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Where Did Jesus Go?
One of my favorite things to notice when reading any of the gospels is how the gospels continually present Jesus on the go. He’s always moving, always ministering, always teaching and healing people. The more you study the gospels, the more you see just how incredibly wise and intentional Jesus is in everything he says and does. It’s very rare that the gospels take a step back and tell a story which happened in Jesus’s absence. Rarely do we find Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, telling a story about someone other than Jesus, when Jesus is not immediately present. The gospels are, after all, telling us about Jesus’s words, Jesus’s miracles, and what Jesus accomplished during his earthly ministry. Why would the gospels ever tell as story that is focusing on something that happened in Jesus’s absence?
Did you notice that Jesus was completely absent from the story we just read, all the way up until the last few verses? All the interactions we just read about were interactions of the pharisees speaking to either this blind man, or the blind man’s parents. Jesus wasn’t there. He had gone away, somewhere. Where did he go? Isn’t this whole thing a bit odd, if you really think about it? Last week, we saw Jesus restore a man’s sight—a man who had been blind from birth. He had never seen anything in his whole life, and verse 1 of chapter 9 tells us that Jesus “passed by”—literally, a simple way to say that he was “generally passing by, going about the dealings of his ordinary day”, and “he saw the man”, and he healed the man. It was an odd healing, too. Jesus bent down and grabbed some dirt, spit in the dirt to stir it into a muddy paste, and put it on the man’s eyes. Then, he sent the man away to wash his spit-mud off his face in a particular pool called Siloam. Then verse 7 says “so he went and washed and came back seeing”. What did he come back to? Did he come back to Jesus? You have to think he was looking for him—but, we have no evidence that the man found Jesus at all. This was literally a blind man. He didn’t see Jesus when Jesus walked by him. He didn’t see Jesus when Jesus put mud on his face. And because Jesus wasn’t to be found when the man returned with his sight, this man had still, to this point, never seen Jesus. He had never seen Jesus do a miracle, unlike so many others. He had never seen Jesus’s face. All he knew was that a man named Jesus put spit-mud on his face, and sent him to wash it off in a pool, and his sight was restored. Even if the man wanted to find Jesus, he wouldn’t know what face to look for.
But folks, the point of this story is that this man had seen Jesus. The man had seen Jesus, and was ready to put his life on the line to defend Jesus. Meanwhile, those who had seen Jesus—those who had seen him in the flesh do all his miracles and teachings for so many years—never actually saw Jesus for who he truly is. Do you see the irony in this story? In fact, do you see why Jesus might—perhaps, maybe—intiontionally disappear for awhile, not to be seen by this man who was about to go on Jesus’s defense? I think Jesus was illustrating something in this man by intentionally leaving and not allowing the man to get a glimpse of Jesus. He was sent away (literally to a pool called siloam, which means “sent”) before he had physically seen Jesus, and he was left to defend Jesus before he would finally lay his new eyes upon him in verse 35. This man hadn’t seen Jesus, but he had seen Jesus more clearly than anyone else in this story.
Blessed Are Those Who Have Not Seen, and Have Believed
I imagine you’ve heard and remember Paul’s well known statement from Second Corinthians 5:7—“we walk by faith, not by sight”. Propositionally, in terms of truth statements, we tend to know this stuff. We walk by faith, not by sight. We need not see Jesus to see Jesus. We get that. We could also think of that well known verse in Hebrews which defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. Faith is conviction of things not seen. We walk by faith, not by sight, not by things which we see. Or again, we often remember what Jesus said to doubting Thomas who said he wouldn’t believe Jesus had risen unless he had seen Jesus with his wounds. Jesus said—“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The people who believe Jesus—who see Jesus—without actually seeing him are blessed.
This is something we often talk about propositionally. We understand it. We live it everyday, don’t we? Have you seen Jesus? Have you? I haven’t. So yes, we understand this. Although, what we are looking at this morning is that truth put into an incredibly compelling story. We see that kind of faith—that spiritual sight—in action, and Jesus set this all up for us. He took initiative to heal this man—he did it. Then, he sent the man away literally to a pool called Siloam, which means “sent”. Jesus sent the man away before the man could see Jesus—oh, but the man had seen Jesus. He had seen Jesus far better, far more clearly, than the Pharisees and scribes.
