Chapter 23

Chapter 23

What Do You Believe About
Spiritual Blindness?

John 9:1-12

Blindness is a condition that pictures the lost man or at least an aspect of his lost state. The lost man cannot discern or see those things which are Spiritual no more than a blind man can see the natural. How do you show the blind person a beautiful and brilliant sunset? How do you show him the attraction of a red rose or the intensity of a blazing fire? You tell him instead. This reminds us that “faith cometh by hearing.”

This chapter introduces another sign miracle to satisfy the requirements of the Jew. The Jews require a sign. The Jews have a blindness that they are born into as members of their distinct ethnic group. The man blind from his birth pictures this group. The Jews are blind as to whom the true Messiah is. They are looking for the Messiah even as they bow at the wailing wall. They not only refuse to believe that Christ has come, they also hate the Christ of the Scriptures. In this darkened state they abhor the mention of Jesus in public prayers; they tear down the manger scenes, and are a force in removing prayer from the schools. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is made up of these same Pharisees Jews. Until their eyes are opened they will still refuse to believe.

The sign miracle may have as its main emphasis a lesson to the Jew. Yet Romans reminds us that we have “all sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  

Spiritual blindness is universal. No person apart from Jesus has been born without this condition. In considering this subject, may we note first, The Misunderstanding about his Blindness (vv. 1-5); The Marveling after his Blindness (vv. 6-9); and The Message about his Blindness (vv. 10-12).

I. THE MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT HIS BLINDNESS   vv. 1-5

Never have I looked upon a blind person without a certain degree of pity and with a great heart of thanksgiving at my own ability to see. My father was blind. Though he was not born blind, he suffered blindness for almost the last thirty years of his life. He had two cornea transplants and eventually lost most of his sight to blood vessels that ruptured in his eyes. His condition seemed to be a genetic weakness that was on his mother’s side. Nearly all of his aunts went blind years before their death. His brother also had his similar condition. Blindness may affect people in varying degrees, but any major loss of sight is a precious loss.

With my father’s blindness, I learned to be his eyes. As I would walk with him, I would warn him of uneven places in the pavement, help him find those things that he needed, and tell him who we were talking to.

Verse one begins, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.” To the seeing, a blind person stands out, but the blind person sees no one. As an application of this truth a Christian notes recognizable features when he sees one who is spiritually blind. The lost person doe not see on a spiritual plane. There are those who are hypocrites that can act the part for a while, as Judas reminds us, but will eventually be exposed. Jesus and the disciples recognized this blind man. The most noticeable feature may have been the clothing that he wore. Today the blind man will often have a specially marked cane that identifies him as a blind man. The person may have a “seeing eye dog” as a mark. Blind Bartimaeus removed his coat when he received his sight. The coat may have marked him as a blind man. When he knew that Jesus was nearby, he exercised faith as though he were saying, “I will see, I will not need this coat any longer!”

The time of his blindness (v. 1) The Scriptures tell us that this man was blind from his birth. If we allow this blind man to picture the lost man, he does so in this way. Every person born into the human race is born blind or lost. Until the Lord opens his eyes he will remain in this lost state. The only one that can perform the miracle of sight is the Lord Jesus Christ. No one is capable of opening his own eyes or the eyes of another. Salvation is of the Lord. Often in our “soul winning” enthusiasm we have attempted or even claimed to have opened the eyes of the spiritually blinded before the Lord did. This always reminds me of D. L. Moody. Someone came to him saying, “Moody, I saw some of your converts at the tavern.” Moody replied, “They must have been mine. They sure weren’t the Lords.” Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. used to say, “Don’t pick the apples too green” while referring to claiming converts before God actually converts them.

To be born blind, one will more naturally accept his condition than one who becomes blind. From birth the blind baby learns to adapt to the darkness of his world. As we are born into this world, spiritually blind, we adapt to or even get use to the dark.. Many who are blinded spiritually do not even recognize their lost state until the piercing light of God’s Word illuminates them. Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace knew this truth, when he penned, “I was lost, but now I am found; I was blind, but now I see.”

The truth about his blindness (vv. 2-3a) The curiosity of the disciples at seeing this pathetic blind person, prompted them to ask, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” The common thinking of that day was that sicknesses and sufferings were commonly held to be the consequences of one’s sin. That was not just a primitive idea of an uneducated, superstitious society causing them to think that way. There was obviously a sin-to-sickness correlation that was commonly recognizable during the time of Christ. Most of the sickness today is a by-product of sin and sinning. For an example, there are many vicious diseases that are contracted from committing sexual sins. Certain types of cancer, venereal diseases and aids occur because of sinful lifestyles to only mention a few.

