October 2, 2011

7 Miracles in John (6): The Blind Sees, The Seeing Go Blind

By Rev. Jeremiah Cheung

During the 2004 presidential election in Taiwan, an assassination attempt involving two bullets occurred. Then incumbent president, Chen Shui-bian, won the election by a narrow 0.228 percent margin over his opponent. There was great dispute between the two political parties, the Kuo Min Tang (KMT) and the Progressive Party. The KMT alleged that Chen Shui-bian faked the assassination. The Progressive Party, of course, denied such allegations. Later, Detective Henry Lee from the United States was invited to investigate the incident. However, a KMT leader said: “No matter what Henry Lee says, I will not accept it.” Why? He had already formed an opinion; for him Chen Shui-bian faked the assassination attempt against himself. Similarly, the Progressive Party also had its own conclusion – it was an attack from the KMT’s. No matter how much evidence was presented to them, both sides were not willing to accept the report from the investigation, because each had their own prejudices.

This is the message we want to reflect on today. In chapter 9 of John’s gospel, Jesus healed a man born blind. This was a glorious and exciting thing. But after reading the 41 verses, one realizes that no one felt excited, no one gave glory to God, apart from the blind man who was healed. The blind man’s neighbors and those who often saw him beg for alms only asked one thing: “How were your eyes opened?” The Pharisees asked his parents, “Is this your son who was born blind? How is that now your son can see?” Although they got answers to their questions, in fact, firm evidence proving that the man was born blind and that Jesus made his eyes see, they refused to accept them. In their hearts, Jesus was a sinner who breached the Sabbath. No matter what good he did, their minds were already set on the idea that he is a sinner. This is called prejudice. This is spiritual blindness. Jesus said: “The blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

We must be like the blind man and turn from darkness to light; do not be like the Pharisees, who turned from light to darkness. Let us study this miracle by reflecting on how the blind man gradually came to recognize Jesus:

1. He is Jesus 10 -12

This man was born blind. He had never seen another human being before, including Jesus, so he had only heard of Jesus’ name. This man was not the first blind man Jesus had healed, for he had healed many blind men before. We have reason to believe that this man had heard of Jesus healing the blind before. In his heart, he must have longed to meet Jesus and ask Jesus to heal him. Maybe he had prayed to God, asking for Jesus to come and heal him. Anyway, this day, Jesus did come; putting some mud mixed with his saliva on the man’s eyes, He told the man “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam”. So the man went and washed and came home seeing. The Lord employed a special means to heal this blind man. Sometimes, Jesus healed by simply saying “your faith has made you whole”; sometimes he just touched a blind man’s eyes; sometimes he used saliva, rubbed it on the man’s eyes and healed the man. We discover that Jesus, the Great Healer, heals people in marvellous ways. This shows us that the method is not what is important, what is important is the God who employs these methods. We must simply follow what he wants us to do.

Jesus told the man born blind to wash in the Pool of Siloam. Siloam means to send. V.4 Jesus told his disciples, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me.” V.33 The blind man said, “If this man (Jesus) were not from God, he could do nothing.” When we connect these two verses, we see that Jesus was sent by the Heavenly Father. Jesus obeyed the Father’s will, he came down to earth from heaven to do the Father’s work. Now Jesus is sending the man born blind to the Pool of Siloam to wash; as long as he obeys Jesus’ command, his eyes can be healed, for that is how obedience and restoration work. Some Bible interpreters say the Lord made man from the ground, thus, Jesus is using mud from the ground and his saliva to perform restoration on the man’s eyes. I find that very interesting. However, what is important is that if the man didn’t obey, his eyes wouldn’t have been healed. Let us understand the principle of obedience: the Heavenly Father sends Jesus, Jesus sends us. Jesus obeyed the Heavenly Father, as a result he accomplished the great salvation work; we must obey Jesus and accomplish the great and holy task of saving men.

He is Jesus – this was how the man born blind first identified Jesus. He had heard of Jesus’ name, he had heard stories about Jesus. His faith in Jesus came from having heard about him and it produced in him a faith that was submissive; what Jesus told him to do, he did. He was willing to be sent, as a result he received great blessing. Church, are we willing to obey Jesus’ command, to be his messengers?

