A man born blind — John 9 (part five)

This week we’re looking at the story of the man who was born blind, found in John 9. Specifically, we’re looking at the three responses made to Jesus in this story. You might want to start with Monday’s post to catch up, or quickly read the first 15 verses of John 9. So far, we’ve seen that some people (like the Jewish leaders) are prejudiced against Jesus from the beginning. Others are initially interested, but competing concerns – such as the approval of others – end up winning out (just like the blind man’s parents.) Today, we encounter another kind of response: that of the man himself.

Some will pursue their initial interest, and come to saving faith

And his response is quite different. It’s the exact opposite, in fact, of the lame man we read about last week in John 5. Although it starts similarly enough. Both are healed by Jesus (both on a sabbath), and both initially have no idea of the identity of the one who healed them. Have a look at how the recently-not-blind man reacts first:

John 9:12 “Where is this man?” they asked him. “I don’t know,” he said.
John 9:17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

Makes sense. The Old Testament prophets like Elijah and Elisha were fond of the odd spot of healing.

John 9:24-25 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

He doesn’t know much, does he? He doesn’t know who Jesus is, or where he has come from. He simply knows that Jesus has miraculously helped him. But you get the impression that each time he’s questioned, he shows a little more faith. Paradoxically, it seems that each time they turn up the pressure on him to reject Jesus, he aligns himself with Jesus just that little bit more. Totally the opposite of the lame man in John 5 we looked at yesterday. In fact, by verse 27 he even includes himself by implication as one of Jesus’ ‘disciples’:

John 9:27 He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?"

That last question is  a little bit cheeky, I think. And later in verse 31, he goes on to say:

John 9:31-33 “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

He has passed the initial ‘test’, if we can call it that. He’s been given a taste of God’s favour, through Jesus. How will he  respond? Will he be like the lame man in chapter 5, and denounce Jesus to save himself?

Although he doesn’t know much at all, he has seen enough to respond positively. To pursue its source, even in the face of strong family pressure; extreme community pressure to conform. Despite the cost. Despite the fact that he’s driven out from the community because of it.

And that’s precisely where Jesus finds him and meets him. Where Jesus rewards his faith with a fuller understanding of who he is:

John 9:35-38 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.

No longer would he answer ‘I don’t know whether he’s a sinner.’ No longer can he say ‘all I know is I was blind but now I see’. He’s now found out who Jesus really is; he has informed faith. And he responds in worship.

In this chapter, the man born blind demonstrates this kind of two-step process we find throughout John’s Gospel. A process where those who receive, who welcome Jesus initially are brought to saving faith. A process where those who pursue Jesus as being somehow a man from God – they’re rewarded with a fuller revelation of who he is. The lame man in John 5 failed the test, and we don’t hear from him again. But the blind man in John 9 persevered, and found eternal life.

We come now to Robin’s story; I can use a real name, because the story has a happy ending, and I asked his permission. Robin was hanging around at our church for almost a year, a bit like the fictitious Julie (see yesterday).  He turned up to church each week, was at every social event, joined a home group, and even starred as an angel in a particularly lame Christmas drama. Yet for some reason that experience didn’t scar him…

I think it was the sense of community that kept him coming initially. But by the end of the year; after a lot of questions; after a lot of patient listening; and after hearing the testimony of one of our pastors – Robin finally came to say ‘Lord, I believe’. At one of our quarterly prayer meetings, I remember praying for him to come to faith. But at the next meeting he was there praying right next to me – praying for his friends who don’t know Jesus. It doesn’t get any better than that!

As you share the gospel, you will also find people who respond like Robin; or like the man born blind. They might be attracted by the love of a Christian community, or the beauty of the gospel message itself. Hungry for more, they pursue its source – they pursue Jesus.

Your job is simply to do that journey with them. To answer their questions. To feed their fledgling faith. To pray for them. To challenge them when it looks like they might be settling for the fence and the inevitable drift that follows. To encourage them to pursue Jesus no matter what it takes, until the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to them. Until they are healed of their spiritual blindness. And then they believe. And then they worship.

And when you get to be there, to do the journey with them, and to hold their hand when they finally arrive at their destination: it is indeed the most awe-inspiring thing you will ever do.

To think about

Who are you praying for, who looks like they’re on this journey toward faith? How might you help them make their next step?

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