Three Evidences of Spiritual Sight
What does that sort of faith—that sort of sight—actually look like? When we see Jesus through the eyes of faith, what can we expect? What happens to us? How might we behave? How might seeing Jesus (yes, without actually seeing us) effect us, change us? As we walk through the rest of this story this morning, we’re going to see three signs of spiritual sight in this man. Even though this man had never seen Jesus, he did everything we might expect of a man who had truly seen Jesus. So, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for three particular signs of his spiritual sight—and yes, we’ll see the reverse of those three signs in everyone else. Just as this man demonstrated three signs of his spiritual sight, everyone else in this story demonstrated the three, corresponding signs of spiritual blindness.
Evidence #1: Spiritual Sight Confesses Jesus
So first, think about his initial interactions with people when he first returned with his sight. In verses 8 through 12, we see the man interacting with what verse 8 says “the neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar”. The interactions are painfully humorous. In a word, the neighbors don’t believe their eyes. They look at the man who had been changed, and they don’t believe what they see. They don’t believe what is plainly obvious. That’s going to become a recurring theme in this story. Starting in verse 8,
“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.”
Isn’t that something? This man returns, and nobody rejoices with him. Instead, he immediately gets put on the hotseat. He immediately has to go on the defense, and his defense of Jesus begins with his defense of himself. Obviously, underneath all this, people are doubting Jesus. Had they known Jesus—had they seen Jesus as this man had seen Jesus—they would have been rejoicing with this man. But they didn’t know Jesus. Therefore, they doubt his works. They doubt his power. They doubt that he could change this man and give him his sight.
So, we could say that this man’s first defense is a defense that he’s genuine. They’re questioning whether he’s actually the guy. “No, that’s not the blind beggar, it can’t be. This man isn’t blind! But yes, this man looks a lot like that beggar”. They’re questioning the guy, and we’re told that the blind man “kept saying ‘I am the man’”. I love that. He kept saying it. “No, really! I’m the guy!”. He had to prove and defend that he was genuine. But at a deeper level, folks, this man was proving and defending that Jesus and his work was genuine. He was, through it all, confessing Jesus.
Have you ever heard of a person who has met Jesus, and changed so radically that people question whether he’s genuine? It happens often. That’s the kind of effect Jesus has on people. Over the course of a few days or weeks, a person will be so convicted of his sin before Jesus that he will completely change his lifestyle, his desires. He’ll start going to church. He’ll clean up his language. In that kind of situation, the person’s first defense or testimony of Jesus is to testify to himself. “No, really, this change is genuine. I’m the same guy, but I’m not the same. I’ve seen Jesus, and I want more Jesus.” That’s actually a witness not to the person’s authenticity. It’s a witness to Jesus’s authenticity.
That happened to Paul, did it not? When he was first converted, he had to first defend himself—that his change was genuine. He’s still Paul, but he’s met Jesus. He’s different, almost unrecognizable.
So, this man defends himself and his own authenticity—or better yet, he defends Jesus and the authenticity of Jesus’s work in him. He’s confessing Jesus, folks. He’s been given eyes—both spiritual and physical eyes—and he immediately begins to confess Jesus and his authentic work to save. Perhaps, maybe, we’ve just stumbled upon the first sign, or the first evidence, of spiritual sight.
Let’s keep reading. I think we’ll see more of this. In verse 13, what happens? We read in verse 13,
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.
So, the townspeople didn’t know what to do with this man. There’s no reason to necessarily believe they were trying to get this guy in trouble with the Pharisees, by bringing him to them. This was a day and age when people were genuinely seeking to understand extraordinary, spiritual events. If something happened that they wanted some insight on, they took the matter to the spiritual authorities. A man born blind, who received his sight, certainly would be an occasion to consult the spiritual authorities. “What do they have to say about this?”.
Folks, this was a massively significant miracle. We read the prophesy in Isaiah 29, didn’t we? Remember what Isaiah 29 said? It’s a clear prophesy concerning the coming Messiah—
In that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
When the Messiah arrives to save Israel, “the eyes of the blind shall see”. Well, the eyes of the blind are seeing. Could this be a sign of the Messiah? Could our miseries be over? Maybe, if this guy really is the blind beggar. Who knows. “Let’s bring this one to the Pharisees.”
