John Newton, the man converted from being the captain of a slave ship to becoming a preacher of the gospel, was inspired by the key verse from our passage today. He included it in the lyrics of his beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace”: “I once was lost, but now I’m found / was blind, but now I see.”
From the beginning of the account of this healing, Jesus makes it clear that His encounter with the man who was born blind involves more than physical healing. He wants to illustrate truths about sin, spiritual blindness, and the ways that God works in people’s lives.
The disciples wondered whose sin was to blame for this man’s blindness—his own, or his parents. They no doubt thought they were asking a difficult theological question; illness and deformity was often attributed to sin, so was it possible that a newborn had sinned or did the child pay the price for parental sin? The answer was neither—God was at work through this blindness to reveal the light of Jesus.
The Pharisees also missed the point of the miraculous healing. They focused only on a perceived violation of the Sabbath, and decided that they would rather adhere to their religious rules than accept that Jesus had the power of God to heal people blind from birth. When they witnessed the conversation in which Jesus forgave the sins of the man born blind, they persisted in spiritual blindness rather than trust in the Light from heaven who stood before them.
The man born blind, however, chose forgiveness and healing. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asked (v. 35). The man responded with worship. Jesus healed the man’s physical eyesight and also corrected his spiritual vision.