Jesus Christ had twice made the bold, public claim of being ‘the Light of the World’ (John 8:12; 9:5); now He both proved and illustrated His claim with a powerful object lesson.
Encountering a man suffering from lifelong blindness, Jesus healed him. It was a straightforward and publicly witnessed miracle, but it paved the way for another. The man’s spiritual blindness (caused by sin) was similarly addressed when he grasped the identity of his mystery healer, with the result that he both believed and worshipped Jesus (John 9:38).
The ability of Jesus Christ to enlighten and save is not limited to this historical event. The man’s physical blindness finds a stark parallel in the spiritual condition of all humankind, so that the power of the Lord Jesus to meet his need demonstrates His ability to meet the spiritual needs of everyone.
The miracle itself
The man had been blind from birth. Such a condition was not only debilitating but life threatening, and could be survived only through the indignity of constant dependency on others. Even the disciples of Jesus seemed content to accept the popular philosophy that the man’s blindness was probably his own fault or that of his parents, the consequence of some particularly sinful deed. Even when he was healed, nobody seemed genuinely interested in him. The religious authorities saw him only as a theological problem, one they sought desperately to evade. Even his parents were reluctant to offer him any loyalty.
All this contrasts with the behaviour of Jesus Christ. Recognising the need, He stopped, spoke, and anointed the blind man’s eyes. Later, He sought him out to complete his spiritual education.
The kindness shown by Jesus was not of a bland, sentimental variety. Rather, His actions powerfully signalled His compassion and ability to accomplish what nobody else could. Nothing like this had ever happened before (John 9:32). Observers were astonished; such was the transformation in his appearance that they scarcely recognised the blind beggar – yet it evidently was him. The miracle was undeniable, leaving no other explanation even for those who desperately wanted an alternative.
All this has a profound moral application. From birth, every one of us is in a state of spiritual darkness, separated from God’s light and life, because of sin. Not only so, the Bible teaches that, born as sinners, we also choose to continue on this path, shutting ourselves off from any light that would reveal our true condition (John 3:19).
The great message of this miracle is that Jesus Christ is the One we need. As ‘the Light of the World’, He exposes our guilt, then presents himself as the Saviour whose death makes available the forgiveness of sins to those who trust Him. He alone can bring us into a personal relationship with God.
The unnamed man
The blind man was all too painfully aware of his permanent disability. Initially, however, he seemed less aware of his graver spiritual need.
Nevertheless, being healed, he began to seek God and longed to know the truth (John 9:31). Over the course of a few hours he realised who Jesus was (the Saviour, God’s sent One) and accepted Him by faith. For the second time in one day he received sight, this time in a spiritual sense, through coming to know Jesus Christ.
The reaction of the religious elite was in sharp contrast. Denying they had any spiritual problem, these men were convinced they did not need Jesus. Despite the clear sign which had taken place before their eyes, they flatly refused to heed what it said about the miracle worker. Theirs was a foregone conclusion before any consideration of the facts (John 9:32). Their ‘investigation’ consisted only of an unsuccessful attempt to prove the miracle didn’t happen.
Elsewhere, Jesus revealed how so many refused to come to Him (John 5:40). Despite signs that clearly evidenced His identity as the Son of God (John 20:28) and His ability to deal with sin, the root problem of humankind, many were determined not to listen, thereby cutting themselves off from light, life and blessing.
To reject Christ is not simply to be born blind, but to be deliberately blind (John 9:40-41). There are none so blind as those who are convinced they can see. The refusal of these religious people to see what was plainly before them left them more responsible for their own condition.
Seeing Jesus for who He is
Religion can never deal with our spiritual problem of sin. Indeed, it is often used to conceal the problem; still, regardless of how skilfully we downplay it, sin remains. Contact with light is uncomfortable because it exposes what we would rather keep hidden. This is why so many felt uneasy in the presence of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World; He showed up their sinful condition.
But it’s only in acknowledging the severity of our condition and the need for outside help that we can find the solution. The purpose of Jesus’s coming to earth, His death on the cross and His resurrection, was not only to reveal the extent of the problem but to provide the answer. He can deal fully with our sin and bring us permanently into the light.
The light Jesus offers is not merely spiritual enlightenment; it is the enablement to know God personally and experience peace with Him. This is what it means to have eternal life, life as God intended, life in the light.