And yes, this is when the story really gets interesting. Keep reading in verse 14,
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.”
That, right there, is a recipe for disaster. The problem was not merely that Jesus healed the man. Do you see how John worded verse 14, there? “It was a Sabbath day when Jesus made mud and opened his eyes”. Oofda. He actually made mud—he kneaded dirt with saliva to make mud—on the Sabbath day. They had a rule—no kneading anything on the Sabbath. Jesus was a Sabbath breaker—the worst kind of sinners. So, he can’t be the Messiah.
I mentioned we’d see signs of spiritual sight in this passage, but also signs of spiritual blindness. This is one example. They couldn’t see what Jesus was doing. Remember when we talked about this last week? What was the point of the dirt, and the mud? Why the dirt and mud? To say it simply—God created man out of dust and dirt, and Jesus came to re-create man. Here, he’s showing us that. He’s the creator who created man out of dust, and he’s using dust here to show us that he’s on a mission as the creator to recreate us. He’s on a mission, yes, to restore us back to his sabbath rest—back to the garden where there’s rest and peace and fellowship with God forever. So, Jesus is restoring a man’s cursed sight with dirt, on the Sabbath. It’s rich with symbolism if you had eyes to see it. These Pharisees didn’t. They saw a sabbath breaker.
But then again—what do you do with the man with new eyes? That’s what’s so awkward about their situation, isn’t it? Verse 16 really draws us into their conundrum—
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.
Seriously—what do you do with a man whose sight was restored? This is a phenomenal miracle that had never happened in all of the miracles of the Old Testament. No dark, satanic power has ever done this. No prophet of Yahweh has done this. In fact, this is a miracle that God seems to have set apart for the coming age of the Messiah. What do you do with that? You’d think it’s an easy answer, wouldn’t you?
Folks, spiritual blindness isn’t like some mysterious dark veil is keeping you from seeing Jesus in all his glory. It’s not a mysterious dark veil. It’s called sin. It’s called pride, arrogance, selfishness. When undeniable truth is literally staring you down in the face with new eyes, and you don’t want to accept it, why is that? You don’t want the truth. You don’t want the consequences of the truth. You don’t want to give your freedom, your sin, your life over to the truth. It’s a scary thing. But folks, what’s more scary? Is it not to deny the truth? To live your life in a lie? To live in the spiritual blindness of your pride and sin? That’s a terrifying thought that so many choose.
These Pharisees wouldn’t accept the man for who he was—a testimony to Jesus. They couldn’t’ do it. Even the ones who were sympathetic could only go so far to say “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” The division between the Jews, here, was not a division of some saying he’s the Messiah, and other’s saying he isn’t. It was a division of whether we should even consider the thought that Jesus is from God. “No, I don’t want to go there”.
The blind man went there. Verse 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.’”
This man—by the way, again—who has never seen Jesus in the flesh is boldly confessing Jesus. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” They’re blessed. They’re blessed, we might say, with a certain boldness and conviction—the conviction of faith—to confess Jesus and give him glory.
Did the parents have that boldness? That’s what happens next, isn’t it? Look at verse 18. We read, “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.”
Isn’t that something? It’s seriously shocking, folks. These Pharisees had seen Jesus in the flesh for many years. They had seen him do many miracles. In fact, they’ve already been through this with Jesus. Sometime back, Jesus had already gotten in trouble for doing a miracle on the Sabbath. This was old news! But they wouldn’t accept it—especially not a blind man receiving his sight. That would have serious messianic ramifications. That’d mean they would have to submit to Jesus as their Messiah and Savior. So yes, it’s old news. But they won’t go there. Like the townspeople, they wouldn’t even believe this man was the blind beggar. That’s literally why they brought the parents in. Verse 19, they ask the parents, “Is this your son who you say was born blind?” Note how they put the burden on the parents—“who you say was born blind”. They ask the parents, “How then does he see?”
