Sign #6 – The Healing of the Man Born Blind

Sign #6 – The Healing of the Man Born Blind

Sign #6 – The Healing of the Man Born Blind.

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I AM the light of the world.’ When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the mud. And He said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.’ (which is translated, the one who is sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:1-7).

The God Who Sees. Jesus was simply walking down the road in Jerusalem, and He spotted the blind beggar. Unlike the blind man, Jesus saw everything. Nothing escaped His notice. His eyes were open 24/7 to see those in need, and He didn’t miss a thing. The rest of humanity has fallen eyes, half-closed to others who are unfortunate or who don’t scream for attention. Jesus had fully redeemed eyes with an eternal attention span, perfect eyesight, able to observe those whom others overlook. This story begins with the simple fact of the careful observation of the Lord. But that only makes sense, doesn’t it? “He who formed the eye, shall He not see?” (Ps. 94:9). Jesus here confirms one of the names of God in the Hebrew Bible. In Genesis 16, we see pregnant Hagar fleeing from a jealous and angry Sarai and a befuddled Abram. He conceived a child with Hagar, at Sarai’s request, and it brought nothing but trouble. So Hagar tried to escape this troublesome home and found herself in the wilderness at a spring of water. The Angel of the Lord appeared to her, comforted her, and directed her back to Sarai.  Hagar had no doubt that she was talking directly with the Lord, someone whom we know as the preincarnate Jesus, for v. 13 states, “Then she called the name of Yahweh who spoke to her, El-Roi, You-are-God-who-sees.” And she followed that up by exclaiming, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” That spring of water in the well was named, “Well of the Living One who sees me.” God saw the humble Hagar and intervened. The Living One was indeed Jesus, who comforted the desperate and distraught Hagar, and cared for her, and sent her back to Abram and Sarai for God’s will to be accomplished. God made a special appearance for someone who could easily have been overlooked. Yahweh had His eyes on the lowly, and Jesus brought His message. He continued His ministry of seeing in this powerful story of the man born blind.

Who Sinned? The disciples saw the man born blind, begging by the side of the road, and assumed that his blindness was a punishment from God for a sin committed by him or by his parents. It was common in that era for people to trace any disability or illness to a particular sin that was committed. Even worse, many thought blind people to be under a curse. Since the man was born blind, did the disciples actually think he was punished for something he did before he was born? Of course, the idea of prenatal sin is outrageous. So is the basic unfairness of punishing someone for being born with a sinful nature like the rest of us. And Jesus rejected the idea that this man’s blindness is the result of any sin. But Jesus did say this man’s blindness will be redeemed, that it will be used to glorify God and reveal His glory.

Light. This entire story reveals Jesus as the incarnation of God’s words at creation, “Let there be light!” (Gen. 1:3). He brings the light of eyesight to a blind man who has never seen light. And He brings the light of spiritual understanding to those who witnessed this miracle with eyes wide open, and to those who read about this miracle centuries later. Jesus confirmed this when He declared in this story, just before the miraculous healing, “As long as I am in the world, I AM the light of the world.” (John 9:5).

Creative Healing. Immediately after declaring Himself to the world’s light, Jesus proceeded to bring light to this man’s world. He used creation materials, water and dust, to bring a new creation to this man, the light of faith as well as light to the eyes. Jesus spit on the ground, mixed it together with the dust, and made an ointment of mud. He then rubbed the mud on the eyes of the man.  This wasn’t as distasteful as it might appear now, since saliva was commonly accepted in biblical times to have some medicinal value. This is the only recorded instance of Jesus using this particular method to cure blindness. In the healing of blind Bartimaeus, Jesus merely said the word. That was all that Jesus wanted to do to accomplish the miracle. (Mark 10:46-52). In the case of the two blind men in Matthew 9, Jesus simply touched their eyes, “and their eyes were opened.” (Matt. 9:30). While in Bethsaida, Jesus continues to be creative with His healing of blindness. In this case, Jesus spit directly onto the man’s eyes and laid His hands on the eyes as well. But the healing wasn’t accomplished fully yet, the man’s sight was only partially restored. So Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes again, “and he was restored and saw everyone clearly.” (Mark 8:22-25). So in the gospels, we have four different healings of blindness, and each healing was done in a different way. These are pictures of the Co-creator being creative.

Unimaginable. The healing of blindness was considered the one impossible miracle, the most spectacular type of healing imaginable, up to actually raising a dead person to life. It was so unimaginable that people figured only God was capable of such a thing. The prophesied Messiah, too, could heal blindness, according to the prophet Isaiah, and so people automatically started thinking that perhaps this Jesus was the Messiah when He started healing the blind. For most Jews, curing blindness was a sign of the messianic age. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.” (Is. 29:18). “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing.” (Is. 35:5-6). “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. I am the Lord, that is my name.” (Is. 42:6-7). The unprecedented and spectacular nature of being healed of blindness was even mentioned by the blind man here after being healed… “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.” (John 9:32). Jesus broke the mold. He did something unprecedented, unheard of. This is evidence that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

Waters of Siloam. After the mud was applied to the blind man’s eyes, Jesus told the man to go and wash off the mud in the pool of Siloam. “So, he went and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:7). Once again the waters of creation, in this case the waters of recreation, is evoked. Siloam means “the one who is sent,” which is one of John’s favorite names for Jesus (refer to 3:17 4:34, 5:36, etc.) The pool of Siloam was the end point of the underground tunnel built by Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:20) in order to provide a water supply for the residents of Jerusalem. This pool also provided the holy water used in the famous water ceremony during the Feast of Tabernacles. It was at this Feast, during the water ceremony, that the people celebrated the blessings of the messianic age.

