READ : John 9:24-25
So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
John 9:24,25 rsv
THE FIRST MIRACLE
It was an event altogether astonishing, a miracle almost unimaginable. A man who had been blind from birth, who had never in his lifetime seen even the light of day, was suddenly given perfect sight. Since the world began, the man later observed, nothing like that had ever happened before. It was an amazing deed, and Jesus had done it.
Other instances of healing had, of course, been known. Even recovery of sight under the stimulus of religious faith was not unknown in the Roman empire. A votive tablet from an ancient Roman temple relates that a soldier blinded in war had once been told to place a certain potion on his eyes and had regained his sight after three days. But this was the restoring of vision to one who had enjoyed it before. What Jesus did was a totally new creation.
This is how it happened. Walking along one day Jesus noticed a man whom He knew to be blind from birth. His disciples asked a question about why this had happened, whether his sin or the sin of his parents might have been responsible for it. Jesus replied it was not that this man had sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day,” Jesus continued. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” And as He said these words, He “spat on the ground,” we read, “and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, saying to him, `Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.’” Everything about the narrative has the feel of an eyewitness account. Can you imagine anyone concocting a story like this, thinking that it would happen in just this way? Picture it. Jesus spits on the ground, then picks up the moist earth, kneads it in His fingers and applies it to the man’s face. No gestures, no incantations, apparently no words at all. He simply places damp soil where the beggar’s eyes should have been. The man must have wondered what was going on, What is being done to me? Then Jesus told him to go to the pool of Siloam and wash his face.
What could be the point of that? The man had washed himself innumerable times, perhaps in that very pool. But something about the words of Jesus and His compassionate touch had affected this man deeply, had awakened in him stirrings of hope. Without questioning or hesitation, perhaps guided by a friend, he made his way to Siloam. Once at the pool side, he kneeled down and splashed the cool water on his face. As he sputtered, rinsing away the earth, the man suddenly gasped in astonishment. Light from everywhere was breaking in upon him. He lifted his head and for the first time in his life saw this incredibly lovely world of ours. Who can begin to imagine how he must have felt?
THE SECOND MIRACLE
As the story continues, we see this marvelous event leading on to still another miracle. To the writer of the Gospel, this second work of God was even more wonderful. The man who has been given new eyes becomes a believer in Jesus. He worships Him. He bears witness to Him. An Israelite by birth and heritage, a sinner by nature, a blind beggar, he becomes a child of God, a Christian. Can we see in that the greatest of miracles?
Think for a moment about why the Gospel writers relate these mighty works of Jesus. Why do they tell about multitudes fed with a few loaves and fish, about helpless paralytics who get up and walk, about the deaf and dumb who are enabled to hear and speak, even about the dead persons raised to life again by the call of Jesus? We say, “This is to show how compassionate Jesus was toward people in their suffering and need.” Yes. We say it was to demonstrate His divine power. Yes. We say it was to bear witness to Him as the Messiah. Without a doubt. But every miracle, especially every healing miracle, points beyond itself to the greater salvation Jesus came to bring. The healings were at best only temporary. Those restored would eventually weaken and die. But each act of mercy and power was a sign of a deeper, grander reality.
Every time Jesus made a lame man walk it was a sign of His power to make moral cripples able to go in the path of God’s commandments. Every time He said to someone deaf, “Ephphatha, be opened,” it was a sign of His power to open our spiritual ears to hear His Word. Every time He raised the dead, it was an announcement that He had come to give eternal life. And every restoration of someone blind, as in the case of this man we read about in the ninth chapter of the Gospel according to John, is a picture of the fact that He opens our inner eyes to see His glory and leads us from our moral and spiritual darkness into His marvelous light. The greatest of miracles is conversion, becoming through Christ a new man or a new woman.
But not everyone greeted these miracles of Jesus with joy. In fact, what He did created for some a conflict situation. Instead of being led to faith and worship, they objected strongly to what He had done and tried to discredit Him.
It was on the Jewish Sabbath that this miracle occurred, a day when no work was to be done. In the eyes of the strict religionists of Jesus’ day, His making clay and anointing the blind man’s eyes had been a form of work. They thought He shouldn’t have done it, or at least should have waited until the Sabbath was past. Their anger over that breach of their tradition seemed to eclipse any joy they might have felt over the healing.
When these religious leaders, these members of the group called the Pharisees, heard about what had happened, they asked the man how he had received his sight. When he had told his story, they reacted with anger and accusation, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” In other words, “He’s no saint, as you people may be imagining. He’s a sinner. He’s a law breaker.”
