Our eyes are seriously rather remarkable when you think about it. Did you know, the entire length of all the eyelashes shed by a human in their life is over 98 feet with each eyelash having a lifespan of approximately five months. Our eyes are composed of over two million different working parts. While a fingerprint has 40 unique characteristics, the iris has 256 which is why retina scans are becoming increasingly popular for security purposes. An average blink is just 1/10th of a second, and you blink an average of 12 times a minute. Our eyes and the optic nerve are so complex that we have been unable to transplant them and rewire them successfully.
And, yet, despite all these mechanisms working together to give us sight, we are all at least partially blind. You may have 20/20 vision or corrective lenses, but each of your eyes has a blind spot. And, you know this. Even though the other eye tries to compensate for the blind spot, they can still get us into trouble from time to time. To help demonstrate this, there is a blind spot test in each of your bulletins this morning. To see your blind spot in action:
- Cover your left eye and stare at the cross with your right eye.
- Move the piece of paper until is about ten inches away from your face and the circle should “disappear.” That’s your blind spot!
- You can repeat the process for your other eye but this time cover your right eye and stare at the circle with your left eye. The cross should now disappear.
Blind spots are abundantly obvious while we are driving. Our eyes have a small area on them without photoreceptors where our optic nerve is which causes the blind spot. Typically, your brain is able to fill in the blind spot, and you aren’t even aware of its presence. But, they’re always there. But, our eyes are not the only things with blind spots. Some other areas of our lives have blind spots with more serious implications. A study released its findings last month that disagreeable teenagers tend to grow into disagreeable adults. Over the course of the ten-year study, researchers found that teenagers often have no awareness of the adverse effects of their behavior. Both in their early teenage years and in their early adulthood, the teens with the problem behaviors didn’t report that they had bad relationships. They recognized there was conflict, but they viewed their relationships as healthy while everyone else around them reported their relationships as very poor. In other words, we’re a people with relational blind spots, too. There are things that seem so obvious to the other people around us, but, from our vantage point, we just can’t see it.
Even more detrimental, we have spiritual blind spots. There are things within ourselves and things God is working around us that we are easily blinded toward. And, it’s not just us. King David had the same problem with spiritual blind spots. In Psalm 19:12, David says, “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” See, David understood there was sin he was blind to in his own life. Then, in Psalm 139:23-24, David writes, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Again, David was saying that though he may be blind to these areas, God could search him and see his blind spots. But, he needed God’s perspective.
This morning, I want to take a look at John 9 and a story of a man who was born blind. Though this is a story about a man born physically blind, there is revealed a deeper meaning of our spiritual blind spots. In this passage, we’re going to see that Jesus was not simply concerned about restoring this man’s physical sight, but He desired to awaken this man’s heart to the things of God. But, as Jesus gives sight to this blind man, we also learn in this passage that those who had their sight all along had some incredibly blind spots. The religious people who thought they saw and understood the will of God missed it in the midst of their blind spots. So, this morning, as we work our way through this passage, we are going to look at several questions that may reveal some potential blind spots in our own lives.
ARE WE BLIND TO JUST HOW NEAR JESUS IS?
So, John 9:1-3 begins by saying, “As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” Let’s stop here for a minute. I love the opening to this chapter, but for us to completely understand why, we have to look a little deeper.
First, we need to understand that we’re talking about a man who was blind from birth. So, for the past 20-30 years, he has known nothing but darkness. And every moment of this brought shame to his family. Throughout Scripture, to be overtaken by blindness was an ultimate disaster because with it came total dependence on others. I imagine like most children, this man was scared of the dark as a child except, for him, it was a continual experience. He would know someone or something was there, but he could never quite tell what or who it was. His parents most likely kept him separated from the other kids. He was different, and they would make fun of him. But, I’m certain he could hear them laughing and playing, but he knew he would never be one of them.
We know his parents were God-fearing and God-loving people (and, we’ll see this shown later in the chapter), but, as we see here, people had this false notion that his parents must have been wicked people and that God was punishing them for some unconfessed sin—and that’s why he was born blind.
