Seeing Jesus

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his
birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Teacher, who did sin,
this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered,
Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works
of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:1-3)

As Jesus and His disciples were leaving the temple, they came across a blind man- one who had been born blind. He hadn't merely lost his sight, he never had any sight to begin with. The prevailing belief among the Jews was that all suffering is the result of sin, either our own, or someone else's. Remember when Job suffered such tragedies, his friends all insisted there must be some hidden sin in his life for such things to happen to him. Jesus's disciples understanding was still limited at this time, they wanted to know who had sinned that this man was born blind.

Is our suffering caused by sin, either our own or that of someone else? Of course, all suffering is caused by sin in the respect that that was no suffering prior to the fall. Sometimes, our suffering can be caused by the consequences of sin, either our own or someone else's. A couple weeks ago we studied the man who had been crippled for 38 years, and after Jesus healed him, He searched him out to tell him, “Go and sin no more, lest something worse happens to you.” (John 5:14) We always want to be careful not to add something to Scripture that isn't directly there, but by saying this, Jesus seems to imply that physical suffering can in fact be the consequences of our sin.

This verse, however, is speaking particularly to a physical suffering, something beyond this man's control. In this case, Jesus made it clear that this man's suffering was not due to sin at all; rather, it was for God's works to be displayed. They were going to see a miracle, and this man and the Jews were going to have a chance to see Jesus for who He truly was. As we said, the Jews believed that sin was the cause of all sickness and disability. Even the disciples believed that some sin somewhere was the cause of the man's blindness. That was the only theology they ever knew. What He said to them would open their spiritual eyes as much as He opened the blind man's physical eyes!

Jewish leaders saw illness and physical suffering as a chance to blame and condemn – they showed no compassion, and no interest in helping someone who was suffering. They would've walked right past this blind man, because they would've seen him as unclean and sinful. Jesus, however, not only did not shun the man, but actually sought him out of the crowd. When Jesus healed this poor man, the religious leaders didn't see the great miracle, they didn't care about finding out who this man Jesus was, to be able to perform such a miracle. Their only focus was “You broke our rules.” They showed no mercy, no compassion, just legalism.

Jesus was not being disrespectful of their laws regarding the Sabbath, nor was He acting like He was above the law. God had said “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy”. Pretty simple, right? But these Jewish leaders had added a 39 rules, things that were forbidden to do on the Sabbath day. His only point was that they had added so many restrictions to the law that now, doing a compassionate deed and healing someone was considered to be breaking the law.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day:
the night comes, when no man can work. As long as I am
in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:4-5)
What did Jesus mean when He said “Night is coming when no one can work”? Jesus was referring to His death. He knew His time was very short, and night was coming. Daytime was the time to work, while it was light and you could see clearly. Jesus told them while He was here, He is the light by which they could see clearly. There is a reason He opened this man's eyes: He healed this man's physical eyes, to illustrate His point of how He opens our spiritual eyes. And in the end, Jesus opened this man's spiritual eyes as well as his physical eyes, so the man could clearly see who Jesus was! Jesus often worked like that: He used an earthly, physical thing that they could easily understand, to demonstrate a deeper, spiritual truth.

These Jewish religious leaders refused to see who Jesus really was, even after He revealed Himself. They refused to see God's work right in front of them. A lot of people today are exactly the same: deceived by so many lies that they cannot or will not see Jesus for who He really is. Like these Pharisees, they cannot see God's work, because of their own pride and spiritual deception. When you start out believing a deception, you'll never arrive at the right conclusion.

What are some of the obstacles that can keep us from recognizing God's work today, and seeing clearly who Jesus is?

  1. Doctrinal errors: Theirs was that all suffering is caused by sin; today, some of the most common doctrinal deceptions include the “wealth and prosperity” gospel. It doesn't follow Scripture that God wants us all to be wealthy and prosperous; if He did, surely He would have made His only Son, Jesus, wealthy and prosperous, wouldn't He? Yet Jesus had no home of His own, and nothing of worldly wealth in His life. The “name it and claim it” doctirne is another; it's followers see God as some sort of genie in the sky who is going to give us whatever we ask for, as long as we ask in Jesus' name! Another is the idea that God is love and so He won't punish sin: they are correct that God is love, but they miss the whole picture! God hates sin, and will not simply turn a blind eye to it! Then there are some who take the opposite view, that God is some angry, vengeful being just waiting for us to make a mistake so He can zap us! All of these doctrinal errors are false, and they keep people from seeing Jesus for who He really is: a loving Savior who bore all our sins and punishment on the cross, and gives us new life.

  2. Moral deception: The Jewish religious leaders were a very exclusive group – one had to fit their standards or be excommunicated, put out of the synagogue. Our big moral deception today is churches who think that they must be inclusive, so they violate God's word by things like allowing gays to be ordained as pastors, and allowing every kind of sin to be not only tolerated but accepted. They believe God's word is more or less obsolete, that it has no relevance in today's world. We know that God's word is true and unchanging, and is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was written by inspiration from God!