Next they tried to call in question the miracle itself. Refusing to believe that the man had been born blind, they cross-examined his parents on this point. The mother and father were frightened at this controversy over their son and quickly told the authorities to ask him directly. Then they tried to break down his story. They accused him of dishonesty. “Come on now,” they urged, “tell us the real story. Give God the praise. We know that this man is a sinner.” That is to say, “He didn’t really do this for you, did He? He couldn’t have. We know what kind of godless, lawless person He is.” Later when they saw they couldn’t counter his testimony, they excommunicated the man from the synagogue, reviling him as one who was “born in utter sin.”
Can you think of people who have reacted in a similar way when someone they knew became a Christian? I can. I have known mothers and fathers who disowned their children precisely because a son or daughter professed faith in Jesus. I’ve known of families who consider their loved ones as now dead because they have committed their lives to Christ. It still happens today. Sometimes the greater the miracle that Jesus does, the more intense is the opposition it evokes. People do not rejoice with those who have seen the light. Rather they interrogate and challenge them, reject them. And instead of believing in Jesus, they call Him by the worst of names and set themselves against Him.
The central issue in this controversy, this division, is: “Who is Jesus?” Those on one side refuse to believe any of His claims about Himself. To them He must be a fraud, an impostor, a deceiver. He cannot be from God, they’re sure of that, because He violates norms which they consider God-given and inviolable. What He has done then is not a good work but a bad one. In their eyes, it’s not an act of mercy but a wicked violation of God’s law. And since Jesus Himself is in their eyes an evildoer and an enemy, a menace to God’s cause on earth, anyone who follows Him is to be rejected and despised. All that follows from a negative assessment of who Jesus is, from a rejection of His claim to be One sent by God.
But many among those who witness these events cannot accept this negative verdict. When told that Jesus is not from God, they ask, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And when the blind man himself is asked about the One who gave him sight, what he thinks about Him, he says, “He is a prophet.” Later on his regard for Jesus is becoming even higher. When the authorities say, “We don’t know where this man Jesus comes from,” the man responds, “Why, this is a marvel. You do not know where He comes from and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him. Never since the world began,” he goes on, “has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” Faith is growing and deepening in this man’s life. Later, having met Jesus again and having heard His claim to be the Son of man, the man with new sight confesses, “Lord, I believe.” Falling down before Jesus, he offers worship.
That’s the crucial question for you and me, for anyone who encounters Jesus or someone whose life has been touched by Him. What will we say about this One who claims to be the Light of the world? Is He a law breaker, a liar, a sinner, a devil? Or is He a prophet, One sent from heaven, the Lord Himself in the midst of His people? Everything depends for us on the answer that you and I give.
Now listen to this simple, sure witness of the man who had received his sight. He’s being challenged by the authorities for a second time. “Give God the praise,” they urge. “Come clean. Tell us the truth. We know that this man is a sinner.” Here is his answer: “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” We who believe in Christ, though most of us have never had the experience of restored physical vision, can offer the same witness. Jesus has opened our inner eyes. We’ve been enabled to see God’s glory shining in His face. We’ve known that His gospel is truth and have begun to see everything in a new way.
Only a few months after I had become a Christian, I went to a girl friend’s house to pick her up for a date. She wasn’t quite ready when I arrived so I had some time to talk with her father. When he learned that I was a Christian and had plans to be a minister, he took it upon himself to instruct me. He marshalled all his arguments as to why faith in God was ridiculous and why the gospel of Jesus could not possibly be true. I was reeling from shock. Here was a man many years my senior, apparently quite learned, pelting me with objections to my new found faith. I couldn’t begin to answer his arguments then. Maybe today I could do a better job at that. But he didn’t shake my faith in the least. I knew that Christ had come into my life. He had made Himself real to me. Nothing could tear that confidence from me. I tried to say something like that to my date’s father before I left the house. Though he might have all those sophisticated objections, he could not possibly destroy or deny what had happened to me.
Let me say to you today if you are a believer in Christ: Your best proclamation of the good news of Jesus may often be your simple, personal testimony. You listen politely to the objections of those who oppose the Christian faith. You acknowledge that there are many things you don’t fully understand. But then you play your trump card. You introduce your irresistible argument. You say from your heart, “One thing I know; once I was blind and now I can see. And it was Jesus who made all the difference!”