He would never marry. He wouldn’t be a husband or a father or have a career. The only thing that would provide a sufficient income for him to become independent was begging. It was disgraceful. It was humiliating. But, it was better than burdening his parents any longer. So, at the beginning of John 9, we find this blind man near the temple on the Sabbath begging so that he will have enough just to eke his way through life. Meanwhile, he is a public display for the religious teachers and students to ponder why in the world God made him the way that He did.
And, it’s with that understanding that we then read in John 9:1 that, “As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.” So, check this out: Jesus saw the man. Why is this important? It says Jesus was passing by. Where was He going? Throughout the entire previous chapter of John 8, Jesus was teaching the Pharisees. In fact, He was telling them that He was the light of the world who came into the darkness, and it was God the Father who sent Him to carry out this mission. They began to look at Jesus and say, “Jesus, you’re crazy. You have a demon.” Frankly, the Pharisees didn’t like what Jesus was saying at all. So, at the end of John in 8:59, we read that “they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” So, there’s a group of people ready and willing to stone Jesus, and as He is leaving, He stops and sees this man. In the midst of everything going on, Jesus still notices this man.
Nobody stopped and saw this man before. Yeah, they walked by him and may have dropped some money into his hands, but nobody took the time to stop and really look at this man. But, Jesus did while people were chasing after Him for His life. Even this blind man couldn’t see Jesus himself or know exactly where Jesus was, but Jesus saw him. This leads me to my first question for you this morning—and our first potential blind spot—are we blind to just how near Jesus is?
You see, we’re all a lot like this blind man. It may not be a physical ailment, but we’ve all experienced something that has left us feeling cut off and separated from other people. We’ve all been through a moment that has left us feeling ashamed and misunderstood. We’ve all been left standing around like we’re invisible and not worth the time and effort. We’ve been hurt and left wondering when is it going to stop. You see, you know the blind man in this story because you are the blind man. Yet, Jesus sees you; He knows your situation. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” So, where is God in the midst of our rejection and pain and shame? He’s near to you, but we can’t always see just how near Jesus is. We’ve got spiritual blind spots hiding this reality from us.
Psalm 145:18 affirms this by saying, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” How do we overcome the blind spot of seeing just how near Jesus is to us? We have to call out to Him in faith. He is not a disinterested and distant God from us. There are some of you in the room this morning who have never truly called out to God because frankly you didn’t think He cared about you. Somehow you found yourself in a church and, particularly, this church. You’re hearing for the first time that God knows you, sees you and cares for you. You didn’t think He saw you or your situation. And, there are some of you who have been in church every week for your entire life, but you don’t feel like Jesus is near to you. You’ve stopped calling out to God for any number of reasons. I want you to know this morning that He cares for us. He is near to us. We need to call out to Him and trust in Him in the midst of our brokenheartedness and shame.
ARE WE BLIND TO THE BEAUTY IN THE MESS?
Let’s continue our story. We read in John 9:4-6, where Jesus continues saying “’We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ Having said these things, Jesus spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud.”
So, imagine with me again that you’re this man. Again, you can’t see; you’ve actually never been able to see, but you can hear. You can hear that Jesus is near, and you’ve probably heard that name quite a bit recently. You can hear the disciples asking whose fault was it that you were born blind. You can hear them talking about you and how messed up you are. But, then, you hear Jesus start talking about the works of God and the glory of God. For once, someone isn’t talking about how you sinned or how your parents sinned; they’re talking about the works and the glory and the grace of God. And, word gets around, so I’m sure the blind man has heard that Jesus can heal. I’m sure the blind man has heard that Jesus can open blind eyes. Maybe the blind man starts thinking, “Dude, this is it. Jesus can heal me. It’s going to happen.”
It may be fair to assume that the next thing the blind man expected to hear were the words, “Be healed.” But, instead, the blind man hears this—He hears Jesus hocking a loogie. And, now he feels something wet. This guy can’t catch a break. He’s been blind his whole life. Here are people talking about him and how messed up he is and whose fault it is. Now, here comes Jesus and maybe He can do something about the situation. But, instead, Jesus spits on the ground and wipes mud on his face. And, we know the end of this story so it’s easy for us to overlook this, but Jesus doesn’t give the man any explanation. Up to this point, Jesus hasn’t even addressed the man himself. The man’s first interaction with Jesus is to have Jesus hock a loogie and make some mud and wipe it on his face.
