As his gospel begins, the apostle John writes that Jesus Christ "came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11). That He "came to His own" describes the content of John 9, where we find Him healing a man born blind (John 9:1-38). Chapters 9-12 emphasize Jesus' calling out a people of His own in the midst of, and in spite of, growing hostility from Jewish authorities. As His own people are rejecting him, Christ begins to call out a new people, first exemplified by the story of His calling of the blind man.
This miracle, which John alone relates, occurs in a conspicuous setting. The sixth of eight miracles recorded in his gospel, it is an illustration of the previous day's significant affirmation of Jesus Christ as "the Light of the world" (John 8:12). He is the Light of divine salvation that overcomes the darkness of man's moral and physical blindness. Thus, as the Light, He gave sight to a blind man.
1. Can anything or anyone frustrate God? John 9:1-5.
Comment: The first lesson to be learned from this miracle is that sinful man cannot frustrate God. Rather, God accomplishes His purposes sovereignly, saving by grace those whom He chooses to call to Himself. Even man's hatred cannot frustrate God, seen clearly in this miracle story. Jesus seems undisturbed by the religious leaders' attempt to stone Him, an action that would have created great turmoil in the Temple precincts. Yet, a moment later, after Jesus had removed Himself, we find Him stopping beside a blind beggar sitting near the Temple gate. In a similar situation, most of us would scarcely have seen the beggar, being more concerned with being pursued and distancing ourselves from the enemy. Not Jesus!
He had God's perspective and acted accordingly. Therefore, instead of complying with the prohibitions of sinful men, Christ simply perseveres in His task and begins to elect some to salvation. As Paul writes of God in Romans 9:15, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
The poor blind man symbolizes the state of the lost apart from the creative and transforming power of Christ. On the one hand, the rulers of the people, the Pharisees, can see physically but are spiritually blind. On the other, the blind man cannot see physically, but Christ makes him see both physically and spiritually. By the end of the story, we find him worshipping Jesus as the Son of God.
2. What is the blind man's plight? John 9:1.
Comment: Obviously, he cannot see, which means that he cannot see Jesus. This is the plight of the lost today: Jesus is taught, but they cannot "see" Him. Even when the Bible is explained, they cannot understand it. Why? Usually, it is because they think that they do not need God. Paul writes, "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14). For there to be spiritual sight, Jesus must first open blind eyes.
Second, because the man born blind was unable to see, he could not seek Jesus. How can the blind seek anything? In spiritual terms, this means that an uncalled person is unable to seek God and His truth. Paul declares in Romans 3:11 that "there is no one who . . . seeks God."
Third, if the blind man could not seek Jesus, he was unable to find him, nor as a beggar, could he hire someone else to seek Christ and find Him. What a condition—unable to see, seek, or find Jesus, and incapable of procuring help in finding Him. It is a sad state—and doubly sad in that it describes the spiritual condition of most (Revelation 3:17-18).
3. Do believers and non-believers suffer in the same way for the same purpose? John 9:2-3.
Comment: At some time or other, every human being experiences suffering. A baby causes pain by being born. Many live by inflicting pain on others. We all suffer pain and eventually experience death. Granted, believers alive when Christ returns to this earth will be transformed in a moment, but with this exception, the lot of all is to suffer and die (Hebrews 9:27). Eliphaz spoke truthfully to Job when he told the suffering patriarch, "For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground; yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:6-7).
Although everyone—Christians as well as non-Christians—suffers at some point in life, it is not true that all suffer alike. Seen from the outside, a Christian and a non-Christian suffering from the same incurable disease may appear to undergo the same experience. According to God's Word, however, the two are not equal (II Corinthians 6:15-16). From God's perspective, the non-Christian is suffering without purpose, or perhaps he is suffering at the whim of Satan, who is merely doing as he pleases with a member of his own kingdom. In the case of the Christian, though, an all-wise heavenly Father is permitting suffering in a carefully controlled situation to accomplish a desirable purpose. God is a Father who disciplines His children (II Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 12:5-8), which the book of Job vividly teaches.
So what is the purpose of a Christian's suffering? To learn from it, we must ask what we are to learn; if we are to benefit, we must ask how. As we will see, some of Christ's words spoken when healing the man born blind suggest the answers to these questions.