I was Blind, But Now I See

This sermon can be watched or listened to at www.templebaptistchurch.ca!

I have to confess something. It is rather embarrassing, especially as a pastor who goes and visits people in the hospital at their most desperate times. I get very squirmish when it comes to anything to do with people’s eyes. I think I would prefer being branded with hot coals than get eye drops. If somebody has an eye problem, I have a hard time looking at them. My eyes start to water and I just want to run away. So I consider it a great privilege to visit you in the hospital. If you are having open heart surgery or a sucking chest wound and need me to be there to pray for you, I’m your guy. But if you have your cataracts replaced, one of our other Elders would be happy to visit you. Here is the thing: Problems with your eyes affect what everybody else sees and experiences!

Let me give you an example, but in order to do so I need a volunteer today. Come on up here! Please put this blindfold on. How many fingers am I holding up? Can you see? No! Okay, so I have under this cloth something for you. These are the keys to my van. Now, all you need to do is find some people who are willing to drive with you as you remain blindfolded and you can take my van for a spin in the parking lot. Anybody willing to go with this blind man for a drive? No takers! Okay, how about if I asked if anybody was hungry? Okay, I have an apple here. You just have come up and our blind leader will cut it up for you. You just have to hold it. Wow! I guess none of you are really hungry. The point is summarized in a phrase that you might be familiar with and is a major problem in our world: “The blind are leading the _________.” (To the volunteer: You can now go sit down! Let’s give this person a clap for being my volunteer.)

The blind leading the blind! We see this truth (pardon the pun) in a story found in the Bible, particularly in the Gospel of John 9. It is the story of a blind man Jesus encounters. Jesus really cares for blind people as we will find out. Let’s read this story in John 9! Read John 9!

Have you ever had to take an eye test? You know where they make you read all these letters starting with the largest fonts at the top and then the letters get smaller and smaller with each line as you go down the page. What you are hoping for is 20/20 vision. Well, today I want you to take a spiritual eye test. This will help you know what your vision is in light of what is of utmost importance. It is really important because problems with your eyes affect what everybody else sees and experiences. This is especially true with what you see spiritually. As Paul Tripp has said, “Spiritual blindness is worse than physical blindness because you are unaware of your blindness.”[1] Think about that! If you are blind spiritually and leading people (it could be your team at work or at play; it could be your friends; it could be your spouse or God forbid your children), then you are leading them only into greater darkness. That is why this spiritual eye test is so important.

So what are you focused on? To be considered as having 20/20 vision on Snellen’s eye chart, you have to be able to accurately read 9 lines of letters. The test for your spiritual vision is not as long. In fact, there are only four questions I want you to answer. Are you focused on other’s sins? Are you focused on always needing explanations? Are you focused on the rules? And are you focused on other’s opinions?

The first question was what the disciples asked in verse 2, “And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’” Jesus’ disciples were religious people. One thing religious people are usually pretty good at is seeing other’s sins. We religious people are experts at sniffing out other people’s sins. We care about right and wrong. But to be fair, so does everybody else. You may not even be a person of faith and are listening today, and yet you are quick to see when a wrong has been committed. Do you know what we call such people who see other’s sins and wrongs? A judge! However, the disciples went beyond judging, they were prejudging. They were prejudice. They thought, like “some Jews in that day did, that congenitally blind people sinned in the womb.”[2] The Jews read and formed a theology from Psalm 58:3 that says, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.” Now, some of you might think that is crazy. How could a little baby sin while it is still in utero? Here is the truth. Even the esteemed King David confessed in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me.” We are born with what theologians call original sin. It explains why a little baby, as cute as they are, is selfish and wants to be “a little self-appointed sovereign” as Paul Tripp calls them. And then we grow-up as self-appointed sovereigns and we love to see blame for a problem. Actually, this is one of my biggest problems in my family. I love to assign blame and responsibility for a problem so we can evaluate it and never do it again. Anybody else do that? I guess it is just me!

