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The blind man sees, and the seeing are blind
John Chapter 9, verses 1-5
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Just from where or when this narrative continues we don’t know, except that Jesus was still in Judea, in or near Jerusalem.
Jesus saw a man who was blind from birth. The disciples knew of the man’s condition and asked the question we continue to ask in such cases: “Why?” They apparently believed that such a physical defect must have been caused by some particular sin. In this case, they asked, “Whose sin? The man’s or his parents’?” People often think that way to this day: “If I’m suffering, it must be for some sin I committed.”
The question was difficult. If the man’s own sin caused his blindness, how could he have so sinned while still in the womb? If his parents’ sin caused it, that seemed unfair. Still, the disciples thought that one or the other was true. It was a commonly held belief, so they didn’t think of any other possibility.
Not every ailment is caused by specific sin, however. Although the lame man in chapter 5 apparently suffered due to his own sin (verse 14), not so this man and his parents. God allowed the blindness so that works of God might shine forth in the man. God’s purposes were to be served, and they would work to his glory and that man’s good. Similarly, we can have confidence to this day that even in our sufferings God’s good purpose is being served (Romans 8:28).
Furthermore, that blind man was there to illustrate an even greater truth. Just as Jesus with his divine power was about to give sight to the blind man, so we need to be doing the works of God while we can. “We must do the work”; it’s part of our nature as his disciples. As God sent Jesus for us, so we will go because of Jesus. God gives us the day to work. He gives us the light of Jesus in our lives and directs us to let his light shine in this world. That’s how we do the work of God. And where the light of Jesus shines, we will see spiritually blind people receive their sight.
Each of us has a limited number of opportunities to do the work and a limited time, however. When night closes out our day on this earth and we enter Jesus’ eternal light, we will no longer be able to work here or reach those we neglected in our lifetime. Likewise, if unbelievers are taken into eternal darkness, we have lost any opportunity of showing them the light of Jesus.
John Chapter 9, verses 6-7
Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
Having made his point, Jesus proceeded to do his divine work on the blind man. We can speculate on why Jesus worked the way he did. But we’ll never know for sure except to note that it was purposeful. Other times he healed by a word from his mouth or even from a distance, but this time he used spit, made mud, and applied it to the man’s eyes. Maybe he wanted to make it obvious to the man and to all who later tried to discredit the miracle that he, Jesus, in fact did it.
The man listened to Jesus’ directions and trusted that he should follow them. He went to the Pool of Siloam, washed his eyes, and received his sight. How different from the unbelieving Jews who refused to trust anything Jesus said.
For his non-Jewish readers, John explained that Siloam means “sent.” Perhaps it was named that because the pool, located on the southern end of Jerusalem, served as a source of water that was sent into the city through a tunnel system built by King Hezekiah. Perhaps John wanted the readers to sense a parallel with Jesus who was sent by the Father to do this work.
John Chapter 9, verses 8-12
His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they demanded.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
“Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The blind man’s neighbors and others who had seen him begging didn’t know what to make of the man who now walked confidently with full sight. How could it be the same person? Some insisted it wasn’t the man, but only someone who looked like him. The man had to convince them by insisting he was the very man who all his life had been blind.
“How is it that you can see?” they asked in wonder, and the man told them without embellishment exactly what Jesus had done. “Where is this Jesus?” they wanted to know. But he couldn’t tell them because he didn’t know.
John Chapter 9, verses 13-17
They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided.
Finally they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
Some of the people led the former blind man to the Pharisees. The Pharisees, as the religious leaders, needed toknow about this apparent miracle. No evil motive is suggested, since it was normal for the people to call the matterto the Pharisees’ attention. Immediately the Pharisees raised doubts, however. Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath. No sooner had they heard the man’s story than some declared that Jesus could not have done this with God’s power or blessing because he did not observe the Sabbath. But some were not so easily sidetracked by the Sabbath question. They wondered how it was possible for a mere sinful man to work such signs as this—even while committing sin. They were divided.
Not satisfied with their own conclusions, they turned back to the man. “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man didn’t hesitate. “He is a prophet,” he replied. He believed Jesus was from God and spoke for God.
John Chapter 9, verses 18-21
The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
“We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.”
The Pharisees fell immediately into the pattern of unbelief. They ruled out giving any credibility to Jesus, so they somehow had to discredit this man’s story. They assumed it was a hoax, that the man never was blind.
To get at the truth, they called for the man’s parents. “Is this your son? Do you claim he was born blind? If so, how do you explain that he can see now?” We see this unfriendly questioning in present-day trials.
The man’s parents answered briefly and evasively: “Yes, he was born blind. But if you want to know how he came to see, ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself.” They did not say what the Pharisees wanted to hear. They feigned ignorance.
John Chapter 9, verses 22-23
His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
They spoke in fear. The questioning itself no doubt intimidated them, but it came also with a threat. The Jewish religious leaders wanted Jesus out of their way, so they had spread the word that anyone who confessed him as Christ would be thrown out of the synagogue. They couldn’t prevail against Jesus with reason or with God’s Word, so they resorted to scare tactics and force.
John Chapter 9, verses 24-25
A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
The Jews called the man again to convince him to change his story. They were trying every ploy they could imagine. They put the man under oath, asking him to answer to God’s glory. They knew Jesus was a sinner (and, therefore, incapable of doing the miracle). What did this man have to say about that?
