no familiarity.

And so many other things that would change your life.

Sight is something you’re just given once. Jesus opens our eyes. 

He opens our eyes that he is the way to God. And you can see. And you can see the cross. And you can see the savior of the world.

But the journey doesn’t end there. It’s just the beginning. Because our eyes are opened to the gospel. But the rest of life is learning how to make sense of what you’re seeing. Learning what’s what. Learning how to live as someone who can see. Learning how to walk in the light.

Jesus came to give sight to a blind world.

Conclusion

It can be easy to not want to believe something. That’s what we continually saw in this story from the Pharisees. 

They had the personal account of the man who had been born blind. They had no explanation for how Jesus could perform this miracle and then undermined what he had done because it was on the Sabbath. They confirmed with his parents that he had been born blind. They asked him again.

Everything they had pointed to what Jesus had done in this man’s life.

It fulfilled the Old Testament scriptures. Still that wasn’t enough. They kept searching for flaws and when they couldn’t, instated of engaging with the man, they threw him out in anger.  

They weren’t looking for the truth.

Jesus is Lord. The evidence points to him. The heavens declare the glory of God. He came to a blind world to give sight. He came to a spiritually blind world to give spiritual sight.

It’s a world full of blind people. Blind to God, blind to Jesus, blind to the gospel, the love of God, the grace of our Lord. Blind to the truth, blind to the light, blind to the sin that the light shines on.

Jesus explained this to the Pharisees and they still didn’t understand.

Too many people in our world are blind to the reality of who Jesus is and what he did. But he came to open your eyes.

Jesus is the God on earth who takes away the penalty for sins. Infinite in grace and goodness and glory. And he’s calling on people to turn from sin and turn to him and to trust in him.

Jesus came to a blind world to give sight. Open your eyes.