II. He is a Prophet 16- 17

The man born blind was brought to the Pharisees who were investigating this incident. It was right that they do this, for they had the responsibility to find out whether this miracle was from God or from the devil. But they had already made a conclusion: Jesus did this miracle on a Sabbath; they concluded that since Jesus did not observe the Sabbath, therefore he could not have come from God. First, we need to understand that the Pharisees were not necessarily wrong. For since the Law was given by God, how can someone who violates God’s Law have come from God? For example: The second command in the Ten Commandments says do not worship idols. How can someone who worships idols come from God? Do not commit adultery, do not steal – how can any man who steals or commits adultery come from God?

So, the Pharisees’ conclusion was not without reason. They used the 4th command in the Ten Commandments to convict Jesus. They concluded that Jesus is not from God because he didn’t observe the Sabbath. To resolve this issue, we must first return to God’s purpose for establishing the Sabbath. Let us first look at Jesus’ explanation regarding the Sabbath. In Luke 14:5, Jesus said, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” Of course, one would pull it out. If we are unwilling to let an ox die, would we let a man die because it is a Sabbath day? Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” This is the essence of the Sabbath. The Jews observe the Sabbath legalistically and so it became “man was made for the Sabbath”. However Jesus said, “No, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath”.

Let me ask you, was the church established for the pastor, or the pastor established for the church? The pastor was made for the church; because if there were no churches, there would be no need for pastors. Similarly, the Sabbath was made for man. If there were no human beings, then, there would be no need for the Sabbath.

But the Jews regarded the Sabbath as greater than men. They observed the Law legalistically; as a result, no one can do anything on Sabbath days. There is a 60-storey Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. During Sabbath days, pressing the elevator button is prohibited. If you live on the 60th floor, what will you do? You have to take the stairs up to the 60th floor, how truly rested would you be?! And so, the Jews thought of a solution. They programmed the elevator to stop at every floor automatically during Sabbath days so they won’t have to press the button. However if you live on the 60th floor, you will have to go through the elevator doors’ opening and closing for 60 times before you can reach your floor. This is called legalistic observance of the Law.

Actually, during Sabbath, God does not cease to function, for Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day.” The author of the Book of Hebrews says God sustains all things by his powerful word. If God literally ceased to work, Satan will be very happy, because the Sabbath day will become Satan’s day. He will take the opportunity to attack God’s Church, right? This is exactly what happened in World War II. Japan took advantage of the United States’ observance of the Lord’s Day, and launched a successful attack on Pearl Harbour. Sabbath was established so that man and God may commune, that man may find renewed strength to serve God even better. Jesus’ healing of a man born blind on Sabbath – isn’t this the very purpose of Sabbath? But the scripturally well-educated Pharisees observed the Law legalistically. Paul said: The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Do not be a legalist. The man born blind said, “Jesus is a prophet.” Because in his heart, he understood that a mere man cannot have done such a thing. It had to be the work of a man of God, so he said, “Jesus is a prophet.”

III. He is a Man Sent from God 30-33

The Pharisees refused to believe that this man had been born blind, so they called for his parents. They asked his parents the same question, “How is it that now he can see?” His parents replied, “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “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.” The Pharisees already had a decision; for them, whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. What does it mean to be put out of the synagogue? In our contemporary language, it is to be excommunicated. This was a frightening thing. So the parents didn’t want to deal with the question. The Pharisees asked the man born blind once more, and told him, “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” And they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” What they meant was: `With what kind of evil spirit did he make your eyes see?’

This was not the first time they accused Jesus of such. Once, when Jesus drove out an evil spirit from a man, and the Pharisees couldn’t prove that there was no healing, they said publicly, “Jesus drives out demons by the prince of demons, Belzebub.” Because the Pharisees were prejudiced, they couldn’t accept that Jesus was from God. Jesus is the Christ. The man born blind said, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” He meant Jesus was sent from God.