The once-blind witness did not fall for their trap. The Jews called Jesus a sinner, but the man had no evidence to say so. Instead, he knew one thing: “I was blind but now I see!”
To this day, unbelievers beg the question about Jesus and challenge us to follow them in their unbelief: “Jesus was a mere man.” “Jesus was a sinner.” “Jesus is still physically dead.”
We answer them as the once-blind man did: “We know he gave sight to the blind.” “We know he rose from the dead.”
We believe and live.
John Chapter 9, verses 26-29
Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?”
Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
The Jews badgered the man, but he did not waver.
“Tell us what the man did. How were your eyes opened?”
“I’ve already told you. Why did you want to know? You don’t want to become his disciples, do you?”
The man’s infant faith was being tempered in the fire of cross-examination, and he began to show some mettle. His answer came back with a touch of sarcasm.
If only they had wanted to learn from and follow Jesus! But their anger boiled over at the suggestion. They ridiculed the man. “You are his disciple!” they taunted. “We are disciples of Moses!” To them, a person could not be both. To follow Jesus was to oppose Moses.
They claimed the witness of Scripture on their side. They knew that God talked with Moses. But where did Jesus come from? What authority could he claim? Never mind that before this Jesus himself had told them repeatedly who gave him authority.
John Chapter 9, verses 30-34
The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
The man did not wither under the insults of the Pharisees, but grew still bolder. “Well, if you can’t figure out that this man came from God,” he shot back at them, “maybe you’re not as smart as you think you are.”
He told them to look at the evidence and employ their own reasoning. They would agree that God doesn’t listen to sinners but listens to anyone who is godly and does his will.
He spoke a universal truth that Scripture explains further for us: Unrepentant sinners do not have God’s ear. Their unrepented sins create a sound barrier, so to speak. But everyone who by faith in Jesus is counted godly and does God’s will has direct access to God.
Still employing the Pharisees’ own reasoning, the man pointed out that Jesus could not have restored his sight if Jesus were not from God. Never in all history had anyone before restored the sight of someone born blind. Jesus had worked a miracle of God.
Someone other than Jesus had given testimony to his divinity. Still, the Pharisees did not believe.
The frustrated Pharisees leveled their final insult and threw the man out. No doubt alluding to his blindness as evidence, they said he was born completely in the control of sin and had no business teaching them, who “self-evidently” were not so sinful.
The Pharisees touched on a universal truth but only applied it halfway. The words “steeped in sin at birth” actually apply to everyone. This condition, like the man’s blindness, can be corrected only by Jesus.
John Chapter 9, verses 35-38
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
Jesus did not waste any time finding the man once the Pharisees were done with him, because he had important work to finish with the man. Jesus had given him physical sight to set the stage for giving him spiritual sight.
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asked, using the phrase with which he most frequently identified himself as the promised Messiah (see Daniel 7:13). He, the eternal Word, had come from heaven and was made flesh, that is, he became a man, to do God’s will for the salvation of the world. Jesus was the true Son of Man, the essence of what God had created man to be—sinless.
The man’s heart was ready, but he had not yet actually seen Jesus. So he asked, “Who is he, sir, so that I might believe in him?”
“You have seen him,” Jesus replied. “He’s the man talking with you.”
The man confessed his faith in Jesus on the spot and bowed before him in worship. We also respond to our faith in Jesus with worship and praise.
John Chapter 9, verse 39
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Jesus did not come into the world to condemn (“judge”) the world (3:17), but his coming set the standard for judging all people.
We live a spiritual paradox as the result of Jesus’ coming. We who were lost in spiritual blindness have received spiritual sight through faith in Jesus. All believers were born blind but see because of Christ. In contrast, those who claim to see on their own will remain spiritually blind. The Pharisees suffered such spiritual blindness, as followers of the New Age movement have, as do any other spiritual groups that do not acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and Son of Man.
Pastor Werner Franzmann in his New Testament Commentary (Vol. 1, p. 410), has illustrated this truth well:
“The blind (all men as they are by nature: without spiritual sight [knowledge]) will see” (will receive spiritual sight by faith and be saved).
“Those who see (all who refuse to realize they are spiritually blind but boast that they see) will become blind” (will remain in their spiritual blindness and be lost forever).
Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see” (Christian Worship 379:1).
John Chapter 9, verses 40-41
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
The Pharisees kept close to Jesus in those days, looking for some way to discredit him. When they heard what Jesus said about blindness to the former blind man, they sensed Jesus’ meaning. It left them incredulous: “You aren’t saying we are blind, are you?”
Jesus’ answer applied the truth he had just spoken, but it’s not likely the Pharisees understood. To them he seemed to speak in riddles.
“If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin.” Jesus spoke of their sin of unbelief, of rejecting him as God’s Son. He spoke of the spiritual blindness that afflicts all people by nature. If the Pharisees were blind only in their original sin, they would not be guilty of rejecting the Savior.
“But now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” The Pharisees boasted of their spiritual prowess. They claimed to know God and all his ways. Still, they rejected Jesus. For all their spirituality, they had no forgiveness of their sin. They could get that only through Jesus.