But do you ever think when you see somebody homeless or sick and wonder what he or she did to deserve that? That’s called prejudice! And that is what the disciples did with the man born blind! Of course, we should call sin “sin” when we see it! That is not what I’m talking about. I am talking about getting people out of trouble rather than into trouble. You might even save their life if they are caught in sin. (c.f. James 5:19-20) However, too often we are looking at other’s sins and not our own! We have 2 X 4 vision. That is why Jesus commanded in Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” As Paul Tripp reminds us, “Not only does sin blind, but as sinners, we participate in our own blindness.”[3] It would be like me walking around with 2 X 4 coming out of my eye complaining about a little stain on your outfit. This is why we must take the 2 X 4 out of our own eyes.

Taking the 2 X 4 or log out of our own eye will not only help us see better ourselves as well as help others, but most importantly, it will help us see God’s work. This is what Jesus redirects His disciples to gaze upon. John 9:3 records Jesus correcting His disciples’ vision, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Let’s not fail the spiritual eye test anymore with the first question. Are you focused on other’s sins? Sound impossible? How can we not notice the sins of others? Of course, we are going to notice sin around us. However, the only way to pass this first question is by staying focused on what God can do in a person? Can God heal the broken and blind? Is God bigger and His grace greater than our sin? Keep your eyes on God in eager anticipation of what He could do, even with people who have been broken from birth and are in darkness. Jesus goes onto say in verse 5 that He is the light of the world. He actually repeats this self-identification because in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Having our eyes on Jesus is the only way to see spiritually and to actually live in the light and not see everybody as dark, unlovable and against us.

The second question in the spiritual eye test is are you focused on needing explanations? In the story, we find a second group of people, the man’s neighbours, who fail this spiritual eye test. Verses 8-9 record their musings, “Therefore, the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, ‘Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?’ Others were saying, ‘This is he,’ still others were saying, ‘No, but he is like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the one.’” Have you ever met somebody who has doubted who you are or worse that they doubt you have changed from who you once were? That is what these neighbours were doing to the formerly blind man. They didn’t recognize him and more importantly, God’s fresh miracle! Do you know what we call such people? Skeptics! Doubters! If the first group of people were prejudice, making a presumption before they saw it for certain. The second group of people could only see the past. They only have eyes in the back of their head. They have no foresight about what God could do or has done. They live only in the past. They never see a preferred future. They are puddleglums and Eeyore. Nothing good ever happens! Who enjoys being around such skeptics? They fail the spiritual eye test. The remedy for skeptics, or those who focus only on the past, is to hear a fresh testimony of God’s miracle. That is what the man born blind did. He told them his story. How Jesus came to him, spat on the ground, made clay and put it on his eyes and then he washed in the pool of Siloam and was healed.

Why use clay? There are many scholarly opinions as to why, but here are two of the best that also show who Jesus is: 1) JESUS IS THE CREATOR – “God made human beings out of dust of the ground; Jesus in an act of creation, used a little dust to make eyes that were otherwise lacking”[4]; and 2) JESUS IS THE LORD – Pain can lead to obedience. “The man would quickly obey to get the irritant out of his eyes.”[5] What happens when you have something in your eye? You actually and ironically become focused. Your physical vision may be blurry, but your personal vision becomes clear. It becomes your priority to get that irritant out of your eye. Jesus may sometimes irritate our vision so that we will obey Him as Lord. We will stop pursuing our own vision and pursue His.

The third question in the spiritual eye test is are you focused only on the rules? Which group of people in the story was worried about the rules? Answer: The Pharisees! Check out verse 13-16, They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.” The irony is that these are the people who should have been most excited about a man being healed by God. In fact, this is one of the great ironies in the Gospels. Those who should have been most excited about Jesus because they were waiting expectantly for their Messiah weren’t excited and those you would think would want nothing to do with Jesus because they were sinners encountering His holiness actually embraced Him. The Pharisees were definitely the former lot. They should have been captivated by this new believer’s transformation. You see, “Watching a person see Jesus for the first time and discover Him for themselves is like watching a child see the bigness of Disneyland for the very first time. There’s nothing like it to keep your faith energized.”[6] The Pharisees were not energized by the man’s growing faith. They cared more about Jesus healing on the Sabbath than a man finally being able to see again. Why? They cared more about the rules! We could call them “legally blind.” What is scary is that legally blind people often get worse. If you are legally blind, you can become blinder. You see, “The only people who cannot see the light are blind people and those who refuse to look make themselves blind.”[7] We see this truth in verse 18, “The Jews then did not believe it or him, that he had been blind and had received sight.” The Pharisees lived in denial.