It’s revealing, folks. They brought in witnesses, the guy’s parents, and it seems like they’re setting up a kangaroo court. Even if they testified in the affirmative to their son and to Jesus, they’d reject the parents. Perhaps they’d even do harm to the parents if they said anything positive about Jesus. That’s what we read, isn’t it? The parents clearly distanced themselves from the situation—and, for a reason. They acknowledged that the man is their son. They acknowledged he was born blind and can now see. They’ll defend their son—but they won’t go there with Jesus. Verse 21, “But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened is eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself” Then we’re told why his parents said this. Verse 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”. In other words, they were to be treated as a sinner and a tax collector. They’d lose societal and cultural and religious privileges. They’d be destitute—and Jesus wasn’t worth that to them.
Why not? Folks, they hadn’t seen Jesus. Not like their son had seen Jesus. It’s really an astonishing contrast, folks. These parents had enjoyed all the normal privileges of society in Jerusalem their whole lives. They weren’t blind beggars. They were presumably normal people with their membership in the synagogue, being cared for by their synagogue. They were able to work and make a living. They were able to worship God normally. Not so for their child—at least, not until now.
Their child just received his sight for the first time in his life. Do you know what that means for him economically, religiously, socially? It means he can be normal for the first time in his life. He can enjoy a job, membership in a synagogue, normal life. Think of the hopes and dreams he was able to fulfill now that he had received his sight. Have you ever dreamed for something so badly that you’d do anything to make that dream a reality? Think about having a disability that literally alienates you from the rest of the world, and makes you a beggar? Do you think you’d be dreaming about normal life just about every day? Now, that was all available to this blind man.
Although, on a condition. Don’t confess Jesus. Don’t go there. His parents wouldn’t even go there. Confess Jesus, and all those privileges that he just had offered to him for the first time in his life are suddenly vanquished. All with the simple words “Jesus gave me my sight. Jesus is a prophet. Jesus is the Messiah”. Why would you do that? Why would you give up all of your life’s most precious hopes and dreams? Folks, the only answer is if you’ve seen Jesus. And again, this man hadn’t actually seen Jesus in the flesh. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We’re talking about faith, folks—seeing Jesus through the eyes of blood bought, God-given faith. Trust me. If you’ve seen even a glimpse of Jesus’s mercy, his power, his compassion, his riches and glory—your worldly dreams will seem like a fools’ errand to you. You may not even understand it all. I have to wonder if this blind man believed what was coming out of his lips. “Did I really just confess Jesus at the risk of losing everything again?”. Oh well.
It reminds me of Psalm 27 verse 4, where the David confesses—
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD…
It’s worth all the world’s riches and blessings, folks. I pray you can see it—and do see it—every day so that you have that vision to resist sin and pursue Jesus, and to confess his name ruthlessly.
If you haven’t caught on yet, the first mark of true spiritual sight is that it compels us to confess Jesus. It draws us to confess him as our supreme treasure, even at the risk of losing all earthly goods. And the corresponding alternative, of course, is that not seeing Jesus means you’ll not confess him. You’ll deny him. The parents and the pharisees denied Jesus each for their own reasons. The blind mand didn’t. In fact, he wouldn’t stop confessing him. He only got more bold with his confession with each opportunity he got—all the while having never seen Jesus in the flesh yet! All the while, it would almost seem like Jesus had abandoned him! “Where is he? How could he just leave me to defend myself like this?!” The man didn’t think twice about that. He had faith, he had sight, he ahd a confession to make. Verse 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.”
It’s a beautiful confession. It even made its way into the world’s most famous him, Amazing Grace. This man confessed Jesus at great risk to himself. It’s a great lesson, a great encouragement to us—even us who have never seen Jesus in the flesh. Remember that Jesus promises that he’ll help us confess him. This is all a gift of his grace and power, folks—the eyes to see, the tongue to confess. When we need it, he’ll give us the clear vision, the words, the strength, the boldness to confess him. You could read about that in Luke 12:11-12, or Mark 13:11.
So, true spiritual sight compels us to confess Jesus.
Evidence #2: Spiritual Sight Sees and Exposes Folly
What about the second mark of spiritual sight? This one is easy, folks. Keep reading in our story, starting in verse 26. This is worth re-reading at length, it’s boarder line hysterical.
