The story is told of a captain of old coming to the slaves in the galley of his ship one morning. The captain asked his men to put down their oars and then he said, “Men, I have some good news and some bad news.”
The men said, “Give us the good news first.”
So, the captain proceeded, “The good news is that tomorrow we are going to dock at Caesarea, and you will be getting shore leave. There will be plenty of parties, and you can do anything you want.”
The men cheered, but some of them asked, “So what’s the bad news?”
“The bad news is that today the admiral of our fleet wants us to take him water skiing.”
There are many parts of the Gospel of John that are like a good news/bad news story. That is true of John 9. Listen for God’s word to you…
As he [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
But Jesus does not agree with them. Jesus affirms that God is going to use this situation for good. Paul says something similar in Romans 8:28…
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Notice, Paul doesn’t say all things are good. Rather, he tells us that God can use even the seemingly negative and painful situations in our lives to bring about good. God can even use Covid-19 to bring about his good purposes in our lives.
Returning to John 9, notice what Jesus says: he has not come to bring darkness, but rather light. Jesus wants to produce good in our lives if we will only let him.
So, when bad things happen to us, this story suggests we should not be asking, “Whose fault was it?” Rather, we should be asking, “what good might Jesus bring out of this seemingly hopeless situation?” So, the first point we should latch on to here is that God wants to reveal his goodness in our lives, even through seemingly painful situations.
Let’s move on and look at the next section that teaches us that Jesus has power to heal us…
When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
Jesus used mud and saliva as the means through which he healed this man’s eyes. It would be hard to imagine a humbler means of healing than that.
In a similar way, Jesus uses humble means to restore spiritual sight. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:21,
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
God works through the foolishness of preaching to restore spiritual sight. That’s one reason why we come to worship. The world has a way of blinding us to reality. We come to worship to regain clear vision.
Jesus’ command to the blind man was simple: “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” That was a pool close by in Jerusalem. The man obeyed Jesus and came back seeing.
The command to us who are spiritually blind is also simple: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) All we have to do is trust Jesus to heal us of our spiritual blindness and he will do it.
Notice that the blind man obeyed immediately. After all, what did he have to lose? If Jesus’ cure did not work, he would be no worse off than he was before.
And what do we have to lose if we trust Jesus to cure our spiritual blindness? After all, if we trust Jesus and he turns out to be a fraud, what have we lost? In fact, we will probably live better lives than if we had never trusted Jesus at all.
I have never read of a single person down through the history of the past two thousand years who, having committed their life to follow Jesus, led a worse life after choosing to follow him than before. Certainly, following Jesus does not mean our lives will be without pain. But I am convinced that the life of anyone who chooses to follow Jesus will be better than if they had not made that choice.
Now I know what some of you are thinking. You are thinking, “But I know some non-Christians who are better people than some Christians.” You may be right. But the question is: “What would those Christians look like if they had chosen not to follow Jesus?” And what would those non-Christians look like if they did choose to follow Jesus?
The bottom line is this: following Jesus is difficult because it requires trust. I read a story some time ago about blind people skiing. They wear bright pink vests so that people can identify them. The blind skiers stay directly behind their instructors, listening for directions on how and when to turn. Trusting and following the directions of the instructor and staying right behind him or her is essential to a blind skier making it down the mountain safely.
I think it would take a lot of trust for me to try skiing if I was physically blind. I might not trust any instructor at first. I would want to know if my instructor was trustworthy. I would ask around about the reputation of my instructor. If I heard positive stories from other blind skiers, then I might trust one of the instructors to guide me.
Now, here’s the thing. Skiing is optional. (I know that is a strange thing to say in Stowe, but it is true.) Making it through life successfully is not just an optional extra. It is what we all want to achieve. And what the Gospel of John presents to us is a Jesus who claims not simply to be an instructor of the blind, but the instructor. He is the one who can actually cure our blindness, physical and spiritual. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
A third point I see in this story is that once Jesus restores our sight, he wants us to grow in spiritual reception. The healed man experienced growth in perception. He moved from little understanding to a recognition and surrender to Jesus’ leadership. Let’s continue reading in John 9…
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus[c] to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.
