John Newton’s most famous hymn, Amazing Grace, takes as its inspiration one line from this story: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (9:25). Or as Newton put it:
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.
They do not believe that this man has been healed, so they take him to the religious authorities, the Pharisees. Because it was a Sabbath day when the man was healed, there is a strong possibility of real controversy. If he has not been healed, someone is lying. If he has been healed, then he was healed on the Sabbath—and that, they thought, broke their religious laws. How often it is that people put their form, their structure, their religious traditions, ahead of the work of God. If there were one surefire way of undercutting the work of God, it is to tie it up in the ropes of tradition, hang it by its neck, and strangle it with human religiosity. But Christ has come to save, and (yes!) he will do it on a Sabbath.
There is a division among the Pharisees. Some think Jesus must have authority from God because he healed this man. Others think that Jesus must be a sinner because he healed on a Sabbath. So they ask the man who has been healed what he thinks. His faith is not yet mature: he thinks Jesus is a prophet. But at least he is not against Jesus. Be careful, beloved, not to judge the fledgling faith of our new babies in Christ by the standards of our spiritual Olympic athletes in Christ; a new Christian will say things they do not mean, will do things that they do not intend, will not have the language to express the truth. All this man knows is he was blind but now he sees!
The Pharisees still do not believe the man has been healed, so they bring in his parents. They confirm that he is indeed their son, but they are afraid. The Pharisees could well use their authority to throw them out of the synagogue—with all the religious ostracism and relational distancing that lead to real crisis at a practical level, too, that such expulsion would mean. There is a place for church discipline, but it is not to be of this judgmental pharisaical kind. A church that excommunicates can only do it with the hope of restoration, with tears, with love, with truth, but not with a spirit of attack or vengeance. A surgeon must sometimes cut in order to heal, but the intention is always healing.
So the Pharisees call in this man who had been born blind yet again. “Give glory to God,” they say. That is a solemn charge to tell the truth. Swear on the Bible. They do not ask a question; they make a statement: we know that Jesus is a sinner. The man is wise in his reply; he is not going to be drawn into a technical theological debate. One thing he does know: once I was blind, but now I see.
When we are presented with arguments against Christ that we cannot gainsay, it is wise to appeal to what we do know.
I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wand’rers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
When Bethl’hem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and labored,
And so the Savior, Savior of the world, is come.
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