It has long been observed that the eye sees all else but not itself. As a preacher, I am sometimes called upon to use a translator. Issues like accents and mannerisms are raised, and my default position is that I have none. It is everybody else who has an accent and some unusual mannerisms. As we get older, we tend to become caricatures of ourselves. Some time back there was a report in the Sydney Morning Herald that an 86-year-old grandfather from Bern, Switzerland, flashed his headlights at six motorists on a motorway whom he assumed were driving the wrong way. Police ended up confiscating his car keys!
More serious is our spiritual and moral blindness. The father of Taoism, Lao-Tzu, offered us the deep thought that ‘The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.’ That is the kind of philosophy that is rampant today. People who would not know Lao-Tzu from Oprah Winfrey believe that this is the basic reality about all humanity, and are duly offended should anyone point out that it is not so. It is a complacent philosophy that we are by nature all too ready to believe. If I only need to be myself, then I become my own savior, and am blinded to the need of another.
Scripture could not be blunter in warning us: ‘Do you see a man who is whose in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him’ (Proverbs 26:12). A woe is pronounced on those who are wise in their own eyes (Proverbs 3:7; 26:5; Isaiah 5:21). King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel, pursued filthy Baal worship while persecuting the true prophets of Yahweh. Accordingly, when Ahab saw Elijah, he asked, no doubt with some vigor: ‘Is it you, you troubler of Israel?’ (1 Kings 18:17). Reality was reversed! As the apostle says, unbelievers are ‘darkened in their understanding’ (Ephesians 4:18). They are blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4) until gospel light shines in the darkness of their souls (2 Corinthians 4:6).
A professing believer may see his natural face in a mirror and soon forget what he looks like (James 1:23-24). He hears the word but does not implement it in his daily life. Even a true believer, such as David in his backslidden state, could express moral outrage at the sin of the rich man in Nathan’s parable. Indeed, he declared that the man deserved to die. David only came to see himself when Nathan said to him:’You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:1-7).
What could be more dangerous than sin? Jesus tells us it is the conviction that we can see. After healing the man born blind and clashing with the Pharisees, Jesus states: ‘For judgment I came into this world that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’ The Pharisees felt offended enough to proceed to make a case under laws which declare we may not offend, insult, humiliate, or intimidate anyone. Sin is terrible; the inability to see it, more so: ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, “We see,” your guilt remains’ (John 9:41).
We are never so hopeless as when we are self-confident (Romans 2:17-24). If we think we are healthy, then we do not go to the doctor; if we think we are basically fairly decent, the message of salvation is a foreign language. Only if we know that we are lost do we look to be found, and only if we realize we are spiritually blind do we look to him who is the light of the world. The message of John 9 is that the Pharisees do not see because they think they can; while the blind man sees his need, and comes to see Jesus. It is the same today:
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind!
Sight, riches, healing of the mind;
All that I need, in Thee to find:
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. — Charlotte Elliott
This is the song of all who have received gospel sight. On his way to saving faith, the man born blind told the Pharisees concerning Jesus: ‘Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know — though I was blind, now I see’ (John 9:25). Soon after, he dropped the first sentence as he worshiped Jesus as the Son of Man (John 9:35-38). Nearly 1,800 years later John Newton could testify regarding his own salvation:
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.
We first come to see when we realize that we are blind.
– Peter Barnes