“One-At-A-Time Ministry: A Blind Man” – John 9
4th Sunday in Lent – March 22, 2020
1. Whose fault was it? Sin and suffering.
Why do people think this way? Why do YOU people think this way? People somehow have this
mistaken notion that suffering in a person’s life comes as a direct result of a certain sin.
A woman tells a terrible lie about another woman at work that got that woman in trouble… then
the next afternoon, the first woman got into a car accident, and concluded that God had paid her
back. A man negotiates some work for a shady under the table deal so that he doesn’t have to pay
income tax… then he got sick and had to miss work for a few days. A mom had a bad day at
work and took it out on her kids when she got home… that night she got a phone call that her
aunt had died. People connect their sin with some kind of punishment from God. Some people
may even believe those infected with this coronavirus are being punished for some personal sin
If that’s the way you think, don’t feel bad… the people of Jesus’ day thought this way, too…
even the disciples had that impression. Here was a man born blind, so they reasoned that either
he or his parents must have done something terribly evil to cause such suffering and hardship in
his life. That idea that there is a cause and effect relationship between sin and suffering has been
around a long time. In the Old Testament, Job’s friends thought that way, and they argued with
Job trying to convince him to repent of the wrong-doing that obviously caused his terrible
suffering. Jesus explains in Luke 13: He says that neither the Galileans whose blood Pilate
mingled with their sacrifices nor the eighteen people from Siloam who were killed when a tower
fell on them were worse people than others because they suffered that fate. In other words, there
is not a direct cause and effect between a certain sin and suffering. And here in John 9, Jesus
explains it clearly when he says that it was neither the man’s sins nor his parents’ sins that
caused his blindness, but in this case that the works of God might be demonstrated.
The truth is that sin and suffering are related… suffering is part of life because sin is present, but
a specific sin does not automatically and directly and always lead to a certain punishment from
God. If it did, both you and I would be looking over our shoulders ALL THE TIME to see what
God was going to do to us because of our sin. Isaiah 53, that great prophecy relating to Jesus’
suffering and death, the one that we always hear read on Good Friday, reminds us that “the
punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.” UPON HIM!! UPON JESUS! So if our sin
leads directly to a certain punishment, we must understand that the certain punishment for my
sins and your sins was inflicted on Jesus as He hung on the cross. No suffering in my life is a
punishment from God for my sins. Jesus has taken it all. Rather, suffering and hardships and
tragedies occur in the lives of all human beings simply because sin runs as rampant in our world
as does the current virus.
The second idea to process today is a trio of things relating to Jesus.
a. The Light of the World
Twenty-some years ago, I had an idea running through my mind for a science fiction novel. I
would lie awake at night thinking of the characters and developing the plot, but I don’t even read
novels, so why would I write one. The premise of the idea was that two heliologists in 2062
discover that the sun has a cool spot on it that is rapidly expanding and that in six weeks the sun
will be dead. No heat, no light, no sight… no hope, kind of like these days. Humanity would
have six weeks to figure out how to survive without a heat and light generating friend. When I
finally discovered that the plot of the book could be considered a parable with a Christian
foundation, then I felt compelled to write it. It’s called “Death at Sundown.” It sounds like a
Western but it’s set in the future, not the past.
Now there is a spiritual comparison to be made. For the second time in two consecutive chapters
of John, Jesus, refers to Himself as the “light of the world.” Even more so than the sun, Jesus is
vital to our existence and our life. If Jesus were taken away, there would be no hope, no love, no
spiritual light or sight. Jesus illumines for us the things of God, the Kingdom of God, the
forgiveness of God, the grace of God, the salvation of God, the love of God, the eternity of God.
