In this third article we continue to observe John’s use of the word sign(s) in his Gospel to describe the wonderful works of the Lord Jesus. We noted that they are recorded to demonstrate Christ’s deity and that their primary interpretation concerns His Messiahship in relation to Israel, though their application includes us today.
We saw how the eight signs are chronicled in pairs, in the form of an introversion, namely, the 1st and the 8th, the 2nd and the 7th, etc. On this occasion we shall look at the 3rd and the 6th signs and see that they are linked in dealing with two of life’s disabilities. The paralytic, John 5. 1-18, and the man born blind, John 9. 1-41, were both hopeless cases from a human standpoint. They reflect the tragedy of the nation of Israel – living among the nations of the world, but completely non-functional as far as its prime calling was concerned, viz., to be a living witness to the one true God. In the coming bright, millennial day, when ‘the Sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings’, Mal. 4. 2, Israel will be healed from her woeful disabilities to become a divine beacon to the nations.
The Paralytic, John 5. 1-18
We are not told the precise nature of the man’s problem, who had been lying close to the Pool of Bethesda; some may have wondered whether he had suffered it from birth – 38 years must certainly have seemed like it, longer than the total earthly years of Jesus! The Lord’s later comment, ‘Sin no more', v. 4, possibly indicates that sin may have had something to do with his condition. Bethesda means ‘House of Mercy’ (or ‘Pity’), but there was seemingly insufficient to meet this man’s need. AUGUSTINE suggested that the five porches (or colonnades) were thought to represent the Law of Moses (the Pentateuch) and to speak of the Law’s inability to bring about healing.
Apparently, miraculous cures did take place from time to time, but this poor man was unable, personally, neither had he the right kind of friends available, to take advantage of the opportunities. He represents the plight of sinners today – unable to help, heal or save themselves, or enlist others to do so. Although desperately wanting to be healed, this man started ‘to beat about the bush’ when Jesus asked him the simple, direct question, Do you want to be healed? v.6. He began to explain the difficulties of his situation, when all that Jesus wanted was a one word answer! Are you saved? Do you want to be saved? The Lord awaits a straightforward answer, and He will do it. AUGUSTUS TOPLADY’s words are apt and memorable:
Not the labour of my hands
Could fulfil Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know
Could my tears for ever flow;
All for sin could not atone,
Thou must save and Thou alone.
Jesus then went directly to the crux of the matter by telling the man to roll up his mat and walk off. The outcome was unmistakeable, a dramatic change was self-evident immediately and the man headed for the most appropriate place – the temple – to praise and thank God for what had happened to him. How good it is when converts give early and continuing evidence of new birth!
The Man Born Blind, John 9. 1-41
It is always a crushing blow when someone loses their sight through accident, disease or simply old age. It is a greater tragedy when children are born with such a handicap: to have no visual perception of size, shape, colour or people, never to see the wonders of God’s creation and to be constantly in danger of personal injury or death – that is extreme deprivation. But that man never knew what he was missing until he was given his sight!
Blindness is figurative of sin and David had to confess, ‘I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me’, Ps. 51. 5 NIV. People just do not know what they are missing, spirituallyspeaking, until they are born again – unaware of future eternal loss and divine judgement, unaware of God’s personal blessings in this life and in the life to come!
The Lord made it crystal clear that, in this instance, sin had played no part in this man’s condition, either personally or by his parents, but rather that he might be the means of displaying the mighty works of God – a salutary lesson maybe, for folk who mistakenly attribute other people’s illness or accident to wrong causes. However, we need to recognize that original sin is the ultimate cause of all of life’s diseases, defects, disabilities and death.
The following scriptures make it clear that the giving of sight to the blind is a divine activity:
‘So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?"’ Exod. 4. 11.
‘The Lord opens the eyes of the blind’, Ps. 146. 8.
‘In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness’, Isa. 29. 18.
‘Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened’, Isa. 35. 5.
‘I am the Lord … a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes’, Isa. 42. 6-7.
Reading from Isaiah chapter 61 verses 1-2, Jesus Himself claimed that, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind’. It is also significant that there are more recorded miracles of sight-giving by the Lord than any other category of healing.
The fact that the Lord made clay and anointed the man’s eyes with it reminds us that, ‘the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’, Gen. 2. 7. So this signcould legitimately be construed as an act of creation– the creating of sight where there was none before.
The impact of that sign was formidable; many people could not believe it, while others would not believe it! A man born blind had received sight – it had never been heard of before. What an opportunity he had to give his personal testimony – without frills – ‘Yes, it was me alright; he put clay on my eyes, I washed and do see; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see!’
Those of us who have received spiritual sight might well challenge ourselves as to whom we have witnessed concerning what the Lord has done for us and is willing and able to do for others. Remember, ‘But as it is written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit’, 1 Cor. 2. 9-10.
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