Healing the Blind Man (A Sign of Truth): How do we know what is true? In the sixth of seven miraculous signs of John’s gospel, Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth. The gift of physical sight provides the ability to see what is true about who you are, where you’ve come from, what to avoid, where you are going, and so on. But physical sight points to our greater need for spiritual sight: Jesus reveals what is true. Recorded on Nov 26, 2023, on John 9:1-41 by Pastor David Parks.
Finding Life in Jesus’ Name is a sermon series on the gospel according to John in the Bible. Have you ever felt unsatisfied with your life? Or, even when things were going well, something was still missing? Many people sense there must be something more. But what?? John, one of the closest friends of Jesus, believed that Jesus came into the world so that we may have life and have it to the full. Jesus turned John’s life upside down, and John claims this new life — marked by God’s power, presence, and purpose — is available for all who believe.
All year, we’re working our way through the gospel according to John in a series called Finding Life in Jesus’ Name. And today, we’re in John chapter 9 (in fact, we’re going to cover the whole chapter today which is challenging for the preacher). But today, we’re considering the sixth out of seven miraculous signs of Jesus in John’s gospel. If you’ve been with us, you’ll know that each one of these signs reveals a little something different about the person and work of Jesus. But in this story of the healing of the man who was blind from birth, we’ll see a man literally go from darkness to light; we’ll see a sign of truth because Jesus reveals what is true. Now, this lesson is more important today than ever before because we live in a world where it’s increasingly difficult to see what is true and what is not. And it’s a complicated problem. We have politicians on both sides of the aisle, desperately trying to control the narrative of reality or spin what is true for their own power or political gain. So it’s very difficult to tell if any official statement is really what happened or what’s true. There always seems to be a conflict of interest. Also, most of us live on a steady diet of social media content, where everyone shares their opinions about everything all the time, and it’s very difficult to tell if any part of this blizzard of opinions is actually true. In fact, studies have shown that lies spread up to 6x’s faster on social media than the truth because the algorithms are designed to keep people engaged on these platforms, not informed with the truth. But also, as we learned last week, the devil is a liar and the father of lies. And when he lies, he speaks his native language. And we live in a world where there’s a spiritual battle for/against the truth. As a result of these factors and many more, there’s more chaos and confusion (more darkness) today than ever before. We don’t know what’s true or who we can trust. But this truth problem has huge consequences for us. Because how are we supposed to know who we are, where we’ve come from, where we’re going, or how we ought to live? But here’s one thing I know is true: we don’t live in a universe of mere opinion; we live in a universe of facts. We don’t live in a make-believe reality; this isn’t a simulation. We live in a reality that has real substance. So, how can we know what is true? How can we know what is real? This is exactly what our passage is all about today. So, if you have a Bible/app, please take it and open it to John 9:1.
John 9:1–12 (NIV), “1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. 8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” 10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked. 11 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.” 12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.” Ok, let’s pause here. So John chapters 7 and 8 contained a long section of Jesus’ teaching and the controversy/division it caused in the temple during the busy Festival of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Now, here, at some point later (John doesn’t really say when or where), Jesus encounters a man who was blind from birth, and it starts a conversation about the relationship between sin and suffering. Here is a man who was born blind. Was this a result of his sin or his parent’s sin, or what? Over the years, I’ve had a number of people ask me something along these lines. This bad thing that happened in the world, or this bad thing that happened in my life, did it happen because God is punishing them/me for some reason? In Luke 13, Jesus was asked about two different situations like this, except where people had died because of injustice or because of an unexpected tragedy. But Jesus was very clear that those deaths, or here with this man’s disability, these situations were not a punishment from God directly because of their sin. Unfortunately, they were just part of normal life in a broken world. Now, the truth is that sometimes, our suffering is a natural consequence of our own sin. For example, if you’re disrespectful to or dishonest with a friend or family member and break their trust, the loss of that relationship is a natural consequence of your own sin. But not every instance of pain and suffering is directly the result of your own sin. But also, sometimes, a tragic situation can be the context for God to do something amazing, to bring healing, redemption, life, or beauty out of something that is truly terrible. That’s what Jesus says in v. 3, “…but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” And then, Jesus heals the man, not simply restoring sight which had been lost, but giving him sight when he had never been able to see! But Jesus uses a curious method of healing. Did you notice that? We know from other stories that Jesus doesn’t need to make this salve for healing. He doesn’t even need to be nearby, as in the case of healing the official’s son, back in John 4. So why would he heal the man this way? Let’s come back to this question. For now, Jesus rubs this salve on the man’s eyes and tells him to go to wash in the Pool of Siloam (which means sent) in Jerusalem. When the man does, when he listens and obeys Jesus, he’s healed! He can see! His neighbors were shocked and notified the religious authorities. A miracle happened, didn’t it?
