John 9:1-41

© Copyright 2010  Rev. Bill Versteeg



     Shuffling feet - some quietly hoping that I would not notice them pass by on the Sabbath day, others in a hurry, to busy for a beggar on the Sabbath, very few stopped, and if they did, most often with frustration.


     My clay dish, shaking back and forth with two coins in it - just enough to remind people that I was sitting there, just enough to let them know how much more I needed just to live.


     Sometimes children - laughing at me - I could recognize their voices - but I would never catch them, But I had words - would curse them out loud hoping my abuse would make them go away. And if those who laughed at me were older - I knew how to use satire to make them feel like dirt among those who were thoughtful.

     Just sounds, sounds and smells, and sometimes shapes, shapes in the palms of my hands, Many of them the shapes of what we use everyday. There were some shapes that were like memories to me, good memories, like my mothers face when I was young - I'll never let go of the shape of her face. She would let me touch her face so that I could see her. And the moisture under her eyes always said to me "I love you son." But that was way back then.

     Just sounds, smells and shapes - and walls, invisible walls made out of fear. I knew my pathways, the stones were familiar to my feet, the heat of the sun on my back when I left home in the morning and when I returned in the evening. But beyond the edges of my paths - I didn't know what was there, and it takes such a small step to fall into the wrong places around Jerusalem. Invisible walls no one else saw kept me in a prison of routine.

     That's it - Sounds and routine - do the same thing everyday, practice the same thing again and again, never venture beyond what you know and understand. That is safety for a blind man.

     Being blind in my culture has no advantages. You are a burden to society, a discomfort and a nuisance to most people. And so most people don't treat you like a human - Some men did that again the other day - they were talking to a Rabbi - I was a test case for theology - I'd heard this one before - I was about to make a comment exposing their insensitivity -

     "Why was I born blind - they only knew of two options - either I was blind because my parents sinned (and my parents had lived with that reputation for years), or I had sinned grievously even before I was born - they asked the Rabbi whose fault it all really was. They didn't even seem to care to much about the fact that there was a person listening to their discussion - as if b/c I was blind I was missing a whole bunch of other faculties.

     The Rabbi surprised them though. He refused to answer their question in their categories and he refused to treat me like an object lesson - rather he treated me like a person, like somebody who he cared for. He mentioned that he was the light of the world - he took some of the fine dirt of the ground, he spit in it - and he rubbed it on my eyes. And he told me to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.

     And as I washed, it was as if the darkness went with the mud.

     I saw light, brilliant burning light shining off the water, hurting my eyes.

     I saw light, I saw color, I saw my own hands and feet. In a daze I turned to look around - there were people walking in carefully measured Sabbath steps, there were beggars whose only hope was alms - and there was me - with sight - to see the world, sight to see the millions of things I had never seen before.

I turned to go home with a very unmeasured skip in my step. I turned to go home by a different path - the path was familiar to my feet - but I wanted to see the buildings, the cracks in the ground, the large stones that I had avoided for so many years for fear. I wanted to wallow in creation like I never had before.

I stepped outside of the invisible wall - my prison of routine - that's when people started to notice me.

     They looked at me with long stares - it didn't seem so strange - before I never knew how they looked at me - maybe I was always a sight to behold - but it became very obvious that they were curious about me - they remembered me blind - now in my actions, in my freedom, in the skip in my step and the joy on my face they could tell that I was becoming free - because I could see.

     "Aren’t you the blind beggar from..."


     I recognized their voice - for the first time I saw their face - its strange how the voice never tells you what a face looks like - I nodded - and their mouths dropped.


     They started arguing about impossibilities.

     I started insisting on the impossible.

     Never in the history of our people had a person born blind ever been healed. They wanted to know how it all happened and all I could say were the facts.

     "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and now I can see!"

     They asked me where he was - I could give them no answer - he could have been standing near by - yet I would have never recognized him - I had never seen him before.

     But the name "Jesus" started an avalanche. He was the man who caused heated debates in the temple - some believed in him, others wanted him stoned. Word spread that something had happened that had never before happened in Israel - I didn't even make it home and the priests with their authoritative voices came to question me.

     They seemed open to a miracle, open to the fact that something happened in Israel that had never happened before, they, the theologians, the ones who knew the scriptures and could see the truth with divine eyes because they knew the Torah - they asked me how I had received my sight.

     I told them about Jesus, I repeated my story to them. "He put mud on my eyes and I washed, and now I see." The evidence was in front of them - I could see - and if anybody was a reliable witness, I was.

     But they saw problems with it all. The first problem they saw was the Sabbath. Their amplification of the law stated very clearly that 39 works were not allowed on the Sabbath - one of these was kneading - weather it be doe for bread or mud with water to anoint the eyes - it was not allowed - kneading was not allowed on the Sabbath. And Jesus had kneaded saliva and dirt to make mud - he had broken the Sabbath.

