THE BLIND MAN CURED
T. PIERCE BROWN
The story of the blind man in John 9 whom Jesus cured is significant from many standpoints. We probably can gain as many lessons as we consider it as representative of all those who are spiritually blind as we can by studying it as a literal event. We shall touch both aspects in this article.
An examination of theories that would allow a person to assume that a man might sin before he was born might be worth something to us, but we shall not discuss them in this article. However, there are two interesting assumptions that may need our attention. First, there is the assumption that there must be a direct connection between a person’s sin and his misfortune. The friends of Job made this mistake, and there are many that still make it. Of course there is a direct connection in some cases. A person who gets drunk and has a wreck in which he dies suffers a direct consequence of sin. But you may have heard the plaintive cry many times, “What did I do that this came upon me?” The answer is, “Not necessarily anything.”
The second apparent assumption is one that has far reaching consequences, yet I have never read an article that dealt with it. It is the assumption that the two alternatives suggested exhausted the possibilities. Either this man or his parents sinned. Here is a two-valued orientation that is limited and blinding. We find that attitude in persons who think all things must be good or bad, right or wrong, black or white. We find it in the language of such questions as, “Is this hot or cold?” “Is this long or short?” On the other hand, it is dangerous for us to conclude that since it is improper to assume that everything must be right or wrong, black or white, good or bad, nothing can be so classified. To some, everything is a sort of dull gray, so no one has a right to say something is wrong. We reveal how we have absorbed the “either-or” philosophy when we make such statements as, “There are two sides to every question.” There may be dozens of sides to questions, and we are blinded by the two-valued orientation when we think like the Pharisees who asked the question about the blind man. Whether it is worse to have the “either-or” mentality which would cause them to assume it had to be one or the other, or to have the mentality that would deny the possibility that his blindness could have been caused by sin, I do not know. Both are wrong.
There is another lesson as we see the difference in the way the disciples looked at the man and the way Jesus looked at him. To them he was the object of divine retribution for sin. To Jesus he was a person made in the image of God who was especially fitted to manifest divine mercy, power and grace. To them he was an object of speculative curiosity without any thought of need for practical sympathy. To Christ he was the object of special attention, not to speculate about, but through which He could accomplish His mission on earth — to glorify God. There have been mid-week Bible studies where the pillars of the church thought they had accomplished something great if they could propound or elicit some profound question which no one could answer, but which caused discussion. Like the Athenians of old, they loved to ask and sometimes to answer questions, but as far as making themselves useful in the Kingdom of God by doing anything practical or worthwhile for blind, suffering or lost humanity, that was out the question.
How urgently we need the attitude expressed by Jesus; “We must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work.” The “must” was not the must of outward compulsion, but the must of an inward desire to do the will of God, to glorify Him, and to show compassion on suffering humanity. The work was not merely doing things like meeting, eating and visiting each other. It was the works of Him that sent me. Almost every congregation with which I have worshipped for the last 65 years has been fairly active in such things as having fellowship dinners, pep rallies of one sort or another, and various activities to keep the members busy and out of mischief. Very few have had an outstanding record of doing much of anything that would glorify God or save some soul from hell.
There is another principle in the cure of the blind man that is worth consideration. Often, we may ask a question such as, “What was THE cause of his cure?” or any other event, as if every effect has a single cause. In fact, scholars and philosophers have made such a statement since Aristotle’s time. The primary thing wrong with it is that it implies something that is not so, and has many bad consequences. Every effect does not have A cause, but many causes. The idea that the cause of salvation is grace, or faith is one result of this kind of thinking. Aristotle recognized at least an efficient cause, a formal cause, a material cause and a final cause. Most gospel preachers teach that salvation is a result of many factors, such as the love of God, the blood of Christ, the preaching of the gospel, faith, repentance, confession, baptism, etc. The doctrine of salvation by faith only or by grace only is unsound philosophically, scientifically, pragmatically and theologically, for it is impossible to find in any area of life an effect that is produced by only one cause. Thus, the principle we mention is far broader than one dealing only with salvation, though that is vital. If we ask, “Why did this person quit attending the assembly?” or “Why did my child start taking drugs?” or any other question, we may fail to respond properly if we assume that when we have found A cause, we have found THE cause.
There are literally dozens of lessons that we seldom consider that we can get from a study of the cure of the blind man. But any thoughtful comparison of the cure of this man’s physical blindness and the cure of our spiritual blindness should be of value to us. None of us may know how much responsibility we, our parents or others have for our present spiritual blindness, but one thing we can know. When we take the prescription of the Great Physician, we can be cured. But if we simply argue, “There is no power in the water, so I refused to go wash,” we will still be blind and in our sins. This is the tragic condition of millions who are willing to substitute human reasoning for simple obedience to the commands of Christ.