Sight and Blindness
The story of Jesus healing a man born blind is one of the more oft-repeated stories of Jesus’ miracles. To begin with it’s not “just another miracle” that Jesus performed—there’s something very specific about its intent.
The healing of a man born blind is one of the miracles that by Jewish tradition, can only be performed by the Messiah, because being born blind is apparently a punishment of one’s parents’ sin. This is why the religious leaders of that time took special notice of it. Jesus also performs this miracle by using mud and spit and applying this to the man’s eyes, and even does it on the Sabbath—both these acts are seen by the Jewish authorities as offensive to their laws and way of life.
However, while the miracle itself is a touching and telling story of how God works in our lives, the man born blind himself teaches us a very simple lesson about witnessing:
A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
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!” (John 9:24-25)
I’ll be the first to tell you that I really think apologetics is great, and that it deserves more attention now that the faith is attacked ideologically from so many angles. However, the context of apologetics is always that there is a preexisting good testimony present in the Christian’s life such that it causes others to ask for the reason that such hope is clear and present.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
This is something that is rather sadly forgotten nowadays. Yes, we should preach the Gospel. Unfortunately, we get so preoccupied with the talk and forget the walk, and in some cases, our personal testimonies become reprehensible such that people don’t even want to listen to us.
This brings us back to our blind man: he wasn’t sure on the theological specifics—what he did have was a story to tell, a story that his life had been changed, a story that this man who healed him was much more than what the authorities made of him. Thus, his story is not just about his physical blindness being healed, but his eyes being opened to the spiritual truth that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.
The sad part here is that there is blindness on the part of the religious authorities. They continue pressing the man, asking him how he was healed, and in his simple logic, he says “Guys, I don’t think you get my point here—if this man was a sinner, how could he have healed me?” (v.30-33) The Pharisees would have none of it, and expelled him. (v. 34) Jesus then comes in and reveals his identity to the man–that he is indeed the promised Messiah. Jesus then tells the onlookers and the man:
“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who will see become blind.” (John 9:39)
This of course hits home with the other Pharisees who were there, and immediately they react, asking if he considers them blind as well. Jesus tells them that if they had not known the signs, they wouldn’t be guilty, but since they do know the signs of the promised Messiah and still deny him while claiming to know the truth, they are indeed guilty.
A couple of lessons I’ve learned from this:
1. Witness is important. Before anything else, people have to see that you are indeed the real deal. People are so sick and tired of fake religion, of laundry lists of do’s and don’ts, of hypocrisy, and of beliefs that don’t really change lives. They want to see lives that have been changed by the Gospel. Yes, morality is important. Yes, the Lord demands it. But before expecting it of other people, shouldn’t we live it out in our lives first?
In the end, this really isn’t about changing peoples’ moral standards. As Ravi Zacharias often says, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”
2. There is such a thing as willful blindness. Some people will reject what you say no matter how good your witness is or how well you argue. There are some who will be unsatisfied with your answers no matter what they are simply because they choose it. Let them go on. They are entitled to that. The simple truth here is this: believing that gravity is a lie won’t make it any less true. However, people are still entitled to go ahead and jump off buildings to disprove gravity.
Pardon the macabre illustration, but that really is the case here: The Pharisees, of all people, should have known the Messianic miracles by heart. Jesus had performed them. However, they still chose to disbelieve.
Indeed, the greatest tragedy here is not that the man was born blind, as the disciples thought (“Rabbi, who sinned? This man, or his parents, that he was born blind? [v. 1]). The tragedy here was that men chose to remain blind.