Conversations: Jesus and the Man Born Blind
Text: John 9:1-39
Audio: Jesus and the Man Born Blind
Speaker: Pastor Paul McPheeters
Title: Conversations: Jesus and A Man Born Blind
Text: John 9:1-38 (or 41)
We are continuing in our series of sermons on “Conversations with Jesus.” And today I’d like to look with you at an extended conversation Jesus has not just with one person, but with a whole variety of people on the topic of blindness and sight.
Turn with me to the Gospel of John today, and to chapter 9. Jesus will have an encounter with a man born blind, that will create all kinds of conversations: between Jesus and his disciples, Jesus and the man born blind, the blind man’s family, the neighbors, the religious leaders. You name it, Jesus gets everyone talking. And because Jesus heals the man’s blindness enabling him to see, the conversation is all about how we see things.
Listen to the story from the Gospel of John 9:1-38.
So today’s conversation begins as Jesus is walking along with his disciples, and Matthew says, “He saw a man blind from birth.”
So right from the very first sentence this conversation is going to be about “seeing.” There is a blind beggar who can’t see anything sitting by the side of the road, but Matthew says, “Jesus saw him.”
And then it’s the disciples who actually begin a conversation with Jesus about this man and his condition. “Why does God allow such things as birth defects?” they ask. “Is this man’s blindness some kind of punishment for sin? And whose sin? His sin? Or his parents’ sin?”
You see, when the disciples look at this man, what they see is a conundrum, a problem, the unfairness of life. They want an explanation of why God let’s these things happen.
But what does Jesus see when he looks at this man by the side of the road? He sees something quite different, doesn’t he? He sees in this man an opportunity! An opportunity for God to reveal His glory in redemption.
So Jesus engages them in the conversation by giving them an entirely different perspective, a whole new way of seeing such a situation. He says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned in a way that caused this, but this happened that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
Can you see how profoundly different those two ways of seeing are? The disciples see a poor beggar with a problem, and a knotty theological problem that needs explanation. Jesus sees a person who is ripe for God’s redeeming grace, and an opportunity for God’s power to be displayed.
Which of those two views of the life situations do you tend more towards? If you’re like me, you probably tend to be more like the disciples. Even as we move through this time of transition as a church; what is your outlook on our future as a church? Do you see just see one problem after another? The pastor is leaving. Megan is leaving. Others have already left us. The church is depleted. The situation looks desperate.
Or do you see an opportunity? An opportunity for the glory of God to be displayed? An opportunity for something new to happen? An opportunity for us to trust God in a deeper way and see what amazing work of redemption He has in store for us?
Jesus has eyes to see in this blind man’s weakness, the very place where God can show His strength. Jesus sees in this man’s disability, the very place where God can show forth His ability to redeem and restore.
The first application of this story to our lives today, is to ask God to give us eyes to see our situation like that. Not just as a problem to be solved, but as an adventure in faith to be lived. A new opportunity for God to reveal His glory and to make His strength perfect in our weakness.
Well, next let’s look at how this conversation about the blind man continues after Jesus heals the man of his blindness and gives him sight. We find that there is another contrast between the way Jesus sees the healing of the man, and the way everyone else in the story sees it.
First, in v. 8, we find the man’s neighbors gathering around to witness the miracle what has just taken place in his life. And they say, “Is this really the same man who used to sit by the road and beg? And some claimed it was, and some said, ‘No, it only looks like him.’”
You see, they are not even sure who this guy is. They had probably stopped even really looking at the guy years ago. As a blind beggar, they had probably just walked right passed him day after day, maybe dropping a coin into his basket, but mostly averting their eyes and not really paying attention to him as a person.
The only reason they are paying attention to him now is that he is claiming to have been miraculously healed of blindness. That definitely grabs their attention, but they’re skeptical. It could be a hoax, you know. You can’t be sure of such a claim that a miracle has taken place.
But does anyone rejoice with him and throw a party in celebration? Nope. Does anyone see the glory of God on display and start singing a song of praise? Nope. They all seem blind to God’s presence and power. They want to verify the man’s claim. Verify his identity. They want to make sure no one is putting anything over on them.
So they take the man to the Pharisees and religious leaders to get his story checked out. And so the conversation is extended to include even more people. And what do the Pharisees see in this blind man? They see red. They see that it is the Sabbath and there is not supposed to be any healing on the Sabbath. That is a form of work and one isn’t allowed to work on the Sabbath, and so this man’s healing is a sin.
They want to know who is responsible for this sin! Much like the disciples wanted to know who was responsible for the sin that caused man’s blindness, the Pharisees now want to know who is responsible for the sin that has caused the man’s healing.
And the man says, “I don’t know. All I can tell you is that the man they call Jesus put some mud on my eyes and told me to go wash in the pool of Siloam. So I did what he told me and then I could see!”
So then they drag the man’s parents into the conversation and say, “Is this your son? Was he really born blind? How is it that he can now see?” And the parents don’t have any idea how this could have happened. “We don’t know,” they say. “I mean, that is our son. And he has been blind his whole life since birth. But how it is that he can now see, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age.”
So they bring the formerly blind man back before them again and ironically say, “Give glory to God. We know this Jesus is a Sabbath-breaker and a sinner. How can you say he healed you.”
And the man, giving glory to God, says, “Whether Jesus is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.”
It’s one of the most ironic moments in the Gospels. A blind man can see, while those who can see are blind. God’s glory is on display in this man, just like Jesus said could happen. But amidst all the conversation that this man and his healing provoke, there is no one talking about the glory of God.
Instead, the neighbors are skeptical, the religious leaders are mad, his parents are scared. No one seems able to rejoice. No one can see the goodness of God. Are they are able to talk about is the problem that this healing has caused, and the problem this Jesus is causing by doing these kinds of things in Israel.
It’s a sad thing.
So Jesus goes and finds the man again, and Jesus helps him to see even more than what his eyes can now take in. Jesus helps him to see who it really is who has healed him. “Do you believe in the Son of Man,” Jesus asks him. And the man replies, “Who is he, Sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
And Jesus says, “You have now seen him, in fact, it is he who is speaking with you now.” And the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and knelt down and worshipped.
You see, the blind man is given to see what even the seeing people cannot: the glory of God in Jesus Christ. At the beginning of the story, Matthew said that Jesus “saw” the blind man. At the end of the story it is the blind man who truly saw Jesus.
This chapter of the Gospel of John is one lengthy conversation. A conversation about seeing. Today, as we come to the Communion table together and renew our covenant with God, individually and as a church, I want to urge us to pray for three kinds of sight:
1. First, prayerfully ask God to help us see our current situation in life not as problem we have to fix, but as an
opportunity for the glory of God to be displayed.
2. Secondly, prayerfully ask God to help us see what He is doing in the lives of those around us that display His glory. So that we might rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep, but in both cases with an eye to what God is doing redemptively to make His strength perfect in our weaknesses.
3. And thirdly, prayerfully ask God to open our eyes to see Jesus as He really is, as the Son of Man who came to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom to the captives, give recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
May the Lord open our eyes this morning so that we might not be blind to the presence and power of God as He moves among us, but instead might see and rejoice and celebrate His redemptive work, and give Him glory.