Year A Lent 4 : John 9:1-41

Last week we saw how Jesus used physical things to illustrate spiritual things which endure forever. We looked at true water, true worship, true food, true harvest, and a true joy.

This week we read again how the physical illustrates the spiritual. Jesus healing of the blind man is like a living parable of the spiritual blindness that he can cure. Jesus can do this because he is the 'light of the world', verse 5.

We will divide this passage by looking at :

The physical blindness of the man, verses 1-9.

The spiritual blindness of the man, verses 35-38.

The spiritual blindness of the Pharisees, verses 39-41.

The physical blindness of the man, verses 1-9.

It was an ancient belief, not held by the Jews alone, that illness of disability came about as the result of sin. We know that this belief is held by some today including Hindus.

Because of this belief the incurably ill and the handicapped were outcasts from society, forced to beg for their existence and treated worse than animals. They would have taken no part in the Jewish religious life. A person in this condition would have felt desperate, looking for some way out of this trapped existence.

Jesus corrected this mistaken belief when he answers the disciples question in verse 3. "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. Whilst sin in humankind leads to suffering, disease, and death it cannot be blamed on certain individuals in this way, says Jesus. In this particular case this blindness was permitted by God to show the power of God in two ways. As he is healed physically, and spiritually.

There is a sense in which we are all like the blind man. Less than what God intended us to be. We all need Jesus physical and spiritual healing.

Jesus puts mud on the man's eyes to symbolise the blockage that there was to his sight. he then tells him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. This was to the south of the city and would have been reached with some difficulty by a blind man. Notice that Jesus does not tell the man that this will heal him !

But the man does come back healed after obeying Jesus' instructions. This is so incredible that even his neighbours cannot believe it.

The spiritual blindness of the man, verses 35-38.

From verses 9 to 34 we have this investigation of the healing by the Pharisees. An account that has the elements of a comic farce. It may remind us of the tale of the King who had no clothes, where a small boy points out what is obvious. Here we have educated, well read teachers being made to look foolish by a man who had never read a book ! His personal experience of Jesus and his common sense show that following God is not about learning alone.

In this we see a progression in his understanding of who Jesus really is.

In verse 11 he refers to him as 'the man they call Jesus'. When asked where Jesus is he replies he doesn't know. One reason behind this is that he didn't know what Jesus looked like. Only what his voice sounded like and perhaps, his touch and his smell.

In verse 17 he refers to Jesus as a prophet. A prophet is someone who speaks the words of God in a particular time and place. This may include healing, and may include telling what is going to happen. So he had moved from knowing Jesus' name to recognising something of his mission.

The Pharisees wanted the man to admit that Jesus was a sinner because the healing had happened on a Sabbath. But, from verse 31 the man says, "We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." Here the man is proclaiming that Jesus is from God.

Three verses later he declares that Jesus is God and worships him.

This is the first recorded instance of someone recognising that Jesus is God. We might say that this man is the first Christian. He has moved from being physically healed by Jesus to being spiritually healed. Jesus took the initiative, revealed himself to the man and the man responds by trusting in Jesus.

Today, some parts of the church are recognising the importance of the healing ministry, perhaps to the exclusion of other, important matters. This incident reminds us that Jesus wants to heal the whole person. He wants to heal people of disease, and he wants to heal people from sin and death. The latter is more important. We know this from Matthew 5:30, "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

Our bodies will die one day, so healing will never last for ever. The Bible says that those who trust in Jesus will get new, resurrection bodies that will not hurt, get sick, or die. So we should concentrate on making people well spiritually through Jesus.

The spiritual blindness of the Pharisees, verses 39-41.

Last year someone was prosecuted for impersonating a doctor. This person went into a hospital, put on a white lab coat and pretended to be a doctor giving advice to people and so on. He was prosecuted for pretending to be what he had not.

[ There is a film called 'Catch me if you can' about someone who pretended to be a pilot, doctor etc. ]

If he had gone into the hospital and just tried to help people there would have been no problem and no court case.

The Pharisees were like this man. They pretended to be what they were not. Because of this they were guilty. They claimed to be the ones who knew all about the Jewish faith, but some of them were so blinded by the rules and regulations that they failed to see that they pointed to a person. From verse 16 we see that the Pharisees were split in their reaction to Jesus. 'Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?" So they were divided.'

Jesus came and lived life according to the Old Testament. The book they studied so diligently. He came and offered himself as perfect sacrifice to pay for the sins of the world to fulfil the Old Testament. We remember this as we share in the bread and wine this evening.

The Pharisees were excluded from God because of their spiritual blindness.

At the start of the passage the blind man is excluded from the Jewish religion because of his disability.

We read in verse 34 that the Pharisees threw the man out. This time he was excluded because he could now see !

Yet the man is accepted by Jesus. The light of the world has shone into this man's life. So he can see physically. So he can see spiritually. As people who have had our eyes opened by Jesus we can worship him joyfully, trusting him with our lives, thanking God for what he has done for us in Jesus.

We are surrounded by people who are spiritually blind. How can we help them to see? Like the healed man we can tell of what Jesus has done for us. We can pray for them. We can live lives that show that Jesus is our Lord. That are different, holy, set apart, putting God before everything. Lives that show that others are missing out on something.