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TRA WordTalks

Blind To Reality

John 9:1-41
24th April 2005

One of this congregation’s members over many years and a resident of our W.G.Taylor Village, Mr. Cliff Mottershaw passed away on Wednesday April 14. Cliff was a very committed Christian, and one of the first practitioners who became an expert in Sports Medicine. Cliff grew up in a dysfunctional home. He lived in New Zealand until as a 9 year old he traveled alone by ship to England to live with his grandparents. At 11 years of Age, he traveled alone from England to Australia to live with his mother in Sydney. Unfortunately she was mentally ill, often paranoid, married unhappily three times and by twelve, Cliff was working full time as a man, uneducated despite 17 schools in 6 years in 3 countries.

After a number of labouring jobs, he was working with a demolition team on a famous shipwreck SS Uralla at Stockton. He was working alone on what was planned to be his last day at that job when an explosion blinded him. Alone, blind and badly injured, with his face in shreds, he fought through scrub in the direction he though was the main road, traveled many kilometres, found it and made his way to the Newcastle Hospital. While in hospital, he became a Christian. Over the next few years, totally blind, he set about educating himself, matriculated and returned to London to the Royal College for the Blind, where he trained as a blind physiotherapist. There he fell in love with Joyce and married her. They had one daughter, Marion. He returned to Sydney and set up rooms in Macquarie Street where he became renowned for having “miracle hands”. He was on the National Council of Physiotherapists for 21 years, and lectured students in Physiotherapy for years at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

One physiotherapist who trained under him, told me it only after two years that she realized he was blind. She wasn’t the only one. A university student son of a member here spoke to Cliff on a number of subjects once but it was only after his father told him later, did he realize Cliff was blind. Cliff invented electrical medical equipment and established a business to manufacture the equipment for his colleagues. He was a deeply committed Christian and financially supported many Christian ministries including ours. Wesley Mission published his biography: an inspiring story: “How I was once blind, yet received sight.” I conducted the funeral service, which was held at Peninsula Bible Church Chapel in Manlyvale on Monday 19th April.

Sight would have distracted him from what he could see clearly in his mind. John Fenwick, use to go surfing with Cliff. Cliff was a goof swimmer and always headed out to the large surf. Once John called for him to come in closer to the shore as there may be sharks out there. Cliff called out for John to come in deep, and to not worry about sharks, because “I can’t see any!” Cliff Mottershaw was a better judge of people and their problems than a hundred sighted people. Artists often see the painting in their mind before they paint it. Authors see the book long before they write it. Deaf Beethoven heard the music though he could not hear. Some people see better without sight. Other people do not know they cannot see. It is very hard for such a person to come to learn what they do not know they do not see! Others are blind even though they see. They see the world about, the busy city and all they meet, but they are blind to the significance of all of it.

Life has no meaning, no purpose. They drift from one activity to another eating, sleeping, working, breathing, playing and they are blind even though they see. Other people choose not to see even when they can see. The facts are before them, the evidence is plain, but they will not see the obvious. These are the most blind of all. These people are found in JOHN 9. Jesus once saw a man who was blind. But his blindness was nothing to the blindness of those people who saw him healed but who attacked Jesus for healing Him. They chose not to see even though they could see. The issue of healing a blind man turned into a vicious attack by people who chose not to see even when they could see. Consider the characters in this real life drama. They each represent differing attitudes found today among people in our community.


Many walked by without seeing the blind man. We hurry on our way every day and do not see most of the people who wait for our coins. They wait at the top of the stairs from Town Hall station, by the tunnel leading out at Wynyard, at the gangway on Circular Quay. They are there every day, part of the scenery, like the sleepy derelict, the lady with her plastic bags going through the garbage bins for aluminum cans. They are there every day but we pass them without really seeing them Seeing we do not see. But Jesus saw the needs of people. “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind.” His action of seeing the blind beggar caused the disciples to ask Him concerning the origin of blindness. It was not a uestion designed to embarrass the man or to help him.

The disciples guesses were wide of the mark. But Jesus replied: “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in Him. As long at is is day we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no man can work. While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.” This summary of what He said indicated that He must complete God’s work now. He was light in man’s darkness. Jesus met the needs of people. Jesus never only speaks. His words lead to deeds of kindness. With Him deeds and words were one. “After He said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with spittle; He rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes and told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam”. So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.”

