The Text: John 9:1-41
Today we are going to focus on our Gospel reading from John chapter 9:1-41 in which we heard how Jesus healed the man born blind and how the Pharisees investigated the healing. It concluded with Jesus speaking about our spiritual blindness.
This story about Jesus healing the man born blind is a dramatic gospel presentation, filled with heated exchanges and clever dialogue.
There is the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, and Jesus and the blind man.
There is also the dialogue between the blind man and his parents, his neighbours and even a divided group of Pharisees who wanted to condemn Jesus.
What makes this healing miracle stand out from the many other healing miracles that Jesus performed is the fact that this blind man did not approach Jesus asking for healing. Rather, Jesus approached him.
This blind man had been blind from birth. Jesus took pity on this man and on the society that had to support him.
So Jesus gave to this man something that he had never experienced before – he gave this blind man the ability to see!
Before we can understand what sight is, we must try to understand what it is to be blind. Close your eyes for a moment. Now imagine how different life would be if God had created people without eyes to see. Imagine if everyone was guided only by the ability to touch, taste, smell and hear.
Without our eyes we have no way of comparing colour or light. Without eyes there would be no such term as blind; for there would be nothing to compare blindness with.
But the blind man in our Gospel reading certainly knew that he was blind. From the time that he could understand speech his parents and friends probably told him that he was blind. The blind man had no way of understanding sight – yet he longed to be able to see. If he could see he would be able to stop begging and start working. The ability to see would change his life.
So when Jesus came to the blind man, Jesus changed the life of the blind man forever by giving him the ability to see.
When he was blind, he did not understand what it meant to be blind for he had never experienced the ability to see. Once he was blind, but now he could see.
The reading gave us a detailed description of the healing: Jesus came to the blind man. He took a handful of clay, spat on it and worked it in his hand. He then put it on the blind man’s eyes and told him to go and wash in The Pool of Siloam (Si-lo-am). He did this and amazingly he came back seeing.
With his new ability to see, he now understood what it meant to be previously blind. Now he is able to see for the first time! It’s hard to imagine what that first moment of sight would have been like!
He rushed to tell people of his new found sight. He told people whom he thought were able to see clearly too!
He thought they would be so happy for him – that he could see like them! Instead, they wanted to have little to do with him.
There seemed to be something different about the sight that Jesus had given to this man compared to the sight of his family and friends.
The sight that Jesus gave was more than seeing in the ‘physical’ sense. Jesus also gave him the ability to see in the ‘spiritual’ sense. He gave to this blind man the ability to see spiritually – Now what might seeing spiritually mean?
Jesus gave the healed man the ability to identify that the person who healed him was Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God; the one God promised to send to be the saviour of the world.
To see spiritually is to see what God already sees. It is to see what God is doing!
Today, let’s call this spiritual seeing – spiritual vision.
The Pharisees had a real problem with this miracle because it had taken place on the Sabbath – a day when no Jew could do anything that could be interpreted as work.
So the Pharisees interrogated this man several times about who it was that healed him. And each time the healed man was interrogated, his spiritual vision became more focussed.
His explanation of who Jesus is became clearer. The healed man’s spiritual vision became so focussed that he even boldly claimed to be a disciple of the one who healed him. To this the Pharisees replied: ‘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.’
To this the healed man answered: ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’
But the Pharisees eyes were still blinded. And they could not recognise that the one who healed the man was the Son of God. It was as if the Pharisees had been blinded by their religion to the point where they could no longer recognise God at work in this person’s life. They did not have spiritual vision.
Just like the blind man in our story and these Pharisees we are all born with spiritual blindness. This is because sin is part of the world. Because of sin we are born into this world without the ability to see spiritually. On our own we cannot see God or recognise his works amongst us.
Because of sin none of us are born with spiritual vision.
God alone can give us such vision.
Through baptism God begins to grow our spiritual vision. He makes it possible that we can see in ways that we could have never dreamed of. In our baptism God has washed away our sin so that we may grow to see spiritually.
In Baptism God washes away our sin and sends us the Holy Spirit who gives us the faith to see that God is with us – to see in the spirit that Jesus is our saviour – to see that we will live with him forever in perfect relationship.
Spiritual vision allows us to be able to recognise our sin. Spiritual vision also allows us to see how the crucified Jesus comes to us and gives us the forgiveness and the new life that he has won for us. With Spiritual vision we can see that Jesus heals our hurts and makes us whole. With spiritual vision we can see God at work in our lives guiding us with his Holy Spirit until we arrive at our heavenly home.
Spiritual vision is very different to our physical vision. Often our physical vision deteriorates with age. But our spiritual vision if cared for and nurtured can develop with age.
This happens as we continue to receive God’s gifts to us. When I think of caring for our physical vision: I remember the old saying: “Eat your carrots – that way you will be able to see in the dark!” Yes our food helps us grow physically strong and strengthen our physical vision.
But eating carrots and other healthy foods will not grow our spiritual vision! There are other gifts God gives to grow our spiritual vision.
God gives us his written and spoken word and the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive in his Holy Meal. Through these means the Holy Spirit is at work growing our spiritual vision.
Spiritual vision allows us to see the world in a new light. It allows us to see the world as God sees it. We can see and identify God with us and working through us to others and others to us.
Spiritual vision helps us to celebrate what God is doing amongst us. With a healthy spiritual vision we can see Jesus at work shaping our lives and the lives of those around us. A healthy spiritual vision will enable us to see every person as special to God. It will help us to value and respect, to love and to serve each other at the point of their greatest need, just as Jesus has come to serve us according to our need.
Ultimately a healthy spiritual vision leads us to worship Jesus as our Saviour. Those who have a healthy spiritual vision are the ones who give glory to God by loving and serving those around them.
As our spiritual vision matures and becomes more focussed we are able to boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ crucified until he comes again. We will live in the light and show our love for God by loving one another and turning away from sin.
God is growing our spiritual vision. The spiritual vision that he is growing in us will help us see ourselves the way God sees us—forgiven, redeemed and healed by the blood of Jesus. Our spiritual vision will help us see who Jesus is and what he has done for us. With spiritual vision we will see his light, we will see our sin in a new light. We will daily drown the old sinful nature and trust in Jesus alone. May this be true for us all. Amen.