  3. Legalism: The idea that as long as I keep all the rules and do good things I'm okay. We know this isn't true – if it was, there would have been no need for Jesus to die. No matter how well we keep the “rules”, no matter how much good we do, we all need Jesus! That's what the Pharisees could not or would not understand! They took great pride in keeping the rules, in fact, they added extra rules! Pride is always at the root of legalism; it makes us think we can do for ourselves what only Jesus can do for us. And not only does pride keep us from seeing Jesus a He really is, it keeps us from seeing ourselves as we really are, sinners saved by God's grace!

  4. Mystical deceptions: A belief that you have to have some special “spiritual knowledge” that is above and beyond what others have. There is a whole part of Judaism devoted to the mystical Kabbalah; it is said to precede even the Torah, and Jewish men are supposed to be at least 40 years old to study it. Today we see New Age teachings, belief in crystals, spirit guides, pyramids, being guided by the stars and planets, aligning your chakras,... the list goes on and on. (Does anyone even know what chakras are, exactly? Can they be seen on an x-ray?)

  5. Ritualism: This is substituting rituals for having a personal, meaningful relationship with Jesus. The belief that by doing certain things certain ways a certain number of times or praying certain prayers a certain number of times, has spiritual benefit. Lighting candles, for instance, has no magical ability to make our prayers more acceptable to God, or guiding loved ones to heaven.

These are just some of the things that keep people today from seeing Jesus for who He really is, and seeing God working in people's lives today. Once we see clearly who Jesus is, we can begin seeing God at work around us, and join Him in that work. God gave us a promise: And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13) And Jesus invited us to seek Him, and promised we would find Him: And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Luke 11:9)

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made
clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man
with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of
Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way
therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (John 9:6-7)
In contrast to the Pharisees, Jesus showed His love and compassion by revealing who He was, and healing the man's blindness. Why did Jesus form mud to heal the man's eyes? Jesus used His own spittle in a way that mimicked creation: He formed mud from the dust of the ground, aligning Himself with God's work in creating man. He could have just spoken the words and healed the man, without any action, as He had often done before.

Jesus then told the man to go wash the mud off in the pool of Siloam. This miracle required the man's cooperation; he had to do something, even when he did not understand the reason for it. God has always a reason for all that he directs us to do, and our willingness to be obedient shows the state of our faith. But the emphasis here should be on the One who was Sent, not the location the man was sent. The healing came from Jesus, not the waters of Siloam.

Remember that just before healing this man, Jesus said: “I am the light of the world” ; He is the spiritual light of the world, and this miracle of restoring this man's physical eyesight, was a powerful symbol of the light that He brings into our lives when we believe in Him.
The neighbors therefore, and they who before had seen him that
he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said,
This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. There-
fore said they unto him, How were your eyes opened? He answered
and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my
eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I
went and washed, and I received sight. Then said they unto him,
Where is he? He said, I know not. They brought to the Pharisees
him that formerly was blind. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus
made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees
asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He
put clay upon my eyes, and I washed, and do see. (John 9:8-15)

Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not
of God, because he keeps not the sabbath day. Others
said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?
And there was a division among them. They said unto
the blind man again, What say you of him, that he has
opened your eyes? He said, He is a prophet. (John 9:16-17)
At this point, this man had a very faith. At first, he just tells people it was a man named Jesus who healed him. His neighbors asked him who was this man, and he told them “I don't know” Then when the Pharisees kept questioning him, the man said “He is a prophet” . His faith is growing. It's not full blown faith yet, but it's growing. His physical eyes were opened, and his spiritual eyes were beginning to open as well.
But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been
blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him
that had received his sight. And they asked them, saying, Is this
your son, who you say was born blind? how then does he now see?

His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our
son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now
sees, we know not; or who has opened his eyes, we know not:
he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words
spoke his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews
had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was
Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said
his parents, He is of age; ask him.(John 9:18-23)
The Pharisees now decided maybe the man had not been born blind after all, so they called in the man's parents for questioning. Their fear of being kicked out of the synagogue is so great (vs. 22) they throw their own son under the bus - they tell the Pharisees yes, he was indeed born blind, but they don't know who healed him, or how. They said he was of age, so ask him. Their fear of the Pharisees is far greater than the Miracle that their son who has been blind from birth is now able to see! Rather than acknowledging the miracle that Jesus had done, they threw their own son under the bus, telling the Pharisees go ask him!
Then again called they the man that was blind, and said
unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is
a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner
or not, I know not: one thing I know, that, though I was
blind, now I see. Then said they to him again, What did he
to you? how opened he your eyes? He answered them, I
have told you already, and you did not hear: why would you
hear it again? will you also be his disciples? (John 9:24-27)
The Pharisees bring the man back in and keep badgering him, accusing Jesus of being a sinner, because He did this on the Sabbath. The man now says that Jesus must be from God, or He wouldn't have been able to do anything, because never in the history of the world has someone given a man blind from birth back his sight. This drove home the critical point: Jesus came from God. Jesus had already told the Jews that He did nothing on His own initiative, but was always doing the Father's work.
Then they reviled him, and said, You are his disciple; but we
are Moses' disciples. We know that God spoke unto Moses:
as for this fellow, we know not from where he is. The man
answered and said unto them, Why, in this is a marvelous
thing, that you know not from where he is, and yet he has
opened my eyes. Now we know that God hears not sinners:
but if any man be a worshiper of God, and does his will, him
he hears. Since the world began was it not heard that any
man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this
man were not of God, he could do nothing. They answered
and said unto him, You were altogether born in sins, and
do you teach us? And they cast him out. (John 9:28-34)
These Pharisees were supposed to be the experts, but were as blinded spiritually as this man had been physically! The man then challenged the Pharisees, who were supposed to be experts, asking them why didn't they know the source of Jesus's power, and didn't they know that God would not use a sinner to perform a miracle? The once-blind man's faith in Jesus is growing as he tries to explain what has happened to him: Never in the history of the world has something like this happened, so this man Jesus must be from God!