What is the treatment for being spiritually legally blind? In other words, how do you stop being a legalist? You see your own sinful heart and you stop using the rules as your report card in the school of life. Instead, you receive Jesus and recognize life is to be only lived by His grace! Sadly, most of the Pharisees, like legalists today, never do! They argue with the man born blind. I love this part of the story because the student actually becomes the teacher. The Pharisees are fuzzy about how the man gained vision, but the formerly blind man only gets a clearer picture of who Jesus is. My favourite line is in verse 27, “He answered them, ‘I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” What a contrast! The former blind man is seeing clearer and clearer spiritually. In fact, he becomes an evangelist. He does what each of us should do, especially if we are new believers in Christ. He simply says in verse 25, “Whether He (Jesus) is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know that though I was blind, now I see.” If you are a new believer (or a more seasoned believer), we don’t have to have all the answers. We just have to tell how Jesus changed us – we were blind and now we see.

However, this does not mean that everybody will believe us, even those in our own family. This leads us to the last question in the spiritual eye test: are you focused on other’s opinions? Sadly, it’s the man’s own parents who fail the test. They leave him twisting with the deadly Pharisees because they didn’t want to be seen as acknowledging Jesus as the Christ and thereby kicked out of the synagogue (v. 22). The man’s parents were people pleasers and ultimately, selfish. They are more focused on other’s opinions than their own son. Why? Well, you need to understand that the synagogue was not just the place you worshipped, but it was the heart of the community. It is where you went to get a job. It was the place where you fellowshipped. It was the employment office, church, school, coffee shop or bar all rolled into one. To be kicked out was not just losing your status in a club, it would cost you big time financially, socially, relationally and spiritually. Nevertheless, this was the man’s parents. How could they distance themselves from their own son? Maybe they felt the stigma of being considered sinners like the disciples echoed back in verse 2? Maybe they were ashamed of their visually challenged son? Some of you know how that feels. You can relate to Psalm 27:10, like this man, could, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.” Here is Good News for you: Jesus fulfilled that Psalm. He took up the man. All that he had lost, Jesus regained for him. He lost his sight; Jesus restored it. He lost his family, Jesus would give Him a new family – God’s forever family. He lost membership in the synagogue and place to worship, Jesus gave him a reason to worship and a membership in heaven. You see, caring more about Jesus’ opinion than anybody else is the only way to see spiritually.

And how do we know this? It is actually subtle. It goes back to when Jesus asked him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. I struggled to understand why Jesus would send him to wash at Siloam. That was until I was reading Leviticus 15:8 in my devotions this week. Or if the man with the discharge spits on one who is clean, he too shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.” The Law was that if an unclean man spit on another person, they would be unclean until they were washed. Well, what does this have to do with Jesus? Jesus was perfect and clean and wasn’t discharging fluid … at least not yet! Recall 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Could this command to wash in the Pool of Siloam not only fulfill this one law, but point to a time when Jesus would fulfill all the requirements of the Law by discharging His blood from His head, His hands, His feet and His side, becoming sin for us?

You see, all of us have failed the spiritual eye test and this is why we needed Jesus to heal us to give us sight once again. Jesus’ question to the blind man in verse 35 still stands for us, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” If you do, you can truly say, “I was blind, but now I see!” And not only will you see, but others will see Jesus too! Go tell the world, “I was blind, but now I see!”

[1] Paul Tripp, “Parenting Conference” (New Hope Community Church, March 17, 2017).

[2] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 362.

[3] Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies – July 17 (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).

[4] D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 364.

[5] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 324.

[6] Chris Sonksen, When Your Church Feels Stuck (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017), 80.

[7] Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Volume 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 327.