Of all the miracles God used throughout the Old Testament to show people who He was, there is not one recorded instance of a man born blind ever receiving his sight. This miracle happened in John’s Gospel and give indisputable proof that Jesus is from God – the promised Messiah.
We join the story of the healing of the man born blind right after the heated exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees. This argument about the validity of Jesus’ claim to be Messiah and condemnation of the Pharisees illegitimate authority culminated with Jesus calling himself by God’s divine title – I AM – and the Pharisees trying to kill him. It is right after this scene that Jesus gives us, and all the world, proof of His authority. We don’t know how long a period of time separates the two events. However, they had to happen close to each other, judging by the reaction of the people and Pharisees who witnessed it, and the subsequent investigation.
The 9th chapter of John tells us that, “As he [Jesus] went 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?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus ‘but this happened so that the word of God might be displayed in his life.’” It was common thought in Jesus’ day that such an infirmity was a result of sin. Jesus rejected this idea, and corrects his disciples. Jesus tells them that God allowed this man to be born blind so that God’s work could be displayed to all.
The story continues: Jesus heals the man. The man’s friends and acquaintances see the miracle and ask how it happened. He tells them that Jesus did it. Word gets back to the Pharisees who, with hardened hearts and a previous axe to grind, seek to catch Jesus in the act of sin, or “breaking of the law” (their man-made regulations) any way they can.
In the course of their investigation, the Pharisees question the blind man three times. They even talk to the man’s parents, just to make sure that this is the same man. Each time he is questioned, he gives the same account of the story, “’He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed and now I see.’” No matter what angle they try, there just isn’t a way around it for the Pharisees – Jesus healed the man born blind, something, according to their own Pharisaic teaching the Messiah would do, and something God had never done in the past. Finally, the man born blind gets fed up with the question from the Pharisees and tells them, “I have told you already and you did not listen.”
“You did not listen.” That must have really made the Pharisees angry. The text actually says that they “hurled insults at the man,” but it was probably a little more intense than that. Here the Pharisees were, being lectured about this man, this prophet – the Son of Man, Jesus – by someone “steeped in sin at birth.” Their blood must have began to boil as they shouted, “but as for this fellow [Jesus], we don’t even know where he comes from.” Their anger and annoyance must have turned to rage as the blind man explained, “You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners.” Surely the exchange between the man born blind and the Pharisees puts us in mind of Isaiah chapter 6:
“ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’”
Here the prophet describes the Pharisees, and all those who deny what God plainly tells and shows them – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
The blind man could see what the Pharisees refused to acknowledge, because Jesus opened his eyes – not merely in a physical way, but also in a spiritual way. The Pharisees claimed to be Abraham’s children, but they could not even realize what God was showing the world – that He loved them and sent his Son, the promised Messiah to restore mankind to the relationship we had with God before our fall into sin. Those who had true faith in God and His promise to deliver man could plainly see who Jesus was when He declared it by his words or actions – the promised Messiah – even if they did not fully understand what Jesus’ “Messiah-ship” meant. But as for the Pharisees, those who put their trust in earthly things, such as man-made laws and political power, Jesus sums it up best, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you [Pharisees] do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (John 8:47).
To whom do you belong? Is God your Father, or are you children of the devil? Can you see what God is showing you, like the man born blind, or are you “seeing but never perceiving and hearing but never understanding,” like the Pharisees. Is the Father that you claim reflected in your actions, or are you living under a delusion like the Pharisees? St. Paul wrote in Galatians, “You are all sons of God through Faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.”
Through Christ’s death and resurrection we have been set free from sin and death. We should not, however, use this freedom to indulge our sinful nature. When we do, we alienate ourselves from fellowship with God. Rather, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we must strive to serve one another in love. As it is written, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” When we do good to all people, both to those who believe and those who don’t, we proclaim the love Christ has for humanity, not with words, but by the way we live our very lives.