1As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. 2“Teacher,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?”
3“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him. 4All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end. 5But while I am still here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smoothed the mud over the blind man’s eyes. 7He told him, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came back seeing!
8His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Is this the same man—that beggar?” 9Some said he was, and others said, “No, but he surely looks like him!”
And the beggar kept saying, “I am the same man!”
10They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?”
11He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and smoothed it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash off the mud.’ I went and washed, and now I can see!”
12“Where is he now?” they asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
13Then they took the man to the Pharisees. 14Now as it happened, Jesus had healed the man on a Sabbath. 15The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He smoothed the mud over my eyes, and when it was washed away, I could see!”
16Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.” Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.
17Then the Pharisees once again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, “This man who opened your eyes—who do you say he is?”
The man replied, “I think he must be a prophet.”
18The Jewish leaders wouldn’t believe he had been blind, so they called in his parents. 19They asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he see?”
20His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, 21but we don’t know how he can see or who healed him. He is old enough to speak for himself. Ask him.” 22They said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. 23That’s why they said, “He is old enough to speak for himself. Ask him.”
24So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “Give glory to God by telling the truth, because we know Jesus is a sinner.”
25“I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”
26“But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”
27“Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
28Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don’t know anything about him.”
30“Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know anything about him! 31Well, God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. 32Never since the world began has anyone been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do it.”
34“You were born in sin!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.
35When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36The man answered, “Who is he, sir, because I would like to.”
37“You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”
38“Yes, Lord,” the man said, “I believe!” And he worshiped Jesus.
39Then Jesus told him, “I have come to judge the world. I have come to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”
40The Pharisees who were standing there heard him and asked, “Are you saying we are blind?”
41“If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see. (John 9:1-41, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
Recently, while driving around town, I was listening to Mason & Ireland, a popular sports talk radio show in Los Angeles. John Ireland, one of the hosts of the show who also is the radio play-by-play announcer for the Lakers, floated a story that’s going around that says that Stevie Wonder, the grammy award winning musician who has been blind since birth, can actually see. As evidence, he shared incidences from a number of high profile celebrities who all have their own story to reinforce the idea, including this story Shaq told on Inside the NBA:
Now I’m not sure whether Stevie Wonder is blind or not – I just know he makes great music. But in this chapter of John, Jesus encounters a man who, like Stevie Wonder, was blind since birth. What happens next is a case study in three different attitudes and responses to the person of Jesus.
Jesus heals the man and the Pharisees are incensed because Jesus healed him on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees question the man about the fact that he can now see. Actually, interrogation is probably more accurate.
It’s obvious from the story that the Pharisees have a preconceived idea concerning Jesus that they’re absolutely committed to maintaining. No evidence is going to change their view. Even after questioning the man and hearing from a host of witnesses that the man was blind but has been healed by Jesus, verse 18 says that they wouldn’t believe that the man had been blind, so they brought in the man’s parents.
After the man’s parents confirm that their son was blind and can now see, the Pharisees go back and question the man a second time. They are so committed to their negative view of Jesus that they urge the man to change his story because they “know Jesus is a sinner.”
The Pharisees were unable to discredit the miracle itself so they resorted to a character attack on the person of Jesus. This is a classic form of misdirection that people often resort to when arguing a point. If they cannot dispute the facts of the situation (which would damage their committed belief and position), then they switch to an ad hominem attack, which is an attack on the character of the person.
Unfortunately, their argument doesn’t go over the way they expected as they get some pushback from the man who was formerly blind. When he challenges their assertion that Jesus must be a sinner, the Pharisees resort to name-calling (“you were born in sin. Are you trying to teach us?”). When that doesn’t work, they power-up by using their authority to expel the man from the synagogue.
Jesus issues a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees by saying that they are blind. The problem with the Pharisees is that they saw themselves as people who have 20/20 spiritual vision when in reality, they were spiritually blind. Their exchange with the now healed blind man showed the great lengths they would go to in order to defend their preconceived position that Jesus was NOT the Messiah. Jesus said that they remain guilty because they claimed they had spiritual insight when in reality they were blind.
The response of the Pharisees mirrors many modern day skeptics who, regardless of what evidence is presented to them about Jesus and no matter how much their arguments are shown to be fallacious and illogical, remain committed to their view that Jesus is not the Messiah.
Often overlooked in this story are the parents. The parents knew their son was blind and they also knew that their son had been healed. They knew that Jesus was the one who had healed him. But their position on the person of Jesus, when questioned by the Pharisees, was one of deflection and indifference. Essentially, they tell the Pharisees that they don’t know who healed their son and they tell the Pharisees to talk to their son directly.
The issue with the parents was one of fear and comfort. They didn’t want to get involved in the discussion because they were afraid of being expelled from the Synagogue.
I think the parents response mirrors the typical person in our society who may know and understand the truth about Jesus but chooses inaction in order to maintain their current lifestyle choices and preferences.
The Blind Man
The third response is that of the blind man, who is an example of an honest progression that can happen for those who are open and seeking the truth.
Notice that when Jesus encounters the blind man, he puts some mud/spittle mixture on his eyes and tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man does what he is asked without questioning. There is a willingness to obey.
Later, after he has been healed, the blind man is asked about the identity of his healer. He doesn’t really know. He’s never actually seen Jesus, but he suspects that Jesus must be a prophet (verse 17).
When the Pharisees try to get him to change his story and try to gaslight him on the reality of what he had just experienced, the man sticks to the facts and doesn’t back down. These facts lead him to the conclusion that Jesus must be from God or else he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did – he wouldn’t have been able to heal him.
Even when threatened with expulsion from the synagogue, the blind man remains steadfast in his assertion: “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see.”
Jesus hears what happened and finds the man and asks the man if he wants to believe in the Son of Man. The man responds “Yes” and the text says “he worshiped Jesus.”
The blind man went from not knowing Jesus to having an encounter where Jesus opened his eyes physically, leading the man to gain a greater understanding and awareness of who Jesus was. He must be a prophet. He must be sent from God. He is God.
The Pharisees had perfect physical vision but remained totally blind spiritually.
The blind man was totally blind physically but had enough spiritual vision to be able to see Jesus for who he really is – God.
The parents could see physically but ignored the spiritual cues that would have led them to experience Jesus in the way their son had.
The truth is that we are all blind spiritually. Jesus said that he came to give sight to the blind. He’s not just talking about healing people who are blind physically. He’s saying that we are all blind to spiritual realities. Jesus came to open our eyes spiritually so that we would be able to see and experience life as it really is.
The condition of our heart will determine the response we give. If we are hard-hearted, we will respond like the Pharisees, maintaining our blindness in an effort to preserve our power.
If we’re like the parents, we may recognize the spiritual truth that Jesus is God, but we may suppress it in order to maintain the lifestyle we’re currently living.
If we’re like the blind man, our spiritual openness will lead us to worship Jesus for who He is – God!
Which of the 3 responses to Jesus are you more inclined to have?
What steps can a person take to be more open spiritually than blind? In other words, how can we avoid being like the Pharisees while having hearts that are more like the blind man?
What are some examples in your own life where you’ve been inclined to ignore truth or compromise what you know to be true because you didn’t want to live with the implications – you didn’t want to have to change?
Why do you think people resort to gaslighting and ad hominem attacks when discussing theological and philosophical viewpoints? What do you think you can do if you encounter someone who uses these tactics?
Photo by Antonio Cruz/ABr, CC BY 3.0 BR <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons