Inspiring Sight – David Watts

Inspiring Sight – David Watts

When did you last walk along Oxford Road, Manchester?

Did you lift your eyes above street level?

High up on the front of a building is a remarkable

mural. Look closely and you realise it’s Jesus healing a

man born blind, as told in chapter 9 of John’s Gospel.

Why should such a mural be decorating our city


The building in question is the Royal Eye Hospital, originally

established in 1814 as the Manchester Institution for

Curing Diseases of the Eye. Dr WJ Wilson was appointed

surgeon and governor and initial premises were on King

Street. In 1886, the MREH moved to occupy a newly built hospital

on Oxford Road. That building and it’s mural are now listed, as

an important part of our civic heritage.

The presence of such a mural on a modern city street raises some



Why is this Christian healing miracle on the front

of a modern hospital?

Hospitals throughout Europe were originally Christian

inventions and a direct outcome of Christian belief and

practice. In their origins, they are closely associated

with many of the first universities, such as Bologna and

Padua – other Christ-inspired institutions. Moreover,

Bethesda, in the United States, is home to a group of

world-famous hospitals. The name derives from the

pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, the site of the healing

of a paralysed man (John 5: 1-8). Some of these

institutions, and their staff, might be forgetful of their

Christian origins, but that doesn’t alter history!


How does Jesus’ miraculous healing relate to

modern ‘scientific medicine’?

Our human eyes consist of more than 2 million

working parts and are the second most complex organ

in the body, able to process 10 items of information

every second! Yet, like other parts of our bodies, they

are subject to disease, injury and birth defects. Jesus’

healing of the blind man would be simply unbelievable

if he was just an ordinary human being, but not so, if he is

God incarnate. For the creator of the universe healing a defective

eye is an entirely consistent wonder. Not only does he alone

have the necessary power, it’s also an act of compassionate

love. For the ultimate realisation of that power and love,

Christians await Jesus’ return and the life of the world-to-

come (John 5: 19-30). Meantime, scientific endeavour and

medicine are pleasing to God. When a consultant surgeon

uses her laser equipment for eye surgery she is working with

the grain of (God’s) laws of biophysics. A successful outcome

is an extension of the ministry of the risen Christ.


So what did Jesus mean by spiritual blindness?

In the remarkable narrative of John 9, Jesus first

affirms that the man’s physical blindness was not due

to anyone’s sinful behaviour; rather it’s an opportunity

for God’s work in his life to be seen (v. 3). By the close of

the chapter, the theme of spiritual blindness takes

centre stage when onlookers persist in unbelief

despite what has happened ‘before their very eyes’.

None can remain neutral about Jesus! And if we realise

that spiritual blindness is our problem, then we must

apply urgently to the Great Physician for his gracious

gift of spiritual sight!