The Word: John 9:1-12, 34-41
Jesus offers sight to the spiritually blind.
During the reign of Queen Victoria, Buckingham Palace was updated and transitioned from candlelight to gaslight. The change required significant renovation. When the great moment arrived and light flooded nooks and crannies that had been dark for ages, formerly invisible problems became apparent, including a rampant rat problem. After the initial shock and discomfort introduced by the light, the problems were addressed and changes made.
o In what ways does light bring clarity?
o In what ways is spiritual blindness a form of darkness people experience?
Sighted people can never know the utter darkness of being born blind—even if they lose their sight, they will have memories. Combine the difficulty of being blind with the humiliation of being totally dependent on the generosity of others and we begin to understand the utter helplessness of the disabled in the ancient world. For most of human history, there has been no government assistance for the disabled.
In our passage this week, we meet a blind man whose darkness and humiliation were only made worse by his awareness that everyone thought he deserved to be blind. This sightless man lived from one dark day to the next, without a glimmer of hope for improvement. That is, until Jesus came along and changed everything.
A. Seeing as Jesus Saw (Read John 9:1-5)
John 9 is not simply a remarkable tale about how one poor, unfortunate, Jewish blind man, long ago and far away, finally got lucky. It is more than a story of how faith in Christ is born, grows, and is tested. It raises the question: If we really know who Jesus is, what difference should it make in the way we see “blind people”?
“One day, as Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth.” This may not seem remarkable until we notice how others saw the blind man. The people around the city saw him as only a beggar (v. 8). They saw his poverty and heard his pleas for alms, but to them he was less than a person. Their optical equipment worked perfectly, but did vision ever move them to compassion, to see the beggar as a person in need of sight? The Pharisees saw him as only a sinner: “steeped in sin at birth” (v. 34).
The disciples saw him as a problem in need of a solution. He was a victim, either of his parents’ sin or of some sin he had committed prenatally. The disciples gave Jesus a multiple-choice question with just two options. Jesus rejected both.
The NIV translation of Jesus’ response implies that God blinded the man not to punish some sin, but to show off God’s power by sending Jesus to heal him. What a monstrous view of God! Jesus’ point was that it was not because of sin—either his own or his parents’—that the man was born blind. Rather, the fact that the man was blind gave Jesus an opportunity to display the works of God in the man’s life.
Jesus repeated the second of His seven “I am” - sayings (see 8:12): “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Of course, as the eternal Word, Jesus had always been the Revealer of God (see 1:4-13). As the glorified Incarnate One, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, Jesus always would be the Revealer of God (see chaps. 14—16, esp. 15:26-27; also 17:20-26).
The focus here is not on what the glorified Jesus continues to do. It is that the healing of the blind man was more than a miracle; it was a sign—to shed light on those who live in spiritual darkness. Wherever Jesus went during the years of His earthly ministry, He spread the light and the saving love of God.
B. Seeing Jesus as He Is (Read John 9:6-12)
Because the man was born blind, Jesus did not simply restore his sight; He created sight, as in the original creation (see Gen. 2:7).
Jesus then ordered the blind man to go and wash, much as the prophet Elisha had instructed the leper Naaman to do in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:10-13). Obedience to Jesus’ command was all that was required for the sent man to return seeing.
When he was first asked, “How then were your eyes opened?” the formerly-blind man identified his benefactor as simply, “The man they call Jesus.”
The central question in the controversy concerning this healing should have been not “where is this man?”, but who is Jesus? The Jewish religious leaders refused to believe that Jesus was the Revealer of God. As they investigated the healing, they became hardened in their unbelief.
C. Eyes Closed to the Light (Read John 9:34-41)
Mercifully, Jesus seeks the man out and identifies himself as the Son of Man, inviting belief. The healed man responds in true faith, “Lord, I believe.” Jesus highlights the great reversal at hand: the formerly blind man sees both physically and spiritually, while the religious leaders stumble blindly, claiming to see.
The religious leaders felt threatened by the healed man’s persistent testimony and punished him through exclusion. Why? What did they hope his excommunication might accomplish?
Following the healed man’s traumatizing experience in the synagogue, Jesus gives him the gift of revelation.
The religious leaders continue to deny their blindness, inciting Jesus’ declaration that they are yet in their sins.
By refusing to accept Jesus as the Mediator between God and humanity, the defenders of the religious status quo condemned themselves. Chapter 10 reports that some of them claimed, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad” (v. 19). Others picked up stones and attempted to put Him to death for blasphemy—because Jesus, as “a mere man,” claimed to be God (v. 33). Others attempted to arrest Him, but He escaped—for the time being (v. 39; 11:8, 16).
John 1:3-5 (NLT)
“God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
· Who created everything? (God) And everything means? (ALL)
· Who gave Life to everything? (The Word) And everything means?
· Whose Life brought light to everyone? (Jesus) And everyone means?
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)
In what ways do you need God to touch your spiritual eyesight this week?
Close in prayer, inviting God to perform a spiritual eye exam in our lives, so that the Light of Life will shine through us.
Material for this lesson is found in:
Faith Connections Leaders Guide Spring 20
Illustrated Bible Life Spring 20
The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Volume 5)
Holy Bible (various translations)