Notice, in John 9:11 the healed man refers to Jesus as “the man called Jesus”. In verse 17, after the man has time to think about what Jesus has done for him, and after the Pharisees begin to question him about the healing, he confesses that Jesus “is a prophet”. In verse 33, the healed man acknowledges that Jesus is “from God”. Then in verse 38, when Jesus finds the healed man, after he is thrown out of the presence of the Pharisees, and Jesus explains to the man who he is, the healed man says, “Lord, I believe,” and he worships Jesus.
Becoming and living as a Christian means giving as much as we know of ourselves to as much as we know of Jesus. I remember when I first applied to be a candidate for ministry I had to stand up in front of my Presbytery, a gathering of perhaps fifty to a hundred ministers and elders from several Presbyterian churches, and I had to give a statement of my faith and call to ministry. I don’t remember all I said, but I do remember saying, “I am still becoming a Christian.” And that statement is still true. Becoming a Christ-in person, a Christ-follower, is a process. The key question is: are we growing in our spiritual perception?
A fourth thing I see in this story is that there are consequences to becoming spiritually sighted. When questioned by the Pharisees, the healed man says, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Then the Pharisees answer him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
The healed man was excommunicated from the synagogue because he began to believe in Jesus. The Pharisees did not like his newfound faith; they threw him out because he wouldn’t see things their way.
It is sad, but sometimes new Christians receive least encouragement from those who are outwardly religious but don’t have a positive relationship with Jesus Christ. Those who are still living in spiritual darkness don’t welcome those who are newly sighted. But new followers of Jesus will receive encouragement from those who also have received their sight and are walking in the light.
Now get this: it does not matter who throws you out as long as Jesus takes you in. We read that when Jesus heard that the Pharisees had thrown out the healed man, Jesus went and found him, spoke to him and revealed to him who he really was and is.
This leads to a final point I see in this story. That is that Jesus’ coming produces division. Listen to the rest of John 9…
Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
What did Jesus mean by his statement about judgment? I think he meant that some people see his light and are drawn to it whereas others see his light and scurry away from it. The blind man was healed by the light of Christ and so was drawn closer to that light. The Pharisees “saw” the same light but were repelled by it.
The spiritual light of Jesus is like the physical light of the sun. The sun warms things and makes plants grow. Coupled with the effect of warm spring rains, the sun will make seeds germinate and will bring plants to flower and trees to foliage. At the same time, if you kick over a board in a field and expose everything underneath it to the sunlight, all the bugs and squirmy things underneath begin to slither away into dark areas.
Jesus says he is the light of the world. He causes faith to sprout; he brings life and causes growth. He healed a blind man and that blind man welcomed the light of Jesus. But Jesus turned over a board, so to speak, and the Pharisees slithered away into the darkness. The blind man chose to respond positively to Jesus’ light. The Pharisees chose to respond negatively.
That same choice, of how we are going to respond to the light, is ours today.
Let me ask you this: which is more important, physical healing or spiritual healing? I would say that spiritual healing is more important, because when we are talking about spiritual healing we are talking about eternity. Physical healing, while it is something we all want, is something simply for this life.
While I don’t want to get infected with the Coronavirus, and I hope no one else gets infected, I do not believe that is of ultimate importance. I believe what is of ultimate importance is how we respond to the light and healing power of Jesus Christ, because I believe that response will determine where we spend eternity. I believe Jesus wants to give spiritual healing to all. He wants to give us all eternal life. But he will not force that healing, that life, upon us. We are free to accept it or reject it.
The Lord says in Deuteronomy 30:19, “… I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life…”
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2…
… we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!
And Hebrews 3:15 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart…”