Jesus truly is the light of the world, and without Him, life is hopeless.
b. Sent and Sending
Another interesting thing about this chapter is the three-fold mention of the word “sent.” Jesus
says that “as long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me.” He affirms His origin
as being SENT from the Heavenly Father. Then, after making a saliva-based mud, and applying
it to the blind man’s eyes, He tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. Siloam means
‘sent’ because that pool received water which was ‘sent’ from a spring of water from outside the
city wall through a tunnel that was built in King Hezekiah’s day. So there is a wonderful play on
words here. Jesus, the one ‘sent’ from God, ‘sent’ the man to wash in this pool of ‘sent’ water.
By the end of the day, the healed man acclaims Jesus as the one ‘sent’ from God… that is, the
c. Undoing Sin’s Power
In all this, we don’t want to overlook or understate the obvious. Jesus shows that He has power
over nature and over sin’s evil power to corrupt the “very good” way that God had created
everything in the first place. This man didn’t lose his sight on account of a disease that could be
cured, nor an accident whose damage could be reversed, nor old age whose deterioration could
be held at bay. This man was blind from birth. Somehow his body did not have what was
necessary to allow him to see. Yet that posed no difficulty for Jesus. The creator could recreate…
and He did. His little concoction of mud and saliva brought sight to the man’s eyes.
Jesus’ ministry was all about undoing sin’s power, death’s power, Satan’s power. Whether it was
forgiving a paralyzed man’s sins, raising a young girl from death to life, or casting demons out of
people under the control of Satan, Jesus was on earth ultimately to proclaim the Kingdom of God
which meant the unraveling of Satan’s stronghold as the ‘prince of this world.’ This miracle of
healing a man blind from birth was one more example of Jesus’ power and authority. And as we
have heard in the last couple of weeks, this ministry of Jesus was to just one person at a time –
Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, now the man born blind.
3. Mixed Reviews
It’s not that there weren’t other people around… there were! In the story, we hear about
neighbours and townspeople. We hear about the Pharisees. We hear reference to the man’s
parents and the synagogue, which was a very public gathering place. But Jesus directed His
attention to just this one man. The reaction to this miracle was mixed among all the others. The
neighbours and townspeople disagreed about the very identity of the healed man. Some said he
was the man born blind, others said he just looked like him. The Pharisees disagreed about the
identity of the healer. Some said He was a Sabbath-breaking sinner, others said the miraculous
signs He did proved He was from God.
Sometimes people are distracted by little things, instead of the main thing. Here, the Pharisees
argued and debated about something which, by comparison, was of little importance. Some of
them were distraught at the fact that this healing took place on the Sabbath, thereby breaking the
law which forbade any kind of work on the Sabbath. It caused them anguish and consternation,
and they concluded that the man who had done this was certainly not from God, and was even
quite definitely a despicable sinner. They were too busy being nit-picky to realize and to give
thanks to God for the great miracle that had taken place, and for the wonderful love and grace of
God that had been shown to this one unfortunate man.
I guess that’s a reminder to us to be about the important business of proclaiming God’s saving
love in Jesus Christ, without letting little differences derail us and the mission God has given.
4. A Lived-Out Parable – Spiritual Sight
There are some other things that might be worth discussing in the intervening verses, but I would
like to focus on the fact that this one-at-a-time ministry of Jesus is really a lived-out parable,
much like my book, “Death at Sundown.” [Oh, maybe just to review… what is a parable? An
earthly story with a heavenly meaning.] There is another fairly well-known lived-out parable in
the Old Testament book of Hosea. Hosea is asked to marry Gomer, a prostitute. They do, and she
has children for him, but then she goes back to her harlotry. And Hosea is asked to go back and
get her to be his wife again. I mean how many men would do that?? But Hosea’s life was meant
to be a parable of what God was doing with His wife, Israel. The people continually went after
other gods, playing the spiritual harlot, but God faithfully took them back time after time. It was
a lived-out parable.
Ezekiel 37 is a lived out parable. There God showed Ezekiel a valley of dry bones. The bones
represented the spiritual hope – hopelessness, really – of the Israelites in captivity in Babylon.
God and Ezekiel had a discussion about the possibility of those bones coming back to life.
