Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 16, 2020
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
— John 9:1-41, ESV
The best selling and most often recorded song of all time was not written by the Beatles or Bob Dylan. It was written by a Reformed Pastor by the name of John Newton. Newton, as you may know, was an English slave trader who was converted to Christianity in 1748. In 1790, while carrying out his pastoral practice of writing hymns to accompany his sermons (he wrote at least 280), he penned “Amazing Grace.”
The biblical inspiration for the beautiful hymn came from, among other places, this story in the Gospel of John. It is the sixth of seven “signs,” or prominent miracles recorded by John, and it repeats the second of seven “I Am” statements made by Jesus. In the miracle, Jesus heals a young man born blind, whose famous testimony, “Though I was blind, now I see,” (vs. 25)
is echoed in Newton’s famous first verse.
Remember that virtually every miracle performed by Jesus is a parable preached by Jesus. The miracles are parables that proclaim the good news of salvation, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. That Jesus saved this man’s sight is grace indeed, but that Jesus saved the man’s soul, that’s amazing grace.
This is the story of “a man blind from birth” (vs. 1). He did not lose his sight, he never had it, and had no idea of what it is like to see. It was not his fault that he was blind, per se, nor any fault of his parents, it was just his lot in life, a lot cast by God (ref. Exodus 4:11) in order to glorify God (vs. 3, ref. Romans 8:28).
There was no cure for blindness then, just as there is no complete cure now. No miracle worker, not even Moses nor Elijah, had ever healed blindness, neither have any charlatan televangelists like Bennie Hinn or Joel O’Steen. If blind you are, it is blind you will stay, apart from the miraculous grace of God.
This man had made peace with his blindness. He lived in darkness, it was a darkness he was used to. When Jesus found him, he was doing what blind people did in those days, sitting down beside the road begging for coins. This he did day after day, until the day “the Light of the world” (vs. 5) entered his darkness.
It is clear here that the only thing that could bring this man out of blindness and into sight, out of darkness and into the light, was the miraculous grace of God, held in the powerful hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was a miracle worker in His day, though a discriminate one. He healed on His terms, in His time, and in His own various and sundry ways.
In this miracle, John’s sixth sign, Jesus took the initiative, as God always does. He was aware of the man’s suffering, and allowed it up to this time in his life. The Lord did something unusual, combining spit and dirt to make mud to cover his blind eyes. The Lord did something usual, too, by giving a command, this one to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam, which required faith, repentance, and obedience.
The man believed in the word and work of Jesus. He turned from his begging bench toward the Pool of Siloam, the very illustration of Christ’s living water. He obeyed the Lord and washed himself in the water. Then, though he was blind, he could now see.
The religious and legalistic Pharisees were upset with Jesus, the healed blind man, and his parents. Jesus had performed, and they had received, a miraculous work, but it was a work performed on the Sabbath Day, in violation of their extra-biblical rules.
The parents threw their son under the bus. They did not want to get kicked out of the synagogue and lose their works-based-religion and social status. They should have been singing Jesus’ praises and taking their son on his first sight-seeing tour, but they cowed down to the crowd.
The man, perhaps as young as 13 or as old as 20, stood up to the Pharisees and stood apart from his parents. In the process, he was transformed twice. He received his physical sight. Though he did not know what Jesus looked like, blind as he was during their first encounter, he recognized Jesus’ voice. Upon hearing the word of God and seeing the Son of God, he believed, as attested to the change in address from “sir” to “Lord” (a nuance correctly captured by the two different English renderings of the one Greek word “Kurios”).
“Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
— Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13
While only 39 million people in the world today are born physically blind (less than 1/2 of 1% of the population), 100% of human beings are born spiritually blind. Theologians call this condition total depravity. It is the absolute inability to see God, seek God, or give God the only thing that pleases Him, namely faith (ref. Hebrews 11:6), on your own. It is a state of sin and unbelief, to which the vast majority of people become accustomed.
Like the man born blind, we are helpless until we are helped by the Lord. People can help, with prayers and witness. Church attendance can help, where the Bible is rightly preached and the sacraments are regularly observed. There are many means of grace. But there is only one source of saving grace, and that source is our sovereign Lord.
If you see salvation as something you can earn, you will never have it. If you see salvation as some kind of cooperative effort between you and God, like Pelagius and Arminius and Finney, then you are badly mistaken. If you see salvation as a miracle of divine grace, like John and Paul and Augustine and Luther and Calvin and Spurgeon, then you see correctly. But remember, such sight is a miraculous gift of God’s saving grace.
Salvation is a gift that makes a blind man see, a lame man walk, a dead man live. Salvation is a gift given by a discriminate God, who has chosen the recipients before the creation of the world, then reaches them in different ways and means. Salvation is a gift given when the word of God is heard, and the grace-enabled response is faith, repentance, and obedience, just like the man in this story.
Thought the particulars differ from person to person, people who are saved by grace always experience joy, persecution, and resolution. I wish we could do away with the middle man, but he is part of the proof of our salvation.
Joy comes from seeing, walking, and living with the Lord. The Bible makes sense. The church is a delight not a drudgery. And the heavenly insurance policy, the assurance that Heaven awaits at the end of your journey on earth, is an unimaginable comfort.
Persecution comes from within, religious folks like the Pharisees, even family members and friends who do not share or understand radical faith. Persecution comes from without in the world in which we live, ever more so as the days for Christ’s return approach. Battle lines are drawn, choices have to be made, but for those who have been saved by grace to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, there is only one road.
When one really sees the gospel and resolutely follows Jesus, there is a peace that the Apostle Paul says passes all understanding (ref. Philippians 4:7). It is all of grace, it is an ever deepening faith, and it is all about the Lord Jesus Christ. It makes one want to sing.
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.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath bro't me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.
When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun.
— John Newton
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org