John 9:13-23 (NIV), “13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 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.” 16 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. 17 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.” 18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” 20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 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.” 22 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. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” So there’s an investigation by the authorities, and there’s a problem: this miraculous healing was performed on the Sabbath. Now, the Ten Commandments say to keep the Sabbath day (Saturday) holy. The Sabbath should be a day of rest, where all work ceases, and people could devote the day to worshipping God. But by this time, the rules for keeping the Sabbath had gone way beyond the command. So the fact that Jesus had not healed this man simply by his will, the fact that he made this salve and applied it to the man’s eyes, meant that Jesus had not properly kept the Sabbath according to these extra rules. Is this why Jesus used this method of healing? Because he knew it would provoke the Pharisees? I think that’s partly why Jesus healed the man in this way. But if Jesus was a lawbreaker who didn’t properly keep the Sabbath, then he couldn’t be who he claimed to be. Therefore, the Pharisees can’t believe this man was really healed. There must be some sort of trick here. So they send for the man’s parents to see if he really had been blind from birth, which they quickly confirm. But John says his parents were afraid of the Pharisees, that they would be put out of the synagogue if they acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah. So they punt the ball back to their son. “He is of age; ask him.” meaning, “He’s old enough to testify in court; why do you need us?”
John 9:24-34 (NIV), “24 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.” 25 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!” 26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 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?” 28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.” I love v. 25 – “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” This man’s testimony was irrefutable. He may not fully know who this Jesus was or explain how he was healed, but all he knows for sure is that he was blind, but now, because of Jesus, he can see! But the Pharisees have this a priori belief: they’ve already rejected Jesus. They’ve already decided he’s a fraud, so no evidence to the contrary is valid to them. They’ve decided in advance they do not believe. (Do you know anyone like that? I do.) But the man who was healed sees the absurdity of this situation. “Now that is remarkable!” He basically says, “Jesus opened my eyes. How can you not see this is a sign of God’s power and favor on him? Are you blind?” But the Pharisees throw him out with an accusation that he was a sinner from birth, perhaps a reference to his disability and the opposite of what Jesus had said about the connection between sin and suffering in his life. If this is true, this, too is ironic because it would mean that they are confirming he was actually healed. How do you think Jesus will respond to all this?
John 9:35-41 (NIV), “35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” 38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” This is God’s word. So, after this man had been thrown out (probably from the synagogue, or local church congregation), Jesus intentionally looked him and found him. And he asked the man if he believed in the Son of Man, and revealed that he himself is the Son of Man. We’ve seen in John’s gospel that this is the title that Jesus used most for himself and is a title related to OT prophecies about the Messiah and the King of the Kingdom of God. So after Jesus physically heals his blindness, he reveals the spiritual truth of his identity, of who he is. And amazingly, the man responds in faith saying, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Jesus. This is very significant because this is the first time in John’s gospel that anyone worships Jesus. Others have believed Jesus to be many things, but so far, no one has understood the “I AM” statements Jesus was saying or the signs that he was doing. No one could see until this brother. This man was the first to see Jesus for who he truly was and respond in faith/worship. But the Pharisees still do not believe. So the irony is that a blind man can see, while men who can see are blind. All this reveals that this sixth of the seven miraculous signs of Jesus in John’s gospel is a sign of spiritual seeing/truth. And this is so important for us, even today. Because when you can’t see, you can’t see what is real and what isn’t; you can’t see where you should go in life or what you should avoid. When you can’t see, you can’t see where you’ve been or how you got where you are today. And if you can’t see where you’ve been or where you’re going, then what are the chances you’ll find the right path? It’s like trying to walk through an unfamiliar room with the lights off. You wouldn’t know where to step or what to avoid that might hurt you. And doesn’t that describe our world today? Blind to what’s real, to what’s true? But what can we do? Let’s follow the example of our brother here and turn to Jesus, who is the light of the world. Jesus reveals what is true. Remember, this man had to obey the word of Jesus without being able to see him. I believe this is the other reason why Jesus used this salve as a method of healing. The man had to do what Jesus said before he was healed. He had to obey to receive his spiritual sight. But his faith in Jesus, and his obedience to his word, meant he was able not only to experience the healing of Jesus but would eventually see him face to face. Friends, this is still true to this day. If we believe in Jesus, the Son of Man, and obey his word even though we cannot see him today, even if we do not understand everything that is happening around us, even if we cannot yet see the good that God will do in certain circumstances, Jesus will seek us and find us, and he will heal us, and he will reveal to us what is true. And one day, we too will be able to see him face to face as well. Until that day, let us turn to him, and listen to him, and trust in him, for Jesus reveals what is true. Let us pray.