Why did he say so? He stated two reasons:

1. He used his experience as proof – v.25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” This is the famous line in the hymn “Amazing Grace” – I once was blind, but now I see. This was the blind man’s experience. No matter what others say, this was a reality that could not be changed. Experiences are important to our faith. In Exodus, when God wanted to bring out the Israelites, he performed ten plagues. Actually, there was no such need; the Lord could have simply sent his angels and killed Pharaoh and all his high officials. The Israelites could have simply left Egypt then. But God sent ten plagues, afterwards, the Israelites left Egypt. Why? The Lord not only wanted to deliver the Israelites from Egypt, the Lord wanted the Israelites to experience and know Him. The ten plagues were meant to dispute the ten well-known gods of Egypt. For example: turning water into blood was a challenge against the Nile god of Egypt. The plague of frogs was to oppose the god of fertility. The Lord wanted the Israelites to experience him, to know him, to know that He alone is the one true God. Church! May we truly experience Him, just like Job said, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”

2. His Common Sense as Proof – v.30-33 The man answered, “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 person 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.” This blind man, having been born during that time, must probably not have been able to go to school, more so he couldn’t have studied theology, but his theology was more correct and more clear-cut than that of the Pharisees. That is because he used the common sense God gave him to arrive at an accurate conclusion. God does not listen to sinners. No one, apart from the God of creation, can open the eyes of a man born blind because he didn’t have eyes at all. The man was able to make a simple yet accurate claim, Jesus was sent from God. Church! Sometimes we are too complex, we must seek to be simple. The ‘Bible says: “The Lord protects the simple.” Simple doesn’t mean the fool but the simple man, those whose hearts are pure towards God. Such people are truly blessed by God.

IV. He is the Son of God 35-38

This man born blind was thrown out of the synagogue, Jesus found him, and asked “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. At the beginning, he only heard of Jesus’ name, later on he felt that Jesus was a prophet (servant of God). When the Pharisees denied Jesus, he insisted that Jesus was sent from God. Later, he recognized Jesus as the Son of God.

There is only one reason he was able to recognize Jesus as the son of God: God’s revelation. In Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter said, “You are the Son of the living God.” Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” After Jesus rose from the dead, Mary Magdalene was crying at his tomb because she couldn’t find Jesus’ body. Jesus appeared to her and Mary didn’t recognize him, she thought he was the gardener. Only after Jesus called her “Mary”, did she realize it was the Lord. After Jesus rose from the dead, he had a glorious body, Mary didn’t recognize him by his physical appearance, but when Jesus called her name, her heart knew that it was the Lord. This is called revelation. In John 21, after the disciples went fishing, Jesus stood by the shore and told them, “Come and have breakfast.” The Bible mentions something unusual – no one of disciples dared ask him “Who are you?” It was because they knew it was the Lord. From his physical appearance, he didn’t look like Jesus, but in their hearts, they knew it was the Lord. This is revelation.

Apart from God’s revelation, no one can know God. Whether now or in the future, we can only know God through his revelation. But why did the Lord reveal himself to the blind man and not to the Pharisees? Again and again, the Lord revealed himself as the Christ, but the Pharisees were prejudiced against Jesus. They didn’t believe in Jesus, no matter what Jesus said, they refused to believe. Paul said we must combine faith with action. If we don’t have faith in Jesus, if we are prejudiced against Jesus, not only will we not acknowledge him as the son of God, we will even be angry, because we will think Jesus speaks nonsense, this is the reason the Pharisees opposed Jesus. HG Wells is a historian, he wrote a short story called “Blind Man’s Valley”. Everyone in the Blind Man’s Valley is born blind. One day, a plane crashed in the valley and the pilot who survived began to live among them. The man would often describe to the people in Blind Valley how the world looked like, he told them about the sun, the moon, the trees, the plants, the fruits, etc. The people in Blind Valley began to hate him more and more, because they cannot see anything. When they couldn’t stand it anymore, they gouged out the man’s eyes and he became blind. The people felt glad because all of them are now alike, they are all blind.

Isn’t that how our world is like? Jesus is the Light of the world, He is the true light that had come to the world; but the world hated the light and loved the darkness. People would rather live in darkness. We must let go of our prejudices, have faith in Jesus, only then can we know Jesus as the Son of God. Have you come to know Him?