So, this morning, we decided we’re going to open our prayer ministry exclusively to those with overactive salivary glands. If you’re a drooler, we want you on our prayer team. You’ve got what it takes! Seriously, though, what’s going on here? Again, I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we are all too familiar with what the blind man felt on that day. Have you ever prayed for something and felt like it went unanswered? Maybe, even worse yet, have you ever prayed for something but felt like instead you took two giant steps backward? If you have, then you know how this blind man was feeling. He had longed for healing; and, now, there’s an opportunity—a chance—that Jesus might heal him. Instead, he gets spit and mud wiped on his face. He wanted answers, but he got a mess. And, this leads me to my second question this morning—our second potential blind spot—are we blind to the beauty in the mess? Yeah, it’s spit and mud. The mess is obvious, so where’s the beauty? What are we talking about here?
Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” What’s this verse telling us this morning? See, everybody wants the abundant crops. Everybody wants the good stuff. Everyone wants an amazing story to share. But, to get there, we need oxen; and, oxen often leave piles of smelly mess all over the place. To get there, we have to go through the messiness of our lives. So, where there are no oxen, the manger might be clean; but, where there are no oxen, there are also no crops. So, here’s where the beauty in the mess comes into play:
Look for the area of your life that appears to be the biggest mess; and, ask God to turn it into your biggest ministry! Are you asking God to use your life in some capacity? Then, get ready for the mess. Because, you see, without the mess, there is no ministry. Without the mess, there’s no testimony. Without the mess, this blind man doesn’t see. Sometimes our lives get even messier before we reach the miracle, but there’s a beauty in the mess because God is involved.
Without the mess, there is no ministry.
As many of you know, Abby and I went through three consecutive miscarriages when we were first trying to get pregnant. There was nothing beautiful about that. It was a mess. It was ugly. It stunk. I hated it. But, when God shows up, He changes everything. And, I can’t tell you how many ladies my wife has been able to relate to, speak life into and encourage because she also went through the mess. But, now, she has a ministry. No mess. No ministry. So, we embrace the messiness of life because we know that God is bigger and stronger than it all, and He will make a beautiful thing from the mess. But, the question is: again, will you trust Him? Will you continue to be obedient even when it feels like it’s just getting messier? What does the blind man do?
ARE WE BLIND TO THE PURPOSE IN THE JOURNEY?
John 9:7 continues by saying, “Jesus said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” See, the pool was given this name Siloam, or Sent, because the pool was fed by the waters of the Gihon Spring. So, the water itself was sent. Other historic sources from the time describe Siloam as a fountain; and, in fact, the word can mean “gushing out” in addition to “sent.” But, John seems to go out of his way to remind the readers of the meaning of Siloam. So, why is this important? Furthermore, if Jesus was going to heal the blind man in the first place, why did He have to send the blind man to Siloam? Why not heal him right then and there?
The significance in this passage is that Siloam is a wordplay. You see, the pool was not the only thing called sent. Siloam reminds us that the Father sent the Son Jesus, but also that Jesus, then, sent the blind man. And, this is incredibly important for us to understand. Had Jesus Christ Himself never been sent, we would have never been set free. The blind man’s eyes and heart would have never been given sight. He has been sent to send us. So, Jesus has been sent, not just then but now, to set you free and to give you back your purpose. Isaiah 61:1 promises this to us when it says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
So, because Jesus Christ was sent, He also sends us. He’s not simply concerned with healing this blind man’s eyes but also in restoring his heart’s purpose. And, this leads me to my third question this morning—our third potential blind spot—are we blind to the purpose in the journey?
Even if I can’t see the next step, even if I am covered in mud, even if I have more questions than answers right now—the purpose of our journey is to obediently go where Christ has sent us. To obediently proclaim that hope has been sent and that the redemption and grace God offers gushes forth. There’s purpose to our journey. You may feel like you’ve been walking this road for quite some time. Keep going; there’s purpose to the journey. You may feel like you’re unsure of where the next step may lead you. Keep going; there’s purpose to the journey. Jesus sends us to the place of obedience even in the midst of our season of not understanding.