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.”
I love that, folks. It’s so emboldening. Here’s a blind man, with everything on the line, risking his membership in the synagogue and all other societal privileges with it—he mocks the Pharisees who have that power over him. He mocks them. He has sight to see that their folly and error is so ridiculous that it’s worth mocking. ““Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.”—where do you think he’s from, stupid?!
In fact, he brings himself to their level to answer their question. He gives them a really good reason why they should believe Jesus. “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” It’s like this blind man would know something about that. It’s like this blind man has lived that reality before. He’s on the street thinking, “my condition is entirely hopeless. never in the history of the world has a blind man received their sight. I know. I’ve done the research. There’s no cure, no hope. Demons won’t do it—they probably can’t for whatever reason. God doesn’t seem to be in that business. I’m destitute, unless the Messiah comes according to God’s promise, opening the eyes of the blind.” You have to wonder how much this blind man had thought of this in the past—if God was preparing him for this moment. It’s hard to know for sure, but it seems in this statement like he knew something about what the Bible said of blindness. It’s never been cured before. He’s, in fact, seemingly more knowledgeable than the Pharisees on this point.
Folks, spiritual sight is in the business of seeing and exposing the folly of this world. That’s what this man is doing. He’s not simply confessing Christ, positively. He’s also seeing and exposing the folly of denying Christ. He’s exposing the inconsistency, the foolishness of it. Commit yourself to the same. Perhaps you don’t need to brazenly mock it as this man did—although, sometimes that’s fitting. Elijah certainly did it. Micaiah did it. Paul and John the Baptist did it. Jesus even got sassy sometimes. There’s a place for it. But whether you use sass or not, you first need to see the folly. You need to see the inconsistencies, and be willing to expose them. That means getting into trouble, sometimes, doesn’t it? It means getting uncomfortable. You’d only do that, folks, is if you see the truth of Jesus as worth it. Even more—if you see that Jesus will care for you, he’ll protect you, and that truth will win in the end. Elijah knew God would back him up, so he exposed the folly of his enemies and got a little sassy.
Folks, there’s a way of exposing truth in a way that reveals you are on top and absolutely certain you’re right, and the other guy is gravely and foolishly mistaken. There’s a way to expose truth against folly like that. It’s called being sassy, mocking. You only do that when you know you’re going to win, when you’re seeing with crystal clarity. Pray the Lord gives you that clarity, that confidence, that discernment.
So, two marks of spiritual sight: (1) it compels us to confess Jesus; and (2) it exposes folly as folly (sometimes with a little sass). Last but certainly not least, the third mark of spiritual sight is that it believes and worships Jesus.
3. Spiritual Sight Believes and Worships Jesus
As we would keep reading this passage, that’s certainly what we see in this man—but, in an incredibly shocking circumstance.
In verse 34, we read that the Jews didn’t deal so kindly with the man’s sarcasm. So they cast him out. See that, there in verse 34? “And they cast him out”. What does that mean? Is it simply that they cast him out of the room? Is it that they cast him out of their presence? It was more than that, folks. It seems like this was the excommunication from the synagogue which this man’s parents feared. They didn’t confess Jesus, so they weren’t cast out. This man did, so he was cast out. He was born without certain Jewish privileges, and then he got his sight. He had access to his Jewish privileges in the synagogue for maybe a few hours, maybe a few day? He threw them all away—and get this, because he was seeing rightly. He was seeing Jesus, and that was worth it. And Jesus showed up. He showed up immediately, it would seem, to bless this man. Verse 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.
That’s what it’s all about, right there, folks. Jesus showing up, giving us sight to see him, giving us boldness to confess him, and giving us his immediate presence that we might worship him. You can see the eagerness of this man. He’s not bitter about being cast out—he’s simply standing up for truth. So, Jesus found the man, and revealed his glory to the man as “the Son of man” to believe in. The man connected the dots, and he worshipped Jesus.
Folks, do you see Jesus? Ask yourself that, every day. “Am I seeing Jesus rightly—am I being moved to confess him—even at the risk of losing my worldly comforts? Am I seeing him rightly so that I can see folly and sin rightly—even as something to mock? Am I being moved to worship him?” Remember, folks, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”