Twelfth Sunday after Trinity August 30, 1998
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.
In the name of our risen Lord and Savior, who is indeed the light of the world, just as He said, dear fellow believers in Him, dear fellow redeemed.
Sometimes we use the English language in a figurative way. Let’s say you’re pointing to some object is in plain sight. You can see it with no trouble at all. But for some reason your friend can’t. So you say, as a figure of speech, “Don’t you see it. It’s right there. Are you blind?” The word “blind” is not meant to be taken literally. In fact, the idea of blindness and the idea of sight can become a way for us to describe the moment of revelation. “My eyes were opened,” we say to describe a realization that finally dawned on us. If I use the expression “eye-opener,” what do you think of? A strong cup of coffee? A really good eye surgeon? Or does it refer to the moment when the truth has finally sunk in?
We could use the expression to describe Jesus. He’s a real “eye-opener” too, especially when you see Him at work in our text. He opened the eyes of people in more ways than one.
When I was going to school at Immanuel, someone told me a story about a former student at the seminary. This pastor-to-be wanted to know what it was like to be blind. So he spent a Saturday wearing a blindfold over his eyes. He walked around the campus rather disoriented. He ate his meals in the cafeteria with great difficulty, all because he could not see. He discovered that blindness was very stressful. In our day the blind have various forms of help to deal with their handicap. Back in the time of Christ, however, the blind had no special institutions to help them. There were no books written in Braille. There were no seeing eye dogs. They had to live like beggars, totally at the mercy of other people.
This was the type of man that Jesus came across in our text. He was born in a state of blindness. And somehow this fact was known to the disciples. You can tell by the question that they put to Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” This question is still on the minds of people today. Something bad happens in their life, and they instantly wonder, “What did I do to deserve this?” They don’t realize or they don’t remember the curse that sin has brought into the world. Because of the fall into sin, we are plagued by the presence of evil. You can trace every sickness, every physical ailment, every atrocity of man, every natural disaster to the fact that we are sinful people who live in a sinful world.
Now it’s true: certain types of sin will bring certain types of consequences. Accidents which happen because of drunkenness. Prison terms due to a criminal act. But if a person was born blind—what specific sin would cause that? That was the question which the disciples could not answer. Jesus had to straighten them out: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” Yes, God had permitted blindness to enter his life. But it was not a punishment for something that he did or something that his parents did. God doesn’t work that way. He has a policy of grace. God operates under the promise that “all things work together for good to those love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) Blindness had struck its blow in the life of this poor fellow. But God was merciful. God would use this affliction to work out something good. God would use this man as an example for all to see, an example of the power and the difference that a Savior makes in the lives of those who trust in Him.
God had big plans for this encounter between Jesus and the blind man. This moment would become a stage on which the world would see who the Messiah was and what the Messiah would do. You can tell by the way Jesus talks. Before healing the man, He had something important to say… in verses 4-5: “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Let’s consider His words more closely. He claims to be doing the will of the Father, the will of God who sent His Son. He claims that His work and His mission are a light for all to see and all to follow. It’s quite a claim, which He then backs up with a tremendous demonstration of power and mercy.
We’ve talked about the miracles of Christ before. You ask one of our students what the miracles of Jesus mean, and they can give you the right answer. It means that Jesus is God. But let’s not pass this over with a casual glance. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind. What a great blessing for that troubled man! Here he had lived all his life in darkness, despair, and dependency. But now he could see. Jesus had reversed a troubling situation with supernatural power. He had overturned a consequence of sin.
That’s really what the miracles of Christ are about. He goes to battle with sin and He wins. When He healed a disease, He was overcoming a side effect of sin. When He raised the dead, He was overturning a big side effect of sin. When He calmed a storm, He was taking on something evil and reversing the damage which sin had caused. Every one of these miracles was a preview of what the Lord would do to sin itself. He would conquer sin, death, and hell once and for all. So you can take this miracle in John 9 and apply it to yourself. Through this powerful act of history, Jesus wants you to know that He’s the one sent by God. He’s the one sent for you. He’s the one you need the most. He’s the one we all need to watch.
