There’s a feeling of excitement and suspense in the air – like that of a little child waiting for his parents’ permission to blow out the candles and open the presents on his birthday. Here in John chapter 9, the main event is about to happen. This blind man is anxiously waiting to hear this Rabbi’s words spoken directly to him. So far, neither of them has said a word to each other. The suspense is growing. “When is this Rabbi going to say the words and perform the miracle that brings sight to my eyes?”
I. MUD PIES FOR THE EYES (verse 6)
What he hears isn’t a voice but some movement. This Rabbi is now seated on the ground in front of him, close enough for this blind man to reach out and touch Him. Can you imagine the thoughts that must be going through this man’s mind? “Is He going to ask me a question?” “Is He going to tell me what He is about to do?” This beggar still hasn’t heard a word from the Rabbi, but he continues to wait in silence. Then he hears some unusual sounds. Verse 6 tells us, “He [Jesus] spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle”. These were not the sounds that this beggar expected to hear. It’s been one surprise after another. He has to exercise faith, believing that all that’s been happening, that all the sounds he is hearing are for his benefit. We may all agree with the words, “Don’t you love pleasant surprises?”, but most of us don’t like to wait very long for those surprises to happen, do we?
At least this beggar has not had to wait in complete silence. There are sounds being made. As he listens to the spitting and the movement of dirt, he must have come to the conclusion that Jesus was making mud. Does that sound repulsive to you? Would it have any significance to the blind man? Possibly. Human spittle was considered to have healing properties. His parents or a doctor might have applied some sort of a poultice to his eyes when he was a child, but not one made from mud. Dirt was considered to be harmful to the eyes. Once again, this is going to be a unique miracle. Jesus used His spittle on two other occasions in the Bible: the healing of a different blind man in Mark 8:22-26 and the healing of a deaf man who couldn’t speak well (Mark 7:33-37). However, there was no dirt added in those cases.
Are you wondering why Jesus is going through all this effort to heal the man? He could easily have said “be opened” or “receive your sight”. It would have saved a lot of time, effort, and mess, and He’s done that sort of thing before in previous miracles. That’s true, but Jesus has a reason for everything He does. Here are a few possibilities. He may be attracting the attention of people nearby and giving them time to come closer and watch what He is doing. It is also the Sabbath day, and Jesus may once again be making it very clear to them that He is the Lord of the Sabbath by violating “their Sabbath laws” concerning work. These are all possibilities but I think there is an overriding reason. The Lord Jesus can heal a person any way He chooses because He is God. He is not limited to certain “magic” words or formulas, and He wants to make that obvious to His onlookers. So far, each of His miracles has been performed in a unique way.
II. PACKED UP AND SENT ON HIS WAY (verse 6b-7)
Meanwhile, this blind man’s sense of hearing is now on overload, having taken in every sound that has been made. Now his sense of touch is going to be activated. Verse 6 says, “and [Jesus] made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes.” He feels a gob of warm, sticky mud being smeared over each of his eyes and pressed into place by the fingers of Jesus, and he hears Jesus’ words spoken to him for the first time. “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” The word Siloam means “Sent”, so Jesus is sending him to the pool named “sent”. That pool is almost half a mile away from the temple. Why is Jesus sending him on a journey when he could have washed his face in the temple area where there were several cisterns and pools? There are a number of possibilities and all of them might be intended. For one, this was probably a lesson in obedience. The story is similar to the account of Naaman the leper and Elisha the prophet (2 Kings 5:9-14). In both cases, a washing was required, the healer did not accompany the needy person to the water, and the healing took place after the person obeyed.
A second potential reason was to draw a following. There were a number of people who watched Jesus put the clay on this man’s eyes and decided to follow him. Meanwhile, the mud was drying. Others along the route recognized this blind man, saw the mud on his eyes and decided to join the crowd out of curiosity. The road to the pool of Siloam had now become a parade route and the blind man was the leader of the band. Another potential reason for the mud was its irritation. Have you ever gotten dirt in your eyes? How did it feel? Awful isn’t a strong enough word, is it? What did you do about it? You hurried to find water to splash on your eyes until the irritation went away, didn’t you. I believe that this blind man was setting a quick pace, not only because of excitement but also because of the irritation.
Probably the most important reason for Jesus’ command was to give Himself time to leave the area and put Himself out of the picture for a while. Verse 7 describes this blind man’s act of obedience and the result: “And so he went away and washed, and came back seeing.” That’s a brief and concise statement! Do you think he made the return trip in less time? I should say so! He probably ran the whole distance, not only because he could now see where he was going but also because of his exuberance to meet the Rabbi who healed him and to see his parents for the first time.
