Read John 9. Read the whole chapter. There is so much packed into this small narrative. Today my good friend Dr. Fred Toke shared in a gathering some insights on this story. They are worth sharing in condensed form here. As you read this story one is struck by a few nuggets of irony that John doesn’t want us to miss. First off we see Jesus SPIT in the ground to make mud which he then uses to apply to his eyes. Why does Jesus spit? Keep in mind that in 1st century Jewish culture the Pharisees were teaching that blindness and all forms of disability was a direct result of sin in your life. Therefore it is quite possible to envision a scenario where as this blind beggar calls out day after day for money, some choose to SPIT on him. Here is the first twist of irony. Where before others spat on him to curse him, Jesus spits “on” him to heal him. Jesus has come to turn our evil into his good.
The second twist of irony is seen subsequent to his healing. He has just received his sight and as he is running around utterly ecstatic with joy, his own neighbors don’t even recognize him. Just think about that for a second. Here is this poor, blind beggar day in and day out wearing the same clothes, the same nappy hairstyle, holding the same walking stick, carrying the same mat under his arm–and his own neighbors don’t recognize him saying, “No–it only looks like him” (Jn 9:9). As fallen, self-centered people it is difficult to imagine those we view as beneath us escaping the confines we have imposed upon them. John implies the man is flabbergasted that no one recognizes him stating, “He kept saying, ‘I’m the one!” (Jn. 9:8). And here is the irony. They don’t recognize him despite passing him every day on the street for one reason only–his eyes are now open piercing back into theirs. Who is blind now?
Thirdly the Pharisees are shown to almost be incensed that Jesus would once again demonstrate a miraculous display of power they can’t explain. They desperately want to excuse away the healing and any suggestion that it could be of God. So they blow the whistle over a technicality. For you see Jesus once again healed someone on the Sabbath.
The third irony is found emblazoned all over their ensuing actions. In John 9:18 and 24 they summon both the parents of the man and then summon him a second time to demand answers to their questions! In essence they are holding court on the Sabbath to judge a man who healed on the Sabbath! Who is blind now?
A few more nuggets of insight are also worth mentioning. Being a psychologist Dr. Toke perceptively picked up on an issue of rejection that I never saw before. Remember–he was blind from birth and therefore he has never seen his parents. He has no idea what they look like. Imagine the scenario: he has just been summoned back to the temple to answer more questions. He has probably by now heard that his parents were also summoned and are inside the temple somewhere. He must have been filled with anticipation wondering what his parents look like! “Is that them? Or maybe that’s them over there!” All of a sudden his ears recognize a familiar a voice–a voice of rejection. And he knows he has found his parents. John says his parents feared the Pharisees and so they refuse to defend him, instead they pass the buck off to him to stand all alone. As John records,“His parents answered…Ask him; he’s of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said these things because they were afraid of the Jews, since the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him as Messiah, he would be banned from the synagogue. This is why his parents said, “He’s of age; ask him.”
Just think about that! This should be the most joyful day in his parents life! Their son who was born blind can now see! Astonishingly instead of celebrating they have allowed a fear of being cast out of the synagogue– in essence to be treated as an ostracized outcast like their son was for many years– to cause them to spurn their son yet again. Who is blind now?
In the end we find the now seeing beggar unflinching and unafraid before the religious garb of the Pharisees. In fact he ridicules them for their failure to explain to him how an individual they seek to demonize as a ghastly sinner could be used of God to perform a righteous miracle on his behalf. It is just too much for the Pharisees. Whatever pseudo-religious veneer they had in tact to temporarily hide their self-righteous ugliness comes sloughing off their faces and hearts as they retort, “You were born entirely in sin,” they replied, “and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out” (Jn 9:34).
Again–just picture this. He has just been healed, his sight has been restored! “What a foretaste of good things to come,” he must have thought. And then almost immediately everything changes and he steps into a trial–literally and figuratively. A day which should have been the happiest most celebrated day of his life shockingly ends with him being thrown out on his rear end to be ostracized and spurned all over again–but this time as a seeing man.
And this is his state when Jesus finds him again. I just love this part of the story. John says, “But when Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, HE FOUND HIM…”
He found him. Earlier in the day the life of this beggar and the life of Jesus converged together in healing. Then they separated going their different directions. Later when this poor beggar was forced to face an unexpected, heartbreaking trial alone–Jesus searches him out and finds him. Jesus does not forsake him to bare his trial alone. And the last we see of this man we find him saying, “I believe Lord!” (Jn 9:38).
We often here the tickling ear sermons of modern Christianity tell us, “When you become a Christian all your problems and trials go away.” This is a lie from the pit of hell. Anything which is packaged as the truth of the gospel yet is a falsehood is a lie propagated in hell. Peter clearly declares, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you…” (1 Pt. 4:12). The Word of God never promises us that we will never face trials in this life–it only promises us that we will not walk alone through them. Jesus will find us and take our hand to face the pain together. This alone is our assurance and trust–not the avoidance of trial but the pledge to be found by Him in the midst of our trials and dark nights of the soul. For as he promises, “I will never leave you…lo i will be with you always.”