Gospel: John 9:1-41
Epistle: Ephesians 5:8-14
Lesson: Isaiah 42:14-21
Psalm: Psalm 142
CLB Commentary – Rev. Bill Helland
I believe the heart of this text (John 9:1-41) is the contrast between night and day, in the first five verses, and sight and blindness, in the last six verses. Everything in between is what sets the stage for Jesus to teach these truths.
Our text begins with the disciples making an assumption (which no doubt they had been taught by their rabbis) that the man was blind due to someone’s sin! Was it his fault or his parents? Wow! That sounds like good old-fashioned judgmental, legalistic pietism, doesn’t it? However, that was the mindset of the Jewish culture, as influenced by rabbinical teaching. The NIV Study Bible points out:
The rabbis had developed the principle that “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity.” They were even capable of thinking that a child could sin in the womb or that its soul might have sinned in a preexistent state. They also held that terrible punishments came on certain people because of the sin of their parents.
A quick read through, of Deuteronomy 27 and 28, for example, might help us understand from where such a legalistic mindset may have come. In 28:15 we read, “However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.”
And jumping down to 28:18, “The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.”
Now granted, there ARE consequences for sin – to one degree or another. But to assume that every illness and death is the direct result of someone’s sin (besides Adam and Eve’s sin of course) was just plain wrong and Jesus proceeded to correct that error in the disciples’ understanding of law and grace.
Now it is really important to notice (and preach), the reason this man was born blind was “… so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” That was radically different from what the Jewish Rabbis were teaching! They were teaching that this happened because of the work of Satan in his life, but Jesus said it was so the work of God might be displayed in his life. And the account of his healing is evidence that that’s exactly what happened!
The spiritual blindness, to which Jesus referred at the end of our text, was the result of the absence of Christ’s light in the hearts of the Jewish leaders. The truth of Jesus Christ and the light of all God’s truths, as found in His Word, are more available to our world today than ever before and is why we are still living in the “day.” But “night” is coming, and is, in some respects, already here in many places of our nation and throughout the world, where the “godlessness and wickedness of men…suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:8), and is resulting in a spiritual blindness like that of the Pharisees. These people think they can see, but they can’t. And, like the Pharisees, that’s what damns them. They think they know the truth, but in all actuality they believe, and are proponents of, the lies of the Father of Lies, and thus they are living in “night” (or spiritual darkness).
The law of this text is to be spoken to the “Pharisees” in our audiences, who are relying on their self-righteous knowledge and traditions to save them. The gospel is to be spoken to the “blind beggars” in our audiences, who will humbly admit to their spiritual blindness and say (like the ex- blindman in our text), “Lord, I believe!” Out of that flows a natural affection to truly worship Jesus.