A Biblical Theology of Light: Giving Sight to the Blind

light“Who sinned?” It was an innocent question, loaded with presumption. The presumption: blindness is a result of sin. The apostles assumed that because this man before them was born blind someone, somewhere must have sinned, he or his parents (John 9). At one level, of course, they were right. Blindness is a result of sin, the fallenness of our world has created all kinds of infirmities and limitations upon us. Yet, Jesus’ response to them reveals far more about who he is than about the causes of this specific case of blindness. Jesus, as the one who gives sight, reveals further his role as savior.

Within the Bible blindness is never really just about blindness. The authors of Scripture certainly tell the history of Jesus’ life, but it’s a theological history. History written with an agenda, and so blindness is often used to speak not simply about physical limitations of sigh, but spiritual darkness. The theme finds particular emphasis in the Gospel of Mark. Routinely we read about how the Pharisees, the crowds, and even the disciples miss the point. They misunderstand who Jesus is, what He is saying, and what He is doing. They are spiritually blind. So, in Mark 1:14-36 Jesus reveals His identity by authoritative teaching, but the Pharisees are blind. In chapter 3 verse 7 through chapter 6 verse 6 we see the unfolding of Jesus’ revelation of himself through parables and signs but this time the world is blind. Jesus even says that the parables are spoken so that the unbelievers will not “see” the truth (4:12). In chapters 6-8 Jesus reveals himself to the disciples, but they too are blind. The latter part of chapter eight exposes to readers a shift in sight. In Mark 8:22-26 Jesus heals a blind man as symbol of what he is about to do for them. In the remainder of the verses Jesus opens the disciples’ eyes too. For in verses 27-30 the disciples are able to finally say, “You are the Christ.”

The theme doesn’t end there, it carries on throughout the book constantly reiterating to readers the need to truly perceive the identity of Jesus (see 10:46-52). Often it seems that the people who most readily see Jesus in the Gospel of Mark are the blind people whom He heals. In every case the reality is that physical blindness is an analogy for spiritual blindness, something we all need healed of. Paul tells us that the “god of this age has blinded” men (2 Cor. 4:4), so that they cannot see the truth. And throughout Scripture we are told that there are those who have eyes, but who do not see (Mark 8:18; Jer. 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2). The reality of the New Testament is that we are all spiritually blind, and we need to be healed.

Spiritual blindness requires a spiritual physician. Jesus is that physician and he demonstrates over and over again his ability to give sight. In fact in the Scriptures we read that it is God who causes the blind to see (Ex. 4:11). Giving sight to the blind is one of the markers of the Messiah, that’s what Jesus tells John the Baptist when he asks for confirmation (Matt. 11:4-5). We see this occur spiritually in the conversion of Saul, which is intimately connected to his physical sight. Acts 9 tells the story of Saul being blinded by Jesus, confronted, rebuked, and called. We read:

So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized (Acts 9:17-18)

Paul’s physical sight is restored as he comes to faith in Christ. This is not a statement about physical blindness, or healing. It is a tangible analogy to illustrate a spiritual truth. We all walk in darkness, blinded by the god of this age. But Christ, because He is savior and Messiah, because He is light, gives sight to the spiritually blind.

Jesus’ miracles are never random displays of power or divinity. They are intentional illustrations of who He is as Messiah, as savior. Giving sight to the blind is an illustration of His saving work. All of Jesus’ life is pointing people to His coming as savior, so Justin Holcomb writes:

The miracles of giving sight to the man born blind demonstrates the purpose of Jesus’s ministry. It illustrates Jesus’s power to bring his light to those in darkness. Where darkness, death, and decay had reigned, Jesus breaks in with light liberation, and love. (On The Grace of God, 67)

His whole life, all His deeds, demonstrate who He is: Light of the World.

If you see these truths, if you believe and understand, know that it is only because of Christ. You did not discern the truth apart from His illumination. You did not save yourself. You did not step into the light, the light stepped into your world. The light cast out darkness in you. And what Christ has done once at the moment of conversion He can continue to do throughout your faith. When you doubt, look afresh to the Light of the World. Jesus gives sight to the blind, and fresh sight to the bleary-eyed. Jesus, as the one who gives sight, reveals who He truly is. Look to Him.

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