27: The Purpose of Blindness

Studies in the Gospel of John

Lesson 27: “The blind leading the Blind”

John 9:9-41


In the business world it is a well known fact that very often the people who are “well educated” about the details of the business are not nearly as familiar with the actual workings of the company as are the people who actually work on the production line or the “shop floor.” And the same thing is often true in spiritual matters. Often the “Bible scholars” have only a “technical” knowledge of those details, while people who have had a real experience with Jesus Christ know far more about the truths of walking with the Lord than the scholars. And in the passage we come to now in our study of the Gospel of John is a good example of that. Remember the outline of chapter 9: In verses 1 through 8 we find the involvement of Jesus in restoring the sight of a blind man, which we saw in our last study. So let’s pick up our study of the chapter with the interest of the neighbors in verses 9 through 12. And the first thing to notice here is the identification which they try to make in verses 8 and 9.


Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged? (9) Some said, “this is he.” Others said, “he is like him.” He said I am he.”


Naturally the first people to notice the change in the formerly blind man were his neighbors. Here was a man who had been depressed, deprived, helpless, begging for help, and an object of pity.  But now, how different! The change which they saw was so remarkable that they began to question whether or not it was the same man. But at the end of verse 9 he assured them that he was the same man.


So in verses 10 through 12 we find the interrogation of him.


Therefore, they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” (11) He answered and said, a man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, “Go to the pool of Siloam and wash, “So I went and washed and I received sight.” Then they said to him, “where is he?” He said, “I do not know.


Notice that they asked him two questions to which he replied according to his limited knowl­edge. The first question was, “how were your healed?” And in reply he simply told them what had happened. The second question was, “where is he now?” And he replied that he did not know. These questions of “who,” “how” and “where,” and the replies of the transformed man are typical questions of neighbors and typical answers given to them by many a newly transformed Christian today. Often when a person comes to Christ out of complete ignorance about Christianity his understanding of what has happened to him and of the person of Jesus is also very limited Although as soon as he receives the promises of God’s word and applies them to himself in obedient faith, and is immediately saved, he is often confused and ignorant of many important spiritual facts and issues and finds it hard to answer his skeptical neighbors adequately.


However, if the new believer boldly speaks of what he does know about what he has received from Jesus (like the man in this story) he too will experience Jesus’ coming to him again to reveal to him the next step and to complete his knowledge as we will see in verse 11. In how many ways are you like this man? Has the Lord opened your spiritual eyes so that you, too, see Him as He really is?  Have people who knew you before noticed such a change in you that you, too see Him as He really is? Have the people who knew you before noticed such a change in you that you are like a different person to them? Have you boldly confessed what Jesus has done for you as well as you know how? Do you know at least enough to tell them where to find Him?


Well, as we might expect, at this point we find the insertion of the Pharisees into the picture in verses 13 through 34. First we see the referral of this problem to them in verse 13.


“They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees.”


The Pharisees professed to believe in the supernatural power of God as revealed in the past history of Israel. That is probably why the neighbors chose to turn this situation over to them. However, the Pharisees didn’t choose to recognize this supernatural power in Jesus, because it interfered with their set ideas, and threatened their power over the people. So in the next few verses we are going to see that instead of inquiring into the facts of this situation as a sign which might give them some ideas about how their as leaders could be more powerful., they instead used every trick they could think of to discredit the work of Jesus and to crush the man’s testimony. And with that in mind, there is an interesting reminder.


“Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.”


That seemingly innocent statement sets the stage for the rejection of truth which we are going to see in verses 15 through 18. In these verses they are going to ask him seven questions which were all because of their willful unbelief. And sadly, that unbelief was based upon an obvious fact which they chose to reject. So while they professed to “see” spiritually, they actually chose to reject what they saw. While they professed to “see” spiritually, they actually chose to be blind. And all of this was because if they .believed that God, through His Son Jesus, had done this work, then they, themselves would also have to alter their way of living and the main lines of their own teaching.


They began by giving him a review in verse 15.


Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes and I washed and I see.”


And the Pharisees’ reaction is in verse 16.


Therefore, some of the Pharisees said “This man is not from God because he does not keep the Sabbath” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.”


As soon as his opponents heard that Jesus had “made clay” on the Sabbath day, they immediately said, “This man is not from God” You see, when Jesus gave sight to the blind man, He infringed the traditional law (not God’s law of Exodus 20:10). Among the many other simple actions called by “work” by these traditionalists, it was forbidden to heal on the Sabbath day. Medical attention could only be given if a life was in danger. But even then it must only be just to keep the patient from getting worse, it must not be to make him better.


But, by contrast, in verse 17 we see the reverence on the part of the one who was healed.


They said to the blind man again, “what do you say about him because he opened your eyes? He said, “He is a prophet.”


This reply shows that, no matter what the “facts” might look like, this healer was someone special. And from that day to this, when a person has come face to face with the work of Christ in their life, it doesn’t matter how someone else may try to explain it away, they know it was a work of God. But the Pharisees were not about to accept that. And so in verse 18 we see their refusal to believe.


But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and received his sight, until they called the parents of him who had received his sight.”


The Pharisees could not believe that this man had been born blind and now could see. They felt sure they could find ways to prove that this was a miracle “faked” between Jesus and the other man. After all, a false prophet sometimes produced false miracles for his own ends. And how great it would be if they could prove Jesus a false prophet similar to the false prophets described in Deuteronomy 13:1 through 5.