Jesus sends us to the place of obedience even in the midst of our season of not understanding.
If we will submit to God and say, “I’m going to serve You and not people,” then, God knows how to weave all of our experiences on the journey together to serve His purpose. The good ones. The bad ones. The happy. The sad. The ones that seem meaningless. He brings purpose to our journey. But, what if the blind man had quit? What if he cut the journey short? What if he said:
- “I’m done going to the temple Sabbath in and Sabbath out just to barely make it.”
- “There’s no way I’m walking blindly through town to wash this mud off of my face.”
- “There’s no way I’m going back to the people that once ridiculed and judged me. “
Yet, this verse tells us that he did go back, and part of this man’s journey are five important conversations he has with his neighbors, the Pharisees, his parents and Jesus. His journey didn’t become easier when he received sight. It didn’t become a cakewalk, but it was filled with new purpose. You see, when he gets back, his neighbors and those that knew him immediately see the difference. See, friends, if Jesus has laid His hand upon you, those around you will recognize the fact. After his neighbors question him, the Pharisees interrogate him. They tell him the one who has given him is sight is not from God. They bring him before his parents to verify if he was ever truly blind. Then, ultimately, they reject him and cast him out. It’s easy to think the whole point to restoring his vision is so that he can live a normal life again. He can finally do all the things he was once unable to do. He can finally be accepted by his peers. Yet, we find him a man rejected and cast out. What was the point in ever coming back? What was the purpose of this whole journey?
Toward the end of his gospel, John writes in 20:30-31, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;” and I want you to hear this part, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Friends, the purpose of the journey is that we might have life in the name of Jesus Christ, but also that we might share that with those we encounter along the way. If your journey seems difficult or mundane or pointless this morning, share the life you have in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what position you’re currently in or what trial you’re currently facing, our purpose is to share that name. It’s one thing for us to preach the gospel and another thing to display the gospel. To live and display the gospel is the point of the church. As Francis Chan puts it: SLIDE 21: “The church exists to put God’s attributes on display.” We exit to put God’s attributes on display every single step of the journey. Whatever you are going through, God has given you purpose. He has given us an eternally-minded purpose even on this earthly journey. Don’t miss it. Don’t be blind to it. Seek the face of Jesus Christ and encourage others to find life in that name.
ARE WE ALSO BLIND?
As we move to the close of this morning’s message, I want to conclude our story by reading from John 9:35-40, which says, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him. Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see and those who see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’” Here, we find the former blind man worshiping the One who gave him sight—not just of the eyes, but of his heart, too.
Yet, the story leaves us all with the challenging question that we must answer: Are we also blind? At the end of John 9, we find the Pharisees—the ones who thought they could see it all and understand it all—are left completely and utterly blind. They miss it. While this man worships, the Pharisees continue blindly in their own ways. So, again, we must ask ourselves, “Are we also blind?” Are we missing it? Are there blind spots that we are not even aware of in our spiritual lives?
Perhaps, this morning, you’ve been blind to the fact that Jesus is near. You’ve tried to run from Him and avoid Him. Or, maybe you’ve refused to pray to Him and seek Him out of fear that He was far off. Friend, if that is you this morning, Jesus wants to restore your vision in this blind spot. He is near to all who call out to Him. In faith, would you do that this morning?
Perhaps, this morning, you’ve been blind to the beauty within the mess. Life has got you down right now. You feel like a loser. You feel like everytime you try to move forward, you end up taking two giant steps backward. Jesus wants to restore your vision in this blind spot. There’s beauty in the mess. Your greatest mess may be preparing you for your greatest ministry. He is calling you to obedience despite the messiness of our lives. Will you trust in Him this morning?
And, finally, perhaps, this morning, you’ve been blind to the purpose in the journey. You’re tired. You’ve thought about giving it up. After all, you’ve told yourself, what’s the point? I want to encourage you to continue the journey. Don’t quit. Keep going. He is calling you to obedience even when you don’t understand what is going on. Are you willing to obediently go where He sends you?
We all have blind spots. So, like David prayed, we must ask God to search us and show if there is any grievous way within us that we have overlooked. Fortunately, He has sent us Jesus who gives sight to the blind and purpose to the broken.