40. The Man Born Blind, Quite A Character


By Blake Hayes

This passage is all about sight. It starts off with a major difference in how the apostles and Jesus see the world around them.

‘As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ John 9:1-5

The Big Question

Why was this man born blind? Like most Jewish believers in that time, the apostles want to know who it was that caused this suffering. Instead, Jesus tells them that they aren’t asking the right question. It isn’t that someone did wrong for this man to suffer, but he is here so that the glory of God will be revealed in him.

Trace The Theme Of Glory And Suffering In John’s Gospel

‘When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ John 11:4

‘Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ John 11:40

‘When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.’ John 13:31-32

Are there other times in the Bible where God’s glory is shown in suffering?

Does this story have any correlation to how we should view the world around us?

What are some moments in your life where you seized an opportunity to allow God’s glory to shine?

What are some moments where you saw that opportunity and allowed it to pass?

Read John 9:6-34.

Now we can put ourselves in the shoes of this man who was born blind. I ran across an artist named Philip Barlow who has a very interesting style.

He grabs a camera, goes and searches for the perfect moment, and takes a picture right before the lens has a chance to focus in so that the image appears extremely blurry. He then turns this image into an oil painting, and it gives us an idea of what the world would look like through the eyes of someone with poor eyesight.

I think this can serve two purposes for us in thinking about the story we are studying. First, it can help put us in the shoes of the man in this story. As you look at the painting, imagine that is the world you see every day.

Now go a step further by imagining that you are completely blind. Not only do you have problems perceiving colours or figures, but the whole world around you can ONLY be perceived though touch, smells, and strange sounds.

You spend most of your day sitting in an area where you feel and hear people constantly passing by you. You hear footsteps growing louder and louder so you turn in that direction holding out a hand or a cup so that maybe this person will have something to give, but more often than not you are left empty-handed as more and more people brush by you.

You go home each night hoping you have enough money to feed yourself and make it through the following day. Then you wake up, and you go on the same path to the same spot. This becomes all that you know until one day a man comes and kneels beside you. Instead of handing you something and walking away, he stops, rubs your eyes with dirt, and then commands you to go wash off in a nearby pool.

This encounter must have been very odd for the blind man.

What feelings do you think he was experiencing while Jesus was doing this to him?

Why did he do as Jesus commanded?

Do you think he knew there was a possibility of being healed?

What would a life with this type of trust and obedience in God look like?

Have there been any times in your life where you have questioned or doubted God?

During those times of doubt, does your relationship with God change?

As you finish washing off, you start to have your eyes open. First you see vague figures, but little by little they become clearer. For the first time in your life you can see the world around you. You go back to find the man who did this to you, but he can’t be found. Instead you get questioned by those around you.

The voices that once passed you by are now surrounding you and questioning who you are and what has happened to you, but you don’t have the answers to satisfy their curiosity.

You tell them of the miraculous power of the man who healed you, but they are confused. They then take you before the religious leaders who bombard you with questions, but all you know to tell them is that once you were blind, but now you can see.

You don’t know anything about this man who healed you, but you know that he must be from God because no one has ever opened the eyes of the blind. You try all that you can to get the people around you to see who this man is, but no one will listen.

Should we as Christians stand out as different in the world?

How can we live in a way that people see that we are different?

Have you ever been in a situation where the people around you question you for what you believe?

How do we react in those situations? How should we react?

The blind man was asked many questions he did not know how to answer, but always had one simple truth that he wanted everyone to know. That once he was blind, but now he can see.

As we go out into a world that has a lot of questions, what is one simple truth we can hold on to and let everyone know?

‘Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Who is he, sir?’ the man asked. ‘Tell me so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.’ Then the man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him. Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’ John 9:35-41

Why does Jesus go and search for the man after he is thrown out of the city?

Who are the ones gaining sight at the end of this passage?

Who are the ones losing sight?

When interviewed, painter Philip Barlow said, ‘The figures in the landscape serve as carriers and reflectors of the light that falls upon them.’

What we perceive is the perfect culmination of light converging on a surface to reproduce that image, but Philip isn’t interested in recreating yet another perfect replica of what our own eyes can see.

He instead finds beauty in the interaction between light and what it touches because to him the light, not the reflector, is the most beautiful object.

How can we be carriers of the Light so that others can see who shines in us?

How can we create a church environment that shows us living as carriers of the Light?