The man who had lain for thirty-eight years at the pool called Bethesda was obviously there because of his sinning. When he was healed, the Lord told him to “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (5:14). Perhaps, it was in the context of this miracle that the disciples asked “who did sin …?”

But the Lord’s answer clearly declared that his blindness was not due to anyone’s particular sin, “but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (v. 3). As indicated, much of the sickness today is in association with one’s sinning, but not all sickness is caused by sinning.

The teaching about his blindness (vv. 3b-5). All of us would rather there be some invisible protective shield covering us that would stop some deadly virus from invading and collapsing our immune system. We would like to be protected from genetic deficiencies and biological break downs. Yet, all of us are subject to, and often victim of some unplanned and unwanted sickness. Sometimes the sickness is within the providential framework of God’s doings. He always knows what is going on and many times He permits it for His own purpose and glory. Job of the Old Testament teaches this to be true.

The answer that Jesus gave to the disciples was that He had a work to perform through this blind man’s condition. Verse 4 reminds us that there was nothing taking place outside the realm of His purpose. Everything was taking place within His purpose. This man had been living as a blind man from his mother’s womb. He never knew a day of seeing. He grew up as a child, and turned into an adult as a blind man. Yet God had him reserved to teach a valuable truth in His own time. When you give birth to that precious little child, who will never speak, or who will never walk, be encouraged in knowing that God may have a special purpose yet to be revealed. You may never know God’s purpose in this life, but will receive eternal blessings for being a loving and devoted mother or father. Do not be robbed of a blessing by blaming God. In my experiences, some of the most fulfilled and gracious people that I have met are those who have yoked up to their adversity with no complaint. They choose to embrace the teachings of Romans 8:28, instead. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

There are many natural, ongoing processes that take place because of the original sin. During the process of living one is always facing the prospects of death. All will die, and will do so in different ways. Even as the natural processes or ongoing, the supernatural is also at work. This means that God’s purposes are always operational even if it does not seem that way.

Perhaps, I could illustrate what I am saying in this manner. It was expected that my mother, and then later my father were going to die. They were victims of old-age. Yet the presence of God was clearly recognizable during their sickness and even during their home going. The events that took place; the comfort that God provided; and the way that they each died clearly had the fingerprint of God and His signature attached. The same was true with my sister’s death. When I received the phone call around five a.m. on the day of my sister’s death, I was dreaming a comforting dream about her, even as the phone awoke me. It was not just coincidental, it was instead providential. God knew that I needed the comfort.

As the Lord works, though He is eternal, He can work only for a period of time in each of our lives. When Jesus was upon the earth, He only had a small period of time to do His Father’s will. He said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” v. 4.

May we be reminded that our day of opportunity will soon be over. May we do the work today.

II. THE MARVELING AFTER HIS BLINDNESS vv. 6-9

Jesus is going to do something that is incomprehensible to those who knew this man to be blind. His own neighbors had observed him on a regular basis, yet began questioning whether this seeing man was even the same person. They said, “He is like him” (v. 9). This introduces two thoughts, either the change was so great they did not recognize him, or in his blindness he was always there but they did not really even know him. We will consider these two possibilities and perhaps others as we continue our study. First, may we look at the work that Jesus did and then the wonder after Jesus did His work.

The work that Jesus did (v. 6). Is it not wonderful to see Jesus work? I still marvel at seeing the hand of God doing only those things which He can do. The ministry is a privilege. It is especially so when knowing that the ministry is involving the believer being yoked up with Christ. We have the privilege of working together. But the greater work is His work! The greater work is what He does. A work that is of God can not be done apart from God. There is a work that can be referred to as a natural work; then there is that which is only supernatural. Some have said that if you can explain it, it is not of faith. If it is not of faith, it does not involve the supernatural.

Though God’s part is supernatural, He often blends the natural with the supernatural. What greater illustration do we have of this truth than that given in our text. The blind man was just that, he was blind. In his blindness the Lord selected him by His own purpose and design. As Jesus spat on the ground there was the blending together of the human with the divine, and the supernatural with the natural. The spit that fell, fell from the lips of the perfect Son of God. It fell on the sin cursed earth. The clay and spittle met together and was placed upon the eyes of the blind man. Then the blind man in this rather foolish looking state was told to go to the pool of Siloam and wash. After he washed he received his sight. The Bible does not tell us what the man’s thoughts were, or even those who might have seen him with the clay and spittle anointed on his eyes. It does not even tell us if there was extreme pain in association with the clay resting on his eyes. The important thing is that Jesus touched him and told him to go wash and he obeyed.

There is a natural tendency to ask, “Why does Jesus do it this way?” “What was His purpose?” There are numerous illustrations of Christ at work in the Gospels and they do not fit some neatly prescribed program. His ways are past finding out. His ways are not our ways. God saves individuals in many different settings. His saving of the lost does not require that everyone have the same experience.

