Theme: Spiritual Blindness
In this week’s lessons, we look at the story of the man born blind, and learn that Jesus not only heals physical blindness, but spiritual blindness as well.
Scripture: John 9:1-41
The second thing light does is causes seeds to grow. This is what’s happening to the blind man, spiritually speaking. The light of the knowledge of Jesus shines upon this man who had been born blind, and what you find in his story is rapid growth. And let me point out also, briefly, that this is the new section of the Gospel. In the first section, chapters 1-4, Jesus is revealing himself to others as the light. Then in the second section, chapters 5-8, you have hostility growing up against him. You see the light is shining and now the creatures of the darkness don’t like it. They’re fighting him, initially over the Sabbath question. But what they really don’t like is that his goodness is exposing their evil, and so you have that building up. The great climax of that is in this horrible story of their trapping the woman, in the eighth chapter, and then a discussion at the end of the chapter where Jesus points out that they’re really children of the devil.
Now what happens in the third section of the Gospel? Jesus, the light who came into the world to his own, was not received by his own. He was rejected by them, and so what he begins to do in the ninth chapter now is to draw out a people for himself. Out of the mass of humanity, Jews and Gentiles, all kinds of people, he begins to draw those who are going to be the nucleus of his church. He’s going to talk about that in the tenth chapter, with his teaching about himself as the shepherd and the sheep, whom he gathers from different sheep pens and brings them into one flock. The first example of that is this man who was born blind.
Now what can we say about this man? How is he introduced to us? Well, he’s a blind beggar, and that of course has great significance. Think of the other characters that we’ve looked at already. We’ve looked at Nicodemus, and we saw that he was introduced as the model man, at least as we tend to think of human beings; he was everything you could want in that day. He was educated and religious. He had status. Probably, he was wealthy. Yet as far as we can tell from the story, he did not respond, even though he heard the best sermon in the entire world that’s ever been given on the doctrine of the new birth.
Then you have the woman of Samaria, the one who was the opposite of Nicodemus in every respect, and yet she responds. In the eighth chapter we come to this woman who was caught in adultery and so far as we can tell, she responded. We’re not told a great deal about it, of course; it’s a brief story, but Jesus tells her to go and sin no more, and undoubtedly she heard that and she left him a transformed woman. And now in the ninth chapter we find this blind beggar.
That ought to tell us something about how Jesus Christ goes about to constitute his church. Paul spells it out in theological language in 1 Corinthians. Paul reminded them that God doesn’t choose the mighty or the wealthy or the powerful or the educated, but he chooses the things that are nothing so that no glory will come to man. All glory will go to God, and obviously that’s what John is teaching us as well. The first person in the whole Gospel who’s converted, as far as we can tell, is the woman of Samaria, not even a full-blooded Jew, but a person whom the Jews would have despised. And not only that, the Samaritans didn’t think very highly of her either, because she was an immoral woman. Then he works with this woman who was taken in adultery, whom the Jews were ready to kill.
Now in John 9, he’s reaching out to save this blind beggar, a poor, wretched man, sitting there by the side of the temple gate, trying to get any money that anybody might just possibly give him so he can eke out a little living. And yet, you know, you have to see it even deeper than that. That’s significant of course; it says that Jesus reaches out to all types, whether the influential and respected or those who are looked down upon and avoided. When John is talking about this man who is blind and a beggar, he is making spiritual comments. He’s saying, “That’s what any of us has to be if we’re going to be saved. We have to recognize our spiritual impoverishment. If you’re talking in terms of spiritual currency, none of us has anything with which we can buy our salvation. Do you understand how that goes? In spiritual terms, we are the beggars, and if we’re going to be saved, it’s not going to be because we can buy our salvation any more than this blind beggar could buy his sight. It’s going to be by the grace of God.”
The same is true of sight. At the very end, Jesus is talking about those who see but are actually blind, and those who are blind that are made to see. So when this blind beggar is introduced, not only is he unable to purchase his salvation; he’s not even able to see Jesus. Now, does that remind you of anything? Well, you go back to the third chapter, where he was talking to Nicodemus. Nicodemus came and thought he saw a great deal. He began by discussing all the things that he had seen and heard about Jesus, which proved that God was authenticating him as a teacher come from God. He wanted to discuss these things, and Jesus said “You have to be born again, because unless you’re born again you can’t even see the kingdom of God.” What was Nicodemus’ problem? He was spiritually blind.
What is the second effect of light, as seen in this story of Jesus and the man born blind?
Chapter 9 begins the third section of John’s Gospel. What happens in this section?
Reflection: What are the characteristics of spiritual blindness?
Application: How will you try to minister to those who are spiritually blind?