A literal reading of this event tells us that a man who was physically blind from birth was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath. The authorities focus on the fact that Jesus performed this healing on the Sabbath and accuse Him of not “keeping the Sabbath”—therefore accusing Him of sin and asserting that He cannot be sent from God. In their misunderstanding of the law and in their pride that made them fearful of losing their influence over the people, they remained closed to the work and presence of God in their midst. In this way, they too were blind—spiritually blind.
But if we read carefully, we will see that it was not only the authorities who were blinded by pride and ignorance. Others were blind as a result of their own circumstances and beliefs, even good people such as the apostles. This should serve as a warning to us today to be on guard against pride, ignorance and sin in our own lives and to be prepared, by the grace of God, to recognize it, root it out and leave it behind. We can see at least four groups of people who are blind, in some fashion, in this story:
- The apostles
- The Man Born
- The Parents of the Man Born Blind
- The Pharisees
1. The Apostles
As the recounting of the event begins, we read that the disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Although the Apostles had been with Jesus for an extended time, they clung to the common belief of the day that some particular personal sin was the cause of this man’s physical blindness. Some Jews would have thought that the man was guilty of some personal sin committed before birth, while others might have believed his blindness was due to the personal sin of his parents or other ancestors. The question raised by the apostles suggests they believed the same or possibly that the blindness was in anticipation of some sin of the man committed after he was born. Jesus does not answer their question in general, but does answer in regards to this particular man, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”
While it is true that death and suffering in the world are the result of sin, both Original and personal, we must remember that even the righteous suffer. This is clearly taught in the Old Testament story of Job.
2. The Man Born Blind
Here was a man born blind for the glory of God. That his physical suffering prepared him to be open to receive the Light of Christ is apparent. We will see his stages of conversion in just a moment and see how his response can guide each of us in our day.
3. The Parents
At first, the authorities doubted that the man was actually blind prior to his “healing.” So they called in the man’s parents to receive their testimony. His parents were afraid of being expelled from the temple, so in their fear would only attest to his blindness from birth; they would not acknowledge his healing as God’s work, but instead told the authorities to ask their son themselves.
4. The Pharisees
As said above, these men were puffed up in pride and were also afraid of losing their position and influence, so they refused to see the obvious—as such, they were the truly blind.
(Deacon Michael Bickerstaff, What We Can Learn from the Healing of the Man Born Blind)