When our spit is released from our mouth, it is often in a repulsive way. In a fitting rage, a person at the height of his anger will sometimes spit at his victim. In this way, spit is in association with the curse. When Christ spat upon the ground it was not in anger but in pity. It is wonderful the difference Christ makes. The heavenly met with the earthly and properly applied by God’s power a miracle takes place.

The wonder that Jesus did (vv. 7-9). When Jesus performs, it is wonderful! The Saviour has prepared the blind man, who pictures the sinner with the clay and spittle, which could picture the conviction. The scratchy clay mixture is to be removed by the water and by obedience. Typically, it is the obedience to the Word with the water picturing the Word. It is always wise to first determine the literal meaning of the Word, then the typical or Spiritual, and by application, the practical. Never force the typical.

Augustine over emphasized the allegorical means of interpretation as he looked for the hidden meanings of Scripture. This becomes very dangerous. So, the suggestions that I gave are only for consideration, realizing that the Jews require a sign. The main concern is that Jesus healed the blind man and demonstrated His awesome power in doing so. 

The neighbors could hardly believe that this blind man was miraculously seeing. His sight was a testimony to the power of God. Likewise, each time a person is saved a miracle takes place. The blind man’s healing caused men to marvel, and still when God saves, men still marvel. “The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he” (vv. 8-9) Those who witnessed the change that Jesus made in this person’s life, must have thought about the unorthodox methods that Jesus used. The Scriptures also tell us that Jesus used spit in the healing of a deaf man and also in another blind person. Among those who either witnessed or heard, may have attributed supernatural powers to the spit. That was not the purpose of Jesus.

Later at the judgment of Jesus, before the High Priest, after He being accused of blasphemy, they spit in His face. “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and other smote him with the palms of their hands” (Matthew 26:67). A closer look at this verse will cause us to notice that they were mocking Jesus. To be hit with only the palm rather than the fist was only an insulting way of judging Christ. They who judged Him may have been thinking, “So He can heal the blind and the death with only His spit.” Then, “This is what we think of that,” and they spat in His face. There is no way to factor in every aspect that comprised the awful climate of wickedness, but certainly the evil and the wickedness that were there were awful.

III. THE MESSAGE ABOUT HIS BLINDNESS vv. 10-12

After the man who was blind admitted that he really was the person they thought he was, they began to question him.

They questioned him (v. 10). They asked him, “How were thine eyes opened?” (v. 10b) Their questions offered him an opportunity to give “his testimony.” What a privilege that must have been. It is so precious and wonderful when God saves a precious child who has never been involved in deep sin. It is much better to be saved young. The Bible teaches us this in Psalm 90. Sometimes, however, a person who has lived in great wickedness makes the greater impact as a witness after his conversion. Often a person like this is deemed hopeless. I have actually given up on certain people only later to witness their conversion. I am sure glad that God did not give up on them. It is wonderful to hear the testimony of people, such as this, who simply give the glory to the Lord. When they do this, they do not even want to recall their wicked past but simply say as Newton, “I once was lost, but now I am found; I was blind but now I see.”

He answered them (vv. 11-12). His answer, though simple and to the point, spoke volumes. First, he identified the one who healed him. That person was, “A man that is called Jesus …” Every true conversion must begin with Jesus. For this reason, the cults attack the deity of Christ. They attempt to make Him either no God at all or a lesser God. To them Jesus is just a man, a teacher, a good person, and some deem Him to be less than a swine. To the believer, He is Salvation.

Next, the man who was healed of his blindness told what Jesus did in the making of the clay for Him. As in this pattern, every conversion should identify first who Jesus is, and then what Jesus did. For our salvation Jesus came to the earth, was born of “clay” or of woman, and then went to the cross where He was crucified. After His death, He was buried, and then just like the blind man’s dead eyes when they came to life being able to see, Jesus Christ came forth ALIVE!

The third thing took place after the anointing when the blind man was instructed to go to the pool of Siloam, and wash. The Scriptures tell us that he went and washed. If the blind man did not go to the place or wash as told to do he would have never seen and believed upon the Lord.. The Lord, at my conversion, told me to go to that place called Calvary. Some say go to the place of religion, or go to the place of higher learning, or go to the place of your choosing. But by faith, I went to Calvary. “Thanks to Calvary, I’m not the man that I used to be,” says the song truthfully.

I was a blind man sitting in darkness

By the way,

When visited by the Saviour who showed the

Brightness of my first day;

Now no more in darkness can you find me,

For by His marvelous grace I have now been set free!

Sermon From Dr. Max Alderman