It was a miracle that nobody had heard of before. A man that had been born blind…that didn’t even have the proper eyes to restore sight to…was given his sight. Once again, Jesus, the radical young preacher that was turning the nation of Israel upside down, had done something nobody could explain. As the neighbors of this formerly blind beggar saw him walking around with full sight, they could hardly believe it. He looked just like the one they knew, but how could it be? “‘Isn’t this the same man that used to sit and beg?’” they asked each other.
Some were sure it was. Others were sure it couldn’t be him. “‘It just looks like him,’” they said. But then the man spoke up. ““‘I am the man!’” he declared.
“‘How then were your eyes opened?’” the people asked.
He said, “‘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.’”
The people asked him where Jesus went, but he didn’t know. So they brought him to the Pharisees. You see, Jesus had healed him on the Sabbath. It was the day of rest that God has set aside for the people as a blessing. It was the day they were meant to spend with Him. But the religious leaders had turned it into a day of rules and fear for the people. If they were caught doing anything that could be defined as work, they were in big trouble. They expected the people to cower into submission. But the Son of God was not subject to their added rules and control issues. He would have nothing to do with their misuse of His own Laws. And so He healed the man anyway.
When some of Pharisees learned what happened, they instantly saw this as a way to get Jesus. Here was a violation they could really punish Him for! So they asked the man how he had come to see. The man explained that Jesus had put mud on his eyes.
Many of the Pharisees must have been delighted…Jesus had worked on the Sabbath!
Then the man who was born blind said that Jesus told him to go wash it off, and when he did, he could see.
Aha again! Now Jesus was commanding other people to work on the Sabbath!
Yet other Pharisees were still wondering who Jesus was. After hearing the story of this stunning miracle, they began to argue between themselves. Some said that Jesus could not be from God because He broke the Sabbath. Others said that if Jesus was a sinner, He wouldn’t be able to do such amazing signs. There was no easy answer for them because they weren’t willing to accept the truth. So they turned to the blind man and asked him who he thought Jesus was. The man said He was a prophet.
This didn’t make anything better for the Jewish leaders. If Jesus was a prophet, then they were guilty of fighting against God’s chosen messenger! They were the bad guys in the story! They were like all the evil men they had hated in the stories of the Old Testament!
At that moment, they had choices that they could have made. They could have realized their great sin and repented. They could have gone to Jesus and declared their allegiance to Him. They could have brought Him before the nation of Israel at the Feast and proclaimed to all the people that that their Messiah had come.
But they didn’t. Instead, they decided to prove that the man was lying. He must not have been blind to begin with! They brought his parents in to question them…and to intimidate them.
“‘Is this your son?’ they asked. ‘Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it now that he can see?’”
The parents were afraid. These Pharisees were powerful men. They had already announced that anyone who said that Jesus was the Christ would be kicked out of the synagogue. If the blind men’s parents said anything that made Jesus look good, they would be declared outcasts. The rest of the Jewish community would have to reject them, too, because the religious leadership would demand it. It would be considered everyone’s religious duty to refuse to socialize with them. Imagine what that might have been like for their business, for selling the crops of their farms, or for finding spouses to arrange for marriage to their other children. When the Pharisees denounced a person or a family, it became a shameful thing to even eat with them! Can you understand why the blind man’s parents were terrified? It was a devastating thing in the eyes of their world to be on the bad side of these leaders!
“‘We know this is our son’” his parents said, “‘and we know he was born blind. 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.’”
Wow. Jesus had given their son sight, but the power of social pressure was too great. They would rather protect themselves than trust God and honor the man who gave them a miracle.
So the Pharisees called for the man who had been born blind once again. They told him, “‘Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.’” Wow. Before, they simply asked who Jesus was. Now they were declaring that he was wicked. Do you see how their hearts are hardening?
When the man born blind heard this, he refused to let their intimidation have it’s way with him. He said, “‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’” The man who was blind could clearly see how ridiculous the Pharisees had become. Here was an amazing miracle, and all they could do was fuss and fret!
The Pharisees asked again how Jesus healed him, and he said, “‘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?’”
That made the Pharisees really angry. They began to throw insults at him and threaten him. “‘You are this fellow’s disciple! We are the disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.’”
Can you imagine what these men would do if they knew that Moses himself had come to meet with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration? And Elijah was with him!
The discussion was getting more and more intense. The man who was born blind answered them back, “‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’”
Wow. That was bold. That was amazing! This man had the courage to do what nobody else had done! He declared the truth of Christ in the face of the Jewish leaders without apology!
The sniveling leaders replied, “‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’”
Oh, the arrogance of these men. And yet oh, how very wrong they were. Jesus had already told His disciples that this man was born to give great glory to God…and how he shined! For the next two thousand years and counting, the story of his courageous loyalty to Christ would be told millions of times, leading the way and strengthening others all over the world to stand with Jesus in the face of trials. He was faithful to the Lord, as the Lord has been very faithful to him.
But at the time, there was a price to pay for his faith in Christ. The Pharisees kicked him out of the synagogue. As he built a new life for himself as a man who could see, he would be wholly without the support of his religious community, and in Israel, that included everything. He might have felt very vulnerable. When Jesus heard about how this man had taken such a bold stand for Him, He went to find him.
“‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’” Jesus asked.
“‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’”
Jesus told him, “‘You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the one speaking with you.’”
The man answered, “‘Lord, I believe.’”
Wow. Then he fell on his knees and worshipped Jesus. WOW! Beautiful surrender! So different from the rest, and so wonderfully simple!
Then Jesus said, “‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’”
There were some Pharisees standing there watching all of this. They heard what Jesus said, yet they did not fall on their knees. It was an opportunity, a moment, when they could have confessed their blindness…they could have repented of rejecting God’s Son. But they didn’t. Instead, they asked Him, “‘What? Are we blind, too?’”
And Jesus so said, “‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’”
Wow. Did you catch that? Jesus was untwisting their horrible distortions and showing the gleaming, bright truth of Heaven…but all in the form of riddles. He said that if the problem of the Pharisees was really that their eyes were blind…if they really couldn’t understand spiritual truth or were simply ignorant of it, then they would not be guilty of sin. They would be innocent in the midst of the grinding suffering caused by the curse. But they didn’t have that kind of humility…they were busy everywhere making sure to let everyone know just how well they could see. That in fact, their sight was so great that they could sit in authority over others. And so they were all the more guilty that they were choosing to be blind to the work of God through His Son.
What is interesting is that what Jesus said is the opposite of what they were teaching the people. They taught that people were blind because of their sin or the sins of their family…that is was a sign of guilt. In their thoughtless, loveless arrogance, they added to the pain of those already suffering deeply by heaping false shame and accusations on them. The Son of God was not pleased with them.
In the face of this societal mess, Jesus brought His cleansing light. The one who had been humbled by physical blindness was the one that could recognize the Savior. Aren’t you glad that the God who made all things is a God of justice and mercy? He protects and rebukes and saves. Through the confusion of sin and chaos of the cursed world, He can be depended on to draw clear lines of Truth for us all. His ways are perfect.