This story in the Bible reminds me of one of my own experiences. In 1988 I spent the summer working as a vicar (intern pastor) in western Michigan and Detroit. During my three-month stay I became acquainted with an 8 year old girl, who became very sick. She died before I left. Before her illness she was a very rambunctious child. Those who knew her would agree that she was out of control. I know that her pastor was very concerned about her spiritual life. But when the illness came, a major change took place in the heart and the life of this child. One symptom of the illness was a sudden, lingering blindness. But you could tell that God was involved. God was using the illness and the blindness to do something good. Whenever we came to visit, young Marie would talk about Jesus. She knew that she was going to die, but she had no fear. She was so calm, because—as she said out loud each and every time—Jesus would take her into heaven.
The world would look upon this story as a sad and helpless tragedy. But God declares it as one of His many special victories. He used physical blindness to cure spiritual blindness. While He closed the eyes in Marie’s head, He opened the eyes in her heart. It just goes to show: whether it’s 29 A.D in Palestine or the 20th century in America, Jesus is a real “eye-opener.” He opened the eyes of the blind through miraculous power. Today He opens the eyes of faith through His Word.
There are two kinds of blindness. While we don’t suffer from physical blindness, like the man in our text, we did at one time suffer from spiritual blindness. Listen to the way Peter describes the former condition that every believer once had: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light….” He calls it darkness when we don’t know Jesus. It’s a darkness we can’t get out of. It’s like we are blind, with no ability to see.
Spiritual blindness has something in common with physical blindness. They are both problems that the person cannot solve for himself. A blind man cannot make himself see again. So also, an unbeliever cannot make himself believe. A person who does not know Jesus cannot discover the Savior on his own. The Savior must unveil and reveal Himself to people. The Savior must confront individuals with their problem of sin, and lay out the truth that He is their only solution and their only hope, and then He must give them the eyes of faith to grasp this truth and believe it. It takes a miracle for the blind to see. So also, it takes a miracle for the heart of man to see that Jesus Christ is the only way.
Keep that in mind as we consider what Jesus does during His three year ministry. Before He gives up His life on the cross, He goes on a campaign to advertise Himself publicly. He claimed to be God and proved it by using His almighty power. He claimed to be the Messiah and proved it by keeping all of God’s promises. He claimed to be your Savior and proved it by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. Jesus reveals Himself not only in words, but also in actions.
Let me ask you: what do you think was the greatest act Jesus did? Was it this miracle of healing? Was it some other miracle? Let’s agree that His greatest act was not a miracle, but a sacrifice. The greatest thing that Jesus did for you and me and this blind man was to die on the cross for the sins of the world. Remember what the Lord declared: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus gave up His life for you. Believe me, it was hard, because He could not and did not use miraculous power. He merely endured what He did not deserve to suffer. He took the pain and the punishment. He took the torment and the agony of hell that was rightfully meant for us. We’re the ones who broke God’s commandments, and He’s the one who paid the price!
But you should know: the Savior was willing. And the Savior was victorious when He sacrificed Himself. Only through dying could He bring about life. Only through the cross could He overcome the curse of sin. The cross is even the cure for physical blindness and all the other ailments of our body. We may not see the cure while we live on this earth. But just think. When Judgment Day comes, a great change will take place for all who trust in Him. Christians who are blind today will see. Christians who are deaf will hear. Christians who suffer pain day after day will have a pain-free body. The cross of Jesus has become the only permanent cure for all the ailments and the troubles that sin has brought into the world.
Can you see how true that is? It’s a fact you only notice by faith. We need the Savior to plant His cross in our hearts. We need the power of the Gospel to overcome our spiritual blindness and make us see the light of Christ. Once Jesus opens your eyes, you need to keep your eyes on Him. He’s the light that brings you out of darkness. He’s the Light that we follow by watching His work and trusting what He did for us.
Again we think of the blind man in Jerusalem. Can you see his faith at work? Not directly in his heart. But when Jesus told him to wash the mud from his eyes in the pool of Siloam, it took an act of faith to obey the command. The man trusted the unspoken promise that Jesus would heal. More importantly though, the man trusted that his Savior, the Messiah sent by God, would give him eternal life. We don’t know when the blind man was converted to the Christian faith. But we do know that the eyes of his faith were also opened by the words, the teachings, and the reality of Christ.
You can look for the same result in yourself. Your faith is due to the fact that Christ has overcome your blindness. When you think about your knowledge and your trust in Jesus, please understand that a miracle was done in your heart. Let’s give credit where credit is due. Let’s give honor, praise, and thanks to Christ, who is the real “Eye-opener” for all who are blind, both physically and spiritually. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.