E ver wonder why a physically blind person longs to see light while a spiritually blind person does not? The man born blind in John 9 saw darkness: no colors, no shapes, no depth perception, no visual perspective whatsoever. He “saw” by his other senses, such as hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Smell and taste don’t often figure into the interpretive mix of the text. Most likely the blind man used hearing and touch—the two most effective senses at his disposition.
Perhaps on occasion he heard a human voice greet him by name along with the clink of coins falling into his beggar’s cup. Another time he heard the sound of whispering and footsteps and then silence as people walked by but never spoke directly to him. Maybe someone reminded him that he or his parents must have committed a heinous sin to show him that his plight of darkness came from God. Nonetheless, he sat in the depth of obscurity alone and begged.
Did he feel useless, without purpose and meaning? After all, he had to sit and plead each day for his daily survival. No agencies existed to train him for the workplace, the invention of Braille had not happened, and no evidence suggests that he might get a Seeing Eye dog, donkey, or camel to aid him in his mobility. Maybe he used a whittled tree limb for a white cane? He would live his life as best he could, while society categorized him as a man under the judgment of God.
One day, however, Jesus and his disciples passed by him. Like rubberneckers, the Twelve saw him with curiosity. Sadly, none of the Twelve extended a warm greeting to the man, put a coin in his cup, or introduced him to the Master. They immediately gave Jesus a multiple-choice quiz, offering two possible answers to the blind’s man condition. In their eyes, two options stood out to them, either the parents had committed a terrible sin, or the man’s soul had sinned in his prenatal existence. Jesus gave a third choice. His answer was none of the above.
A Touch of Hope
For the first time, the man heard words of hope, purpose, and meaning. His disability, as Christ would explain, “happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” His blindness brought glory to God! The Lord would somehow use him in his blindness as a vessel through which to do a mighty work.
The insignificant beggar’s life suddenly became meaningful and full of purpose. He had experienced years of suffering, the humiliation of begging for money from others, some generous and some not, and the heartache that came from wondering why he existed. The Twelve gave him no hope by the question they asked. Yet Christ spoke the words that now lifted the man’s soul from despair to jubilant anticipation. He so desperately needed light to physically open his eyes to see what he had never seen before.
The blind man then heard someone spitting into dirt in front of him. Perhaps he also heard the making of clay as it formed from the spittle. Without warning, the man felt something touching his eyes, wet clay, and the touch of the one who would tell him to go to the Pool of Siloam and wash. He understood a man had spoken to him, had touched him, had connected with him, and had given him expectation that he had never known before.
Color for the First Time
Either there at the pool or somewhere along the path, he began to see the world around him with vivid detail. He washed and “came home seeing” (John 9:7). Shapes, shadows, colors, perspective, and depth painted hundreds of pictures which filled his gallery of visual memories. He saw an array of faces, smiles, frowns, perhaps expressions he did not quite understand, with noises accompanying them. He began to comprehend his features—his clothes, his feet, sandals, arms, and hands. Maybe he stared at his beggar’s cup and the coins within, a reminder of what he did until he met the man who healed him. Jesus had revealed the beautiful scenery around him. The mighty work of God that Jesus had promised had surely occurred. What more could he ask for? Did he jump for joy, scream with delight, or maybe stare at his surroundings with mouth agape? The apostle writer doesn’t offer any details, so nobody knows.
The townspeople saw him walking and stood in amazement. They questioned one another about his identity and even asked him how he had received his sight. Unsure what to think, they marveled. The healed man, however, confirmed he had begged as the formerly blind man. They had seen him, talked with him, thrown a coin or two in his cup, perhaps knew his parents well, yet somehow they felt confused. After all, how many blind people had they seen healed? The miracle seemed too much to believe.
Oddly, people asked the restored man about the one who had performed the healing. Jesus may have stood nearby, but the healed man had no visual reference to recognize him. God had revealed light through the healing of the blind man, but would people accept it? Would they recognize that this healing brought proof of the Messianic authority prophesied clearly in Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7? Whether or not they did, they acted according to the Old Testament requirement and led him to the religious rulers, for it is unlikely that this man would have known how to find the Pharisees on his own.
