After all he’d been through, you might think it was a strange question to have to respond to. “Do you believe?”
Fact, he was a well known beggar in town. Fact, everybody knew he’d been blind from birth. Fact, a man identifying Himself as Jesus, anointed his eyes with mud and told him, if wanted to see for the first time and for all time, to go wash in the pool of Siloam. Fact, he went and washed. Fact, he came back seeing. And fact, life got a lot harder.
No longer the blind beggar, he was now the man who had formerly been blind who had washed away mud made on the Sabbath. A walking miracle presenting a mixed message — at least for some. The Pharisees struggled with the implications of a blind man seeing — especially one made to see by Jesus.
What’s anybody doing making mud, or washing away mud, on the Sabbath? Surely a holy man would know that no work should be done on the holy day. They were splitting hairs and they knew it. And no matter how they sought to manipulate the law, it didn’t change the fact that before them they looked into the eyes of a blind man seeing.
So they question, was he really blind? Short answer: yup! The man knew it. His parents knew it. Everyone around who had ever dropped an alm in his cup knew it. And deep down, they knew it too. Dead end.
So back to making mud on the Sabbath. “We know this man is a sinner, for He does not keep they Sabbath,” they say. To which the seeing blind guy replies:
“Whether He is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
(John 9:25 ESV)
And so, when Jesus meets up with the man again; when the man looks into the face of Jesus; and Jesus looks into the enlivened eyes of the man; Jesus asks him that strange question, “Do you believe?” To which the seeing man blind from birth replies, “Lord, I believe” (Jn. 9:38).
Because seeing is believing.
Except when it isn’t. Despite the evidence, despite the firsthand witnesses and testimonies, despite the fact a blind from birth seeing man stood before them looking them in the eyes, the Pharisees refused to believe.
For if they did, they would have submit to what was yet another sign bearing witness to Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man. A miracle making sense of His claim that He was sent of the Father to proclaim the kingdom. An encounter of the divine kind attesting to the divinity of the carpenter from Nazareth. Something they weren’t prepared to do, no matter what they saw.
So for these religious leaders, seeing wasn’t necessarily believing.
Thus, another fact: these men who could see from birth were blind.
“For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” ~ Jesus
(John 9:39 ESV)
At first, I stumbled a bit over this verse. Hadn’t Jesus just said, a few chapters back, that He was not sent to condemn the world (Jn. 3:17)? So what is the judgment Jesus is referring to here?
I’m thinking it’s the judgment of revealing things for what they truly are. Wielding the sword of truth that cuts through the facade of pretense and exposes the heart. The light that backs into a corner those who mask their darkness with fake light, and compels them to confess their blindness.
When all is said and done, Jesus is the polarizing agent of truth who forces the bottom line question, “With all that you’ve seen, do you believe?”
And for those for whom seeing is believing, there is confession and worship.
But for those for whom seeing isn’t necessarily believing, they are confronted with their truth. That they are blind, though they claim to see. That they are in darkness, though they claim to be enlightened. That they too are in need of some Sabbath made mud to wash away their stubborn pride. That today, if they will believe, they too can go wash in the fountain of life. And they too can know the worship that flows from the witness:
“One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
Because of the Savior’s power, patience, and abounding grace.
All for the Savior’s honor, praise, and everlasting glory.