With Jesus Along the Road

What would be worse then being born blind?  To have sight without vision.

Helen Keller

On November 30, 1991 fierce winds from a freakish dust storm triggered a massive freeway pileup along Interstate 5 near Coalinga, California. At least 14 people died and dozens more were injured as topsoil whipped by 50 mile-per-hour winds reduced visibility to zero. The afternoon holocaust left a three-mile trail of twisted and burning vehicles, some stacked on top of one another 100 yards off the side of the freeway. Unable to see their way, dozens of motorists drove blindly ahead into disaster.  

There is a difference between having sight and being able to see.  Just like the difference between listening and hearing.  When my sons were younger I would often give them instructions on what I wanted them to do.  Then a  few minutes later after no movement I would tell them again.  Their response would often be something like I heard you.  To that I would then remind them that they have not heard me yet.  When they adjust their actions to fit my requests then I would know that they heard me.

As you heard already, this encounter with Jesus along the road is with a blind man.  Or should I say a whole bunch of blind people.  But only one of the people that he meets along the road knows that he is blind.

First lets understand this man.  He was blind from birth.  This meant that he was damaged goods.  He was a cast off.  No Seeing Eye dog, no brail, no special programs.  No jobs.  No welfare system.  In fact, this man probably spent most of his life living in guilt.  Why?  Because all of his life he was led to believe that his condition was either self inflicted (a result of his own sin) or as a result of his parents sin.  On top of that it was the religious leaders of the day---the men that he was called to look up to that made him believe that.  Only one option for a man like him, begging along side of the road.  

The Problem of Affliction

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?  John 9:1-2

This is an interesting encounter for Jesus, the disciples and the man born blind.  You get the feeling here in this encounter that it was the disciples and Jesus who approached the blind man.  In most healing encounters in scripture the needy approach Jesus. 

I am taken back to another that Jesus had with a blind man in Mark 12 with the blind man Bartimaeus.  Look for a moment at that encounter.

 Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight

 46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!  48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, Son of David, have mercy on me!  49 Jesus stopped and said, Call him.  So they called to the blind man, Cheer up! On your feet! Hes calling you. 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he  jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  51 What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asked him. The blind man said, Rabbi, I want to see.  52 Go, said Jesus, your faith has healed you. Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. 

These are how most encounters with Jesus for healing occur.   Dont you just love Bartimaeus?  When the crowd rebukes him---he shouts all the more.

By the way---how do we call out to Christ?   Do we say Jesus, have mercy on me. In our everyday spiritual prayerful voice.  Or do we shout ----JESUS---HAVE MERCY ON ME!!!!

How do we call out to God for him to touch us in our blind spots?  My guess is that it is in direct relationship to the depth of our hurt and needs.

The Pharisees had a strange view of the issue of affliction.  It was well within their concept of belief that a child could sin while in the womb or that the childs soul could have sinned while in preexistent state or that even the sins of the parents could have caused the child to be born blind. 

So the question asked of Jesus---who sinned which brought about this mans blindness?

Healing is a Gift From God

Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  John 9:3

Jesus informs them that it was neither the sin of the man or his parents.

He continues by saying rather that it simply happened in the ordinary course of divine providence and now become an instrument of healing and salvation in this mans soul, that it will become a blessing to others, and glory to God.  

This was about to be an amazing healing.  Not that all healings are not amazing.  But this was not a man who had been blinded by and accident or an illness.  But rather this is a man who had been born blind.  This was not a man who sought out Christ but rather was reliant on Christ finding him? 

God has a purpose in all that he does.  Jesus knew that giving sight to the man born blind would be a part of the validation process to the people of who he is.  Jesus said that he was the light of the world he was about to prove it by giving light to the darkness of the man as well as bringing light to the darkened hearts of the crowd.  This healing was a foretaste of His greater work of bringing healing to the darkness of sins power, through his work on the cross.  

We might be tempted to wish that healing was as easy as reaching for a bottle of pills that we could receive on request.  But thats not Gods way.

God does heal but sometimes he chooses not to.  

There is a story told of a young woman with an affliction.  She began to pray for healing.  To no avail.  She asked other believers to pray with her and for her.  Some nights she labored in prayer all night.  After years of prayer she was not healed.  Eventually she came to a place of peace and simply accepted her affliction.  She said that God was glorified even more because in spite of her continued disability, she loved him.  Thats the ultimate test of our faith, as we walk by faith and not by sight.

This is where we discover an attribute of God.  Grace.  Grace is receiving what we dont deserve.  By the way we often link another attribute with grace and that is Mercy.  Mercy is not getting what we do deserve.  When we receive Christ as our Savior, the forgiveness of sin, and the promise of eternal life we receive both mercy and grace.  

We receive mercy (not getting what we do deserve) because we do deserve eternal separation from God.  We also receive grace (getting what we dont deserve) because we dont deserve forgiveness-the Holy Spirit working in usand the promise of eternal life.  

By the way in a very real sense this woman was healed far beyond what she might have been had he received a physical healing.  Healing whether physical or spiritual is always a miracle.

Paul too struggled with this issue and he too experienced the Grace of God.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV)

7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations,

there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three

times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, My grace is

sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all

the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christs power may rest on me.

Both the young girl and Paul understood that Gods grace provided them with the endurance to carry on and to proclaim a healing in their life that extended far beyond a physical healing.

The Miracle of Healing

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the mans eyes.  Go, he told him, wash in the Pool of Siloam (this word means sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.  John 9:6-7 

In the case of the man born blind, Jesus did chose to heal him.  

