I have children. That statement alone says a lot. If you have raised children and hear someone say, “I have children” you suddenly bond with that person quickly. Parents of children can say one word or one phrase such as “I told the kids to clean their rooms” or “I had a parent/teacher conference” and a collective sigh of understanding rises among them.
Then our kids, as life is happening, say things like, “You never listen to me!” When over and over you have heard them saying, “My backpack is tearing I need a new one.” Or, “I want to join the swim team.” And in the time that works for you, you break out the money and buy needed things for them for school or sport – and they act surprised and ask, “How did you know?” When you’ve heard them all along.
I like to think that as an adult I have outgrown childish tendencies like these – but unfortunately I find myself falling short. I am guilty of being surprised or even ungrateful when God sends blessings and answers to prayer time and again and I continue to accuse Him of not hearing my cries for help.
In John 9 Jesus is coming from a time (in chapter 8) where He was teaching in the temple, having contentious discussions with the Pharisees, declaring Himself to be the Light of the World, speaking to the Jews (the crowds following Him) challenging them about whose descendants they were (they insisted they were children of Abraham, saying that alone was enough to save them), and He brought it all to a culmination by declaring He was the “I Am that I Am.” Infuriating the Jews to the point of them wanting to stone Him – but He “slipped away.”
After all that drama Jesus is found chatting with His disciples. I imagine they were all in a panic about what had just happened to them. Can you visualize them talking among themselves, “We almost got killed back there! Is this guy worth our lives? We’ve got to talk to Him.” And they looked for opportunities to take Jesus to task.
The disciples’ opportunity came In John 9 when they walked down a street, saw a blind beggar and asked the eternally difficult question, “Why was this man born blind? Whose fault was it?” For they thought that there must’ve been someone at fault.
Jesus’ answer is amazing in John 9:3 Message “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look Instead for what God can do.”
After Jesus had answered the disciples’ question, He turned His attention to this man. Here’s someone who had been born blind. In this time and age, there was little done for people born blind. They were perceived to have sinned or their parents had sinned – whatever the case, society deemed him as an “untouchable.”
Those people born sick, blind, or leprous or widowed or born out of wedlock were the outcasts of society. Not many dared to relate to them. Who, I wonder, are today’s untouchables? Who are they that are our unclean? Have you ever seen a child falling off the deep end of life and find yourself saying, “Oh if the parents had just…” Bringing condemnation where condemnation only hurts and doesn’t help; those kinds of people are our untouchables.
Society’s rulers of that day, religious leaders, Pharisees, had placed conditions on those who were deemed to be “acceptable.” They had made it impossible for anyone and everyone to approach God; they had become exclusive, elitist. People with physical faults were unacceptable; they reasoned that there must have been a sin committed to result in this problem.
Nothing about Jesus was, or is, elitist and this presented a complicated situation for these leaders. He made God accessible to the masses, even those that society wouldn’t touch, He would address face-to-face. Yes, He posed a problem for the elite because they were opposed to the kind of people Jesus wanted to include in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus then turns to this man, an outcast in society, and instructs him on what to do so he can see. He doesn’t even ask the man, “Do you want to see?” He just tells him what to do.
It was trouble enough that a healing was being worked on the Sabbath but also this man was told to “go and wash” at the pool of Siloam. So many religious laws were being broken, but this man obeyed. But I wonder, how did this man make it to the pool of Siloam where Jesus told him to go and wash? In that time it seems the untouchables of society would group together, and these are the ones who probably escorted him to the water. There were no blind schools back in this day, not many people who had compassion to help. He only had his friends who were fellow outcasts. They were most likely sick, blind, leprous, and otherwise unacceptable people. These are the ones escorting him. Imagine how amazed they were that a normal person, let alone someone amazing like Jesus, would stop to address their friend, this blind man.
I try to imagine what this man felt when he bent down to wash his eyes in the water. Was there any sensation in his eyes when his sight came to him? I also try to imagine what it was like when, after washing as Jesus instructed him, what it was like to see for the very first time after a lifetime of blindness.
News spread and the healed man was brought to the Pharisees. Just like it was when he was born, the leaders of the day couldn’t accept him or accept the healing he had experienced. All of their theology was turned on its ear as God did a marvelous thing on the Sabbath. They didn’t understand that the Sabbath was meant to be a day for blessing not bondage.
His parents were summoned once he was healed; imagine, it appears that family wasn’t even caring him for because they had to call them in! All indications point to him being left to fend largely for himself. The first time he physically saw his parents, they aren’t recorded as embracing their son who now saw. They also rejected him by their, “we’re not getting involved” attitude. “Ask him what happened,” was their reply to the miracle when asked by the Pharisees about what had happened for they feared being excommunicated.
So the Pharisees attention was turned again to the healed man. When he was questioned further, he gave God glory for his healing. This was his undoing, thanking God before them, and in the end he was excommunicated from the synagogue. Which was the harshest thing to face in society at that time.
It seems he wasn’t bothered to be put out of the synagogue; he could see. Besides, he was accustomed to being among the unaccepted of society. I imagine when he was thrown out, he just shrugged his shoulders – he could see!
As this was taking place, Jesus was listening, He heard him, and then challenged him:
John 9:35-37 Message “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The man said, ‘Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?’”
This man had met with Jesus, he had already heard Jesus’ voice when He had sent him to wash at the pool of Siloam but when he encountered Jesus for the second time, he didn’t recognize His voice – he hadn’t been listening for Jesus.
How often have we found ourselves accusing God of not speaking, but we are the ones who do not recognize His voice? He speaks but we don’t recognize Him even though we’ve heard Him before. Then, we try to figure the problem out on our own and work to find out “why?” If we can find the answer, maybe we then can find the solution…then our own voice becomes more important that the Father’s.
The prayers of this man in John 9 were heard but his one problem was that even though he had heard Jesus’ voice before, he didn’t recognize Him when He spoke again. Instead of rebuking him for not recognizing His voice, Jesus once again reassures him and says, “I’m the One, it’s Me.” In the same way, our Father isn’t hiding from us; He is always intent on helping us hear His voice. The key here to this man finally recognizing Jesus’ voice was his heart. He didn’t care about going along with what the crowd accepted, he just wanted to find that One who had healed him.
Once this young man realized it was indeed Jesus Who spoke to Him, he fell down and said, “Master, I believe” and he worshipped.
When my little girl speaks to me, I’ll often bend over to hear her. She likes to whisper in my ear. This is the picture I have of my Father listening to me.
Psalm 116:2 NLT “Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.”
The Father stops everything He is doing to give you His attention when you pray, He’s bending over, He’s listening. Are you?