Text: John 9:1-41
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The question that the Pharisees ask Jesus at the end of our Gospel reading today intrigues me. John tells us that “some of the Pharisees near him heard [what Jesus was saying] and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’” They aren’t talking about physical blindness, these Pharisees know full well that they can see. They might not have 20:20 vision, but their eyes are not blind. But they ask Jesus, “Are we also blind?” This is one of those places where you wish you could hear the tone of their voice. They could have said these words in a kind of indignant kind of way almost laughing at what Jesus was saying or they could have said them quite sincerely in a concerned kind of way, “Are we also blind?” We don’t know how they said those words, but it is a question worth asking ourselves too, are we also blind?
Obviously we aren’t talking about actual physical blindness either. Our gospel reading was the story of a man who was born physically blind, from the day he was born he had never been able to see. But this story is about more than that, this story is about spiritually seeing who Jesus is and believing what Jesus has done for us.
Jesus opened the eyes of this blind man and then he became a bit of a local celebrity. All of a sudden everyone wants to talk to this formerly blind man, everyone wants to know how this happened. It’s just good that CNN and other news networks like we have today weren’t around then because they would have wanted a piece of him too.
First it’s the neighbours, they want to find out how this happened. They aren’t even sure if this is the same blind guy, maybe he just looks like him or maybe it is some kind of trick. Then they take him to the Pharisees. They want answers too, how did this happen? Then they call in the man’s parents. Is this your son? Was he blind? If he was blind how can he see now? The parents don’t know, ask him, they say. And finally they take him back to the Pharisees again, explain it one more time and no lying this time, how did you get your sight? Who did this?
All the way along one this stands out in all of this: almost no one believes this man’s story. Even if they did believe they aren’t about to speak up about it. Despite all the explanations that the formerly blind man gives, no one is taking what he says seriously. Everyone else is blind to what Jesus has done. They are blind, but they just don’t know it.
That is the tragedy of the question that the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Are we also blind?” because the answer is yes, they are blind, but they don’t know it. They are blind, but they think that they can see and that is a problem. Jesus says to them, “If you were blind you would have no guilt, but no that you say ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” If they understood that they were blind they would believe in Jesus and trust in Him, they would be forgiven, but as long as they think that they can see on their own they refuse to trust in Jesus and their sin and guilt remain.
What about us, are we also blind? A better question for us might be “Are we still blind?” We are Christians who believe in Jesus, our blindness is probably not the same as that of the Pharisees and other people in our reading today who refused to believe that Jesus opened the eyes of the blind man. We believe in Jesus and likely don’t doubt that He could do something like that. No, our blindness isn’t quite like that, but are we, the church going Christians that we are, still blind?
Our answer to that question is yes and no. Christ has opened our eyes and given us faith to believe in Him, but we struggle everyday with blindness. At the end of our service today we are going to sing hymn 744, Amazing Grace. I picked that hymn for today because of the line: “Was blind but now I see.” Those word make I sound so simple. I was blind, but now I see. The blindness is over now. But if we are being realistic we realize that things aren’t nearly that simple, blindness is not just in past for us. Our present and our future aren’t just full of perfect spiritual sight and vision either. We are still blind.
We are blind when, like the neighbours of the man whose had his eyes opened, we want more proof to back up our faith. The neighbours ask the man who used to be blind where Jesus is, they want to see him for themselves. They want more proof. The blindness inside of them and inside of us is the same. We want proof sometimes too. Wouldn’t that make believing easier? Our demand to see more is the result of our blindness.
We are blind when, like the Pharisees, we think that we have things figured out for ourlseves and we know what God ought to do and how God ought to work. The Pharisees say “We know that this man (that is Jesus) is a sinner.” They know that about Jesus and they know that He does not meet their expectations for what God should be doing. We have the same kinds of thoughts. We think we know what is right, what is fair, what is just, and what God ought to be doing for us. We expect God to dance to our tune. But Jesus doesn’t dance to our tune or conform to our expectations. Instead, He goes and defies our expectations about what God is and does and dies on a cross and forgiving us. We are blind.
We are blind when, like the parents of the blind man, we are afraid of what believe in Jesus will mean for us. The parents are dragged into this whole ordeal, but they insist they don’t know who did this or how it happened because they are afraid of what might happen to them. They are afraid of being ostracized and kicked out of the synagogue. We share this same fear. What will people think about us if we talk too much about Jesus or faith? This fear will cause Peter to deny Jesus and the other disciples will fall away too. This fear is blindness.
These are just a few examples of the blindness that can creep in on our faith and there are many more that we could talk about. We are blind when we speak harshly against other people because we fail to see that they are have been created in the image of God just like us. We are blind when we hold grudges because we fail to see that we have sinned just as badly if not worse. We are blind when we are not thankful for all that we have because we have failed to see that it all comes from God. We are blind when we don’t see the needs of others because we can only see our own needs and desires. We are truly blind.
But, at the same time, we are not blind. We are not blind because Jesus has opened our eyes. He hasn’t opened our eyes to see and understand how the universe works or to know the answer to every question, but He has opened our eyes to see the one thing that matters: what He has done for us. The blind man in our story today insists again and again that He doesn’t know exactly how his sight came back, he just knows what Jesus did. “He put mud on my eyes and told me to wash. I washed and now I see.” All he knows is what Jesus has done. That’s all he needs to know. Christ has opened our eyes to see what He has done for us. He has opened our eyes to see the cross where He took our blindness, our sin, upon Himself and destroyed it for us forever.
It is really important to notice how Jesus healed this man of his blindness: Jesus put mud on his eyes and sent him to wash in the pool and his eyes were opened. This has baptism written all over it. Jesus has washed us too and has opened our eyes to believe in Him. He put the Holy Spirit into our hearts when we were baptised so that we could believe in Him. He opened up our hearts that day to believe the Good News that He has taken away our blindness and our guilt so that we could live eternally with Him.
We gather here every week to have our eyes opened again. The blindness is still there inside of us because sin is still inside of us, the world is still a dark and sinful place, and the devil still loves to try to drag us back into the dark. We come here because the blindness is creeping in again. We come here because or faith grows weak and weary out in the world. We come here to have Jesus pry open our eyes and again and remind us of what He has done. We are just like the two disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus after He rose from the dead, they did not recognize Jesus at first, but when they sat down for supper with Him and He broke bread their eyes were opened. When we gather here and see Jesus break bread and feed us with His own body and blood our eyes are opened again to see the one things that matters: what He has done for us on the cross.
So, are we still blind? Yes and no. We are blind because we are sinners. Our hearts have doubts, our minds question faith, and fear makes faith seem like a bad idea. But Jesus has opened our eyes to see Him and because we see Him we know that He has taken away our guilt and our sin. We know that He is our Saviour. We know because He has given us faith to know. As we struggle with the blindness thanks be to God that He opens up our eyes and gives us faith to believe. In Jesus name. Amen.