As we instinctively put our finger in our mouths when we burn it or cut it or scratch it, so the people of the ancient world believed that saliva had curative properties. Saliva is the ointment favoured by animals and man for all abrasions that need healing. Jesus took the traditional means of healing and mixed it with the dust of the earth into clay and placed it on the man unseeing eyes as if to say: “When God made you, He made you from the dust of the earth. From birth your sight was incomplete. I take some dust and with healing power place it on your eyes to complete your creation as a whole man. Go and cleanse yourself of all impurity and see what God in His glory has done for you.” He meets our deepest need for cleansing, for wholeness, for healing, for being made new. God’s power can be seen in our remaking.


The Pharisees, had seen what had happened, some of the blind man’s neighbours who had known him for years. They could see, but they would not see how this event could be an example of God’s power. Some argued there must be some mistaken identity: they as asked: “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “He is the one.”, but others said, “No he isn’t; he just looks like him.” Some Pharisees said; “The man who did this cannot be from God, for He does not obey the Sabbath Law.” Others said, “How could a man who is a sinner perform such miracles as these?” We need not spend time on their arguments, for each had a different motive and reasoning. Some were out of their depth because never had anyone born blind been healed to their knowledge and what went beyond the limits of their understanding could not be acceptable — typical reasoning of small-minded people! Others were just protective of their position and status.


Of all people these should have been the most glad, but when the heavies of the Synagogue leaned upon them, they were fearful of their own future well being and overwhelmed by the weight of the authorities questioning them. They could only tremble: “We know that he is our son and we know that he was born blind. But we do not know how it is that he is now able to see, nor do we know who cured him of his blindness. Ask him; he is old enough, and he can answer for himself!” John knew why: “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities.”

They had already agreed that anyone who said he believed that Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue.” Many people today cringe because of what might happen. Fear reduces them to trembling and any weight of authority paralyses any good intentions or witness they may have. They can see but they will not look. Their eyes are averted both from the needs and from the source of all help. Their blindness was more real than their son’s!


He was the one who had spent his lifetime in darkness, but a new light had come to him. His life was completely changed and no matter what the argument he was not going to be shaken from what he had experienced. He did not start believing but he came to faith in the One who had brought him from darkness to light. You cannot argue with that kind of experience. As gradually, he told and retold his story, he saw what had happened and who it was that healed him. He said: “The man called Jesus made some mud, rubbed it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash my face. So I went, and as soon as I washed, I could see.” “He put some mud on my eyes; I washed my face, and now I can see.” “You say this man who cured me is a sinner. I do not know if he is a sinner or not. One thing I do know: once I was blind and now I see.” As he was placed under more pressure, he answered with greater strength. It is not easy to silence a man with a first hand experience of a changed life. Dictators in every generation have discovered that when they hammer born-again Christians, they strike anvils that wear out hammers!

He continued “I have already told you and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Maybe, you too, would like to be His disciples?” “What a strange things that is! You do not know where He comes from but He cured me of my blindness! We know that God does not listen to sinners; He does listen to people who respect him and does what He wants them to do. Since the beginning of the world nobody has ever heard of anyone giving sight to a blind person. Unless this man Jesus came from God he would not be able to do a thing!” John 9:27-34 He could see more clearly than any of them. He became the first person to suffer persecution for his faith.

Jesus asked if He believed in the Son of Man. The man replied: “Tell me who he is, Sir, so that I can believe in Him.” Jesus said to him; “You have already seen him and he is the one who is talking with you now.” “I believe, Lord”, and the man knelt down before Jesus.” John 9:35-38 Jesus looked at the others: the neighbours, the passers by, the Pharisees, the parents — all who could see but who had chosen not to see, or who would not look, and He spoke of the inevitable consequence of the presence of light among darkness: “I came to this world to judge, so that the blind should see, and those who see should become blind. If you were blind then you would not be guilty, but since you claim you can see, this means that you are still guilty!” John 9:39-41 Terrible words! Those who claim they know the most have the most to fear. Those who claim to see are the most in danger, for they have no excuse. But those who see Jesus is the light of the world, like Cliff Mottershaw, have a personal experience that nothing can shake.

Gordon Moyes

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