“Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” John 9:32 ESV
Through the Bible: John 9-10
Nearly all of Jesus’ miracles have parallels in the Old Testament. Jesus miraculously fed multitudes; so did God through Moses when He sent manna and quail. Jesus healed lepers and raised the dead; so did Elijah. Jesus walked on water; Moses and Joseph walked through water. You get the idea.
But in John 9, Jesus heals a man born blind. The scribes and Pharisees are dumbfounded. They seem to have more questions about this particular miracle than anything else Jesus has done to this point. And maybe it’s because what the man says in verse 32 is correct: “never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of the blind.”
I checked it for myself, and he’s right. In the Old Testament, there is not a single story of anyone being healed of blindness. Twice, God made seeing eyes blind (Gen. 19:11; 2 Kings 6:18). But never once did He make the blind to see.
And this brings up a fascinating detail about how Jesus began His public ministry. Back in Luke 4, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth. We are told that the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, and he began to read:
““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 ESV
Jesus is reading Isaiah 61. But people who knew their Old Testament would have picked up on at least two places where Jesus goes off script. Here’s the Old Testament text:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;” Isaiah 61:1-2 ESV
First, Jesus rolls up the scroll and hands it back without reading the line about God’s vengeance. Jesus’ ministry will be characterized by restoration and renewal, not by vengeance. There will be a day of vengeance when Jesus returns, but that won’t be the point of His first coming.
Here’s the second difference: Isaiah 61:1 says that the anointed one will proclaim, “the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” But Jesus replaces this phrase with “recovery of sight to the blind.” Why the difference?
I think Jesus is giving a clue to a unique feature of His ministry. There are multiple times the gospels talk about Jesus healing blind people. And I think the point is to show that Jesus came to do a new thing. Yes, He is the complete fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, but He didn’t come to show us how to obey the Law better. He came to make those who could never see, see. This was THE defining sign of His ministry.
In Luke 7, John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus if He is indeed the one they have been waiting for. Jesus says to them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Luke 7:22 ESV)
Back to the man born blind in John 9. Everyone is marveling at this new thing that Jesus has done— the recovery of sight to a man born blind. It was unheard of! But for anyone who had been in the synagogue at Nazareth that day, it should have come as no surprise. Jesus said He would.
And beloved, listen: Jesus is STILL opening the eyes of the blind. People who had never considered a relationship with Jesus are opening their eyes to the truth of the gospel every day. Jesus is the light of the world. Light is about seeing.
Lord, open the eyes of the blind. Let them see Your goodness. And seeing, let them believe.