     At first some were open to the possibility of a miracle - they argued that a Sabbath sinner could not really do this. Again the theologians turned to me

     "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened?"

     A - ha - They admitted together that Jesus had truly opened my eyes on the Sabbath. I new no mere man could do that. I answered with the word that had been spoken again and again about Jesus in Jerusalem - "He must be a prophet." We had had not prophet, no voice from God for 460 years - except for John the Baptist - and few of the Pharisees recognized him as a prophet.

If there was one with us now, he truly deserved our attention and recognition.

     "I doubt he was ever really blind..."

     "Let's get his parents - see if he was really blind from birth."

     A few minutes passed - they led my parents in. I would never have recognized them as my parents except for two things. When the man spoke, it was my Father's voice that I heard. And I knew it was my mother - the second she saw me, there were tears running down her cheeks - tears that had spoken her love for me many times in the past, tears I had felt drop on me as she held me as a child, now for the first time I saw the lovely shape of her face, and I saw her love for me.

     "Is this your son?"

     "Is this the one you say was born blind?"

     "How is it that now he can see?"

     My parents had heard of Jesus, they had listened to him speak - they with so many other people from Jerusalem believed he was a prophet, maybe even the Christ.


     My Father spoke. His answer hurt. It showed me how much of a burden I had been to him and my mother for these many years.

     "We know that he is our son"

     "And we know that he was born blind."

     "But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him, he is of age, he will speak for himself."

     I was his, but then he left me there to fend for myself. He feared being excommunicated and ostracized. He valued going to the synagogue and hearing the theological discussions. It was a game the men played. There is something about the preservation of status and reputation that can turn parents into relatives and loved ones into acquaintances.

     This time the Pharisees addressed me with Venom in their breath.

     "Give glory to God. We know this man Jesus is a Sabbath sinner."

     They were getting angry. I didn't understand why - things just looked so obvious to me.

     "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!"

     But what seemed so obvious to me seemed now even less obvious to the Pharisees.

     "What did he do to you?"

     "How did he open your eyes?"

     I again felt like a blind man being picked on - but this time I could see, I could see the Pharisees - and I could see their venom - and I used the defence I knew the best - satire.

     "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?"

     And even as I spoke - I felt free - free in ways I had never felt free before - like I had stepped over an invisible wall - free because I could speak the truth, free because I could see what Jesus had done to me.

     "You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow Jesus, we don't even know were he comes from."

     I'm not a theologian - but things seemed so crystal clear to me. The reason they believed God spoke to Moses, that Moses words came right from God, was because of the miracles he did in bringing our nation out of Egypt. The evidence compelled me to speak.

     "Now isn't that remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes - something never before done in Israel.

     "We know that God does not listen to sinner, He listens to the godly man 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.."

     It seemed my words darkened their eyes. They no longer saw my sight. They no longer saw the obvious. They no longer accepted what they themselves believed about prophets and righteous men. They chained themselves in with Moses, they had built for themselves invisible walls with tradition and the law.

     I saw in their eyes for the first time fear - and how memories came flooding back to me - memories of sounds, and invisible walls, and fear of loosing my way on a pathway that was a prison but it was a safe prison. I saw they were blind - to blind to see the

reality of how Jesus changed my life, to blind to see that Jesus must be from God. Their blindness was a prison.

     The authorities on seeing were not about to accept that from a man who used to be blind. They accused me of sinning even before I was born - that's fine I though to myself - I can see now - that must mean I'm forgiven. But their anger wasn't over yet - to my father's shock and my mother's tears, they excommunicated me from the temple - I could go in it no longer. Now instead of being shunned for being blind, I was shunned for seeing by those who were blind.

     I was shunned by many - except one - he came to me and asked

     "Do you believe in the Son of Man."

     "Who is he sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him."

     And he said words that sent shivers down my spine

     "You have now seen him, in fact, he is the one speaking with you."

     They were words of acceptance and love. First the world threw me out because I was blind, then the Pharisees through me out because I could see. Now Jesus came to me, and said to me with his actions "Anyone who comes to me I will never drive out!"

     I dropped to my knees and gave him my all. And he accepted me. And now with my eyes, I have seen him.

     The Pharisees happened to be there again - they didn't like what they saw - a man worshipping another man. They didn't see that this Son of man was the son of God. Or maybe they did see the obvious, the signs were plenty evident - yet they choose not to admit it or acknowledge him. They tried to put out the Light. But Light is not something that can be eliminated - it arises again - to gives us sight and healing so that we can truly see, or it stands so that in time we will be judged in its light.

They could see - but they obscured the light by building around themselves walls - of law, of tradition, or routine which they were not willing to break for fear. A prison of their own making.

One thing I know - I was blind - now I see, and I am free.


The Scripture upon which this story is based.

 John 9 :1-=41 NIV


 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.
17 Finally 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.”
18 The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 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!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
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?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Spiritual Blindness
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), Jn 9:1–41.

(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Back to Sermon Index Page

Let me know if this message was helpful.