III. SEEING ISN’T BELIEVING (verses 8-12)
When he arrived in town, this formerly blind man didn’t receive the joyous welcome he expected to receive. He didn’t see happy faces. He didn’t hear words of congratulation from his neighbours. He didn’t see or hear them praising God for the miracle of his sight. He didn’t hear words of apology from those who falsely accused him and his parents for his blindness. Instead of welcoming him with joy and thanksgiving to God, he finds them arguing about his true identity. Verses 8 and 9 say, “The neighbors, therefore, and those who previously saw him as a beggar were saying, ‘Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘This is he,’ and others were saying, ‘No, but he is like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the one.’ ” Do you see the irony in this conversation? Here is a man who has never seen himself before, telling these neighbors who have seen him almost every day of his life, that he is the one they are looking at! He has to keep saying it over and over again: “I am the one! . . . I am the one!” in answer to responses such as: “You’re an imposter” and “You just look like him.”
Total blindness from birth is a very rare condition. He was probably the only person in that city who had been born completely blind. There should have been no question and no argument concerning his identity. This formerly blind man is coming to the realization that there is another form of blindness that has afflicted many people in his neighborhood. It’s called “spiritual blindness” and he has yet to see the worst cases of it!
Finally, they stop arguing among themselves and demand an explanation from Him saying, “How then were your eyes opened?” Since they couldn’t refute his identity, they decide to set up their own court of law on the spot and demand that he give testimony about the details of this “miracle”. I think they are hoping to find some holes in his argument. Oh, the lengths to which some people will go in order to justify their own beliefs in the face of what is obviously true!
The man cooperates and gives them a clear and concise answer to their question. In verse 11 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.” It was as simple as that. There were no holes in his argument.
Did you know that we can find no stories about blind people who received their sight in the Old Testament Scriptures? However, we do find many prophecies about the blind receiving their sight. Let’s take a look at some of them. The prophet Isaiah prophesies in Isaiah 29:18, saying, “And on that day the deaf shall hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” Later, in chapter 35 and verse 5, Isaiah gives that prophecy again when he says, “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.” Once again, in Isaiah 42:6-7, the prophet Isaiah speaks on God’s behalf saying, “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.”
All of those prophecies are pointing ahead to the Messiah. There were no such miracles of blind eyes being opened until 700 years later when Jesus began His public ministry. Only He is the light of the world. This miracle was obvious proof that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. The people knew those scriptures, and they knew that they were referring to the Messiah, yet they refused to believe what their eyes had seen. Spiritual blindness prevailed.
The man’s neighbors couldn’t argue with the man’s testimony so in verse 12 they change the focus of their conversation to the miracle-worker by saying, “Where is He?” I think they mean, “Why didn’t you bring Him along with you so that we could compare His story to yours.” I like the attitude of this healed man. He’s not backing down one inch. He knows what happened to him and he’s not going to let his neighbors intimidate him. His answer is: “I don’t know.” End of conversation. They have nothing more to say but they aren’t ready to give up yet. In the next passage of Scripture, they are going to be escorting him to the Pharisees where another conversation will ensue. This man’s full experience of the joy of his healing and the gift of sight is being postponed once again.
What did you learn from this miracle and from the conversation that followed? If we look at this miracle and what followed in John 9:6-12, we can’t help but admire the patience of this man both before the miracle and after receiving his sight. It’s easy to leave this passage of Scripture with our focus on the blind man and how well he demonstrated patience with Jesus and with his neighbors. He certainly sets us an example, but we miss the bigger picture. Let’s look at it from God’s point of view. Who knows, after all the verbal abuse this man has received all his life, he may have been very angry and bitter inside. The Lord Jesus may have arranged this miracle and the events that followed in order to teach him patience, trust in God, and a commitment to the truth of his healing in spite of opposition. We don’t know for sure in this case. but how many times has God used circumstances and people to deal with wrong attitudes in our own lives and encourage us to live for Him? God, in His providence, might be teaching this man how to stand for the truth and defend the One who healed him, even though he has never seen Him and has not yet been told His true identity.
In our study of this passage of Scripture, as we look at the words, actions, and attitudes of the apostles, this blind man, and his neighbors, I have three questions to ask myself and you: “What do I really believe inside?” Why do I believe it?” How do I demonstrate it (or try to hide it)?” Belief is meant to be a learning and growing experience, drawing closer to the Light of the world [Jesus Christ] through a growing understanding of Him in His Word, and a commitment to following Him in obedience. The neighbors of the formerly blind man demonstrated their lack of belief and unwillingness to believe what they had seen and heard in spite of the evidence. The unbelief and the intimidation are going to get worse as we study the next passage of Scripture.
Are your spiritual eyes open to the truth concerning the Person and work of Jesus Christ or have you chosen to close them? It’s your choice, but keep in mind that choosing spiritual blindness in this life leads to eternal darkness in the next life (Matthew 22:13; Jude 10-13). God is calling you to come out of your present spiritual darkness and into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:9). Turn to the Light – the Lord Jesus Christ, and live in obedience to the Light for the rest of your days in this life. You’ll enjoy the light of God’s presence for eternity.
CONSTRUCTION SITE: COMPLETED
Welcome to this construction site. You are welcome to do some “sight-seeing” while you’re in the neighborhood.