But interestingly enough, verses 19 through 23 show the reticence of the man’s parents to even get involved.


And they asked them, saying, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind?” How then does he now see? (20) His parents answered them and said, “We know that he is our son and that he was blind, (21) but by what means he now sees we do not know, or who opened his eyes we do not know. He is of age, ask him. He will speak for himself.” (22) His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed Him he would be put out of the synagogue. (23) Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”


Here is the New Testament version of “name,” “rank,” and serial #.” The parents declared that this was their son and that he had in fact been born blind. But beyond that, the Pharisees would have to take it up with their son! Of course, verse 22 explains why they reacted this way: they were afraid they would be put out of the synagogue. Obviously the ritual and tradition and externalism of the synagogue was what was important to them, – so much so that they couldn’t come to grips with something in the middle of their own family that was an obvious work of God. But that is still repeated today. There are people who are glad that their loved one’s life has been turned around, but they don’t want that to interfere with their own comfortable “religion.” Do you and I fear to declare our belief in the truth in the same way because we fear the reactions of others who have power to make life uncomfortable for us? We cannot have it both ways. Our actions prove either that we fear God or man most.


Having run into a dead end with the man’s parents, in verses 24 through 34  the Pharisees return to the patient. Their examination of him is in verses 24 through 25.


So again they called the man who was blind and said to him, “Give God the Glory! We know that this man is a sinner. (25) He answered and said, “whether He is a sinner or not I do not know: One thing I know: that though I was blind now I can see.


The words, “Give God the praise,” we know that this man is a sinner in verse 24 were a technical statement often used in cross-examination. It really meant, “speak the truth before God” used by Joshua  with Achan in Joshua7:19. But what they really meant was, confess now what really happened and that this man is not a prophet, but a sinner.” However, they were helpless to change the man’s testimony. In fact he was growing more and more bold. In verse 25, ignoring their theological arguments, of which he knows nothing, he strongly gives the fact that he does know, namely, that a miracle has indeed been performed within him.”


Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know


These words are an encouragement to every new Christian. A person who has just come to Jesus Christ may not yet know how to explain his conversion in theological terminology, but he can always tell others about what Jesus has done for him and how it happened. And often this is much more powerful than a good logical argument. When the Pharisees again demand that he recount his story, the man, irritated by their blatant unbelief, refuses. Instead of defending himself he has now become bold enough to challenge them. Look at the exchange that he has with them in verses 27 through 34


He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen, why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples? 


There follows a long rather silly debate about being disciples of Jesus or being disciples of Moses. And Jesus not having a theological pedigree. But in verse 30 the man gives a marvelous testimony, especially for a new believer.


The man answered and said to them, “why this is a marvelous thing that you do not know where he is from; yet He has opened my eyes.(31) Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshipper of God and does His will He hears him. (32) Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. (33) If this man were not from god he could do nothing. (34) They answered and said to him “you were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” And they cast him out.


This speech infuriated the Pharisees! After all, they were the “experts” in religious matters!


How often is this scene repeated even in our day, when “out of the mouths of new believers who are responsive to God’s drawing come unexpected discernment and logic. And the end result was that “they cast him out” of the synagogue. This was a serious thing to a devout Jew – it meant the loss of religious and spiritual acceptance. It was the very thing his parents had feared back in verse 22. But God didn’t cast him out, which leads us to the next point.


In the last 6 verses of the chapter we find the intervention of Jesus in verses 35 through 41. And it is a sweet passage:


Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him He said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” (36) he answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?(37)And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” (38) Then he said, “Lord, I believe. “And he worshipped Him.


When the Pharisees, the religious leaders of Israel, cast the former blind man out of their synagogue, Jesus Himself sought him out and revealed Himself to him more openly than He did to most people of that day. And when Jesus disclosed His true identity to the man whose physical need had been met, the man immediately believed and worshipped Him. By this action he showed that he had received both spiritual as well as physical sight. The Jews had cast him out of the temple, which actually belonged to God, not them, but Jesus, the true Lord of the temple found him from among possibly thousands of people and brought him into reality in God’s own family.


Throughout the gospels Jesus never abandoned any person when they gave witness for Him. If the witness leads to rejection by his fell wen, it always brings nearer than ever before. Jesus said, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven.” (Mathew 10:32 through 37). Jesus stood with the blind man and shared in his rejection of him.


It is interesting to trace this man’s development in his spiritual “seeing” of Jesus. He began by calling Jesus “a man” in verse 11. Then as he realized more fully the miracle that had been accomplished in him he called Him “a prophet.” In verse 17. Then He called Him “Lord” in verse 36. Finally he came to recognize Jesus as the Son of God.


Finally in verse 39 we find the commentary of Jesus about this whole situation.


“And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.


When Jesus spoke of “coming into the world for judgment” He was talking about His pre-existence and His unique place in the over-all plan of God. The language used in these last verses of John chapter 9 is partly borrowed from Isaiah 6:9 and 10, which speaks of God’s judicial blinding of those who choose not to see, such as these Pharisees. They refused to be taught, claiming that they were the only true teachers. They refused to see the true light when it shined upon them and thereby lost what little light they already had.


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