As I’ve written previously, physical phenomena are always the manifestation of the spiritual. What we see on the surface, perhaps a miraculous healing, is merely physical evidence of a deeper, more permanent transformation taking place within a person’s being. This must be so since all healing takes place from the inside out.
In some cases, physical healing may actually have a direct spiritual counterpart. For example, in the spiritual world, sight is not of the eyes but of the mind. Seeing refers to understanding. Thus the expression ‘I see’ means ‘I understand’. So a blind person who is given physical sight can also experience new insights into the nature of his or her being. One of those types of healings is recorded in the ninth chapter of John’s Gospel.
On one occasion when Jesus was walking along with his disciples, they came across a man who was blind from birth. Upon observing this man, the disciples posed a question to Jesus.
“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “Why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” [John 9:2] (NLT)
The disciples’ comment is not atypical. Whose fault is it that the man turned out the way he did? Jesus, on the other hand, had no interest in finding fault. He instead points to the solution.
“You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause – effect here. Look instead for what God can do.….For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s light.” [John 9:3-5] (MSG)
Casting blame or pointing an accusing finger at someone is always the wrong approach. It is a form of attack, which is not how God works. Jesus told them instead to look at what God can do. For he was about to show them indeed what God can do, which is why he refers to himself as a light. Light makes things visible that were previously hidden.
The man in question was blind from birth. He lived in a darkened state relative to others who possess eyesight. Jesus came to him as a light that would enable him to see. How did he do this? And just what kind of sight was the man to receive? Let’s see what happens when Jesus approaches the man.
“Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, ‘Go wash at the Pool of Siloam.’ (Siloam means “sent”.) So the man went and washed and came back seeing.” [John 9:6-7] (NLT).
Jesus makes what amounts to a placebo; he tells the man to go wash it off at a particular place; and the man’s sight is restored as a result. Does this sound farfetched? I think not. We can see that the man believed fully in the treatment that Jesus was giving him because he did exactly as Jesus told him. Research has shown that the power of placebo in the healing process arises directly from a persons’ belief in the treatment that they receive.
Also, notice that the man had to wash first before he could see. While from a physical perspective this seems obvious, the spiritual parallel is somewhat less so. If spiritual sight is of the mind, then washing is indicative of cleansing away thoughts that keep our minds cluttered, anxious, and overactive. Such thoughts exist to keep us from seeing our true selves as we were created. Washing away such thoughts then is necessary to prepare our minds to receive fresh information and process it effectively that we may gain a renewed spiritual perspective.
Once the man received his sight, those that knew him as a blind beggar were astonished and asked,
“ Isn’t this the man that used to sit and beg?” [John 9:8] (NLT)
Notice that he used to sit and beg, but that he leaves his begging behind when he receives his sight. Why does this happen? He clearly has a different view of himself and of life in general. Begging embodies a spirit of limitation and hopelessness. The man no longer sees himself that way. Some thought that his change was so dramatic that he could not have been the same man who used to beg but was merely someone who looked like him (see verse 9). So he had to reassure those people that he indeed was the same person.
“They asked, ‘Who healed you? What happened?’” [John 9:10] (NLT)
So the man tells them the story as it happened (see verse 11).
It’s interesting to note that the day on which Jesus performed this healing was the Sabbath (see verse 14). This point is spiritually significant. The Sabbath was established as a day to rest, be refreshed, and to commemorate freedom from bondage (see Deuteronomy 5:12-15). A well-known prescription for healing the body is rest and relaxation. Therefore one can legitimately say that the Sabbath was made to bring about healing, which is the very purpose Jesus used it for.
As the story progresses, the religious leaders learned of Jesus’ healing of the man on the Sabbath through the healed man’s testimony (see verse 15). Now this created no small stir among the religious leaders. Some argued that Jesus could not be of God because healing according to their interpretation was work and work is forbidden on the Sabbath, which would make Jesus a Sabbath breaker. But others among them asked,
“..how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?” [John 9:16] (NLT).
So they asked the healed man what he thought of Jesus. The man replied,
“I think he must be a prophet.” (verse 17).
That response did not sit well with them. They refused to believe the man, and they questioned if he was ever really blind in the first place. So the leaders summoned the man’s parents. When asked if the healed man was their son and was born blind, they affirmed that both of those things were true. But when they were asked how their son received his sight, they gave an evasive answer. They were evasive because they knew that if they said that Jesus healed their son, they would risk the public embarrassment of being expelled from the synagogue. Why would they be expelled from the synagogue? The religious leaders had previously announced that anyone declaring Jesus to be the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. Healing is intimately related to the forgiveness of sin (see Psalm 103:3), which is a defining characteristic of the Messiah. So to state that Jesus healed their son would be to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah. The parents would not take that risk, so they referred the question of healing back to their son.
