I was reading this morning about the man born blind from the story in John 9. Ironically, Jesus had just had a lengthy conversation in John 8 in which he was basically saying to his hearers, “You are blind!” They were unwilling to believe the truth that He was from God, and speaking for God. He says to them, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.” The self-sufficiency of his hearers made them blind to their true condition of weakness and neediness! They could not bear the thought that they need something or someone outside of themselves to make them right with God.
And then Jesus “just happens to pass by” a man born blind from birth (John 9:1). I thought about the experience of a blind person. Blind people are handicapped. They are weaker, in one sense (excuse the pun). They must be dependent on people, walking sticks, seeing eye-dogs, Braille and other things to navigate in a world where most navigate effortlessly. They are, at least to some degree, limited. They are not as self-sufficient as most.
Aren’t we all “blind?” In a spiritual sense, we are all these things that the blind man was. We are handicapped spiritually. We are weak. We don’t have all that we need inside of ourselves to be right with God. We are dependent. We need Christ! We need help outside of ourselves. We are not self-sufficient!
Blindness, in this context, is the ability to ascertain the truth about ourselves and our desperate need for Christ! This blind man was in a better position than the Jews were to understand the true reality about himself. He lived with an outward, physical manifestation of an inward reality that would make him more keenly aware of his needs. So, who was the truly handicapped? The people Jesus was speaking to or the blind man?
My Friend Shawn
I saw my friend, Shawn, last night in the hospital. Shawn had a tumor the size of a football removed from his back. The procedure caused him to lose the ability to walk and maintain use of some of his normal bodily functions. He is coming to terms with his new normal, which includes some similarities to the blind man of John 9. Shawn is experiencing weakness, dependence, and a limit to his abilities. There is expected frustration and sorrow over the losses that resulted from his cancer. This man who wants to be a rock for his family to depend on is realizing that he may need to depend on them.
How hard this must be! He will need to depend on special cars, crutches and wheel chairs during this time. As he watches people walk effortlessly across a hall, he will have to navigate much differently, and with more effort. God will be faithful to Shawn as he always has been. But what a hard road he is on!
Shawn, like the blind man, has an outward, physical representation of an inward reality that we all share! We are all broken. We are all needy. We are all limited. We are all dependent. How will Shawn’s situation be used in his life to sharpen his understanding of these truths?
We All Need Jesus
We all need to understand just how much we continue to need Jesus! We don’t have what we need in ourselves. How many of us really believe this? Jesus’ self-sufficient hearers refused to believe, and the blind man readily believed. Why was belief easy for him? When questioned about Jesus, the blind man simply and clearly told them the truth. “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” The blind man was amazed at their lack of logic and even says, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes… If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” In the face of miracles, and concise logic, the Jews refused to believe because they could not bear to hear the truth about themselves (John 8:43). Again, their self-sufficiency was their greatest obstacle.
Jesus said, “For judgment I came into the world, and those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Strange! Apparent weakness became the path to the greatest strength! He says later to the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. Remember, blindness in this context is the ability to own our weakness and need of Christ. Weakness is the beginning of receiving the true strength of Christ. Having nothing puts you into position to receive everything! Understanding our desperate needs puts us in the place of receiving the lavish benefits of grace and mercy. Getting Jesus because we understand just how much we need Jesus sets us free from guilt. If you think you “see” and have no sense of your desperate need of Christ, then your guilt will remain. You are the truly blind!
Though he may not feel it yet, Shawn seems to be in the best of all positions, as a receiver of grace. His outward weakness is representative of the truest reality of all of us! We need grace to make it! We need Christ’s strength to navigate through life. Shawn will more acutely understand these things than the rest of us who may tend to take things for granted, like walking! So, who is more “handicapped?” Shawn or me?
I love the response of Christ when asked if it was sin that led to the man’s blindness. He said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” What works will God display through Shawn? How will Shawn’s unique life and calling glorify God through seeming weakness? When we are weak, He is strong! How will the strength of Christ shine through Shawn? How will you work the works of God as long as you are in the world? Are you weak and needy and lacking confidence in your limited abilities? Then you are in a great position to be a receiver of the lavish grace and power of Christ’s strength! Oh, how desperately we need Him!
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How could admitting your blindness become an avenue for displaying Christ’s glory?