Read John 9:1-7
The story in this chapter is amazing! There are many subtle details that describe the story of a man who was blind from birth but now is completely restored at the hands of Jesus. As we read this narrative, consider this in both literal and figurative terms. We are blind without Jesus. This man was born blind, so were we. Jesus comes into the world to heal us all of our spiritual blindness. Whether He does that with spit and dirt or any other means is all just part of the story. The reality is this: Jesus is the light of the world. Through Him alone, we are able to see.
I wanted to cover this whole chapter in one post, but there are so many pieces that I thought it best to step back and take our time looking at the chapter in three parts. Here’s the outline:
- The blind man is healed — John 9:1-7
- Interrogations — John 9:8-34
- Spiritual blindness — John 9:34-41
I highly recommend you read the whole chapter, then come back and look at part 1.
The blind man is healed
The story begins as Jesus and His disciples are walking along the streets. The disciples are always trying to learn from their master. Can you imagine? Every day there is something completely new to learn. They come across a man who has been blind since birth and they ask Jesus a question that we all would like to fully understand, even in these modern times.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ John 9:2
The response includes a verse that probably causes issues because of the translation provided in most versions. Here’s the verse followed by an explanation from the NIV Application Commentary for us to consider.
3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:3-4
Compare the NIV translation to one that digs into the original Greek a bit further:
…we may translate it as follows: ‘ Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus. ‘But so that the work of God might be displayed in his life, we must do the work of him who sent me while it is still day.‘
The purpose clause now explains that Jesus must work so that God’s work may be displayed in this man’s life. God had not made the man blind in order to show his glory; rather, God has sent Jesus to do works of healing in order to show his glory. NIVAC Reference
The subtle difference is huge in my mind! God did not make this man blind so Jesus could one day walk along and use him as an object lesson. That is not the case. Our suffering does not bring God pleasure. The whole discussion of pain and suffering is far beyond the scope of this particular post, but something we must all wrestle with on many levels.
Let’s back up a minute. The passage begins with the entourage walking past a man who is blind. John skips over any introduction between Jesus and the man. Instead, he focuses on the conversation between Jesus and His disciples. This must have been pretty uncomfortable for the man who suddenly becomes the center of attention. My guess is he was sitting alongside the street with a bowl or something to beg for money (he’s not referred to as a beggar in verse 8). Being blind from birth in an agrarian society leaves you few options for employment.
Yet somehow Jesus approaches the man. In my mind, Jesus approaches him with great kindness. It’s just my imagination, but it seems like John doesn’t even mention His approach because this is how He approaches everyone, all the time. It’s just the Savior of the world reaching out to someone in need. Lord, help me to replay this scene in my mind the next time I run across someone in need!
Jesus uses spit and dirt to make a salve that is used to heal the man, then tells him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The pool is significant because this is the pool that provides fresh water to Jerusalem. This living water, i.e., not stale, is used by the priests in ceremonial washing. The symbolism is there for us to consider that Jesus is the living water, He provides eternal life. Just as living water flows into Jerusalem, Jesus himself is here to provide an even better alternative.
So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. John 9:7b
This part of the story ends with a miracle. The man born blind can now see. In the next section, we’ll get the idea that he was an adult by Jewish definition. His entire life up to this point was spent in darkness.
As we continue to read this chapter, the story gets more interesting, but I don’t want to miss the point that Jesus once again demonstrated His authority over nature. For the moment, sit back and consider the kindness Jesus shows to this man and the way He completely transformed his life in an instant.
NIVAC Reference: Wilkins, Michael J.; Garland, David E.; Bock, Darrell L.; Burge, Gary M.; Fernando, Ajith. NIVAC Bundle 6: Gospels, Acts (The NIV Application Commentary) (Kindle Locations 64916-64919). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.