It’s Thursday – I hope you have had a good week so far, and that you are enjoying our journey through John’s Gospel. Today our Bible passage is John 9: 24-41. It is a continuation of the story about the blind man, who was miraculously healed by Jesus.
The healing of those who are blind is an important theme throughout the Bible – both in the Old and the New Testament. In the Book of Isaiah alone there are 8 references to the blind being able to see. And there are similar verses in Exodus, Ezekiel and Psalms.
At the start of his ministry, Jesus stood up in the temple and read from Isaiah 61, declaring: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…..and recovery of sight for the blind.”
In the Gospels there are 5 occasions where Jesus miraculously restores sight, but many times we read that people brought the blind to him to be healed, so we can assume the actual number was much higher.
However, the restoration of sight is given such prominence in Scripture not just to show compassion for those who are blind; but because the physical healing of those who cannot see is used as an illustration for what it means to be spiritually blind and to have our eyes opened to the truth.
Jesus unpacks this concept of spiritual blindness in John 9 v39, where he says: “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretence of seeing will be exposed as blind.”
The New Testament writers use similar language and imagery. One of the most well known is 2 Corinthians 5 vs7, which says: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
I don’t know if you have ever done any team building exercises where you are blindfolded? Failing that, try and remember what it feels like to play ‘Pin the tail on the donkey’! It’s disorientating, it can make us anxious. You get that feeling of not knowing what is happening, not knowing how you are going to do something, and not feeling in control. It’s similar when we go to new places or try to learn a new skill. In these situations, we often say “It’s like the blind leading the blind.”
However, as Christians, God calls us to follow him to places where we have never been before, and as we surrender to Jesus, we give up our control, and say that we submit to him leading us. That’s what it means to live by faith and not by sight. We walk in the ways of Jesus, rather than relying on our own vision or perception of how we should live and act.
This year as a whole church, we are all committing to the Grow Project – we are actively saying that we want to grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus, we want God to take us to places we have never been before, to experience new things of the Spirit.
In church we sing, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the water, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander.”
The question here is, do we actually do what we are talking and singing about? Have we really moved from a place of spiritual blindness to one where we walk by faith, or are we making a great pretence of seeing, when in fact we are putting the spiritual blinkers back on, and living out our Christian faith with shades on?
The Pharisees could see the miracle with their own eyes, in the clear light of day. The distinction was obvious – the man had been blind, now he could see……..and yet still they questioned. They questioned the man twice, they even questioned his parents about whether he was blind in the first place. They asked: What did he do to you? How were your eyes opened? Where is Jesus now? What do you say about him?
Their constant questioning, their need to know all the answers, meant that their eyes were blinkered to the truth right in front of them. They just could not, or would not, see it.
Are we the same? Do we sing “Spirit lead me….” but then add, “But can I just check a few things first?” Where exactly are you calling me God? Could I just clarify the when and the how of this? And are you going to sort out the finances for this journey too? And if I say take me deeper, how deep were you thinking? And actually, I think there might be something better coming along, so could I make this decision later?”
That is making a pretence of seeing and living out our Christian life with shades on.
Or perhaps we have a tendency towards the other response of the Pharisees – walking by our knowledge, experience and position, not by faith. The Pharisees didn’t need to be followers of Jesus, because they already knew the laws of Moses, they didn’t need to learn from this man’s testimony of healing, because just moments before he had been a disabled beggar.
When we look at the Grow Project material, does the father of lies lead us to a place where we think we’ve done all this before, we know what that Alpha video is all about, we became a Christian years ago….there isn’t anything new we can learn from this, and anyway who is John Mark Comer, I’ve never heard of him before.
That is making a pretence of seeing and putting the spiritual blinkers back on.
The Devil uses pretence and lies to encourage us to keep our shades on, to remain blinkered, and not to see things fully and clearly. He wants to keep us stumbling around like the blind, in a place of spiritual darkness.
But Jesus came into the world so that all people could see the truth for themselves.
Today, whatever you are doing, whatever you have planned, ask the Holy Spirit to bring everything into the light, and to make the distinctions clear.
Let’s choose to follow in the footsteps of Jesus – the Light of the World. Let’s walk by faith, and not by sight today.
Lord Jesus, we want to go deeper in our relationship with you. Show us those areas of our lives that are blinkered to your truth, or where our eyes are shaded from seeing where you want us to follow you. Amen.
READING: John 9:24-41
A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.’
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!’
Then they asked him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’
He answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’
Then they hurled insults at him and said, ‘You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.’
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.’
To this they replied, ‘You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘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 worshipped him.
Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’
Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.