Blindness and Sight

I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”    (Jn 9:39)

As in many of the gospel narratives, John 9 involves a very mixed and conflicted cast of characters.

First, there is Jesus. He has come from a fiery, provocative discussion with religious leaders, those who declared themselves “sons of Abraham.”  They were corrupted by unbelief about Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God despite a preponderance of evidence. They were lost in religious blindness and did not appreciate Jesus calling them out.

Jesus was “walking along” and saw a man who had been blind from birth.

Enter the disciples, with thorny theological questions worthy of the boldest apologist, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” Jesus informed them that sin was not the issue in this case, but the power of God that was about to be revealed.

“The night is coming, and then no one can work.  But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” By the way, he taught them, though a man might regain his sight—as this man was about to do–he still can’t rightly see without light, the light of the world.

Jesus made a mudpack with dirt and spit, rubbed it on the man’s eyes, and sent him to rinse it off in the pool of Siloam. Lo and behold, he returned seeing! Time for a celebration! Sadly, that’s not the direction the story takes.

Enter “his neighbors and others,” who seemed strangely confused about the man’s identity. Some thought it must be someone who looked like him, but he insisted that he was the same man they had seen begging in that spot for years. He told them plainly how his healing had occurred. It was because of “the man they call Jesus.”

They wanted to confront Jesus, but he was no longer present; he had moved along.

So his neighbors dragged him to the Pharisees “because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him.”  This is the aspect of the event that concerned them? The Sabbath? Seriously?

The man with new sight gave his testimony about Jesus again. Oh boy. These religious folks were handed a big problem, a spiritual conundrum, a riddle to solve.

Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So, there was a deep division of opinion among them.”

Interestingly, the Pharisees questioned the man about his “opinion” of what had had happened and the man reasoned that Jesus must be a prophet to carry such authority. They bristled at his conclusion.

Enter the man’s parents. They are the next witnesses on the stand for the Pharisees to interrogate. “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?”

For me, these parents might be the sorriest characters in the story. Can you imagine having a son blind from birth? All he can do is beg, but on this day, suddenly he can see. Talk about a game changer. Wouldn’t you want to shout from the mountaintop and tell the whole world?

But these parents were blinded and silenced by fear of the Jewish leaders, because they “had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue.”  Acknowledging a sign and a miracle accomplished by Jesus was a basis for excommunication. God’s power was not allowed in their midst. It interfered with their religion. So these pathetic parents replied, “He is old enough to speak for himself; ask him.”

The Pharisees put the man with new sight on the stand again, and declared him wrong to acknowledge Jesus, because “this man Jesus is a sinner.” They urged him to recant his testimony, but he didn’t budge from giving credit to Jesus. As they say, it’s hard to argue with someone’s experience.

I love this man. He actually got a bit snarky with them: Look! I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”  Whoa, watch it buddy!

We know that he offers this, the only reality that matters and rings with truth, “I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!…Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind.  If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”

At which point the leaders insulted him, calling him an ignorant sinner himself and throwing him out of the synagogue.

John 9 ends with a second, poignant encounter between Jesus and the man who had received his sight. This time Jesus spoke with him about faith—“Do you believe in the Son of Man?…You have seen him and he is speaking to you.” The man’s heartfelt response, “’Yes, Lord, I believe!’” And he worshiped Jesus.”

Why am I outlining this story today? Because it speaks so clearly about the folly of people’s opinions, their spiritual blindness, their legalism and dogmatic adherence to only those things that fit into their religious boxes. It speaks to my own blindness at times, when spiritual pride has me wrongly assuming that I’m seeing clearly.

Jesus is allowed to save, heal, and deliver at any time, on any day, in any place, and in any manner he chooses.

Everyone is entitled to his opinion about Jesus, I suppose. But the only one that matters in the end is the Father’s opinion of his Son, the One in whom he is well pleased.

Coming into agreement with that opinion is the way we receive our sight.

person with body painting
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on


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