Hiding From Blinding Light
In front of the religious rulers light shown again. The result evolved into an emotional trial of sorts. Three times they questioned the man about how he had received his sight. He shared his simple testimony clearly, yet, according to the religious rulers, the one who had healed him had done it wrong. He evidently should not have healed on the Sabbath day. What’s more, he should not have made clay. To a Pharisee, it meant he worked on the Sabbath! This man’s testimony and the miracle itself now revealed the Light of the world. Instead of coming to spiritual sight, the Pharisees hid themselves from the blinding Light that revealed their sinful hearts. Like excessively dilated eyes facing into the sun, the Pharisees did everything possible to reject the light of the man’s testimony and the truth of Jesus’s Messianic authority.
They thought the man had lied about his blindness, but his parents confirmed his identity and his disability. Jesus had healed him, but what would these Pharisees do with the truth? It became a dilemma that made them feel uncomfortable in their present darkness. They denied his testimony; they denied his ascriptions of Jesus. They tried to deny the miracle itself but could not find a way to do it. When finally faced with the irrefutable evidence that Jesus the Christ could have performed such a miracle, they verbally attacked the healed man and threw him into the streets. The formerly blind man now threatened the Pharisees, their system of Judaism, their understanding of the law, and their status as religious rulers. So they chose to get rid of him whose miraculous healing now painfully blinded their eyes.
In front of the Pharisees, the man asserted his decision to follow Jesus as his disciple and jokingly asked if they would like to do the same. The Pharisees reviled him, claiming they only followed Moses. They must have forgotten God’s statement to Moses in Exodus 4:11 when he told Moses that he created his speech impairment. God still used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God also used this formerly blind man to prove God’s power and Jesus’s Messianic authority over blindness. And he also used the man as a testimony to the Pharisees’ spiritual blindness.
Receiving or Rejecting
In the street, the man heard the voice of someone, asking him if he believed in the Son of Man. Since this formerly blind man had not seen Jesus before, he had no idea who asked him this question. Earlier in the story, Jesus used the senses of hearing and touch to connect with the blind man. This time he uses sight and hearing. The man could now see; he no longer needed a tactile clue, so the Lord spoke to him and identified himself.
As a result, the man fell and worshiped him. Whether the man had received his spiritual sight before this moment is unclear. He did make his faith known, however, as he worshiped the Son of Man, the Light of the world. His vision, now restored both physically and spiritually, did not appease the Pharisees, and they wouldn’t let the matter end there.
The Pharisees would not admit their own blindness or go down on their knees to worship the Lord. They should have accepted Jesus as the Christ because the true Messiah could have performed such a miracle. But they chose to reject him believing him to be a sinner—a man who broke their Sabbath laws and worked on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees dismissed the Light and retreated further into their world of darkness. They thought they could see all things clearly, for they studied the Scriptures, but their stubborn lack of faith showed their blindness.
A Measure of Light
In John chapter nine, Jesus gives light, either directly or through the formerly blind man’s testimony. The Twelve held the wrong theology about the cause of the man’s blindness, and their response doesn’t get mentioned. The people of the town show mixed feelings as some believe him, while others do not. The Pharisees are initially divided over the man’s testimony and eventually try to prove him an imposter, calling Jesus a sinner. The man’s parents at least confirm the truthfulness of their son’s status and disability but would not commit themselves to saying that Jesus is the Christ who could heal the blind. One would think the man’s parents alone would shout for joy that their son could now see, but John never mentions that anyone rejoices. The man born blind now receives his sight in full.
In today’s world of political correctness, most find it difficult to accept biblical truth because the world’s values pressure people to do otherwise. Still, some realize that they are blind and long to see clearly. Others are curious but suspicious of the truth because it differs from the system they know. Others vehemently reject the only way of salvation through Jesus Christ the Lord simply because he has not met their errant standards of God. Still others may believe in Jesus the Christ, the Light of the world, but keep it a secret because they fear the consequences. And some, when they hear the truth, recognize their sinfulness, see their need for forgiveness, and realize that they are blind. They place their trust in the Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the Light of the world.
Why does a physically blind person long to see light while a spiritually blind person doesn’t? The healing of the blind man demonstrates how light causes some eyes to see, yet blinds other eyes. Every person fits in this story at some level and each will react differently to the light given. The deceitfulness of sin will often make people think they have enlightenment. Only the Spirit of God, using the Word of God, can break through such dense darkness to bring conviction of spiritual blindness and create an openness to the truth (1 Cor 2:6–16).