The full title for this lesson is “I Was Blind, Now I See.” The goal of this lesson (from John 9) is to come to better understand and appreciate how Jesus is the light of the world, and from John 10 we learn more about how Jesus is the Good Shepherd. So put on your thinking cap and prepare to look beyond what you can physically see to try to understand the spiritual message behind these stories and the parable.
This chapter opens with Jesus seeing a man who was born blind. He had never seen the light of day. Christ’s disciples assumed that either the man or his parents had sinned, causing this punishment to come upon them. This assumption was common among the Jews of Christ’s day. Jesus tells them that no one had sinned to cause this. The man was blind so that God’s power could be demonstrated.
As a side note, this is an interesting point. Sometimes we have situations in our lives that are not a result of our own wrong doing. Sometimes the Lord has given us weaknesses or trials so that His power can be demonstrated and witnessed by others. He does this not for boosting His own ego, but to help us be strengthened in our belief and testimony of Him. There are so many lessons to be learned that we cannot assume they all will come out of a book or manual.
To help the man born blind, Jesus spit into the dirt and made mud. He took this mud and anointed the man’s eyes with it and told him to go to the pool Siloam (which means “sent”) and wash his eyes. This accomplished at least two things. First, Jesus annoyed the Pharisees by “breaking” the Sabbath – he made mud and applied it to someone’s face. Second, he made the man exercise faith in what he had done before giving him his sight.
Jesus further instructed his disciples that as long as He was with them He was the light of the world. According to the Joseph Smith Translation (JST), he would only be in the world until His work was finished then He would return to His Father. The important point here is the use of the term light.
Light and Dark
Virtually every reference in the scriptures that refers to light or dark is referring to spiritual knowledge or enlightenment or spiritual darkness or ignorance of things of a spiritual nature. The scriptures also use references to being asleep or awake to refer to the same things. Sometimes there is a double meaning that includes references to physical light or the absence thereof, but the main meaning is always about being spiritually aware of things.
Jesus, was the light of the world while he was in the world, meaning that he was the source of spiritual enlightenment. Because He was personally in the world, the Holy Ghost could not be given to the people. It was only when Jesus left them that the Holy Ghost took over as the source for enlightenment and learning. This is what happened during the Pentecost. From that time on the members of the Church relied on the Holy Ghost as their teacher to learn of all things divine. But even then, the Holy Ghost bears witness of Christ and the Father, and teaches what they would teach if they were here physically, so Jesus is still, technically, the light of the world.
The man bears witness
The blind man had not seen Jesus. He had talked to him, and Jesus had anointed his eyes, but that was the extent of it. Jesus did not go with him to the pool to wash his eyes. When news of the man’s healing spread, the Pharisees brought him in to learn more about how this miraculous event had taken place. They asked him how it happened and he told them what this man, named Jesus, had done for him. He didn’t elaborate or embellish his story, but testified truthfully about what happened.
The Pharisees tried to get him to say things he had no ability to say truthfully, but the man continued to speak the plain truth. Sometimes we only know so much about something. It is a test of our character if we can, and will, bear testimony of what we know, without any pretense to knowing more than we do. This man was truly humble about what happened.
The Pharisees did not believe him, so they called in his parents. Now the greatest injunction that could be put on any member of their society was to be cast out, meaning out of the synagogue. If you were cast out you were excommunicated. This meant that no one was allowed to speak to you, do business with you, let you into their home, or help you. You were completely ostracized from Jewish society and would have to move someplace where no one knew you. There wasn’t a worse fate for a Jew.
The Pharisees questioned his parents, who, fearing them “pled the fifth” by saying, ‘He is of age, ask him!’ The man, knowing the truth of what he was saying seems to have had a difficult time understanding why the Pharisees were having such a hard time with this. He called Jesus a prophet, because to do what He did you would have to be a prophet. He even asked if the Pharisees were asking because they wanted to be His disciples. That didn’t go over well. In disgust they threw him out. The manual says that means they excommunicated him for telling the truth.
