On June 27, 1880, a child was born in Alabama. She was struck with “fever of the brain and stomach.” Her parents were relieved when after a few days the ordeal was over but when the mother went through the daily routine of bathing the little girl, she noticed that the child’s eyes never blinked and her baby was not responsive to loud noises. They had their child examined by a physician and their worst fears were confirmed as they learned their precious little girl was blind, deaf, and mute. As Helen Keller grew, she began to make wild noises- they sounded like the cries of an animal or worse, a demoniac. Helen was uncontrollable and undisciplined because her mother was gentle and didn’t want her to suffer additionally. Finally, teacher Anne Sullivan arrived to help the family and she embarked on a labor of love. She incessantly spelled into Helen’s hand with sign language the names of things Helen encountered. But it was not until the day that they went to the pump and Anne spelled W-A-T-E-R into little Helen’s hand that the light came on. Helen later remarked of that incident, “That living word awakened my soul; gave it light, hope, joy; it set me free.”
Amazingly, Helen learned to speak. She did so by placing her forefinger on the teeth and tongue of someone speaking while at the same time placing her thumb on the throat of the individual to feel the vibration of the vocal cords. She would then place her hand on her own mouth and throat and reproduce the sound almost perfectly. She became a world-renown speaker!
Jesus had a special compassion for the blind. Of all the miracles Jesus performed, during His earthly ministry, none were more prevalent than healing the blind. Let’s meditate for a few moments on this wonderful story.
We see first that blind eyes are opened (9:1-7). If you recall, the Pharisees were about to stone Jesus but He passed through their midst and left the temple grounds, where He encountered this blind man who was begging at the temple entrance. The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (2) They approached this man from a point of theology, not charity. They were calloused, not concerned. Don’t allow your Christianity to become more “heady” than “hearty.” People often ask, “Why did this happen?” rather than “How can I help?”
The disciples assumed there were only two explanations for this man’s blindness-either he sinned or his parents did. If the blind man sinned, then it would have had to be in the womb, which the Pharisees taught was possible. They spiritualized the text, Genesis 4:7, “Sin lies at the door,” teaching that the “door” meant entrance into this world from his mother’s womb. This underscores the danger of spiritualizing a scripture text. It is imaginative and novel, but it misrepresents the Word of God. The other alternative was that his parents sinned, citing passages like Exodus 20:5, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation.” Children may commit the same sins as their parents, but it is not genetics; it is more likely bad examples or simply rebellion against God. Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” Jesus taught us not to sit back and condemn or criticize, but to utilize sorrow and suffering to demonstrate God’s love, mercy and grace. God has work for us to do among the needy and suffering!
Jesus did something unique here among all His miracles. He spit on the ground, made a clay mask and rubbed it on the man’s eyes. He then told the man to wash in the pool of Siloam. He didn’t tell him he would be healed of his blindness but the man obeyed and was rewarded with eyesight! (7)
Next we see that closed minds are darkened (9:8-34). The blind man found his parents’ neighborhood but the neighbors who watched him grow up and bump into walls couldn’t believe he could see! So, they questioned him, believing this was something for the spiritual authorities and took him to the Pharisees (13). And yes, the man was healed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees made strict guidelines to sanctify the seventh day of the week. If the wick of your lamp burned out on the Sabbath, you couldn’t replace it – you had to remain in the dark. It was a rigid system of don’t, don’t, don’t. Jesus violated their Sabbath regulations by rubbing the clay and spittle which was considered “kneading.” When he placed the substance on the man’s eyes he was “anointing.” “Healing” the man’s blindness was illegal and so a second inquisition began.
The way the blind man handled the Pharisees questions was classic: his 33-word explanation (11) to his neighbors became a 12-word synopsis (15) to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were divided (16-17) on who Jesus was so they asked the blind man’s parents two questions (19). The parents admitted he was their son but dodged the second question because they were intimidated by the power of the religious leaders to sanction them from the synagogue. The Pharisees demanded; “Give God the praise” (24). The blind man’s answers and insights were amazing. “Whether he is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I know that though I was blind, now I see!” In all the annals of history no one had healed the blind. If Jesus was the sinner, the Pharisees claimed He was, God would not hear His prayers.
Finally, we see a searching heart is enlightened (35-41). Jesus found the blind man who had been mistreated and abandoned by the corrupt religious leaders and revealed Himself to him. (35-37) I wish the whole world would ask the question in verse 36: “Who is He…that I may believe on Him?” Now the blind man had his spiritual eyes opened.
Jesus came to bring light into a dark world and give sight to those who would admit their blindness. But many living in Jesus’ day professed to have spiritual (in)sight, and Christ came to blind those self-sufficient souls.
Let’s take home a couple of truths from this passage by way of application. First, marred lives must be accepted within the will of God. Marred lives are not necessarily the result of sin and they have a purpose! There are lessons to be learned from the tragedies of life. Paul had a thorn that plagued him and kept him dependent upon God. You may be struggling with your flaws. It may be a physical handicap or nagging health problem. God assumes full responsibility for how He made you!
Then also, hard hearts are calloused to the needs of others. The Pharisees didn’t care about the blind man. Nobody said to him, “Would you like to see the Law of God for the first time?” Knowing Jesus brings joy to a life. Christianity is much more than a list of do’s and don’ts. Knowing Christ should be a joy-filled contagion spreading from person to person.