Of course, we all know how that turned out! They expelled the man from the synagogue- which meant being separated from the community and discredited. This would affect every area of the man's life: family relationships, social relationships, and even business opportunities. Nobody wanted to be associated with one who had been expelled from the synagogue!
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had
found him, he said unto him, Do you believe on the Son of
God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might
believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, You have both
seen him, and it is he that talks with you. And he said,
Lord, I believe. And he worshiped him. (John 9:35-38)
After this man was thrown out of the synagogue, Jesus again demonstrated His compassion by seeking the man out. Others would shun him, but Jesus went looking for him, deliberately. Jesus asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” This was a phrase Jesus often used to identify Himself. The man asked “Who is he, Sir. That I may believe in him?” The man showed respect for the Healer by calling Him “Sir”, and demonstrated his willingness to believe. Jesus answered him by saying “You have seen Him- in fact, He's speaking to you”. The man responded simply, from the heart, “I BELIEVE, LORD!”

You might wonder why Jesus identified Himself to this man, who was nobody important, instead of to the Pharisees, who were very powerful and influential in the community and so of much more importance. He revealed Himself to the blind man because of his belief. The phrase is “Seeing is believing”, but the Pharisees refused to believe even after seeing so many miracles.

We see the way Jesus led the man to increasingly see who He was. First, the man just knew Him as a man named Jesus. Then he said the man must be a prophet. Then he realized the man was from God. Finally, here Jesus fully identifies Himself as the “Son of Man”, and the man believes, fully and completely. This man's final progression of faith is complete, and resulted in both a declaration and in worship. His attention moved away from the miracle itself to the One who had performed the miracle. A declaration verbalizes our faith, it expresses what we believe. As we look at Jesus himself and see Him for who He truly is and what He has done for us, our faith becomes worship. Worship is the natural response to seeing Jesus as He is.

This man had a mighty personal testimony, which he was not afraid to share with the Jewish religious leaders. So many people are afraid to share their testimony, but a testimony is just a statement of what we were, how Jesus changed us, and what our life has been like since then. Our testimony is powerful: in Revelation 12;11, when the “accuser of the brethren” is continually accusing them before God, day and night, it says “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony”. No one can dispute something that happened to you personally. These Pharisees could not dispute that this man had been born blind, and now could see. Their only complaint was that this incredible miracle had been done on a prohibited day.

And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that
they who see not might see; and that they who see might be
made blind. And some of the Pharisees who were with him
heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?

Jesus said unto them, If you were blind, you should have no sin: but
now you say, We see; therefore your sin remains. (John 9:39-41)
Jesus then summed up this whole incident in this way: He came into this world for judgment, so that those who were blind might see, and those who thought they see would be made blind. Jesus' life always attracted the needy - those who knew they needed help, and repelled the self-satisfied - those who thought they were just fine just the way they were, thank you. That would include these Pharisees, whose faith was in their own self-righteousness.

The word judgment, here, is not to be understood in the sense of condemnation. Jesus says in other places that He did not come to condemn the world. (see John 3:17; 12:47; 5:45). Here, judgement means to express a truth in a judicial manner, carefully and thoughtfully. He is not declaring this was His primary purpose, but rather that this was the result of being in contact with Him. This is always the effect of truth. Where it does not soften it hardens the heart; where it does not convert, it sinks into deeper blindness and condemnation. Therefore, they were, in their self-righteousness, were guilty of sin for their willing blindness and heard-heartedness.

So what does this lesson of the blind man have to do with us today? Although we are no physically blind, we were once spiritually blind, just as this man was. Jesus met a physical need and then used it to reveal a spiritual need. We can follow His example. No matter what our physical needs may be, our greatest need is always our spiritual need to see Jesus and believe in Him. Ask God to give us humble hearts, to see how much we need Jesus. Ask Him to open our spiritual eyes and hearts to see Jesus. Then ask Him to reveal to us the needs of people around us. That way we can see where God is working, and can be about our Father's work, while it is still light!

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