When Jesus heard they had thrown the man out He sought him out and asked if he believed in the Son of God. The man said that he didn’t know who that was. Jesus identified himself as the Son of God, and the man worshipped Him. Then follows three verses that can be confusing at first so I thought we could go over them together. They are John 9:39 – 41.
39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Remember that the Scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees were the religious teachers and the elite in Jewish society. They were the ones who interpreted the law in the absence of real prophets. Jesus was constantly chastising them for being ignorant of the very law they were supposed to know backwards and forwards.
When Jesus says, “that they which see not might see,” he is referring to those who do not currently understand the gospel. They are spiritually in the dark, and lack understanding. He was there specifically to teach them, to “open their eyes” if you will. He was also there “that they which see might be made blind.” The rulers of the people claimed to have spiritual sight and understanding, but of all the people they were the most blind or lacking in understanding of spiritual things. As Jesus pointed out the truths of the gospel to them, they refused to see or understand what they were being taught because they did not want to understand. Their pride and arrogance prevented them from being able to understand the simple truths Jesus was teaching.
So in this way, those who were blind, lacking understanding, came to understand the principles of truth Jesus taught. Therefore they gained spiritual sight. And those who claimed to be able to see in this way, were made all the more blind by their own stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to what Jesus was trying to teach them.
Verses 39 and 40 go together. The Pharisees asked if they were “blind.” Jesus tells them that if they were blind (meaning truly without knowledge of the truth) then they would be sinless. We learn from the scriptures that where there is no law there is no sin. If they really did not know anything about the laws of God then they would be without sin. But because they they claimed to be the only ones who truly understood the laws of God (Law of Moses) then they, of all people, were the greatest sinners. For they were supposed to know better than to be doing what they were doing.
Jesus as the Good Shepherd
Here is a quote from the teacher’s manual.
… In Jesus’ time, sheep were led into an enclosure called a sheepfold for the night. One of the shepherds would guard the door while the others went home to rest. If a wild animal got into the sheepfold, the shepherd would give his life if necessary to protect the sheep. In the morning, each shepherd would return and call his sheep. They would recognize his voice and follow him to pasture.
During the night all the sheep were mixed together and protected by one shepherd, who would literally sleep across the threshold to the sheepfold. The only legitimate way in was to get passed the shepherd who guarded the sheep with his life. A real shepherd was so intimately familiar with each of his sheep that he had named them. When he called his sheep they would separate themselves from the rest of the sheep and follow him out into the fields to eat and drink. Sheep will not follow a voice they do not recognize.
As you read John 10 about the Good Shepherd, focus on the symbolism of the sheep and the shepherd. Jesus has been given a flock of sheep (that would be those who have made covenants to follow Christ, starting with baptism). He knows them personally, intimately, and was willing to give his life to protect them.
Christ, as the shepherd, has called us out of the world, out from among the other sheep, if you will. We heard His voice and came to Him. He leads us to an abundant life, represented by rich green pastures and plenty to drink. He protects us from dangers and sees that we are safe from those who would do us harm.
Christ leads us. He does not drive us ahead of Him. He tells us to follow Him. In other words, He sets the example for us to follow, and shows us the path back to our Father in Heaven in all things. He also warns us to beware of those who pretend to be shepherds, but who will flee at the first sign of danger. These are not true shepherds, but are only hirelings, who don’t care about us.
It is during this conversation that Jesus clearly tells the people that He had been given full authority to not only lay down His life for his people (sheep), but He had also been given full authority from the Father to take up His life, again, for the benefit of those whom the Father had given Him. In reality it is for the benefit of all, but specifically for His sheep.
Through the Holy Ghost Jesus continues to be the light of the world. He is our source of truth from our Father. He is still our Good Shepherd, our protector and caregiver. All He asks is that we be willing to follow. He will do the rest.