Ezekiel couldn’t fathom it, but God showed him that it could be done. It was a lived-out parable
of the renewed hope that would belong to the captive Israelites.
That’s what John 9 is – a lived-out parable. The earthly story is about the giving of sight to a
man born blind. The heavenly meaning is the giving of spiritual sight – faith – to the man born
blind. There are really two miracles here – the physical one and the spiritual one.
Did you notice the man’s progressive insight into Jesus’ identity?
In verse 11, he refers to his healer as “the man who is called Jesus.” Of course, being blind he
had never seen Jesus before. Perhaps he had heard about Jesus’ reputation, but the best he could
do was call him a man, an ordinary, regular man.
In verse 17, obviously some time had passed, maybe a few hours, for some discussions had
already taken place about what had happened. Now the former blind man was brought for
questioning. This time he referred to Jesus as “a prophet” – God’s messenger. His spiritual eyes
were opening as to Jesus’ identity.
In verse 27, with the interrogation at the hands of the Pharisees continuing, the progression of his
belief continues. He asks, “You do not want to become His disciples, too, do you?” That
indicates that Jesus is a worthwhile enough rabbi to be a disciple of, and perhaps that he had
already made the conscious decision to follow Jesus.
Now at the same time as the blind man’s spiritual eyes are opening, it seems that the Pharisees’
eyes of faith are closing. They complained earlier about this healing being done on a Sabbath.
They directly referred to Jesus as a sinner. Now they hold up discipleship of Moses (and the
Law) over against discipleship of Jesus. They indicate that they don’t know where he is from,
either, which makes him rather suspicious to say the least.
The blind man puts 2 and 2 together, however, crediting Jesus’ miracles and His healings as
having their source in God, saying in verse 33, “If this man were not from God, He could do
And the last progression of his view of Jesus is in verse 38. The blind man affirms, “Lord, I
believe.” Then he worships Jesus. “Lord” is an expression of the identity of Jesus, and “I
believe” is an expression of the ever-growing trust of the former blind man. I think all that
happens in the span of one day.
Meanwhile, the implications of Jesus’ last statement are correctly understood by the Pharisees.
He said, “I came so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become
blind.” They respond, “Are you saying that we are blind??” Jesus used a few more words in His
somewhat cryptic answer, but essentially He said, “Yes!” The Pharisees’ claim to sight showed
their complete unawareness of their spiritual blindness and need. Though they claimed to have
sight, their actions were evidence of their blindness.
The good news in our text, the news that we need to hear and be certain of, is that Jesus is the
one – still today – who has and is the cure for spiritual blindness. He still is the Light of the
World. Jesus was accused of being a sinner, but the truth is that we are sinners – steeped in sin at
birth. That sin makes us blind to the things of God, the truths of God, the Kingdom of God. Only
Jesus, with His suffering, death and resurrection reverses the power of sin and its effects in our
world, and on our lives, one at a time, forgiving our sins and conquering death. Only Jesus opens
our spiritual eyes and enables us to confess with the blind man, “Lord, I believe,” and so to
anticipate heaven and eternity. Only Jesus calls us to discipleship here and now – to following, to
learning, to growing, to serving, to witnessing.
It is incumbent on us who have had our spiritual eyes opened, and who have experienced the full
measure of God’s grace in Christ to lead those who are still spiritually blind to Jesus, the Light of
the World. Especially now, in a world that is filled with fear and hopelessness, we have the
opportunity, as Jesus did that day, to have a one-at-a-time ministry pointing to Jesus. Whether
it’s a phone call of care, or an e-mail message sending hope, we can still in these uncertain times
have a Godly impact on people’s lives. May God send us to the blind ones of our world, and
enable us to do this good and gracious work of His as long as it is day, before this world’s night
comes, and may the Holy Spirit make fruitful our proclamation of Jesus so that others, too, one-
at-a-time may have the eyes of their faith opened, and their lips loosed to confess “Lord, I