Summary: Jesus’ healing of a blind man confirms his identity as a sinner in the eye of the Pharisees.
Who could POSSIBLY object to the healing of a blind man? Well, plenty of people. Jesus is strolling around the town when he sees a man who has been blind since birth. The common thinking at that time was that such afflictions as blindness and deafness were brought about by sin -- somebody’s sin. After all, blindness didn’t just HAPPEN.
But Jesus says, "Nobody’s sin caused this man to be blind. He is blind so that God’s greatness can be shown through him." So, Jesus heals the blind man. And you would THINK that would be the end of the story, that everyone would be happy the man could see and they would all settle back and enjoy their Sabbath.
But no. As the formerly blind man is heading back from the pool where he had washed, people see him and start to talk. Eventually the word gets around to the Pharisees, and they begin to talk, too.
But their talk is not of amazement that a miracle has been done, or delight that a man who was blind all his life could now see. No, their talk was of outrage that this man was healed on the Sabbath, when people were not supposed to be working!
Now, I want us to be clear on this business of working on the Sabbath. I want you to realize that the Pharisees are quoting The Law as it appears in Exodus, Chapter Thirty-one, WRITTEN WITH THE FINGER OF GOD. This is God talking:
"Say to the people of Israel, ’You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; every one who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. [And just in case you didn’t get it the first time, the next verse repeats] The seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant.”
So. The Pharisees ARE NOT relying upon local customs or handed-down tall-tales. They ARE NOT falling back on their own opinions or secular laws for their attitude toward working on the Sabbath. And they ARE NOT calling upon laws that may have applied once but are no longer valid in the contemporary context. It’s right there, in black and white for anyone to read, and GOD uses the word “perpetual.”
So they were on solid theological ground when they called in the once-blind man and asked him what happened. The long and short of it was the man used to be blind and was not anymore, and anyone who can heal blindness must be a prophet sent by God.
The Pharisees had centuries of Law on their side when they said that, since this Jesus did not keep the Sabbath and was therefore a SINNER, he could NOT be a prophet sent by God. No good could come from someone who sinned as flagrantly as that.
So the blind man ends up sort of throwing himself on the mercy of the court. He says, "Look, maybe this fellow IS sinner. I don’t know. What I DO know is, I’ve been hanging around you NON-SINNERS all my life, and none of YOU ever healed my blindness. None of YOU even knew that I existed. So who am I going to believe, you or the man who made me see?"