The Man Born Blind

Have you noticed that in many areas of life, so-called “learned men”, scientists, accountants, engineers, and executives of all kinds can so easily become locked into the so-called conventional wisdom that they cannot see beyond it? The common phrase is “they cannot see outside the square.” Major discoveries in science and new organizational paths are often found either by think-tanks or someone outside the situation making an observation and then following up on the research or building a case for change. The new plan is then implemented either by the one suggesting it or someone in authority who is prepared to run with it.
This passage from the Word is, in one sense, about looking or living outside the square. As he walked along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; 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 this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought the man to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.

Then the Pharisees began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.

From these very cosmic, global, and all-encompassing verses we move to the miracle itself. The means by which the Lord heals the man—the use of clay and saliva (or spittle), and then the Pool of Siloam—shows how the Lord works with us at the level we can understand. The use of spittle was known as a healing agent in pagan thought and would have been recognized as such by witnesses to this miracle and early readers of this passage. The pool of Siloam was part of the water supply of Jerusalem and was used for baptism. These symbolisms would therefore have been powerful for those watching and reading. Using the clay, spitting on the ground, and placing the clay on the eyes all provide us with an image of how the Lord comes down to our level of understanding and our life.

This man was receptive but had little instruction or understanding, and therefore the Lord needed to bring the performance of this miracle to the sensual level to reach the man. It was the Lord’s spittle that was used. In other words, it was the truths of his Word that were used to heal the man. The Lord was cleansing and purifying the man from false ideas and healing him at the same time. In our own lives, the Lord works at the level we are at. We can find him in our day-to-day activities. His presence in our life does not have to take the form of a momentous occasion or happening. Unless we look, we are very rarely aware of His being with us. The following example says a lot to me.

A man was standing on a pier when suddenly a storm came. The storm began to get worse each minute, and the waters began to rise. A man came by in a yacht and said, “Jump into my yacht and save yourself.” The man on the pier replied, “I have faith that God will save me.” The storm got worse, and another man came past in a helicopter. He received the same response: “The Lord will save me.” Then a plane came by and received the same response from the man. The man, now in danger of drowning because of the rising waters, shouted to the Lord to save him. If we stay at this level, we are blind to all that the Lord may be trying to lead us toward.

In the Word there are a number of miracles in which the Lord heals the blind. The image features prominently because in various ways the transition from darkness to light is the story—or should be the story—of our life’s journey, the journey of the spirit from the darkness of selfishness to the light of love to the Lord and the neighbour.

Our passage faces the age-old question: Does physical disease from birth reflect the fact that we are therefore evil or sinners from birth? That assumption is rejected, as we will see later. It is true that we have evil tendencies, but with the Lord’s help we can overcome these. In order to do that, however, we need to see the light. The fact that the man was born blind is in the Word to let us know that it is telling us about our spiritual rather than our physical state. Everyone who comes into the world is in darkness as to his spirit. Each baby, as we know, is innocent and starts out with the potential to be an angel, but this state is achievable only through a process of development—through making choices, receiving guidance, and learning the truth. It is what we make of our life that counts, as well as how much we allow the Lord to influence it and are mindful of His presence to lead and guide us as interested in the healing or in the change in the man’s life. They only wanted to find reasons to disbelieve and put pressure on the man and his family. We can see quite clearly how the Pharisees denied that Jesus was the Messiah because their power and their selfishness blinded them to the truth. Reason was ahead of enlightenment. There are none so blind as those who do not want to see. And we should not forget that if we go to the literal sense of the Word with the eye of rationality alone, we too will be blind to the power and love contained within its pages, to its power as a light to lighten the world.

In contrast to the Pharisees, the man healed of his blindness pictures for us the way we can be enlightened by the Lord if we are free from the baggage and encumbrances that would prevent this from happening.

The Bible’s progression in the sense of the letter is a wonderful demonstration of how the power of the Lord’s presence in our lives can be evident when our understanding is joined with our will and not shut off by self-love and reasoning from selfish motives. The blind man could not be certain about who Jesus was, and the Pharisees were trying to put words into his mouth. He first answered, “The only thing I know is that once, I was blind, but now I see,” and later, “He is a prophet.” In many respects, this acknowledgement of the Lord’s presence in our life is difficult to put into words. We know, but we cannot necessarily explain, when we perceive the presence of the Lord.

blind man healedIn the same way that the blind man, without knowing who Jesus was, could then say he was a prophet, there is within us a gradual spiritual illumination regarding who the Lord is. Finally, when he was approached by Jesus and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” he said, “Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?” When Jesus said, “You are talking to Him,” the man said, “Lord, I believe.” We see in this progression a dawning enlightenment. The man was receptive; the Lord recognized this and opened his physical and spiritual eyes. The man was able to move from faith in the understanding opened by interested in the healing or in the change in the man’s life. They only wanted to find reasons to disbelieve and put pressure on the man and his family. We can see quite clearly how the Pharisees denied that Jesus was the Messiah because their power and their selfishness blinded them to the truth. Reason was ahead of enlightenment. There are none so blind as those who do not want to see. And we should not forget that if we go to the literal sense of the Word with the eye of rationality alone, we too will be blind to the power and love contained within its pages, to its power as a light to lighten the world.

In contrast to the Pharisees, the man healed of his blindness pictures for us the way we can be enlightened by the Lord if we are free from the baggage and encumbrances that would prevent this from happening.

The Bible’s progression in the sense of the letter is a wonderful demonstration of how the power of the Lord’s presence in our lives can be evident when our understanding is joined with our will and not shut off by self-love and reasoning from selfish motives. The blind man could not be certain about who Jesus was, and the Pharisees were trying to put words into his mouth. He first answered, “The only thing I know is that once, I was blind, but now I see,” and later, “He is a prophet.” In many respects, this acknowledgement of the Lord’s presence in our life is difficult to put into words. We know, but we cannot necessarily explain, when we perceive the presence of the Lord.

In the same way that the blind man, without knowing who Jesus was, could then say he was a prophet, there is within us a gradual spiritual illumination regarding who the Lord is. Finally, when he was approached by Jesus and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” he said, “Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?” When Jesus said, “You are talking to Him,” the man said, “Lord, I believe.” We see in this progression a dawning enlightenment. The man was receptive; the Lord recognized this and opened his physical and spiritual eyes. The man was able to move from faith in the understanding opened by the Lord to love in the heart, which was the potential embedded in the man’s life that the Lord had seen as he passed the man outside the synagogue. This perception of the truth was transformed into a personal relationship with the Lord that climaxed in the man’s eyes truly being opened to a visible God.

Just as the scientist, engineer, or executive can see possibilities and new ways forward if he or she is open to new thinking, so we, like the blind man, will receive enlightenment from the Lord if we move from a faith based on reason and intellect to spiritual faith in which we see with the eyes of the spirit. We will see new possibilities in relationships, we will see the presence of the Lord in small as well as big things, and we will be alive to the Lord’s leading.

“I am the light of the world,” said Jesus. May the Divine Humanity of the Lord be present in our lives as the living Lord Jesus so that where we were blind, now we might see.

Prayer Lord, let me not make you my pillow, or prayer my eiderdown. May you be my alarm clock and prayer the water that splashes me awake.

Amen.

A sermon by Rev Chris Skinner, based on John chapter 9

The Site-Manger manages the technical aspects of this website and can be contacted via the email address below for technical issues. site_manager@thenewage.net.au

You must be logged in to post a comment