This is biblical theater at its best, so the scene deserves to be set. There are tens of thousands of faithful Jews in Jerusalem, on the last and most important day of the 7-day Feast of Tabernacles. And what’s the one thing on everyone’s mind as they gather to celebrate this festival? WATER.

  • They are literally praying for water. If God didn’t bring the “early rains” of October and November, there would be no spring crops, which is crucial to their livelihood. Without the rains, the fields will be thirsty with less irrigation, and the people will be thirsty too with less fresh water.
  • The gathered faithful were excited to witness the Water-Libation ceremony, in which the high priest walks from the Temple to the pool of Siloam carrying a golden pitcher, the crowd following him as he walks. He then dips the pitcher into the burbling pool for some “living water,” and then proceeds to return to the Temple, leading the people once again, where he pours the water onto the altar. This is an ancient tradition, and is a popular part of the public service in the Temple.
  • This water ceremony is intended to commemorate the famous Mosaic water miracle of Exodus 17, in which Moses strikes the rock chosen by God, and out from the rock pours fresh water for the thirsty wanderers to drink… An historic example of God providing fresh water for the faithful.
  • During the water ceremony at the Temple, the people, led by the priests, chanted various scripture passages foretelling life-giving water, passages from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and other books from the Hebrew Bible. In their chants they always included Isaiah 12:3:  “And you shall draw water with rejoicing from the spring of salvation.”
  • Once the water is poured onto the altar, a Temple choir begins to sing the messianic Psalm 118. Messianic fervor was at a fever pitch during this most important day, because scripture tells over and over again of an abundance of water during the messianic era. All the people could think about was the coming of the Messiah and the water that would surely accompany his arrival, providing life and blessing for all people and living creatures and crops.

It seems that here in this story of the man born blind, Jesus wanted the people to realize that the messianic age had begun.

Skeptics. The people witnessing this healing were shocked and then very skeptical. They couldn’t believe what they just saw. Isn’t this the blind beggar we see every day? There was some controversy whether this man was actually the same beggar they had seen all these years. Finally, the healed man put an end to that controversy by saying, “Yes, it’s me!” There is a question as to why he had to beg in the first place. It shouldn’t be necessary to beg at all in a Jewish community. Jewish law declares that the people, the general populace, should take care of anyone who has a disability so that the unfortunate don’t have to endure the humiliation and poverty of begging. (Lev. 25:35) So what happened to that law? Why didn’t the Pharisees see fit to enforce that law?

Now I See! Jesus slipped away when the blind man went to the pool of Siloam. No one seemed to know where Jesus went. The bewildered witnesses decided to bring the healed man to the Pharisees for a formal investigation in order to certify the healing. Some of the Pharisees couldn’t accept that this healer could be from God, since He broke Temple law by healing on the Sabbath, He didn’t rightly keep the Sabbath. This so-called healer is obviously a sinner, they thought, so they didn’t believe the healing actually occurred. They decided to interrogate the parents of the man, who turned out to be intimidated by the very idea they could be put out of the Temple. They didn’t want anything to do with the possibility that they would be considered Christ-followers. So the parents didn’t answer directly, they merely said to the Pharisees, “Go ask him yourselves. He is an adult, he can answer for himself.” After more intense questioning of the healed man by the Pharisees, the exasperated man told them that there may be some doubt about who the healer is, he does know one indisputable fact… “Though I was blind, now I see!” And he followed that up with… Obviously, if this was a mere sinner who healed me, He wouldn’t have been able to do this! The Pharisees responded by casting this man out of the Temple.

I Believe! The blind man’s faith progressed before our very eyes as we read this story. He started out not knowing the first thing about Jesus. He didn’t even know who this man was who was applying mud to his eyes and instructing him to go wash it off. He was happy to oblige the man who anointed his eyes, probably figuring that it wouldn’t hurt to give this a try. Why not? After the unexpected healing, the man called Jesus a prophet (v. 17). During the interrogation, the man claimed he didn’t know if the healer was a sinner or not (v. 25). The man then reasoned that this healer must not be a sinner, because it is doubtful that God would use a common ordinary sinner for this amazing miracle (v. 31). He then continues to use logic, and concluded that the healer must be truly from God (v. 33). Finally, after meeting up with Jesus again outside the Temple, the healed man is convinced. “Lord, I believe!” And the man immediately bowed down and worshipped Jesus as the Son of God (V. 38).

Blindness. Jesus concludes the story by referring to the Jewish tradition of considering literal blindness as a symbol of spiritual ignorance. Those without spiritual understanding are like those without sight, walking in the darkness of ignorance. In His indirect way, Jesus accused the Pharisees of being spiritually blind. He seemed to be saying, you might have religious knowledge, expert knowledge of the Scripture even, but you don’t yet have true spiritual understanding. And because of your overconfident, inflated self-righteousness, you are blind to your blindness. Your eyes are closed to the truth. Open your spiritual eyes and seek me, says Jesus.