Point of Reference
by Fred Price
John 9 depicts Jesus healing a man born blind. Immediately preceding this story is an incident in which Jesus drove his Pharisaic antagonists to near hysterics by claiming to be God, saying “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was I am!” John 8:58 (See Exodus 3:14 to see why this resonated so deeply for most Jews.) The incident recorded in John 9 indicative of a running battle between Jesus and his opponents over this issue.
The blind beggar depicted there didn’t specifically cry out for Jesus’ help – as others did – but was merely sitting by the side of the road; hoping that someone – anyone – would help him. ( Luke 19:10) The miracle that ensued removing all doubt as to whether this was merely a psychological or contrived event; many eyewitnesses, including the man’s family, testified to the fact of his being born blind.
Jesus’ unusual method of healing this man actually involved him in the process, causing spirited debate as to who this now seeing man really was and how his eyes had been “opened.” All finally agreeing that this was indeed the blind beggar they knew so well but still wondering, “How then were your eyes opened?” John 9:10
Having been told how, they then wanted to know by whom; but Jesus had apparently moved on and the man, not having seen him, couldn’t point him out. So he was taken to the “authorities” to be examined. (See Matthew 8:1-4 & Leviticus 14:2-32) Their conclusion being that, even if a miracle had occurred, it had taken place on a Sabbath; making it an illegal act and Jesus a law breaker.
Blinded by their rigid understanding of the Law, even the authenticating power of God displayed in Jesus’ actions had to be discredited. His breaking of the Law – by “working” on the Sabbath – even if it was a merciful act carried out for a desperately needy person, made Jesus a sinner and thus not of God. (A classic example of circular reasoning, used to arrive at a predetermined conclusion. Jesus refuting their argument against him by pointing out its inconsistency in Matthew 12:1-13; Luke 13:10-17 & 14:1-6) Some weren’t so sure, asking “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” John 9:16
Turning from their convoluted debate to the now healed blind man, they ask his opinion; to which he replied, “He is a prophet.” John 9:17 (Not a claim of Messiahship – but close.) Not satisfied with this answer, the Pharisees called for the former blind man’s parents to testify, who verified – again – what had been said before. ‘He’s our son, born blind, who now can see. We don’t know how, but he’s a big boy, ask him!’ (Said in part due to their fear of ex-communication. John 9:22) So once more they confront the formerly blind beggar and again accuse Jesus of being a sinner. The man’s simple yet succinct reply being, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know, one thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25
What followed was more of the same. Finally, exasperated by their refusal to listen and believe, he slyly asked, “Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?” John 9:25 Responding with vindictive insults, they claimed to be Moses’ disciples while questioning Jesus’ pedigree and credentials. (Jesus’ response to that recurring argument found in John 5:45-47)
The incessant questioning of the man finally drove him to rather sarcastically reply, “Now that is remarkable! …We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man 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.” John 9:30-33Clearly, the more they questioned, the firmer his testimony became. Having been out-witted by what they perceived to be a low-life fool, the Pharisees’ only recourse was to stand obstinately in their disbelief by denouncing his faith, his background and his purpose. Petulantly throwing him out of their presence – and possibly banning him from the temple.
Hearing of his ordeal, Jesus sought the man out a second time and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The healed man responding with, “Who is he, sir?... Tell me so that I may believe in him.” (His failure to recognize Jesus being a result of his sight being restored only after following Jesus instructions to go and bathe his eyes in the pool of Siloam. John 9:6,7) Jesus then informed him, “You have seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Compelling the man to worshipfully exclaim, “Lord, I believe.” John 9:35-38
Jesus’ disciples had brought the man and his plight to Jesus’ attention by posing a philosophical question about his condition. Jesus capping off this encounter with a related philosophical declaration. “For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” John 9:39 Reaffirming his assertion that, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31
The Pharisees, recognizing that Jesus was referring to them, responded indignantly to his challenge by asking, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus cryptically replying, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” John 9:39-41 (Jesus reiterating this pronouncement with, “If I had not come and spoken to them… If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin.” But they had heard and seen, so “No …they have no excuse…” John 15:22-24
It’s a tragedy to be sightless, but even more tragic to be willfully, spiritually blind. The Pharisees were versed far more in theology than this blind beggar, but unlike him they were unwilling to have their spiritual blinders removed and thus recognize Jesus for who he was. Their Messiah.
The gaining of spiritual insight has its beginnings in a surrendered, worshipful heart, the salvation that follows, “…is a supernatural, divine transformation…, and it must make a difference in the life of the one whose eyes have been opened. The believing person will see Christ for who he is – Sovereign Lord of all – and that revelation, to one who could not formerly see, will inevitably provoke worship, adoration, and a heart that desires to do the will of God.” 1
1John MacArthur, in The Gospel According to Jesus , Zondervan Publishing
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Fred Price - married (47 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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