Challenging Your Categories – John 9:1-41

Many people don’t like to have anyone mess with their categories. We all have certain constructs about the way we believe life is rightly lived and how the world works. This is not wrong, as we should have a values system. And there is a definite right and wrong – in all places at all times. Yet some folks’ systems don’t allow room for God to show up and do the unusual.

And that is how the Pharisees were. They liked things the way they were and didn’t want changes. Their rules were rigid and precise, as life was measured in pure black and white. Their applications about the teachings of the Law were codified by famous rabbis in several writings of thousands of pages that organized life down to the finest details. And yes, some of it was ridiculous legalism, particularly teachings about what could or could not be done on a Sabbath. Their writings and teachings became bigger than the Scriptures.

People who trade only in crisp black and white see all suffering as related specifically to sin, and likewise all blessing as related directly to rewards for righteousness. When you are bad, you get punished; and when you are good, you experience blessing. While there is no doubt that all suffering has a root connection to the presence of sin as it entered a fallen world, it cannot be said that every item of suffering is related to a specific event in a particular person’s life. It has been a timeless question as to why certain evil people prosper, while godly people suffer. David pondered this in Psalm 73 – the portion of Scripture that was the only thing that got me through the valley of the shadow of death with one of my sons many years ago.

So when the disciples see a man who was blind from birth, the theological question was to ask if his condition was the result of his own sin or his parents’ sins.  Surely someone was to blame; and it is true that we could blame Adam for just about everything that goes wrong. Yet Jesus challenges their categories by saying that it was for another and greater reason – that Jesus would on this day heal him and be glorified through it, while demonstrating his Messianic credentials according to Old Testament prophecy.

But, again, the healing happens on a Sabbath.

Naturally, the Pharisees’ and religious leaders’ categories demanded a logical explanation for the miracle. There is none – the man had been blind from day one of his life. And rather than accept Christ for who he was, they punish the blind fellow by expelling him from synagogue access. And Jesus gets checked off in their category entitled “sinners/liars/frauds/false messiahs”.

There is no doubt that God at times allows less than stellar events in our lives in order that we may trust him more and that through us God may accomplish great work. We need to look beyond our immediate examples to the larger work that God is doing all around us. He has a plan on his schedule; and that plan may take an extensive amount of time to be fully revealed and understood. But God is working.

By way of application today, I’m going to copy a Facebook post of one of my favorite church kids who is now in college – Keshia Harney – who wrote about this passage recently:

I was struck by this tonight. This is part of the story of the miracle Jesus performed when he healed the man who had been born blind. Read it, it’s pretty much one of the coolest stories in the Bible. Anyways….

John 9:6,7 – “Having said this, he (Jesus) spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, wash in the pool of Siloam (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”

#1.  Jesus used spit. Holy spit or not, that’s disgusting. Think about it! It’s kinda weird. Jesus used something that wasn’t pleasant for this man’s benefit.

#2.  He makes mud with the saliva (again, ew!) and then PUTS it on the poor man’s face. Jesus just made a total mess. Can this poor guy get a break? Haha, I highly doubt the blind man was expecting to have Jesus’ saliva rubbed on his face and (if he is anything like you and me) he was probably wondering why on earth Jesus would do that. I would be taken back – maybe even offended or angry? Why would Jesus make a mess of me?

#3.  The mess that Jesus made – the mud he used – was His tool for healing. Obviously.

Moral of the story: your mess is NOT out of God’s control. Go rinse the spit off your face. God can use your test to make you a testimony, and he can turn your mess into a message. That’s all, folks.

John 9:1-41    Healing of the Man Born Blind

9:1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 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 asked.

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 perform such signs?” So they were divided.

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.”

18 They 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 Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah 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 by telling the truth,” 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 person 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.