When the Blind Refuse to See (John 9:13–41)

Read John 9:13–41.

Sprawled out before me on the kitchen table were assorted screws, wires, electronic components I can’t name, and the plastic casing to our old Nintendo Wii. My son, Jonah, had been a bit rough with the video game system, and it was no longer accepting the game discs anymore.

So, after a Google search and some quick YouTube training, I thought I would fix his favorite toy. I was wrong. I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I had it all opened up and spread out in front of me. Still, I gave my best effort to repair what was misaligned, and then I put the Wii back together as best as I could. There were a couple of screws left over.

To my surprise, when we powered the Wii back up, it worked. But before I could add “video game repair skills” to my résumé, the console began making its stubborn whirring sound and spitting out discs once more. I didn’t try to fix the thing again. I knew I’d been beat.

The older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. Whether it’s theology, human psychology, cars, or the inner workings of video games, I can’t be an expert on everything. And even with subjects I’m deeply passionate about, there will always be someone who understands more than I do. For a younger man, this reality might be daunting, but I find it exhilarating. It means I’ll never be done learning; there will always be more to uncover about the things I love, especially the Word of God.

When it comes to Jesus, all I know is what I know, but as I follow Him, my understanding grows. Hopefully, so does my love for Him. The good news is that Jesus loves us where we are—whether we’ve just met Him or we’ve been walking with Him for decades.

The blind man who is healed in John 9 doesn’t know much about the Man whose spit-mud restored his sight, but he is still questioned by the Pharisees twice. I love the exchanges recorded for us. The man doesn’t bend or break, though he stands to lose quite a bit at the hands of these religious authorities. He just tells it like he sees it. (See what I did there?) “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25).

The Pharisees have an axe to grind with Jesus once again because this miracle, like His healing of the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5, was performed on the Sabbath. In their minds, healing constitutes work and is therefore a sin. For some of the Pharisees, this means that Jesus can’t be the Messiah, because no one who goes around intentionally breaking the Sabbath can be from God.

There are people today who have their understanding of Jesus sprawled across the table in front of them, and they’re frustrated. They want to know more. They want all the pieces to fit together perfectly. This is nothing new. Here in John 9, the Pharisees are in the same place. Sadly, many of them conclude that because they can’t get the pieces to come together, Jesus must not be who He claims to be. In truth, they are coming to the Messiah problem with their own ideas about what He should be like—someone who, not surprisingly, looks and acts a lot like them. When Jesus defies those expectations, they decide the problem is with Him, not them.

Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39). The Pharisees have become blind in the presence of the Son of God, the natural punishment for those who practice idolatry: “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have… eyes, but cannot see…. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them” (Psalm 135:15–16, 18).

The irony is that the Pharisees think they’re the furthest thing from pagan idolators. On the outside, they worship the true God, follow His commandments, offer the proper sacrifices at His temple, and are doing their darnedest to rein in the sin of their fellow Israelites. For all their piety, though, these Pharisees prove themselves to be idolators. Though the God they claim to worship is walking in their midst, they fail to honor Him and give Him glory. Instead, they push Him aside in favor of a god they have designed and fashioned in their imaginations.

As I read this passage, I’m tempted to pretend I could never be as foolish as the Pharisees. I’d like to think that I’d have embraced Jesus without a second thought. The thing about idolatry, though, is that idolators don’t know they’re idolators. As far as they’re concerned they’ve found the truth. As Jesus said, it’s like being blind and stubbornly declaring you can still see clearly (John 9:41).

We all need the One who opens the eyes of the blind. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much we know or the good things we’ve done. All that matters is how we respond to Jesus, and for that, we need our eyes wide open.

What’s this all about?

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