We often hear the expression, “seeing is believing” but as we’ll see from a consideration of John 9, the opposite is also true, “believing is seeing!”

We read, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth” (v1). That blind man couldn’t have seen Jesus. He wouldn’t have known if Jesus had walked right by him. But it was Jesus who saw him, and it was Jesus who deliberately paused to seek out this man. That’s what our Lord has done for all of us: he’s sought us out, while we were yet sinners and opened our eyes to his grace.

It’s remarkable that Jesus even had time for this blind man. He’d just escaped the Temple precinct and avoided being stoned to death (8:59)! Putting aside his own personal welfare, his compassion drove him to stop for a blind beggar. Let’s never think that he wouldn’t be interested in our plight. The blind man didn’t even ask him for help and it clearly wasn’t an appropriate time for Christ, but Christ was there for him.

In verse 2, we find an interesting question from his disciples, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” As he did so often throughout his ministry, Jesus used this opportunity to break through another Jewish myth. The man before them was blind so that the “works of God should be made manifest in him”. Job’s friends tried to tell him that the reason he was having such problems was because he was such a sinner. But sin had nothing to do with it and sin has nothing to do with it here.

Jesus replied, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (v4). In effect, Christ is saying, “Look, I’m not going to get into a theological discussion on sin and suffering. Let’s get on with it and heal this man.” Paul told the Ephesians, to redeem the time, because the days were evil (5:16). I’m sure if Christ was amongst us he’d be urging us to get on with what’s important, to look out for each other, to get out and offer the cup of cold water to those that need it. There’s a real sense of urgency throughout the ministry of our Lord. He didn’t have much time! And it’s that same attitude of mind that he’s looking for in us.

That which blinds us

He hadn’t said anything to this man, who was just sitting there, probably nervously wondering what was going on. “When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay” (v6). Why did he do that? When our Lord smeared clay over this man’s eyes, is he indicating that there is something now hindering his spiritual sight? The clay effectively added to his blindness, and for him to actually see, and to see clearly, the clay, the earthy dust of the ground had to be removed. It was the clay of his own humanity – his sins – that was hindering his spiritual sight. As the clay dried across his eyes, it would have become increasingly irritating, so that he yearned for the cleansing and refreshing water to remove it. In the same way, the clay that blinds us to so many spiritual truths needs to be removed from our eyes.

But interestingly, it was not an easy task. Imagine it. For a blind man to traverse the distance from the Temple area down to the pool of Siloam he would have to ask for directions and for help, and he might easily stumble or fall into some of the crevices along the road on the way down. It was a difficult journey the Lord sent him on but, finally, when he had found his way to the pool, then his eyes would be opened and he would be washed and cleansed. But it wasn’t just any pool that he was sent to. It was the pool of Siloam (meaning “sent”). What this man was to learn very quickly, was that if he wanted to truly see, he’d have to go to the one true Siloam, the one who was sent from his Father, the one who had touched his eyes and changed his life.

Clearly this little journey down to the pool is a very significant little detail. Not only does it represent a parable for our life, it also forms a description of what would immediately follow in this man’s life. Through this rather peculiar little journey, Christ was showing what it takes to open eyes that are spiritually blind. Restoring the blind man’s physical sight could have been done with the touch of a hand, but to open spiritual eyes involves a process of overcoming obstacles that lie in the way. It is only as that process is completed, and we arrive at the place where we see who Jesus is, are our spiritual eyes opened.

He came seeing

It is one of the most understated commentaries of all time, when it says, “he went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (v7)! We can hardly imagine the joy that this man was experiencing but the record almost ignores that altogether and immediately throws us into the perplexity of those around him. The blind man doesn’t really know who Jesus is; he doesn’t really know what’s going on; all he knows is that for the very first time in his life, he can see.

So the neighbours bring him to the Pharisees and the trouble begins. “They brought to the Pharisees him that formerly was blind” (v13). That’s significant. For the Pharisees, it would have been so much easier if the man in front of them that was formerly blind, was still blind. But he wasn’t. He was there looking straight at them. The evidence of Jesus’ miraculous power was very literally staring them in the face! But rather than acknowledge the miracle for what it was, they took his former blindness upon themselves!

There are none so blind … !

Unfortunately in the eyes of the Pharisees, there was no denying that this man could now see. So they resorted back to the only safety net that they knew, to their own legal framework that they had built their comfortable lives around. Unlike the blind man, they were incapable of taking even the first steps down the path to the pool of Siloam. They were stuck in their blindness.

When people with such a mindset investigate something, you begin and end with unbelief. It’s called subjective research. And so they pulled in his parents and asked them, “Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?” (v19).

