“I SEE.” Obvious those two words mean to have vision with your eyes. “I see the sun shining through the window.”
“I see” can also mean “I understand.” “I get it.” “Oh, I see what you’re talking about.”
John’s word play about the Pharisees “not seeing” works well in English. We are in on the joke that the Pharisees cannot see (understand) what happened to the blind man who was physically blind but now can see.
The story of the man born blind might be a familiar story. Jesus walks along the path near the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. There is a man who was born blind. The disciples ask Jesus why the man is blind. Was it his sins or his parents’ sins that led to this disability? Jesus uses this scene and question as a conversation starter regarding blindness. Physical blindness and spiritual darkness.
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THE MAN who was healed sees that God is present in Jesus. The religious leaders are spiritually blind, contending that the work of Jesus is demonic. In their resistance to him, their blindness — their sin — is revealed.
The inquiry conducted by the Pharisees includes testimony from the formerly blind man and his parents. They want to know who healed the man. Does he think the man is a prophet? The man who was healed, can’t say for sure, but assumes the healing came from God.
When they can’t get the information they desire, they decide that maybe he wasn’t blind after all. That is, until they bring in the parents who confirm, yes, indeed he was blind his whole life. The religious folks interrogate the man again, trying to bully him. They insist that he “give glory to God” and suggest that Jesus is really a sinner.
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THE PHARISEES come into this story of restored sight assuming they can see and the man is blind.
■ They “saw” that blind, ill, or poor people are that way because they had sinned against God.
■ They “saw” that their laws and stipulations are the path to life. Therefore, healings are not to take place on the Sabbath.
■ They “saw” that Jesus cannot be a genuine prophet or healer because he does not abide by their Sabbath laws.
■ They “saw” that, since Jesus is a sinner the healing cannot be genuine—the man must have been able to see already.
■ They “saw” that because this man was born blind, he was a sinner and could teach them nothing.
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THEY CAN’T SEE. They’re quite sure that God cannot be listening to Jesus, because Jesus doesn’t play by their rules.
They insist Jesus is a sinner, but the formerly blind man confesses that he doesn’t know whether Jesus is a sinner or not. All he knows is that “I was blind, now I see.” Many Christians since — including John Newton, the slave-trader turned abolitionist — have been inspired by the man’s confession: “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”
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THE QUESTIONS FOR US as we begin this 2020 Vision sermon series are:
■ Where does our own spiritual blindness lie?
■ In what ways are we unable to see the presence of God in our midst?
■ But more importantly, how does Jesus open our eyes to the things of God? How does he reveal our blind spots so that we can let go of them and give glory to God?
The good news is that there is amazing grace available to us. Our eyes can be open to the new reality that is God’s presence, so that we might give glory to God. Jesus still comes to those in need to grant sight.
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THERE IS A STORY of a woman blind from birth who was asked by a friend, “How do you sing ‘Amazing Grace’? When we sing it in church?”
We all remember the words. We’ll sing it again in a few minutes.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
The woman answered, “When we get to that verse, I straighten my shoulders, and sing with gusto, ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, and I still can’t see! But … praise God from whom all blessings flow!”
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A PERSON CAN BE physically blind and have 20/20 spiritual vision. And a person can have perfect 20/20 physical vision and be spiritually unable to see a thing.
May God open our eyes to see.