A Man Who Was Blind
The whole emphasis of the New Testament concerning Christian experience is that “Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by Him.” In other words, a personal interview with Him is essential for salvation. He came to reveal the Father, and that revelation shines out most clearly at the Cross. It is there we must meet Him. For it is not by the example of His life, but by the Atonement of His death that we may become Christians. There are many different paths and experiences which bring us to Him, but life only begins when we have met Him and faced for ourselves His claims and challenge.
Remember every miracle is a parable. It is an example of what the same Christ can do for us if we submit to His conditions. See this in the story of the man who was blind.
The Man’s Condition (John 9:1)
He was blind from his birth. He had never seen anything. All he could do was sit and beg (verse 8). His condition aroused no real pity or sympathy. To the disciples he was just a theological problem: “Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (verse 2). They were quite sure he had brought this suffering on himself either in [his] life or else it was the outcome of sin in the lives of his parents. In any event, they had no positive answer to meet his need.
Now, of course, here is the clue to the whole parable: For this man blind from birth, and a beggar at that, is just a picture of all men apart from the grace of God—blind and bankrupt. You may question that; but evidence substantiates it beyond dispute.
Blind. Is it not true that even the most brilliant intellects fail to understand the significance of the Gospel? Speak to men about the Cross, Salvation—you find complete lack of response. This only supports the truth of the Bible when it declares that “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” This is far more than physical blindness—worse in character and consequences—for the preaching of the Cross is to them that are perishing foolishness, and that describes the awful condition of the man who is blind to the truth of the Word of God.
Bankrupt. Yes, there is no answer on a human level to this state. With all our abilities in many realms, no man can deal with spiritual blindness. Men grope after truth, and attempt by many different ways to find out God, without success, for this blindness is not his own creation, but it is the god of this world who is responsible, and therefore only a spiritual force greater than he can remove it. This is certainly not in man himself.
The Master’s Cure
Observe first: His Diagnosis. He answered the problem of the disciples—it may be your problem, too. Who did sin? Whose fault is it—the man or his parents? The answer of Jesus, read exactly as it appears in verse 3, is at first confusing, for it really suggests that the man was born blind in order to show what God could do with a blind man. It may be true that unpleasant things happen to many men that they may become the platform upon which to display God’s power, but this interpretation here would be hard to reconcile with the character of God. Would He permit spiritual blindness in order that He might show His power? God does not suffer a man to frustration simply to show His power in him.
Campbell Morgan has an interesting suggestion here, for he suggests that punctuation is at fault and the verse should read, “Neither did this man sin nor his parents. But that the works of God should be made manifest in him, I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day.”
In other words (says Jesus), I’m not here to explain the mystery of evil, but to remove the cause of it. Therefore blindness is not the will of God for any man, but Christ had come not to explain the problem of sin, but rather to break the power of it.
He saw a man (verse 1). Nobody had seen him quite like that before. Nobody had looked at him with such tenderness; with such anger at the power of evil. He saw a man! Yes, He still does.
He used means (verse 6). He spat on the ground and made clay, and spread it on those blind eyes. These were just step-ladders to help his faith. That man could not see, but he could feel that at last someone had touched him who could. I suppose that is one of the first things which happens to us all, as we begin that personal interview with Christ. We don’t understand, but somehow we are conscious that He cares—some life has touched us. We would give anything to be a step-ladder for the faith of others. How He seeks to encourage our faith, and to win our confidence.
Then He spake: “Go, wash”—that was all. But it was enough: “He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing!” So simple. He believed what Christ had said and did what Christ had told him, and he saw.
Now that is exactly what happens in a personal interview with Jesus. He tells us first to go and wash, and if we’re prepared to trust and obey we come seeing. There is a place—and only one place for cleansing—His Blood. That fountain is open for sin and uncleanness. There can be no Christian experience till we’ve humbled ourselves to go down to the Cross. How often Jesus said, “Go” before He said “Come.”
To the woman of Samaria, Go—call thy husband. To the rich young ruler—Go—sell all that thou hast. To the ten lepers—Go—show thyself to the priest. To the Nobleman—Go—thy way, thy son liveth. To the third man—Go—wash.
Everything depends on obedience to that word, for the first experience of salvation comes when we take Him at His Word without any other evidence. That is the one condition of salvation. Blindness to truth can only be removed by believing the One who is the truth. Not one person who has obeyed the condition has remained blind. Everyone has “Come seeing.” To say with this man, “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see (verse 25). No theology, no background, but the undisputable fact of experience—believing is seeing.
The Mighty Consequences
Only two or three verses are requested to tell of the experience, but the whole chapter required to recount the sequel. This man’s experience had an effect on everyone. His conversion was the experience of a moment, and the effect was a whole lifetime.
The Neighbors (verses 8 and 9). They soon noticed the change. There was on the one hand the man they had known so well, regularly in his place; begging, walking with the help of a stick to guide him. But on the other hand, there was this new man so different, that some doubted if it was even the same person. He settled it for them by saying, “I am he…a man that is called Jesus” (verses 9 and 11).
How true that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature—inexplicable. You can’t account for him on any human level of argument.
The Pharisees (verse 16) argued that as this man was healed on the Sabbath, Jesus had broken the fourth commandment, therefore He was a sinner. Of course, He had not broken the commandment: He had broken their interpretation of it.
So furious were they because of this man’s persistent and increasing courage that they excommunicated him. Many religious circles would do the same, but Jesus came to him.
The Man. Observe the increasing progress and deepening conviction:
Verse 11—A man called Jesus.
Verse 17—A prophet.
Verse 27—Will ye also be His disciples? as if conscious of a new relationship.
Verse 33—If this man were not of God, He could do nothing.
Verse 38—Lord, I believe, and he worshipped Him.
Notice it: Intellectual conviction—moral reliance—utter devotion. These consequences are the same today. As that man went upwards, so steadily and tragically downward went others. They had light but it blinded them. They had Christ, but scoffed at Him. Therefore, Christ pronounced their doom: “For judgment am I come into the world, that they which see not might see, and they which see might be made blind.” Yes, His coming is for judgment. They who see themselves blind and turn to Him will one day see His face. Any who say, “I see” and know not that they are miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, nor hearken to His word to anoint their eyes that they might see, will pass into darkness.
“To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath.”