Summary: The gospel is veiled to sinners, the eye of our heart is closed, yet God has devised a free and accessible solution in Christ Jesus. By him, God shines his Word into the darkness of our hearts, so that we may see him truly, and walk in the light of life.
Some of you may have enjoyed the benefits of cataract surgery. With this simple operation, one usually done in less than fifteen minutes, doctors remove the clouded lens of the eye and they replace it with a clear, artificial lens. Most people go home the same day with vision that is dramatically improved. What is free and accessible for us is a distant dream for many. In Africa, for example, untreated cataracts are responsible for millions of people losing their vision each year. It’s the number one cause of blindness in the world—sad, because it is such a curable condition.
In a way, that’s a powerful image of what the gospel of Christ is able to do. In ourselves, we and all people lack the vision to see the truth; as Scripture says somewhere, the “god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbeliever” (2 Cor 4:4).
The gospel is veiled to sinners, the eye of our heart is closed—which means that we are bound for blackest darkness forever. Yet God has devised a free and accessible solution in Christ Jesus. By him, God shines his Word into the darkness of our hearts, so that we may see him truly, and walk in the light of life. The results are instantaneous and life changing.
This is the privilege granted to us by the grace of God. And we see this effect of the gospel in the story of Jesus’s healing of the man born blind. I preach God’s Word to you from John 9:1-7 on this theme,
Jesus gives sight to a man born blind:
1) the opening of eyes
2) the opening of hearts
1) the opening of eyes: Where do the events in our text happen? Look at verse 1: “Now as Jesus passed by.” On its own, that tells us very little. But whenever we read a piece of Scripture, we know to cast our eyes up and down and all around, to take in the context. And in the verse just before, at the end of chapter 8, we read, “Then they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (8:59).
Notice the last phrase, “and so passed by”—the same words that begin our text. Jesus has just left the temple courts, where He has been teaching for the last two chapters. He’s also been interacting with the Jewish leaders, who are none too happy with him. Why not? Jesus has had the gall to defend an immoral woman, He has rebuked the leaders’ unbelief, even called them children of the devil. For their part, the leaders have mocked him, called him a Samaritan and demon possessed, and accused him of blasphemy. This is why they’ve just picked up stones to kill him, and why Jesus has slipped away.
Keep all that hostility in the back of your mind as we watch Jesus leaving the temple grounds. Going through one of the gateways leading to the temple, He sees “a man who was blind from birth” (v 1). This was actually a likely spot for Jesus to encounter someone in need of help. From other stories in the Bible, we know that sick people often came to the area around the temple in order to beg. The temple, with its many gates and covered areas, provided a natural space for people to gather. Here they could be out of the heat of the sun, and here they could seek charity from the people coming and going in God’s house.
Near the temple, Jesus sees this blind man, and He takes action. Unlike for some of the other signs in John, Jesus needs no invitation to perform this work—which really underlines the nature of God’s grace, doesn’t it? People who are blind can’t even see the One who might be able to help them. Those who are lost in darkness have no idea where they’re going, and maybe they don’t even know they’re lost. We depend entirely on the grace of God.
Jesus sees this man, and he’s a man with great trouble, for he is blind. This is a struggle with which we’re hardly familiar. Maybe you’ve gone to a camp before, where you had to wear a blindfold and then grope and stumble your way through an obstacle course. After half an hour of wandering in the dark and scraping your shins, you’re truly grateful to see the light and have the use of your two eyes again!
But permanent blindness was—and in some places, still is—a handicap known to many, especially the poor. Because of bad hygiene and untreated infections, it wasn’t unusual for people to have eyes that were covered over with pus, blind or half-way there.