So the religious leaders called the son back in to cross examine him for the second time and started out by saying,
“God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.” [John 9:24] (NLT)
To be a sinner is to be separated from God. Why do they think Jesus is a sinner? Because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath according to their interpretation of the commandment. How does the healed man reply?
“‘I don’t know whether he is a sinner,’ the man replied. ‘But I know this: I was blind but now I can see.’” [John 9:25] (NLT)
He merely testifies to the transformation in his condition without passing judgment on Jesus. So the leaders turn around and ask him for a second time to tell them what Jesus did to him. Perhaps they were looking to pick up additional details or searching for inconsistencies in each version of the story. Whatever their reasoning, this formerly hopeless and blind beggar now shows no fear toward these institutional leaders and replies,
“‘Look!’…..’I told you once. Didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’” [John 9:27] (NLT)
Here we see someone who was until recently a timid, blind beggar now turning himself from witness to questioner in the presence of the institutional leaders of his day while admitting interest in becoming a disciple of Jesus – an offense punishable by expulsion from the synagogue. Did being threatened with that public embarrassment matter to him? Apparently no – what boldness! Clearly, there was much more to this man’s ‘seeing’ than his eyesight.
Visibly upset, the religious leaders cursed him and said,
“‘You are his disciple but we are disciples of Moses! We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.’”
“‘Why that’s very strange!’ the man replied. ‘He healed my eyes and yet you don’t know where he comes from? We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will. Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.’” [John 9:28-33] (NLT)
Just look at the courage and conviction of this once-blind beggar. He fearlessly corrects the leaders on matters in which they profess expertise. Now furious, the religious leaders retaliate by passing judgment on him and exposing him to public humiliation.
“‘You were born a total sinner!’ they answered. ‘Are you trying to teach us?’ And they threw him out of the synagogue.” [John 9:34] (NLT)
Wow – it’s as if the religious leaders are attempting to reverse time. Here is a man who, through the work of Jesus, was clearly healed, completely changed, made whole, and now they are attempting to turn him back into a beggar by expelling him from the community. Upon hearing this, Jesus goes to the man and asks him if he believes in the ‘Son of Man’, a term that also means the Messiah. The man responds in the affirmative and asks Jesus to show him who the Messiah is. Jesus then introduces himself to the man as the Messiah. The man accepts Jesus as the Messiah and expresses heartfelt thanks to him for all that Jesus has done for him. With his newfound perception, he had the insight to break with tradition and accept and follow the way of Jesus, even in the face of public humiliation.
What we see is not merely a healing of the man’s eyesight, but an extraordinary transformation in his being – a complete change in his spiritual perception of himself. He went from being a blind beggar to being a public defender of justice, all initiated by his encounter with God through Jesus.
After the man expressed his gratitude to Jesus for what he had done for him, Jesus said something remarkable to all the by-standers. He said,
“I entered this world to render judgment – to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” [John 9:39] (NLT)
The phrase ‘to render judgment’ means to set things right, to render justice, or to bring about equality. Perhaps the greatest injustice of all is the pronouncement of guilt upon the innocent, as the religious leaders did when they accused the man of being a sinner and threw him out of the synagogue. By their words and actions, the religious leaders, those entrusted with the responsibility for rendering and deploying justice, showed themselves to be spiritually blind. Some of them heard what Jesus said and responded,
“… Are you saying we’re blind?”
“‘If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty.’ Jesus replied. ‘ But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.’” [John 9:40-41] (NLT)
In this final statement, Jesus proclaims innocence to the spiritually blind. There is no sin. There is no guilt to be found in them. They merely require spiritual illumination to discover the correct perception of themselves. Guilt, on the other hand, remains with those who judge others and accuse them of sin. For by accusing others, they condemn themselves.
What can we take away from this? The sight that Jesus gave to the man born blind was more insight than eyesight. It did not so much help him to see his external world as it emancipated him from the limitations he had previously imposed upon his internal world. His newfound inner vision, illuminated by Jesus, enabled him to discover and experience a profound wholeness within himself. A man who was once a timid, blind beggar becomes a fearless public proponent for justice. He was blind to who he was but now he clearly sees.