He uses saliva to make mud and applies it to the eyes of the man.  This was a bit unusual method for Christ.  Why did he choose this method?

Remember it was the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were there.  The act of making the mud was an act of work.  Could he have done it that way just to tick off the Pharisees?  Perhaps.  Christ had a great sense of humor.  I believe that this chapter is as much about the condemnation of the parasitical mind set as it is about the blind man.  Today though, we are going to spend more time on the response of the blind man.  

But perhaps it was about an act of faith on the part of the blind man.  Remember the indication of the passage is that Jesus and the disciples approached him instead of the blind man asking for the healing.  So perhaps it was about the blind man demonstrating an act of faith in the healing process.  

When seeking healing we are called to act in faith. 

Is any one of you sick?  He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  James 5:14

It is the person who is sick that needs to step out in faith and call the elders for prayer and anointing.  

So Jesus tells the man with the mud packs on his eyes to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.  

Blindness of Unbelief

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the mans eyes was a Sabbath.  Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He put mud on my eyes, the man replied, and I washed, and now I see.  John 9: 13-15

Lets not be too quick to condemn the Pharisees.  We at times can be a bit like them.  Understand that the Pharisees did not wake up every morning thinking How can we be mean today?  How can I be an ogre today?  

Rather when the Pharisees woke up, their first thoughts were about how can I please God?  How can I adjust my life to be more pleasing to God?  

But here was the problem---they had a lack of understanding on what it took to be more pleasing to God.  For the Pharisees to be more pleasing they must obey the letter of the law.  They also needed to make sure that others around them also held to the letter of the law.  For the Pharisees the more that they held to the rituals of the churchthe more that they jumped through all of the religious hoopsthe more pleasing they would be to God.  

Here is their problemthey had great intentions but their hearts were blinded as to what God truly desired to please him.  They were using the wrong measuring stick.

Have you ever done something with pure motives but in the end you miss the whole right purpose?  About 20 years ago I was serving as the Associate Pastor at our church in Alpena Michigan.  That week we had a funeral at the church.  As we got to the end of the week a couple of ladies from the church were resetting the sanctuary.  There were still several flower arrangements there.  One of the ladies said, There are still lots of individual flowers in these displays, we will make up a bouquet for you to take to Traci.  My thought Traci is always saying how she wished I were a bit more thoughtful and even brought her flowers, just because.  So, they make me a beautiful bouquet and I took them home.  I walked through the door with these beautiful flowers and the first words out of her mouth were----where did you get those, some funeral arraignment?  I was devastated; I thought she wanted me to bring her flowers.

You see I thought that all I had to do was to bring home some flowers to fulfill what Traci desired me to do.  I thought that it was the mechanical action of bringing home flowers.  In this I was fulfilling the letter of the law.  But thats not what was desired of me.  I was using the wrong measuring stick.

Traci had wanted me to be thoughtful, to take the time and go and buy her flowers.  Even if it was a 50 cent carnation and nothing more.  It was the action of my heart that she wanted not a mechanical action.  My heart remained blinded to Tracis real desires.  I missed the entire right intention. 

You see for the Phariseeswhile their goal in life was to please God---their hearts remained blinded to the truth of a relationship and instead focused on religion.  That was the blindness of the Phariseesthey were so caught up with the ritualism of religion that they missed relationship.

So in their focus on ritual they are hung up on two issues.  First that Christ healed on the Sabbath.  Here is the interesting thing you could only do something like this on the Sabbath if it were a life and death situation.  The other issue was Jesus method of healing.  What does he do? 

He spits on the ground and makes mud.  Once again it is a violation of the law.   To make the mud is an act of work.

The acts of Christ violate Pharisaical law.   To me this is why Christ chose this method.  

The Pharisees are confronted with their own blindness.  

Therefore in order to cover up for their own blindness they go back and confront the man born blind.  

Look again at verse 24

A second time they summoned the man who had been born blind. Give glory to God by telling the truth, they said. We know this man is a sinner. John 9:24

The man born blind gives a great answer, which leads us to.

The proclamation of a life set Free 

He replied, Whether he is a sinner or not, I dont know.  One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!  John 9:25

The man born blind has his encounter with Gods Grace.  He did not seek healing.  But in the process gets a double helping of Grace.  Because, first of all the man receives his sight.  Then Jesus seeks out the man a second time.

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.  John 9: 35-37

The man receives a second touch of Grace as not only his eyes are opened but also the eyes of his heart. 

But when confronted by the Pharisees

The man born blind simply responds with look I am not going to get into your theological discussions

You guys didnt care anything about me an hour ago.  I was nothing more to you than some blind beggar sitting alongside the road.  In your mind either I had sinned or my parents had sinned.  Nothing more nothing less.

All I know is that Christ has touched my eyes.  I have been healed.  For him nothing else needed to be said.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  I Peter 3:15

That was his testimony.

Chuck Swindoll notes in his book The Grace Awakening:
But when grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ, a long-awaited revolution of the heart began to set religious captives free. Fear-full bondage motivated by guilt was replaced with a fresh motivation to follow Him in truth simply out of deep devotion and delight. Rather than focusing on the accomplishments of the flesh, He spoke of the heart. Instead of demanding that the sinner fulfill a long list of requirements, he emphasized faith, if only the size of a mustard seed. The change spelled freedom, as the Lord himself taught, you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32). Rigid, barren religion was, at last, replaced by a grace-orientated, relationship-liberating grace.