We come to a story that speaks volumes to me personally. It is about a man who was born blind and Jesus healed him. The reason it’s so dear to me is that I was born with a serious defect in my vision. I’m not blind, but the question of “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind” (verse 2) was asked about me too. I LOVE Jesus’ answer. I also love how Jesus returns to the man later on to introduce Himself fully.
The man in our story had spent his whole life without sight. I’m certain he learned how to get along, but his life was still limited because of it. More than that, everyone who encountered him probably harbored the same question Jesus’ disciples asked that day. I have no doubt that he and his parents also asked themselves that very same question many times over.
While the Jews were living under the Law, every illness or adversity was seen as punishment from God. Moses specifically conveyed the “Blessings and Cursings” related to obedience when he presented God’s words to the people. In Exodus 20:5 and Numbers 14:18 God speaks of punishing the children to the third and fourth generations for the sins of their fathers. The sin most often sited in these passages have to do with turning away from God and following other gods.
I believe there was reason for that declaration from God. We, the parents are responsible for teaching our children. The most important lesson is about God. During bible times, whole families and tribes followed the leadings of their eldest members. Idol worship entered into Jacob’s family with Rachel bringing the household gods along with her. Generations later we see the result of that sin; captivity and slavery. Solomon also allowed the nation to be corrupted through his lust for foreign women who brought their gods with them. Israel headed off in the wrong direction because of the “sins of the father.” The children would pay the penalty. I have to add in here to though that those children weren’t innocent either. They learned well the lessons their fathers modeled for them.
Let’s get back to our story. Jesus answered His disciples’ question with a shocking statement. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (verse 3). All were guiltless. Neither was to blame for the son’s condition! I don’t believe that God caused the man to be born blind either but He used the man’s condition as an opportunity to do a marvelous work. Jesus’ compassion and healing of this man would display a miracle that had NEVER been done before. Men had been raised for the dead before. Water had been used miraculously before. The leapers had been healed, the lame made whole, and the hungry fed. But NEVER had a birth defect so profound been completely reversed. THIS miracle would be impossible to ignore!
In my life, Jesus hasn’t healed my eyes completely, but He has used my condition to mold me into who He wanted me to be. He placed compassion in me for others who are also damaged. He grew in me a determination that has helped me rise above many obstacles. And He instilled in me a heart of thankfulness for what I do have. He didn’t do ANY of these things overnight or in a vacuum. He did it over the course of my life and through the hands of my family and friends. My parents were VERY instrumental in my outlook on life. My mom taught me to persevere even in the most difficult of circumstances. My father taught me how to have compassion on those who didn’t receive the training of strength I did. Both lessons still serve me well!
Through this story God has given me peace in my spirit. God wasn’t punishing me for some future sin I would certainly commit. Nor was He punishing me for something my parents or even grandparents had done. He was using the condition wrought in me, through being born into a fallen world, as a vessel for His glory. And like our man in the story, I give God ALL the glory for what He has done for me.
I also want to spend a little time talking about the reactions of everyone else. I want to touch on the man’s acquaintances, his parents, and the religious leaders.
The first ones to notice the change in the man were those who saw him on a daily basis. The people that passed him on their way to and from the temple. They noticed right away that something was different about him. He was no longer feeling his way along but moving about freely and probably looking at EVERYTHING with wonder! They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. He looked like the man they knew but he didn’t act like his old self. So they questioned him and he freely told them of his miracle. He even described that Jesus had made mud during his healing process. I don’t know if the people brought our man to the Pharisees to show them the miracle or to ask their opinion about it, but that’s where they took him.
We need to set the scene and tone of the temple before we go any further. We are told that the religious leaders were so adamant that the people not believe Jesus was the Christ that they threatened to bar anyone who acknowledged believing Him to be from God from entering the temple. People were terrified to cross them. Religious practices were an important part of every Jewish person’s life. To be barred from the temple was devastating! No one wanted to risk that, so they all kept their opinions to themselves, very quietly too.
When our man was brought before the Pharisees, those bringing him were in need of two things. The first was an answer to their question how can works like this be done by anyone not sent by God. The second was certification of this miracle.
The Pharisees were loath to believe this man’s claim of healing from a birth defect. They were also upset by Jesus’ flaunting their laws regarding the Sabbath. I noticed that our man omitted his statement about Jesus “making the mud” from his telling of the events to the Pharisees. Was he trying to protect Jesus from these nit pickers?
The religious leaders tried every way they could to discount or dismiss this man’s miracle as genuine. They also tried everything possible to discredit Jesus. This miracle “split” the group in two. Some recognized the impossibility of any sinful person performing such an amazing miracle, while others held firmly to their belief of Jesus as a “sinner” for “breaking the Sabbath.” The debate should have been settled when they called for the man’s parents.
Mom and dad arrived on the scene at the behest of the Pharisees. “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” (verse 19). Good question! They attested to his being their son and being born blind, but nothing more, out of fear. If it were my child I would have been shouting it from the rooftops and looking for Jesus to offer Him my thanks too. Instead, they leave all the responsibility on the son’s shoulders. “Ask him; he is of age/ He will speak for himself” (verse 21). Thanks mom and dad for all your help; NOT.
Our man is not deterred by the lack of support. He is also not afraid to speak the truth. I love his response to the Pharisees saying they don’t know where Jesus comes from. “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where He comes from, and yet He opened my eyes… If this Man were not from God He could do nothing” (verse 30 & 33).
His response really angered the Pharisees and they made good on their promise to throw anyone out who professed belief in Jesus. After he was thrown out Jesus came to him again to introduce Himself fully to the new sighted man. Our man was willing to believe anything Jesus said now. No one could tell him he was faking or mistaken about his healing. He was also VERY certain his gift came from God.
Jesus closing comments to the Pharisees were a strong warning to them. It wasn’t their first or last warning either, but it was a warning that should have stuck with them for a while. “If you were blind, you would have no guild; bun now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains” (verse 40). They knew the truth but refused to accept or admit it and as a result, they were counted as guilty.
Father God, thank You for this story. Thank You for having the Holy Spirit inspire John to recount this event for us. Thank You that You don’t punish us for past or future sins when we bring them to You. Thank You that not everything that happens to us is result of our failures. If this were the case, I have earned MUCH MORE than I have received in my life. I would be constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. But You give me grace and mercy instead.
Thank You Jesus for sharing this lesson with me in such a personal way. Did You have me in mind when You spoke those words to Your disciples? It’s possible because of Who You are, but even if You didn’t have me on Your heart then, You spoke to my heart while reading it over the years. Thank You for that peace.