Now it was the parents’ turn to decide where they stood, to do as their son had done and take the first steps of faith down the path to the waters of Siloam – but it was too much to ask. They too resorted back to the only comfort zone they knew. For them it was a social framework. They were blinded by being part of the synagogue, sharing in the sense of community that they had become used to, the sense of belonging, of being part of the system of the day. That was what blinded their vision, and so they meekly resorted to a lie. “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself” (v 20).

Although the parents had managed to protect their own interests, their answers did little to help the desperate Pharisees. So they brought back the blind man and attempted to sell him the conclusion that they had come up with. “Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (v24,25).

This was getting difficult; they were getting desperate, so they started to try to impose themselves on this man. “Look at us, we’re the teachers of the law, and we know that this man is a sinner”. Intimidation seemed to work on his parents, maybe it would work on their son. But for this blind man, there was one thing that that he knew and one thing only – this man Jesus had changed his life. One day he was blind and now he could see.

Resorting to violence

There was no argument left. And so the Pharisees began the typical downward spiral of those losing an argument. They attempted to discredit him by asking him the same question (in v26) in the hope that he’ll give a different answer. It’s a typically cunning and deceitful tactic but the blind man was one step ahead of them.

When intimidation and trickery don’t work, those losing an argument begin to make it very obvious. For the Pharisees it was no different. They resorted to verbal abuse. In verse 28 they reviled him, they started cursing at him, calling him names until finally, they reached the bottom of the downward spiral. They picked him up and cast him out of the building (v34). But graciously for the blind man, the story didn’t end there.

We discover another remarkable insight into the character of our Lord. “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” (v35). Note that Jesus actually went after the man, he sought him out and found him. That tells us so much about our Lord. In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (see also John 5:14). In Matthew 18:12 it says, “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine and go to the mountains and seek the one which is gone astray?” Throughout the life of Christ, he was seeking the lost. And the miracle of the beggar’s spiritual sight depended on Jesus seeking him out and finding him.

It’s Jesus that seeks us out in order to restore our spiritual sight – as long as we’re prepared to acknowledge our plight. At an earlier time in Jesus’ ministry we read, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17). A physician will only call in on those that acknowledge their sickness – and Jesus will only seek to save those that know that they are lost. Because the man had defended Jesus, it had cost him everything. They’d thrown him out of the synagogue. His friends turned their back on him. His parents didn’t want a thing to do with him. He was truly “lost”.

The lost is found

It was Jesus who found him and who immediately asks, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” There was absolutely no hesitation. He wanted to believe. He just wanted to know who Jesus was. The Lord said, “Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him” (v37).

A poor beggar who saw nothing all his life now sees, and comes to know, the true light of the world and immediately believes. And that really is a beautiful ending to this man’s story. And it is further evidence of the tremendous truth that what God begins, He completes.

By way of contrast to the light that Jesus had brought to the life of the blind man, our Lord now exposes the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees for what it was. Jesus said, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (v39). Jesus came to give sight to those who knew they needed it, those who knew they couldn’t see. That was the Pharisees problem. They couldn’t acknowledge their blindness.

They asked, “Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (v40). If they only knew that they were blind, he could offer them their sight. For the Pharisees, they were stuck in a self serving, self satisfying religion and refused to even acknowledge their sins, let alone seek a means of forgiveness. In their eyes, they could see very clearly their own righteousness, the tithes that they offered, the clothing they wore, the rules that they upheld. In actual fact, their righteousness was there for everyone to see. What they couldn’t appreciate is that it was all a hypocritical sham. It was simply a show they were putting on for everyone else. As long as they continued to promote their own righteousness, their sins remained. They lived and died spiritually blind.

Blind spots

For us, the warning is there, isn’t it? We all have our blind spots. We can be blinded by a focus on a particular issue that looms so large in our life that it blankets out everything else. We can be blinded by a focus on our careers or a focus on our children that dominates our lives to such an extent that it blinds everything else. But perhaps worst of all, like the Pharisees, we can be blinded by our own spiritual egos. We can become so focused on promoting the things that can be seen by those around us, that it blinds us to everything else. We lose the ability to truly know ourselves for who we are and to be aware of how God sees us as opposed to how we might be seen by others.

Let’s ensure that we’re looking out for our blind spots. Let’s check our blind spots on a regular basis and, like the blind man, let’s ensure that in life, there’s only one thing that we’re focused on – that’s finding that one that we’ve never personally seen, the Lord Jesus Christ. Like the blind man, we’ve all been touched by Christ. We’ve all heard his words and followed them as best we could, and that’s come at a cost. That’s involved some obstacles along the way but, as yet, none of us have ever seen him.

But if we show the spirit of the blind man, we can be assured that one day we will see our Lord. And only then will we come to truly appreciate and experience the blessings held out for all those that have not seen, and yet have believed.